Less Than Artful Choices: Narcissistic Personality Disorder According to Donald Trump

Debate on personality disorders, classifications, diagnoses, and treatments is well worthwhile, and a colorful spokesperson never hurts.

Less Than Artful Choices: Narcissistic Personality Disorder According to Donald Trump

Donald Trump was born in 1946. 34 years later, in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association’s hefty volume of mental disorder classifications, the term “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD) first appeared as a diagnosable disease – Trump would doubtless say it was created in his honor (characteristic #1 of NPD: An exaggerated sense of self-importance). After all, the newly-minted personality disorder made its debut only nine years after he took the helm of his father’s company… and renamed it from Elizabeth Trump & Son to The Trump Organization.

The most recent DSM, DSM-IV, is currently under extensive revision, with DSM-V scheduled for publication sometime in 2013, and both its listed diseases and their definitions are undergoing extensive scrutiny and contentious debate. On the chopping block are five of the ten or so so-called personality disorders, including NPD. Among the reasons for the cut are the frequent overlap between disorders, the general lack of stability of symptoms, and the range of those symptoms in reality, as compared to the either/or approach of the manual (either you have a disorder or you don’t). So, before NPD becomes a thing of the past, at least in its current form, I thought we’d take a moment to reflect on some less than artful choices – or the things that make Trump look like he just stepped out of the fourth edition, symptom by symptom.

A caveat: I am obviously exaggerating, both Trump and narcissism. But debate on personality disorders, classifications, diagnoses, and treatments is well worthwhile, and a colorful spokesperson never hurts.

So, without further ado, Trump’s quotable illustration of the hallmarks of NPD, defined according to DSM-IV as, “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” The disorder is indicated by at least five of the following:

1.     An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

 A sense of one’s own importance, a grandiose feeling that one is alone responsible for any achievement is a hallmark of the narcissist. Grandiosity is one of the central tenets of a narcissistic personality. Narcissists tend to take credit for everything, as if no one else contributed to the end product. Witness Trump’s declaration that, “When people see the beautiful marble in Trump Tower, they usually have no idea what I went through personally to achieve the end result. No one cares about the blood, sweat, and tears that art or beauty require.” What do you know: not only is Trump a developer and an artistic visionary, but he seems to be a stellar architect and construction worker as well.

And history will agree (naturally). “Anyone who thinks my story is anywhere near over is sadly mistaken,” says Trump. Sadly, indeed.

2.     Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love

 How many presidential runs does it take for the process to be defined as a preoccupation rather than an occupation?

I’d leave it at that, except for the existence of this little gem: “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.” Not only all-powerful, but all-beautiful, too. The man has it all.

3.     Believes he is “special” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

 To narcissists, the “little people” or anyone beneath them (which is mostly everyone) don’t matter. Trump’s lambasting of Rosie O’Donnell is a good case in point: “Rosie O’Donnell called me a snake oil salesman. And, you know, coming from Rosie, that’s pretty low because when you look at her and when you see the mind, the mind is weak. I don’t see it. I don’t get it. I never understood – how does she even get on television?”

Clearly, Rosie lacks the power to understand the dazzling intellect that is Donald Trump. Trump needs someone of equal status to appreciate his immensity. But it can’t be Larry King, because as he told King, “Do you mind if I sit back a little? Because your breath is very bad. It really is. Has this been told to you before?”

4.     Requires excessive admiration

 No matter the sincerity, as long as the praise comes frequently and at a high enough volume. Says Trump, “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” Clearly. Admired, wherever he may go, even when he’s talking about himself in the third person, as in, “Love him or hate him, Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money.”

As he puts it, “Nobody but a total masochist wants to be criticized.”

5.     Has a sense of entitlement

The world owes the narcissist everything; he, in turn, owes it nothing.

I think Trump’s attitude can be summed up with this approach to marriage: “I wish I’d had a great marriage. See, my father was always very proud of me, but the one thing he got right was that he had a great marriage. He was married for 64 years. One of my ex-wives once said to me, ‘You have to work at a marriage.’ And I said, ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing.’”

6.     Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends

I don’t have a quote for this one, but perhaps we can talk to one of his ex-wives.

7.     Lacks empathy

Narcissists don’t sympathize with the feelings of others. Who are these “others,” anyway? No one matters except for me.

I won’t recreate the Rosie rampage in full, but sentiments like, “I’ll sue her because it would be fun. I’d like to take some money out of her fat ass pockets,” capture the spirit.

8.     Is often envious of others or believes others to be envious of him

Here, it seems like Trump is dominated by the second sentiment, the expectation that everyone is envious of his success. Everyone wants to be Trump. As he puts it, “The old rich may look down their noses at me, but I think they kiss my ass.”

9.     Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes

Again, other people don’t matter. They can be treated like nothing, because who are we kidding – nothing is the closest description of what they are.

Clients don’t matter. As Trump puts it, “When I build something for somebody, I always add $50 million or $60 million onto the price. My guys come in, they say it's going to cost $75 million. I say it's going to cost $125 million, and I build it for $100 million. Basically, I did a lousy job. But they think I did a great job.” Take them for the suckers they are; that’s the ticket.

The media doesn’t matter. According to Trump, “You know, it really doesn’t matter what (the media) write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” The piece of ass doesn’t matter, either; any will do.

Other businesses don’t matter. As Trump says, “If you want to buy something, it’s obviously in your best interest to convince the seller that what he’s got isn’t worth very much.” 

But it’s ok. Trump doesn’t have to be nice. After all, it’s not like he wants to run for office or anything: “I'm not running for office. I don't have to be politically correct. I don't have to be a nice person. Like I watch some of these weak-kneed politicians, it's disgusting. I don't have to be that way.”

Too bad. We need a good candidate. Because according to Trump, “One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.”

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.


Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Study helps explain why motivation to learn declines with age

Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

As people age, they often lose their motivation to learn new things or engage in everyday activities. In a study of mice, MIT neuroscientists have now identified a brain circuit that is critical for maintaining this kind of motivation.

Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover why fish evolved limbs and left water

Researchers find a key clue to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.

Surprising Science
  • A new study says solar and lunar tide impacts led to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.
  • The scientists show that tides created tidal pools, stranding fish and forcing them to get out of the water.
  • The researchers ran computer simulations to get their results.
Keep reading Show less

Optimism may be dangerous in a pandemic, say behavioral psychologists

Most people believe themselves to be less at risk from COVID-19 than others similar to them, according to a recent UCL survey conducted in the U.S.

Scroll down to load more…