What percentage of people are approximately narcissists?
Narcissists say they may not understand others. In truth, they just don't care.
Are you leading a clinical research project on this?
Since 2006. Our question is: How can one characterize people who are clinically noticeably ill and who go to a psychiatrist because of these disorders? Which concepts of narcissism are true and which are not?
How do you do that?
We ask people who are being treated by us if they would like to take part in research projects. Then we examine different aspects of the disease.
Do the patients know what your work topic is?
Yes. We tell them quite clearly that we think they are in this box. They all came of their own accord. You can only have a personality disorder when there is psychological stress. Someone who says “Everything is fine, I get along well in life, have a great job, have constantly changing partnerships, but it's great, that's how I like my life”: He has no diagnosis. Another exciting question is what actually distinguishes those who do not suffer from suffering and those who come: You don't know! It can affect almost anyone, including those who have been very successful and suddenly have to file for personal bankruptcy and the partner says after years, I won't do it anymore.
Do you only suffer when it no longer works?
But: Wwhy doesn't it work anymore? Is it because of intelligence, because of a skill someone has? Is anyone more lucky, has a job that cannot be terminated, has a partner who goes along with everything? A random factor - or more? We focus our research on people who have clinical ailments, we want to understand that. The goal of the doctor is then to see how one can get people out of this suffering.
How many patients took part in your study?
Over a hundred. We first examined the widespread notion that narcissists primarily have a disorder of self-regulation and try to increase their self-esteem again and again. There is a test for this that - in this one study! - showed that the patients had no less self-worth than others. The next study was about feelings of shame, which can be seen as the emotional side of self-worth. If you've made a mistake, you can say: I slept too little that night, otherwise it wouldn't have happened, that's why I drove against it with my car. You feel guilty about that. But you can also say: I am totally worthless as a person, I can't even drive a car, I don't get anything baked in life, you evaluate yourself as a whole person: Then you would feel ashamed. The hypothesis is: Narcissists do not react with guilt, but above all with shame when they make the smallest mistakes. Not: I should have studied once, then I would have passed the exam -
Don't take responsibility, but: I am a failed person.
Exactly. The study was able to confirm this. - Another thing is the construct that narcissists have little compassion. We had an exciting finding: If you ask someone with a narcissistic personality disorder, how much empathy do you have for others, they'll say: As much as others. And if you ask how well you can understand what others think, feel, want, he says: It's very difficult for me, I just don't understand people. But if you compare this with other test results, you get a mirror image of these statements: They can understand others very well, even a little better than others, but they have less empathy, they don't care. A single study does not mean anything at first, but: In this one at least we were able to show that this is apparently related to structural changes in the brain. The genetic findings come from a large study in Norway: If you were to drive a taxi from tomorrow, you would compare your brain in a year from today and see that more brain matter was created in the center that you need for spatial orientation Train spatial thinking. With narcissists, there just isn't that much gray matter in regions of the brain where compassion is at stake.
But what is the hen and what is the egg?
There are environmental factors, parenting behavior plays a role. But we know that the genetic component in personality disorders is 70 percent.
Once a narcissist, always a narcissist?
After two years, around 50 percent are not healthy, but they no longer meet all the criteria and have slipped below the critical threshold.
"Doctor, I don't mind anymore".
Apparently, with age, pathological narcissism decreases, self-esteem increases.
Did you come across the subject yourself by chance?
These are patients who stand out. In contact with people, you get a fine feel for their behavioral patterns. These are people who make it difficult for you. They show you that you have no idea. That wakes you up. You are challenged. There is someone questioning you. These patients are guys you just don't like. Of course, when you see the suffering behind it, you have compassion for it too. But in normal human contact, as a friend, you don't want someone who is severely narcissistic. That doesn't feel good: someone who is in extreme competition with you, who does not treat you, who always thinks they are better and bigger. These patients also stop their therapy earlier, they commit suicide attempts, even if they are not depressed. As a doctor, you are not seen as an equal counterpart, but, which fits the pattern, first praised and then devalued. We had a number of such patients in our office hours and were confronted with the phenomenon every day: This gave rise to an interest in understanding it better.
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