Aug 08

Diagnose Narcissism: Just Ask and You May Have Your Answer

Sara Konrath (Indiana University) led the series of studies that recently concluded that you can diagnose narcissism just by asking. Apparently she got the idea to conduct this research after a perceived narcissist spontaneously outed himself in a group setting. Just like that. As though he was that proud of it. 

In 11 different but related studies loads of subjects were asked, “To what extent do you agree with this statement: I am a narcissist.’” A brief description was included: “The word ‘narcissist’ means egotistical, self-focused, and vain.”

Surprisingly, most persons’ responses were pretty matchy with results from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) each later took. This is a standard 40-question survey that you can take yourself to diagnose narcissism—just click on the link.

A possible conclusion has been that maybe just this one question suffices. No big need to administer time-consuming tests. I mean, that is, if you really have to know that quickly if someone’s a narcissist or not.

Jeffrey Kluger, whose book The Narcissist Next Door will be coming out next month, explains in Time why this single question can be so effective:

The reason narcissists are so honest—a lot more honest than you’d be if someone asked you, say, ‘Are you a sociopath?’—is because they just don’t think their narcissism is a problem, which is perfectly consistent with people who think so highly of themselves. ‘Narcissists have these great mental health outcomes,’ Konrath told me when I was researching my upcoming book…’If you’re trying to think of a group of people who are low in depression and anxiety, high in creativity and accomplishment, that’s narcissists.’

That, by itself, doesn’t sound bad at all. But narcissists often possess those good qualities to the general exclusion of others—especially social and relationship skills, a shortcoming that can hurt both them and those around them.

A type of narcissism I’m guessing is harder to detect with the one-question strategy is covert narcissism, commonly known as the “vulnerable” type. It is the counterpart to the more grandiose and overt “invulnerable” type of narcissism.

If so, there happens to be another test for that, the Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale (MCNS), developed by Jonathan Cheek, Holly Hendin, and Paul Wink. It’s available in Scott Barry Kaufman‘s 2013 Scientific American article called 23 Signs You’re Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert.” (He was tired of all the recent “listicles” about introvert traits and intrigued by the purported similarities between introverts and narcissists.)

If you’re suddenly feeling fearful of losing your sensitive introvert status, approach very carefully—or not at all.

If you are a narcissist, you probably think this story is about you, and you are correct (as you so often are – right?). Kim Painter, USA Today