“He who falls in love with himself will have no rivals.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is defined by WebMD as:
“…a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others.”
Narcissism is a mysterious condition.
First, mental health experts don’t know what causes NPD. Narcissism is similar to psychopathy and sociopathy in this way. While family history and advanced brain imaging technologies (e.g., PET) may clue us in, psychotherapists are the only individuals who can diagnose the disorder.
Second, many people – including some mental health experts – are of mixed opinion whether or not people diagnosed (or possibly, misdiagnosed) with NPD are deserving of sympathy. You’ll see why in the next section.
The Madoff Case
Consider Bernie Madoff as an example. Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal crimes for running a massive Ponzi scheme estimated at $65 billion.
He was given a 150-year sentence.
Obviously, narcissistic and sociopathic traits – which Madoff almost certainly possessed – aren’t acceptable excuses in a court of law.
While overseeing the largest financial fraud in U.S. history, Madoff sat on the boards of organizations influencing policies for detecting securities fraud.
On the other hand, Madoff was a noted philanthropist, donating millions to various charitable organizations.
“He was thought of as a great philanthropist, a pillar of the community, the chairman of Nasdaq – all of that stuff,” said a friend of his.
Does it matter why?
As Bernie Madoff’s “case file” confirms, narcissists and sociopaths don’t have a rhyme or reason behind why they do such immoral things; or why they act contradictory much of the time.
Does it really matter why?
Not to the victims of Madoff; many of whom lost their life savings. Not to the millions of countless nameless faces whose lives have been upended by a liar and manipulator.
One thing that most people will agree on is that self-protection is paramount. Narcissists and sociopaths can – and will – inflict harm, and most won’t show any remorse.
What goes on inside the brain of a narcissist?