Thursday, 4 Jun 2020

Opinion | Is Trump a Pathological Narcissist?

To the Editor:

Re “We Are All at the Mercy of the Narcissist in Chief,” by Jennifer Senior (column, Oct. 12):

As a psychiatrist who contributed a chapter to the “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” I have often been asked whether he meets the definition of a narcissist, to which I have answered, half in jest, “No, rather he gives narcissism a bad name.”

President Trump’s grandiosity and paranoid retaliatory behaviors are so far beyond those shown by what in contrast could be called “ordinary narcissists” that he requires a category beyond narcissism. The proper category would be “destructive dictator,” because Mr. Trump, like Hitler and Stalin, has the personality of a grandiose-paranoid dictator who would destroy all he saw as his enemies while endangering the nation that he supposedly was advancing through his leadership.

That puts him far beyond the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder into a much more dangerous zone for our nation.

Henry J. Friedman
Cambridge, Mass.
The writer is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

To the Editor:

Now what? While I applaud Jennifer Senior’s confirmation that President Trump is, indeed, a malignant narcissist, what do we do with this diagnosis? So Mr. Trump is not just an ordinary cornflakes-and-milk basic narcissist. No, he’s a steak-and-eggs malignant narcissist, king of the character disorders.

But what do we do with this diagnosis? Our country has never been more divided. Voters in Mr. Trump’s base adore him for reasons that are deeply meaningful to them. Mr. Trump, they believe, understands how obliterated, erased and forgotten they feel.

A smug, superior stance, aided by fancy psychiatric diagnosing by people understandably horrified and appalled by Mr. Trump’s run-amok style and policies, only serves to further alienate his supporters.

Let’s bridge this empathy chasm and heal our nation.

Patricia Steckler
Westfield, N.J.
The writer is a clinical psychologist.

To the Editor:

Jennifer Senior’s column on President Trump’s narcissism has much to teach about coping with his madness, particularly the last part of her column concerning the need for the press to reconsider the notion that “almost anything that comes out of the president’s mouth is considered news.”

Indeed we should, and we have a courageous example in the person of Chuck Todd, of the program “MTP Daily” on MSNBC. This month Mr. Todd announced that he would refuse to repeat, much less to replay, one of Mr. Trump’s statements during a rally in Minnesota on the ground that the remarks were so ugly that they should not be amplified by being reported.

Perhaps a simple rule is needed: The president would be covered only when he is announcing what the government is doing. He would not be covered when he is simply trying to get attention. As Ms. Senior says, “Never take the bait.”

Jeff Lang
Chapel Hill, N.C.

To the Editor:

Jennifer Senior seeks to malign Donald Trump by claiming that the president suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. There’s only one problem with her assertion.

The psychiatrist who wrote the defining clinical characteristics for narcissistic personality disorder, Dr. Allen Frances, said this in a letter to the editor two years ago: “Most amateur diagnosticians have mislabeled President Trump with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. I wrote the criteria that define this disorder, and Mr. Trump doesn’t meet them.”

Dr. Frances was chairman of the task force that wrote the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, widely considered to be psychiatry’s “bible,” so his credentials are unassailable.

Michael J. DiStefano
Jamestown, R.I.

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