Donald Trump told a lot of lies in his press conference today. I’ll leave all of that unpacking for the fact-checkers. But let’s pretend that, rather than holding a press conference, Trump was sitting in a psychiatrist’s office for the purpose of having his mental health assessed. In order to meet the criteria of having Narcissistic Personality Disorder, he would have to have demonstrated at least five of the following criteria. Let’s see how he did.
1. Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
If you remember, at the Republican National Convention, Trump laid out his view of a dystopian America and then said, “Only I can fix it.” Today, he said that we’re becoming a drug-infested nation and “we’re not going to let it happen anymore.” In talking about companies that have said they’ll keep jobs in the U.S., he said that if he hadn’t been elected, they would have left.
2. Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it.
“There has never been a presidency that has done so much in such a short amount of time.”
3. Exaggerate your achievements and talents.
In mentioning that he won 306 electoral votes, Trump said that was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.
4. Preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate.
On a couple of occasions he referred to the Rasmussen poll stating that his approval rating is at 55% – ignoring all other polls showing him at less than 40%. Trump also suggested that he is assembling one of the greatest cabinets in American history.
5. Believe that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people.
In referring to the 9th Circuit – which continued the stay on his travel ban – he said that it was a “bad decision by a circuit that has been overturned a record number of times. I’ve heard 80%….I think that circuit is in chaos and frankly in turmoil.”
6. Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations.
Trump’s treatment of the press throughout his remarks is a demonstration of the fact that only unquestioning compliance would be suitable from his perspective. At one point he said that the leaks the press was reporting on were real, but he constantly referred to their stories about them as fake news.
7. Take advantage of others to get what you want.
On several occasions Trump brought Hillary Clinton into the conversation unsolicited. He talked about her getting debate questions ahead of time and perpetuated the lie that she had sent 20% of this country’s uranium to Russia. He also asked, “does anyone in this room think Clinton would have been tougher on Russia than me?” These were all attempts to prop himself up at Clinton’s expense.
8. Has an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others.
When asked the question about a government response to anti-semitic threats, he berated the reporter for asking the question and made it all about himself, saying, “I am the least anti-semitic person.”
As I mentioned, meeting 5 of the above criteria is the standard for diagnosing Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In just a little over an hour, Trump exhibited 8 of them. There are an additional four criteria that weren’t specifically manifest today, but we’ve seen from Trump in the past.
- Requires constant admiration
- Has a sense of entitlement
- Is envious of others and believes others envy you
- Behaves in an arrogant or haughty manner
In addition to meeting the criteria, it must be demonstrated that the symptoms create an impairment of daily functioning. While Allen Frances, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical College, thinks that is not true for Trump, it is hard to overlook the chaos and dysfunction that has been the hallmark of Trump’s professional life as well as his presidency. I also find it confusing that Allen says this:
Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy.
The fact that he may (or may not) have made a lot of money is beside the point. The very root of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an attempt to deflect both pain and accountability away from oneself – which is why it is perhaps the most untreatable mental illness.
I recognize that mental health professionals are ethically prohibited from making a diagnosis. But frankly, we have all the information we need to note that this president is mentally unstable, even if we only watched this one press conference.