The president has followed the predictable course for narcissism in one way, alienating many who have served in his administration, and defied expectations in another, by continuing to attract an adoring core.
Updated on December 4, 2019 at 10:55 a.m. EST
Senator Ted Cruz once described Donald Trump as “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.” That characterization echoes what many psychological researchers and therapists have long concluded. Although the American Psychiatric Association strongly discourages mental-health professionals from assigning mental-illness labels to public figures, some clinicians have even suggested that President Trump has narcissistic personality disorder, or NPD. In a recent article in The Atlantic, George T. Conway III argued that Trump exhibits all the classic signs of NPD, and that for that reason, among others, he is unfit for office.
But Trump is stranger than any diagnostic category can convey. Narcissism is a psychological construct with profound implications for an individual’s well-being and interpersonal relationships. Personality and social psychologists have done hundreds of studies examining narcissistic tendencies, revealing certain patterns of behavior and outcome. In some ways, Trump fits those patterns perfectly. But in at least one crucial respect, he deviates.