Narcissists make us uneasy. They’re ego-driven, self-serving attention seekers. They don’t care about other people’s feelings and require constant praise. They see criticism as attacks.
Most exhausting, they think they’re better than the rest of us. Unfortunately, they might be right.
New research suggests that narcissists may have a psychological edge over the general public. In two recently published papers, Kostas Papageorgiou, Director of the InteRRaCt Lab in the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast argues that some forms of narcissism make people more resilient and less vulnerable to stress and depression.
Papageorgiou’s studies focus on grandiose narcissism, a type of narcissism associated with outward confidence, assertiveness and a dominant approach to relationships. Grandiose narcissists often hold leadership positions, make decisions with overconfidence and have trouble learning from mistakes.
In his papers published in the journals Personality and Individual Differences and European Psychiatry, Papageorgiou associates grandiose narcissism with traits that can help offset depression symptoms. Stress has less impact on them and they therefore believe their lives are less stressful.
“Grandiose narcissism correlates with very positive components of mental toughness, such as confidence and goal orientation, protecting against symptoms of depression and perceived stress,” Dr Papageorgiou said in a press release.
He added: “If a person is more mentally tough they are likely to embrace challenges head on, rather than viewing them as a hurdle.”
The notion that narcissists have natural advantages is sure to ruffle some feathers. Narcissists make us anxious and we worry that the people close to us are narcissists. They could be your parents—the Reddit forum raised by narcissists has over 480,000 members. We’re reminded to keep our guard up against relationships with narcissists. Psychology Today offers 10 signs warning you may be dating one. If that’s not a thorough enough test for your tastes Cosmopolitan has 11 signs and Bustle has 15. Want a psychological explanation for your enmity towards the president? The Atlantic and the New York Times have diagnosed President Trump as a pathological narcissist.
We’re told narcissists are toxic. How can we process the idea that they’re immune to the stress and depression many non-narcissists struggle with? Stepping away from judgment we use when we talk about narcissism could be a good start.
Papageorgiou said that dark personality traits, including narcissism, should not considered good or bad. They’re products of evolution and expressions of human nature. As such, they need to be judged on the context in which they arise.
“While of course not all dimensions of narcissism are good, certain aspects can lead to positive outcomes,” Papageorgiou said.