During and after the election, several publications suggested – citing psychiatrists and psychologists – that President Donald Trump could have narcissistic personality disorder.
“For psychologists, it is almost impossible to talk about Donald Trump without using the word narcissism,” reads an article in the Atlantic. “Asked to sum up Trump’s personality for an article in Vanity Fair, Howard Gardner, a psychologist at Harvard, responded, ‘Remarkably narcissistic.’ George Simon, a clinical psychologist who conducts seminars on manipulative behavior, says Trump is ‘so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example’ of narcissism.”
The Atlantic is hardly alone. Google “Trump narcissistic personality disorder” and you’ll see countless results. Even Psychology Today has a post that – though stating psychologists are loathe to diagnose people they don’t have in their offices personally – states Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder is “transparent” based on symptoms listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
But the psychiatrist who wrote the criteria for that disorder disagrees.
“He may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder,” Allen Frances, chairman of the task force that wrote a recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, wrote in a letter to the New York Times.
“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,” Frances continued. “It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).”
Frances calls on the media to stop running those headlines, and for psychologists to return to the “ethical constraints” of not diagnosing public figures from a distance. He adds that petitions seeking to remove Trump from the seat of president should pursue political avenues rather than psychological ones.
“Psychiatric name-calling is a misguided way of countering Mr. Trump’s attack on democracy,” Frances said. “He can, and should, be appropriately denounced for his ignorance, incompetence, impulsivity and pursuit of dictatorial powers.”