Narcissists Are Less Likely to Get Depression, Psychologists Believe

Psychologists believe narcissists are less likely to suffer from depression because the trait might build mental resilience.

Researchers looked at whether those with subclinical narcissism are more "mentally tough" than those without this trait. The team carried out three studies involving 364, 244, and 144 participants in their 20s, respectively.

Among the dark triad personality traits alongside machiavellianism and psychopathy, narcissism falls into two categories. While grandiose narcissists lack humility and modesty, are more likely to be exhibitionists, and seek dominance, vulnerable narcissists can be selfish and crave attention and recognition.

The participants filled out questionnaires to measure whether they were narcissistic, mentally tough, open to new experiences, felt stressed, and if they had symptoms of depression.

Participants who scored higher for grandiose narcissistic traits were more likely to be psychologically hardy, and less have less likely to have depression according to the study published in the journal European Psychiatry.

A separate study using the same dataset published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found those with grandiose narcissism had lower stress levels, and were less likely to view life as stressful.

narcissist, self love, self care, stock ,getty
Narcissist are less likely to have the symptoms of depression, according to researchers. A stock image shows a woman hugging herself. Getty

Study co-author Dr. Kostas A. Papageorgiou, assistant professor at the School of Psychology, Queen's University Belfast, U.K., told Newsweek his work in general is "fueled by the desire to explain the following contradiction: If dark personality traits are indeed so socially toxic, why do they persist and are even on the rise, in modern societies?"

He continued: "In this research, we wanted to have a very focused message: Certain aspects of narcissism may be beneficial in the context of psychopathology.

"We do not claim that narcissism is a good characteristic—instead we propose that human personality should be perceived in a sphere that is beyond good and bad traits, prosocial and toxic traits, in an attempt to identify traits' adaptive and maladaptive levels across various contexts."

Papageorgiou explained grandiose narcissism may correlate negatively with symptoms of psychopathology because in trying to gain access to resources, they think they deserve they may face obstacles,

"Overcoming these challenges may help them build their mental toughness," he said. "Mental toughness offers the psychological resources that are crucial for boosting resilience against psychopathology."

Stephanie M. Kriesberg, a licensed psychologist and member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America who specializes in narcissism and did not work on the study critiqued the research. She told Newsweek: "Narcissism is not a pretty word; we don't think good things about someone when we identify them as a narcissist.

"However, these studies point out that narcissists can have the mental toughness, confidence, and persistence required to invent, create, lead. Some people might put Steve Jobs in this category for example."

Offering a potential explanation for the results, she said grandiose narcissists are more likely to experience rage when they are criticized or when they fail, and will blame others.

"These reactions protect them from feeling depressed or inadequate. Nonetheless, they are vulnerable to isolation because they alienate people. At those times, depression or sadness can creep on them. It may present as self-pity, rather than depression," she said.

Kriesberg said the study was limited because the subjects were relatively young, and therefore may be more prone to self-centred thoughts and behaviours.

The average person who likely isn't a narcissist can build resilience by breaking big goals into small, achievable steps, Kriesberg said. Practicing being aware of your own emotions and those of others, and identifying what is important in your life and asking how your actions help you live by them can also help, she suggested.