A study published by Sara Konrath and John Paul Bonadonna suggests that extreme narcissism in people could be detrimental not only to their social relationships but also to their health and body image among other things. It is important to note that there have also been some positive elements recorded in the study of narcissism.
The term ‘narcissism’ is derived from the Greek mythological character Narcissus who fell in love with a reflection of his image and was unable to part from it until death. Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by extreme selfishness, difficulty to empathize and inability to tolerate criticism. Narcissism could surface as a mild trait in some people or may even emerge as a psychiatric condition called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is also one of the three personality traits listed in the Dark Triad which includes machiavellianism and psychopathy– traits that are malevolent in nature. The level of narcissism of an individual is determined by their score on the Narcissism Personality Inventory. A fictional character and an example of extreme Narcissistic Personality Disorder would be King Joffrey from the popular TV show Game Of Thrones.
Narcissism And Social Relationships
Studies have shown that people scoring high on narcissism have difficulty maintaining healthy long-term relationships. The effects of narcissism on social relationships, be it personal or professional, are simple to understand. In personal relationships, it is essential for an individual to be able to place themselves in the other person’s shoes or at least have a small amount of concern for their well-being but people with a narcissistic trait find it very difficult to make anyone else a priority. In professional relationships, a person with narcissistic personality could be counterproductive given their exploitative, entitled nature and tendency to not respond well to criticism. It is vital to note that as a superior, leadership and self-confidence are some positives of the trait.
Narcissism And Health
The idea that a personality trait could have an impact on health is hard to imagine and the research is still in its infancy stage but the study shows a slight relationship between narcissism and cardiovascular responses. The study talks about a heightened and sustained fight-or-flight response in a threatening context that a narcissistic individual faces. A paper published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology states:
“The actual presence of averse stimuli is not needed to elicit such physiologically toxic responses. In fact, simply imagining a rejection experience (versus an acceptance experience) is enough to increase blood pressure and heart rate among narcissistic people.”
Another influence that the study explores of narcissism on health is its effect on cortisol production. Cortisol is a hormone produced within the adrenal gland in response to stress and low blood sugar levels. According to the study, cortisol responses are often triggered by the threat of social evaluation. Salivary cortisol concentrations are an indicator of the activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis which is an important stress-response system in the human body. It has been noted that long-term activation of the HPA axis has been linked to poor mental and physical health as well as a higher risk of mortality due to cardiovascular problems.
Narcissism And Body Image
People who have narcissistic tendencies tend to be extremely concerned about their body image. The study shows that narcissism is negatively associated with body esteem. Women who are narcissistic may become overly conscious of their weight and may suffer from eating disorders as a result. Men may become fixated on becoming muscular and may resort to steroids in order to achieve their goal body. That being said, it is also important to note that as a result of their concern over their body, some people with this trait spend plenty of time exercising and eating healthy.