Sunday, March 02, 2008

Is NPD a Mental Illness?

Guess what? I don't believe what I said in that last post. I think NPD is a mental illness. (In this case at least, I see no real difference between it and what religion would call spiritual illness.)

But, unfortunately, see what the DSM's own definition of mental illness and personality disorder forces logic to conclude: that NPD is not mental illness. The DSM's own rules specifically disallow diagnosing it as a personality disorder, because neither impairment nor distress afflicts the narcissist.

The problem is with that stupid definition of mental illness. Stupid, but lucrative definition of mental illness.

In essence, it makes any state of mind that causes you a problem or makes you feel bad a mental illness. Wonderful for mental health practitioners and the drug companies. The number of mental illnesses in the DSM has exploded, and drugs for these faux "disorders" are selling like hotcakes.

Now if you are sad or angry, it isn't because of whatever makes you sad or angry, it is because you have a mental illness. Here's you're prescription, see you next month.

And magical thinking is magical thinking, whether you are a primitive people speculating that an eclipse of the sun is due to an act of Apollo or are a psychiatrist today speculating that a mental illness is due to a malfunction of the brain. Except that the psychiatrist has no excuse, because he or she has no excuse for not knowing the difference between the brain and the MIND.

The brain is just the hardware. The mind is the software our experiences and thought patterns program it with. They keep attributing to the hardware things way beyond its power to do.

They seem willfully resistant to realizing that much human behavior is sequential, that bad behavior leads one into a vicious cycle of ever worsening behavior, because of the mental games people play to unburden their conscience.

Religion is right about this. Life is a journey. We choose a path, a way of life. One thing leads to another on it. This forms the mind.

When we find ourselves on the wrong path, we mustn't cheat. We must face facts, bear the guilt, turn our life around, head back to that fork in the road, and get on the right path instead.

But many people don't do that. And so they continue on, doing a bad thing again, and worse, today just to prove it wasn't wrong and stupid when they did it yesterday. And continue on, cleansing themselves by projecting their guilt and shame off onto their betters.

And does this REALLY unburden their repressed conscience? No! It incurs more guilt and shame. Which must be mentally juggled in the same way to make it seem to go away.

It's a runaway-train ride in which, sooner or later, they do something so bad that they have, in effect, passed the point of no return, simply because no one could conscience such a deed.

Now, I see nothing in this that any faithful secular humanist can't accept.

So, where does this noise that "there are no bad people, just bad deeds" come from? How absurd. If you lie, you are a liar. If you kill, you are a killer. If you cheat, you are a cheater. And if you do evil, you are evil.

Normal people strike out at those who do them harm, either in the past, the present, or as a threat in the future. They don't hurt the other because doing so gives them any pleasure. Their aim is self-defense or retribution (which is for justice, a defense of self-worth). Normal people demonstrate their aim by NOT being wanton in the damage they do their enemy. When they see they have achieved their purpose, they stop.

But psychopaths and other narcissists are predators who aren't fighting others: they are EATING others. They target easy prey, not anyone they have any reason to attack. They do it because hurting others makes them feel good = they like hurting others. And they are wanton about it. When they have you down, they start kicking. They start pouring it on where normal people would start letting up. They aren't satisfied till there's nothing left of the other party at all.

That is unnatural. Perverted = a perversion of human nature. I have no problem with asserting that such people are mentally/spiritually ill. But neither mere WORD makes them insane or irresponsible for their conduct.

Indeed, listen to our figures of speech about this: Sick in the head. Sick-o. Sick-minded. Twisted. Warped. Perverted. Mean-spirited. Psycho. (In fact, the word "psycho-path" literally means "sick in the head/mind/psyche".)

This is the only class of figures of speech that carries such negative connotations. There's no sympathy in those figures of speech and no failure to take that person seriously.

Figures of speech are the collective expression of all native speakers of a language over time. They don't lie about how we instinctively perceive things. We perceive this "ill-ness" as a kind of repulsive rottenness inside.

The question is what to do about it. I think the answer is simple: educate people to stop judging by falsifiable appearances and to both recognize and heed the warning signs to stay away from people like this. No matter how sweet and holy they act. That alone would prevent the vast majority of the damage they now do. It would also wise-up the bystanders, so that they wouldn't fall for and cover for these predators, enabling them to get away with so much. That's all: just warn people that modern society ain't a beach, that there are BAD people out there, that there are predators around, well camouflaged ones, that we have to be wary like the antelope on the African plains. When something in the air doesn't smell right, perk up and take it seriously.

And someday if there ever really does come an effective way to treat this illness, great. But till then, millions shouldn't have to suffer because the mental health establishment keeps denying the very existence of the malignance stalking us. As in this nonsense that narcissists don't act out of malice, the poor things are acting out of "fear" because they feel "threatened." Oooh, jeez, let's all go hug one then.

Give me a break. I've learned my lesson: I'd sooner go hug a tiger. And refusing to doesn't mean I hate tigers. It just means that I'm not crazy.

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At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Kathy . . . when you wrote that line about predators "eating others," it tied in so powerfully with a conversation I had the other day.

My mother is a pathological and malignant narcissist by anyone's definition, and my dad has always been a weak and passive enabler who, if my mother told him to, would probably literally have thrown my brother or me off a cliff.

So I have moved far away with my husband and children, but my brother still lives down the street from my parents and sees them every day. (Since I've been cut off, he lies to them about still having communication with me.)

So here's my point . . . my brother told me the other day that there's no use in trying to talk sensibly with my dad any longer . . . he's in a sort of fog all the time, and has lost his reasoning faculties, and doesn't ever seem to fully comprehend anything. And he's been to the doctor, and there's no earthly reason he should be that way. But I think what you said is true . . . he's been devoured by my mother. He no longer functions as an adult, and doesn't seem to have any sense of self.

Do you think there is any return from the point that he's at? If my mother dies first, is there a chance he might get better? I have a bad feeling that at his age, once you stop using your brain, it's not easy to recover.

Thank you so much for this blog. It has helped me in my quest to change my life (and my children's and husband's lives) for the better.


At 6:38 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Thank you for your kind words.

Your brother is in the best position to judge, and he doesn't sound optimistic. But much of fog is a simple choice to not know what one knows. Presumably then, a person can change their mind and decide to wake up. If your father would be freed of your mother's oppressive influence he might.

But habits of thinking do get deeply ingrained over time and are hard to change in old age. Plus, keep in mind that he has guilt of his own (for complicity) that he is juggling. That won't go away if your mother should precede him in death.

Narcissists have a strange effect on people they live with for a long time. I know of one case where a mature woman virtually was tuned into a little child by her adult narcissistic daughter who never left the nest. As her parents aged (and the N father just grew more infantile), the daughter reversed her relationship with her mother and started assuming the parental role. It was really weird to see.

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe the post I just read! My mother is also a pathological narcissist and I have put up with so much hurt and abnormality! My brother moved away years ago and hasn't spoken with our mother for over 25 years. He did the right thing. I have tried to care for my mom in her "senior years" especially since my father's death, but I am at the point of saying 'no more.' I'm no longer communicating. I have to stay away or I'll go insane.
The doctors, psychiatrist and psychologists are dealing with her now in an assisted living environment. Everything is in place so I can walk away with a clear head and heart. It's taken me 50 years to recognize this and one thing I've realized... If your parent can't be a model for you, let her be a warning. I am confident that the future generations in my family will never have to suffer the pain I was put through.

At 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Kathy, the DSM-definition doesn't fit.
In fact NPD can cause great impairment and distress if they loose their applauding and/or abuseble supply. Then you can see how sick they realy were and are.
I saw it with my mother, with my ex and in hospital. They developed all kinds of neurotic and somatic symtoms and also became like angry little children.
Till applauding or abuseble supply arrived again; these symtoms vanished like snow under the sun.
By the way I donn't think a disorder is the same as an illness and personality disorders tend to give pain, impairment and distress mostly after a lenght of time and in certain circumstances.
This offcourse doesn't mean that the disorder wasn't already there.
But maybe we must be glad in case of NPD that he DSM doesn't regard it as an illness.
So then also with this institute they are regarded fully responseble for their behavior.
But if they also stop calling it a disorder they are making a very big mistake I believe.
Then they can scrap most of the personality disorders also.
Very weired thinking of this man.
It's like starting having cancer when you start showing symtoms of the disease.

greetings, Gerard

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous dandelion said...

I also have been toying with the idea of NPD being a kind of mental illness, but along the lines of distorted thinking.

Schizophrenia or other psychosis is associated with a loss in the ability to perceive objective reality (e.g hallucinations involving real objects). N's on the other hand have a distorted view of reality in a less definable sphere involving emotions, relationships, and inner motivations. (This is where the impairment is, imo.)

At 11:47 AM, Blogger So, what IS in a heart? said...

"Then they get depressed."

Well, yea, because they tend to alienate so many people and don't understand why they do. They honestly expect people to put up with being kicked around, and get upset when it doesn't happen or it stops happening.

While it's tempting to think that "it must be nice being like them", it's best not to. I agree with Anna V in that they're often driven by fear and envy. An Ns "success" is often at the expense of others as most Ns have no self-sufficiency(sources of supply and all that rot), and generally only target those most vulnerable to being "dominated". Put it this way, it's easy to "dominate" when you're surrounded by weak people. Or those who have little choice but to put up with it.

Whether or not they suffer is actually irrelevant because you simply can't sympathize with them at all, and if you do, then from afar is the safest bet. Think of it this way, many dysfunctional addicts suffer, but a lot of them aren't above doing some pretty awful things for their "fix". They don't deserve sympathy, and if they claim that they don't want/need it, so much the better because the "sympathy junkies" are often the worst.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger So, what IS in a heart? said...

Oh, and one more thing, there's a group that even worse than the "successful" Ns, and it's total failures. Just that with the latter, the blast radius is smaller, unless they have familial support.


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