Are the incidences of celebrities with narcissistic personality disorder higher than that of the general population? A 2006 study by Dr. Drew Pinsky concludes that, as a demographic group, actors and entertainers have more narcissistic tendencies (narcissistic personality disorder symptoms) than the rest of the U.S. population. This study gave credence to the natural proclivity of the media and public to label celebrities as narcissists, even when there was no diagnosis or record of treatment for narcissistic personality disorder.
Actor, Gene Wilder, theorized that all actors are narcissists who came from dysfunctional family situations where they had to take on a variety of roles to earn their parents’ attention. Wilder postulated that as the child’s social circle grows outside the home, he or she continues this role switching behavior to gain admiration of others.
Certainly this situation represents one factor that can contribute to a person’s development of narcissism; and some entertainers do come from this sort of troubling background. But many actors are highly empathetic and excel in the profession because they bring their powerful emotional empathy to the roles they play. They have a well-developed ability to understand the inner experience of other humans in varied situations, making acting an ideal career pursuit. It’s a dangerous thing to paint an entire segment of the population with one brush. Tsk tsk, Mr. Wilder.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, there are plenty of high profile folks that do behave in ways that suggest they may have narcissistic personality disorder.
Famous People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Psychology Today contributor, Gad Saad, Ph.D., shares his opinion about famous people with narcissistic personality disorder. He points to some of the more grandiose displays of self-importance by several of America’s favorite celebrities:
Jenny McCarthy – McCarthy, actress and former Playboy bunny, said she was astonished that the National Institutes of Health ignored her supposed proof that the MMR vaccine causes autism. The outspoken celeb claims the NIH won’t acknowledge her “findings” because they are collaborating with big pharma.
Madonna – the pop superstar claims she used Kabbalah (a mystical sect of Judaism) to remove radiation from a Ukrainian lake. It makes one wonder if she swam in the lake after she “removed” the radiation?
Suzanne Somers – says her hormone replacement therapy is the “elixir of youth”. OK, first, she’s not a physician or scientist, so not sure how she has developed a hormone replacement therapy system. Second, Saad is stretching his armchair diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder with Somers as her claims sound more like a shifty marketing ploy designed to make fast money off of the desperate and ignorant.
Oprah – Saad didn’t offer any examples of the talk show diva’s narcissistic behaviors and claims, most likely because almost everything she does serves as an example of excessive self-importance and grandiosity. Read this article by Salon.com about Oprah’s contribution to the public’s perception about celebrities and narcissism.
While Saad admits that [some] celebrities pursue careers in acting and entertaining because they have a true love of performing and the arts, he seems to favor Wilder’s assumptions about actors. He speculates that the majority of celebrities pursue life in the spotlight because of the outcomes they hope for rather than any sort of love for the arts. In short, they do it specifically as a means to an end, with the end being fame, money, and public adoration.
Saad postulates that celebrities like Tom Cruise, Justin Bieber, the Kardashians, et al, were narcissists before they became famous. Narcissists seek, and some achieve, incredible fame because they desperately need the public adoration, hordes of fans, and obsequious entourages that go along with it.
His reasoning and expert background definitely give a more authoritative air to the common flippant assumptions about celebrities and narcissism. Our society appears to be evolving into one where an increasing number of everyday citizens exhibit narcissistic traits – a disturbing trend fueled by the selfie culture and me-first mindset.