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Guest Commentary

Some mental health conditions are easy to diagnose

10/28/2015

I don’t agree with much that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has had to say in the Republican presidential sweepstakes and, apparently, not many in his political base do either. He’s polling about where undeclared candidates do.

But in a demonstration that even a blind hog finds an occasional acorn, the governor got one thing exactly right when he declared that Donald Trump is an unabashed narcissist.  As it turns out, using that label to describe Trump is not the usual use of unwarranted superlative or mere name-calling.  It’s a diagnosis — a diagnosis of “narcissistic personality disorder” according to none other than the staff at Mayo Clinic, relying on the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Mind you, having two or three of those characteristics would probably not be enough to diagnose this mental health condition. But when having every single one of them, and having them in spades and on public display, it doesn’t take a professionally trained shrink to make the diagnosis. Even Gov. Jindal could do it, and he did.

The Mayo Clinic staff goes on to observe that those with the disorder “may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious.” They “often monopolize conversations.” They “may belittle or look down on people perceived as inferior.” They “may feel a sense of entitlement” and become impatient or angry if they don’t receive special treatment. At the same time, they “have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism,” and —  get this — they “may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation.” To feel better, they “may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle [others in order] to appear superior.” That has Donald Trump written all over it.

If, as some have proposed, we tighten up background checks to include confirmation of emotional stability as a pre-condition for buying a gun, I’m thinking Donald Trump wouldn’t qualify. And he’s for sure not qualified to be Commander in Chief of the most powerful military with the largest stockpile of mass destruction weapons in the world.

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I’m embarrassed for him. He should not be seeking support of the electorate; he should be seeking help from a mental health professional, the best that money can buy. CV

Jonathan Wilson is an attorney in private practice with the Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines. He lives in Des Moines, owns a small farm in southeast Iowa, served on the Des Moines School Board for 12 years, and has two children and four grandchildren. He can be reached at JonathanWilson@DavisBrownLaw.com.

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