Talking About Mental Health: Narcissism can make people mentally tough, less prone to depression, says study
Researchers found that grandiose narcissism lowers stress levels and offsets symptoms of depression.
Certain narcissistic characters may not be so bad after all. People showing high-self-esteem and an inflated sense of self and other grandiose behavior are less likely to suffer from depression and stress, suggests a new study.
In contrast, vulnerable narcissists, showing defensive, avoidant and hypersensitive behavior, are more prone to depression, according to the study. "Vulnerable narcissism showed the opposite pattern, that is, it was associated with higher symptoms of psychopathology through decreasing mental toughness," Kostas Papageorgiou, who is Director of the InteRRaCt Lab in the School of Psychology at Queen's, told MEA Worldwide (MEAWW).
Earlier studies, says the research team, have typecast narcissism as something bad. "Narcissism is part of the 'Dark Tetrad' of personality that also includes Machiavellianism, psychopathy and sadism," says the research team.
But experts believe that there is more to this than meets the eye. Accordingly, for the current study, the researchers decided to dissect narcissism and see if it has anything good to offer. The team evaluated approximately 700 adults, by measuring levels of sub-clinical narcissism, mental toughness, symptoms of depression and perceived stress.
The findings reveal that grandiose narcissism can increase mental toughness, which in turn, offsets symptoms of depression. High scores on grandiose narcissism meant lower levels of perceived stress.
The team reasons that mental toughness in grandiose narcissists can stem from their need to embrace challenges head on, rather than viewing them as a hurdle.
"There are stereotypes about positive and negative traits, but in reality, there is no inherently bad or toxic trait. Importantly, this work promotes diversity and inclusiveness of people and ideas by advocating that dark traits, such as narcissism, should not be seen as "either good or bad," but as products of evolution and expressions of human nature that may be beneficial or harmful depending on the context," Papageorgiou told MEAWW.
However, the study should be taken with a pinch of salt, clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, told CNN. "Perhaps grandiose narcissists are so good at protecting themselves with defenses that it does shelter them against stress and negative mood states," Durvasula said. "But remember the real toll of narcissism, the terrible way they treat everyone else."