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Aspiring American presidential candidate Donald Trump doesn't fit into neat categories, and his style of campaigning breaks all the rules. But does that mean he has a personality disorder?

Donald Trump has been a larger-than-life fixture on American television for about 30 years. A rich, flashy businessman, he has been well known for his towering buildings, beautiful wives, and top-rated TV shows for nearly a generation.

It has only been since about 2008 that "the Donald" has become well known for his politics. His insistence that President Obama had not proven he was not born in Kenya, his $5 million dollar offer for Obama's college transcripts, and his $5 million suit against political commentator Bill Maher for making an allegation that Trump's unique hair color proved he was the love child of his mother and an orange-haired orangutan (or maybe it was the other way around) heralded Trump's increasing political visibility. Unlike most advocates of the Obama "birther" theory, "the Donald" never backed down, and over the past seven years he has played his high political profile into (at the time this article is being written in December 2015) an apparently viable presidential candidacy.

Does Trump Have a Psychiatric Disorder?

Trump's loud and self-assured public statements have led some to speculate that he has what psychiatrists call a narcissistic personality disorder. Strictly speaking, psychiatrists and psychotherapists can't make public comments on an individual in their professional role. It would be unethical, and probably result in the loss of a license, to announce to the world that "Donald Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder." However, journalists, like the writer of this article, can take a look at the criteria for diagnosis and see if the facts match the armchair diagnosis.

Criteria for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The Mayo Clinic states that:

"If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don't receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having "the best" of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care."

A lot of this sounds very familiar when we look at Donald Trump. At first glance, it seems that maybe he does have a narcissistic personality disorder. However, in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder may be made when a patient displays at least five of the nine characteristics listed below (which are paraphrased for clarity). 

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance and superiority.

  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love that are a standard for others or a goal for others.

  • A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions, for example "the best schools" or "the most brilliant advisers."

  • A need for excessive and constant admiration.

  • A sense of entitlement, that there is never a reason not to get one's way.

  • Interpersonally exploitive behavior.

  • A lack of empathy or caring.

  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her.

  • A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes.

However, people who have a narcissistic personality disorder use accomplishments, connections, and possessions to compensate for an inadequate "real self." Moreover, these personality characteristics must result in unwanted disruption in personal relationships or long-term problems in maintaining a functional role in society.

You can't say Donald Trump is any kind of failure. You may not like him, but there's no doubt that his style works for him. His success, after all, is huge. When narcissistic behaviors get highly functional results, you don't have a diagnosis. You just have a list. A bigger question, however, is why is any narcissist popular?

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