|February 16, 2002
Dr. Vaknin is author of of the informative book, Malignant
Self Love - Narcissism Revisited. He also edits various mental
health categories on Open Directory, Suite101, Go.Com and
SearchEurope.com. While his doctorate is not in mental health,
this well-informed author clearly did his homework and writes from
experience. Dr. Vaknin's CV is published
here. His book, and much more, is available in hard copy or
download on his main
EDITED 2/09. Unfortunately, while the content itself stands on its own
in helping people understand narcissism, the writer's credibility may
For example, see here:
You keep writing about male narcissists. Is there any difference
between male narcissists and female narcissists?
keep using the male third person singular in my writings ("he") because
most narcissists (75%) are males and because there is no difference
between the male and female narcissists except in two things:
manifestation of their narcissism, female and male narcissists,
inevitably, do tend to differ. They emphasise different things. They
transform different elements of their personality and of their life
into the cornerstones of their disorder. They both conform to cultural
stereotypes, gender roles, and social expectations.
for instance, concentrate on their body (as they do in eating
disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa). They flaunt and
exploit their physical charms, their sexuality, their socially and
culturally determined "femininity". In its extreme form this is known
as HPD or the Histrionic Personality Disorder.
female narcissists secure their Narcissistic Supply through their more
traditional gender roles: the home, children, suitable careers, their
husbands ("the wife of..."), their feminine traits, their role in
society, etc. It is no wonder than narcissists - both men and women -
are chauvinistically conservative. They depend to such an extent on the
opinions of people around them - that, with time, they are transformed
into ultra-sensitive seismographs of public opinion, barometers of
prevailing winds and guardians of conformity. Narcissists cannot afford
to seriously alienate those who reflect to them their False Self. The
very proper and on-going functioning of their Ego depends on the
goodwill and the collaboration of their human environment.
the self destructive and self defeating behaviours of narcissists
conform to traditional masculine and feminine roles. Besieged and
consumed by pernicious guilt feelings - many a narcissist seek to be
punished. The self-destructive narcissist plays the role of the "bad
guy" (or "bad girl"). But even then it is within the traditional
socially allocated roles. To ensure social opprobrium (read: attention,
i.e., narcissistic supply), the narcissist cartoonishly exaggerates
these roles. A woman is likely to label herself a "whore" and a male
narcissist to style himself a "vicious, unrepentant criminal". Yet,
these again are traditional social roles. Men are likely to emphasise
intellect, power, aggression, money, or social status.
Women are likely to emphasise body, looks, charm, sexuality,
feminine "traits", homemaking, children and childrearing - even as they seek their masochistic punishment.
difference is in the way they react to treatment. Women are more likely
to resort to therapy because they are more likely to admit to their
psychological problems. But while men may be less inclined to DISCLOSE
or to expose their problems to others (the macho-man factor) - it does
not necessarily imply that they are less prone to admit it to
themselves. Women are also more likely to ask for help than men. Yet,
the prime rule of narcissism must never be forgotten: the narcissist
uses anything available to obtain his (or her) Narcissistic Supply.
Children happen to be more around the female narcissist because women
are still the primary caregivers and the ones who give birth. It is
easier for a woman to think of her children as her extensions because
they once indeed were her physical extensions and because her on-going
interaction with them is both more intensive and more extensive. This
means that the male narcissist is more likely to regard his children as
a nuisance than as a source of rewarding Narcissist Supply - especially
as they grow older and become autonomous. Devoid of the diversity of
alternatives available to men - the narcissistic woman fights to
maintain her most reliable source of supply: her children. Through
insidious indoctrination, guilt formation, emotional extortion,
deprivation and other psychological mechanisms, she tries to induce in
them a dependence, which cannot be easily unraveled.
But, there is no psychodynamic difference between children as
sources of narcissistic supply - and money, or intellect, or any other Source
of Narcissistic Supply. So, there is no psychodynamic difference
between male and female narcissists. The only difference is in their
choices of sources of narcissistic supply.
There are mental disorders, which afflict a specific sex more
often. This has to do with hormonal or other physiological dispositions,
with social and cultural conditioning through the socialisation process,
and with role assignment through the gender differentiation process.
None of these seem to be strongly correlated to the formation of malignant narcissism.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (as opposed, for instance, to the
Borderline or the Histrionic Personality Disorders, which afflict women
more than men) seems to conform to masculine social mores and to the
prevailing ethos of capitalism. Ambition, achievements, hierarchy,
ruthlessness, drive are both social values and narcissistic male traits.
Social thinkers like Lasch speculated that modern American culture
- a narcissistic, self-centred one - increases the rate of incidence of
the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
To this Kernberg answered, rightly: "The most I would be willing to say is that society can make
serious psychological abnormalities, which already exist in some percentage
of the population, seem to be at least superficially appropriate."
Good stuff! Now, see Dr. Irene on the
female narcissist and use the box below
to post your comments. (The box on this article and Doc's article
point to the same board.) Dr. Irene
|About the Author:
Vaknin, PhD, a very popular contributor to this site, is the author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism
Revisited", the owner of the Narcissistic Abuse Study List, and
the editor of mental health categories in The Open Directory,
Suite101, and searcheurope.com.
His web site:
http://samvak.tripod.com E-mail: email@example.com
Frequently asked questions regarding narcissism:
Narcissistic Personality Disorder on Suite101:
Q&A regarding relationships with abusive narcissists:
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