Although Donald Trump does not have an official diagnosis of a personality disorder, many mental health experts believe him to have some combination of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy), and Paranoid Personality Disorder. When these disorders appear together in the same person, we call it malignant narcissism.
Malignant narcissism is different from garden variety NPD in that, due to the presence of ASPD, the person very often has a blatant disregard for the law or the rights of others. There is also an element of paranoia, which lends itself to a toxic belief in conspiracy theories and a belief everyone is against them. The malignant narcissist will often seek retribution or revenge on others they believe have wronged them. Often, they are sadistic and actually enjoy inflicting pain on others (I believe Trump is one of these). Garden variety narcissists are toxic and usually unpleasant to be around, and they can certainly be abusive if you are unlucky enough to have to live with or be in close contact with one, but unless they are also malignant, they aren’t necessarily sadistic or likely to engage in criminal or deliberately cruel behavior. A few might even have selective empathy, though their “empathy” could just be an act to get what they want. A malignant narcissist has no empathy and no conscience, and they cannot change.
Donald Trump certainly appears to be a malignant narcissist, based on what he says and does. The Dark Triad is another term for this combination of dangerous disorders. Trump seems to have all 9 traits of NPD (per DSM IV, which I prefer to DSM V), and most or all of the traits of ASPD. He also has some traits of PPD. While most mental health professionals still stand by The Goldwater Rule and refuse to give Trump a formal diagnosis, some are so certain that he is a malignant narcissist that they chose to disregard this tradition due to the clear and present danger they believed Trump posed to the country and the world. They believed it was their duty to warn others. Their conviction resulted in a book that was published early in Trump’s presidency called “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” a compilation of essays by 27 psychologists and psychiatrists describing what makes Trump so dangerous and which serves as a warning of the existential danger of a Trumpian future.
Due to this book, as well as a number of other well known people, books, and groups openly discussing Trump and his likely personality disorder has broadened the reach of the narcissistic abuse community and made terms such as gaslighting, NPD, narcissism, and blame shifting household words. We are all victims of narcissistic abuse under this man. Before Trump, the concept of narcissistic abuse wasn’t well known outside of the online narcissistic abuse community. That is no longer the case, so in a way, Trump has indirectly helped to educate the world about narcissism and the suffering and chaos it can create in relationships, families, countries, and the world.
This article I’ve linked to doesn’t describe Trump’s narcissism so much as it explains how someone like Trump could rise to power and infect an entire country with his pathology. A Trump (or a Hitler or a Stalin or a Duterte or a Bolsonaro) cannot rise to power without the cooperation and encouragement of a sizable segment of the populace who can relate to or share Trump’s rage or even his pathology, and a political environment that is rife for someone like Trump. The United States, a country that has rewarded narcissism and selfishness and punished empathy in recent years (a good example is Border Patrol police arresting Good Samaritans who left food and water in the desert for migrants), was a Petri dish for someone like Trump. He could not have risen to power forty or fifty years ago or even twenty or thirty years ago, when the idea of the greater good and the values of democracy were still the rule, not the exception, in the top tiers of of government. Trump isn’t the cause of our downfall, but he is the glaring sympton of a desperately sick society and is certainly helping to fan the flames of destruction. We can either address the problems that led to a demagogue like Trump, and fix the things that made us so sick, or we can ignore the warning siren and fall even deeper into the abyss of fascism.
The only issue I have with this article (and it’s a small one) is that I’m pretty sure more than 1% of the population (at least in America) suffers from NPD. But as a society that rewards narcissistic behavior and punishes compassion, it might just seem that way, as such a society encourages even non-disordered people to emulate the traits of narcissism.
Unpacking Donald Trump’s Psychopathology Helps Explain the Toxic Reality Facing America
Narcissistic Abuse in Trumpistan
We Need a Lot More Awareness About Narcissism and Psychopathy
Trump’s Personality Disorder Brings Out the Worst in Everyone