Do The Kardashians Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In a new essay, Rolling Stone is nothing short of scalding-hot scathing in its assessment of the confounding cultural phenom that is the Kardashian family.

The writer rips into the clan's "gargantuan egos" and "commitment to frivolity," calling them "repugnant" while essentially blaming them for everything that's wrong with reality TV—and basically the world writ large.

The assessment is vicious, unforgiving, aggressive. It's also pretty much spot-on. And I say this as a pseudo-Kardashian fan myself.

Yes, that's right, I admit it: Not only do I happily read whatever inane Us Weekly coverage there is to consume about the family (Kim's hair, Kourtney's latest baby, Khloe's latest relationship), I spent one recent shameful month diving deep into Keeping Up With The Kardashians on Netflix, because let's face it, I was curious.

Though more entertaining than it has a right to be, the show's massive collective ego eventually sucked enough of my soul out that I was forced to ditch my doomed entanglement with it. Specifically, certain plotlines—Kourtney taking back her god-awful boyfriend Scott after he drunkenly stuffed money into a waiter's mouth; Kim whining incessantly her own about dating dilemmas upon hearing of her sister's engagement; the joy they all took in keeping important secrets from patriarch Bruce—began breaking down the best parts of me. Ultimately, to save myself, I had to stop trying to Keep Up.

That said, I also acknowledge, unlike Rolling Stone, that the Kardashian family has a genuine way of compelling you to care about them. And I think it may have something to do with a peculiar personality affliction they all share.

The Power Of Narcissism

I'm not a psychologist and I know it's perhaps questionable to play one, but I think I have successfully diagnosed what both plagues the Kardashians and fosters their enduring success: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Here's how the Mayo Clinic describes this affliction:

"Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings."

Sound uncanny? Wait until you hear this litany of symptoms:

Has a grandiose sense of self-importance, e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements

Remember: Kim and company first became famous because of her sex tape. This family has virtually zero inherent talent to speak of (aside from, perhaps, posing for the cams), yet clearly feels entitled to monstrous success.

Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

See: Kim focusing on her own dating life rather than her sister's happy engagement; Scott and Kourtney not caring about crudely stuffing a server's mouth with $20 bills.

Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

In order to boost ratings, the family once clearly staged a moment wherein Bruce finds his preteen daughter working a stripper pole. Why? Because a father confronting an underage daughter being risqué made for good money-grubbing TV (read: exploited the show's viewership).

Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

The sisters' jealousy of one another is well-documented and often played up on the show.

Requires excessive admiration

Need we elaborate?

How This Affliction Afflicts Us

Here's the thing about narcissism disorder: It consumes others, often powerfully so, which leads to a weird and often confusing love/hate relationship with the narcissists. 

According to Psychology Today:

"Narcissists get under your skin. Unlike the run-of-the-mill garden variety personality clash you might have with another individual, narcissists have a way of getting to you, they live in your mind taking over your thoughts: you will dream of them at night, they will creep into your conversations regardless of the topics and you'll be unable to stop talking about them or thinking about them."

Put another way:

"People may be drawn to a narcissistic partner, especially at the beginning, as they tend to have a 'big' personality. They can be the life of the party, attention-seeking, fun, and aggrandizing to associate with, making you feel that you too must be great for them to be with you."

This desire to feel bigger helps explain why, in spite of our mocking of the Kardashians, so many of us also can't get enough of them. As consumers, we try to diet like them, dress like them, shop like them, consume them—in the hopes that it will make us more like them. We may not always enjoy or condone how they behave, but their narcissism, on some level, attracts us, a dynamic that manifests in the "real world" too.

The projection of greatness can be nearly as powerful as the real thing.

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