I’ve written pretty extensively on narcissism and have been researching the topic for nearly 10 years now. That’s why when a reader recently asked me a question about narcissism and whether or not there are neurological symptoms involved with narcissism, it surprised me that I didn’t know the answer off the top of my head.
“What’s amazing to me, is that the traits of narcissists are absolutely the same across life situations,” wrote my reader, Pam, in response to my post on narcissists and flying monkeys. “For me, that begs the question of whether there’s something specifically neurological going on as a result of childhood abuse and trauma?”
I needed to do a little research on this one. Here’s what I discovered.
How a Narcissist’s Brain is Different Than Everyone Else’s
So, we all know that narcissists are seriously lacking in empathy, especially those who would be classified as having NPD (narcissistic personality disorder), if they’d ever give anyone the chance to diagnose them officially. (Side note – they won’t, because they don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with them).
But according to research, narcissistic personality disorder have less gray matter in the left anterior insula, the part of the brain linked to empathy.
The layman’s version of the scientific explanation is that those parts of the brain that mediate empathy (the ability to care about other people’s feelings) are lower functioning and less capable of focusing on others.
In other words, a narcissist has less gray matter in their brain than someone who is capable of empathy.
Worse, researchers say, the differences in the narcissist’s brains are actually literally causing them to turn inward and to self-focus.
Study authors defined certain traits as being shared among all narcissists, despite various other definitions and forms of the personality disorder.
In a German study, researchers found that the degree to which a person was able to exhibit empathy was directly tied to the amount of gray matter in the brain, both in the healthy individuals as well as in those with narcissistic personality disorder.
And, narcissists were typically found to have less gray matter in the brain, the study said.
Read more about narcissism, or visit this resources page I set up for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse for more help and information.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.