Toxic Disability? Why Narcissists May Be a Few Crayons Short of a Box

Written by Angela Atkinson

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.Why narcissists are a few crayons short of a box

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. 

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