What the Narcissism Epidemic Means for People With Narcolepsy: Part 1
Surely you’ve heard of the obesity epidemic. However, have you heard of the narcissism epidemic?
According to The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean M. Twenge, PH.D. and W. Keith Campbell, PH.D., the narcissism epidemic in the U.S. has grown as quickly as the obesity epidemic in recent decades.1
Psychologists utilize the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) to measure narcissistic personality traits in individuals. This score-based system was invented in the 80s and has been useful in keeping a more reliable track of incidences of narcissism.
According to the book, the narcissism epidemic in recent years has grown at the same rates of obesity.
How can the narcissism epidemic impact people with narcolepsy?
Why is this a problem for people with narcolepsy and other disabilities? Widespread narcissism means that fewer people are able to appropriately empathize with others.
Narcissism apparently leaves a string of hurt people in its wake. Narcissists, for example, do not work well in groups for long periods of time. While charming and charismatic at first, narcissists ultimately do what is best for themselves. This could reveal itself through undermining behaviors towards their coworkers.
Narcissism in the workplace
For example, a narcissistic group member might take undue credit for group projects in order to appear better in front of their boss. Stepping on a few toes means next to nothing to them. What’s more, is that narcissists often feel that they deserve these extra rewards for being “special.”
Narcissistic attitudes towards accommodations
Accommodations can be seen by narcissists as fun add-ons rather than a matter of human rights.
I’ve experienced narcissists in my lifetime saying bizarre things about people utilizing disability accommodations. “What makes them so special?” They would huff in the direction of a disability parking spot.
“They probably don’t even need that spot, their car is more expensive than mine.”
Why empathy and interpersonal relationships matter
This brings me to my next point, which is that narcissists see those with less as “less than.” Narcissists tend to value outward signs of success and wealth more than interpersonal relationships. They might be the ones to argue that company productivity numbers are worth more than someone with an impairment like narcolepsy being able to hold onto a job.
I’ve personally had the pleasure of being let go from my graduate school research assistant job due to my narcolepsy. I was sent away with a pat on the shoulder and the suggestion to return “when my symptoms improved.” Unfortunately for me, narcolepsy is a permanent condition.
This is a general example of how a lack of empathy from important people in my life has been made more prominent by my type 1 narcolepsy. Since narcissism is characterized by a lack of empathy, the overall trend towards narcissism in our society does not bode well for disabled people or other minority groups for that matter.
Narcissists credit their own merit
Narcissists also believe that their success is based purely on their individual merit.
People with disabilities often struggle to hold onto jobs in the US due to a lack of enforcement of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) against corporations.2
A narcissist person would insist that these people just don’t work as hard as them, and aren’t as naturally gifted.
Will empathy be more difficult to find?
Finally, people who suffer from narcissism are overconfident in their skills and abilities. Twenge and Campbell's book looks at studies that show that narcissists perform average in comparison to others. However, they likely laud their capabilities and utilize leadership to their own downfall. While people may follow their lead at first, the more clear it becomes that their capabilities are subpar the less likely they are to continue to follow.1
As society becomes more narcissistic, people with narcolepsy may find that empathy for their disorder becomes more difficult to find. The good news is that while narcissists believe that they are better than us, they truly are not.
Stay strong out there!
This article is part of an author series. Check out What the Narcissism Epidemic Means for People With Narcolepsy: Part 2 where Tatiana explores the impact of celebrating traditionally "successful" people living with narcolepsy.
Do you feel that your doctor understands narcolepsy?