Urban Weirdness

In a summary of a study from this year, it was concluded that “young city-dwellers also have 40% more chance of suffering from psychosis (hearing voices, paranoia or becoming schizophrenic in adulthood) is perhaps is less common knowledge.” The authors in the paper claim to have controlled for “a range of potential confounders including family SES, family psychiatric history, maternal psychosis, adolescent substance problems, and neighborhood-level deprivation.”

These are intriguing results, assuming that the study was successful in controlling the confounding factors and so assuming they were making a genuine comparison. Some of the features they noted for the effected urban populations were adverse neighborhood conditions and community breakdown, but I’d point out that these are increasingly found in rural areas. For example, if they further focused in on the hardest hit areas of rural Appalachia, would they find the same results? Is this really a difference between urban and rural areas? If so, that requires explaining, maybe beyond what the authors articulated.

Some of that might be caused by physical factors in urban environments.

Lead toxicity, for example, is worse in cities these days (although a century ago it was actually worse in rural areas because of heavy use of lead paint for barns). Lead toxicity has major impacts on neurocognitive development and mental illness. Also, keeping pets indoors is more common in cities. And where cats are kept as house pets, there are higher rates of toxoplasmosis which is another causal factor that alters the brain and leads to mental health issues.

Neither lead toxicity nor toxoplasmosis was mentioned in the paper. Those are two obvious confounders apparently not having been considered. That could be problematic, although not necessarily undermining the general pattern.

Other factors might have to do with crime or rather the criminal system.

There are actually lower violent crime rates in urban areas, both big and small cities, as compared to rural areas (the rural South is even worse). But it is true that specific urban communities and neighborhoods would have more crime and violence, meaning greater levels of victimization. Beyond crime itself, a major difference is that there are greater levels of policing in cities, which means more police targeting of particular populations (specifically minorities and the poor) and so more police harassment and brutality for the victimized populations. Many poor inner cities can feel like occupied territories, far from optimal conditions for normal psychological development.

Furthermore, there are more video cameras, public and private, watching the citizenry’s every move. Cities are artificial environments, highly ordered in constraining and controlling human behavior, with more walls than open spaces. In tending toward inequality and segregation, cities create divided populations that have separate life experiences. This undermines a culture of trust and makes it difficult to maintain community-based social capital. It’s understandable that all of this combined might make one feel paranoid or simply stressed and anxious. But we should be careful about our conclusions, since cities in more equal and well functioning social democracies might be far different than cities in a country like the United States.

Besides, there might be more going on than these external issues of urban environments.

Urban populations are larger and more concentrated than ever before. Maybe there are psychological changes that happen to populations under these conditions, as urbanization increases. Being in near constant close proximity to so many people has to have major impacts on human development and behavior. And this might go far beyond issues of stress alone.

This could relate to Julian Jaynes’ theory of bicameralism, as he argued that people hearing voices became more common with the emergence of the first city-states. Urban environments are atypical for the conditions under which human evolution occurred. It shouldn’t be surprising that abnormal conditions would lead to abnormal results, whatever are the specifics involved.

So, maybe it should be expected that “mental health deterioration” would follow. If the bicameral mind actually did once exist in the ancient world, I’m sure the first urban dwellers initially experienced it as negative and threatening. Any major societal change takes many generations (or centuries) to be fully assimilated, normalized, and stabilized within the social order.

But humans are so adaptable that almost anything can eventually be integrated into a culture. Recent research has shown how highly atypical is our WEIRD society (western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) and yet to us it is perfectly normal. Maybe these neurocognitive changes from increased urbanization are simply our WEIRD society being pushed ever further down the path its on. The WEIRD might get ever more weird.

A new mentality could be developing, for good or ill. If our society survives the transition, something radically different would emerge. As has been noted by others, revolutions of the mind always precede revolutions of society. Before the earthquake, the tectonic plates must shift. The younger generations are standing on the faultline and, in being hit by urbanization the hardest, they will experience it like no one else. But as it goes on, none of us will escape the consequences. We better hope for a new mentality.

“News from the guinea pig grapevine suggests that whatever it is, we won’t know until it’s way too late, you see? You see that we’re all canaries in the coal mine on this one?”
~ Barris, A Scanner Darkly

* * *

Cumulative Effects of Neighborhood Social Adversity and Personal Crime Victimization on Adolescent Psychotic Experiences
by Joanne Newbury, Louise Arseneault, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt1, Candice L. Odgers, & Helen L. Fishe

Does urbanicity shift the population expression of psychosis?
by Janneke Spauwen, Lydia Krabbendam, Roselind Lieb, Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, & Jim van Os

Schizophrenia and Urbanicity: A Major Environmental Influence—Conditional on Genetic Risk
by Lydia Krabbendam & Jim van Os

Brain Structure Correlates of Urban Upbringing, an Environmental Risk Factor for Schizophrenia
Leila Haddad, Axel Schäfer, Fabian Streit, Florian Lederbogen, Oliver Grimm, Stefan Wüst, by Michael Deuschle, Peter Kirsch, Heike Tost, & Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg

City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans
by Florian Lederbogen, Peter Kirsch, Leila Haddad, Fabian Streit, Heike Tost, Philipp Schuch, Stefan Wüst, Jens C. Pruessner, Marcella Rietschel, Michael Deuschle & Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg

 

Homelessness and Mental Illness

I was talking to a friend. The topic was depression. She told me that, “I have a lifelong fear of being homeless and alone.”

I’ve had similar fears for a long time, about becoming homeless. Maybe that’s a common fear for many people who deal with depression or other similar conditions. But it can be so much worse for women, as they can find themselves living in constant fear of rape or of being exploited for prostitution (the same for many young boys).

Many homeless people simply die from such a hard life: hypothermia, heat exhaustion, untreated health conditions, malnutrition, victims of violence, etc. Mental illness can lead to homelessness and, considering how difficult such a life can be, many homeless have deteriorating mental health. The other place many people with mental illnesses end up is in prison, which isn’t exactly a better fate.

In America, we’ve come to consider this barbaric state of society to be normal. This is the American Dream meeting capitalist realism.

* * *

The Nordic Theory of Everythng
By Anu Partanen
Kindle Locations 525-551

As I got to know my new acquaintances in the United States better, however, I was surprised to discover that many of them suffered from anxiety just as severe as mine— or worse. It seemed that nearly everyone was struggling to cope with the logistical challenges of daily life in America. Many were in therapy, and some were on medication. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimated that almost one in five adult Americans suffered from an anxiety disorder, and the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drug in the country— alprazolam, known to many Americans as Xanax— was for treating anxiety.

Soon I didn’t feel so alone, or so crazy. This may sound strange, but imagine my relief when I heard about a study conducted in 2006 by a life insurance company in which 90 percent of the American women surveyed said that they felt financially insecure, while 46 percent said that they actually, seriously, feared ending up on the street, homeless. And this last group included almost half of women with an annual income of more than one hundred thousand dollars a year. If American women making more than one hundred thousand dollars were afraid of ending up in the gutter— and this study had been conducted even before the financial crisis— then perhaps I was channeling the same unease that Americans themselves were feeling in droves. The difference was that for me, the fear was brand-new and strange, while for them it was just life. So maybe I had it backward. Maybe I wasn’t racked by anxiety because I came from a foreign country. Maybe I was racked by anxiety because I was becoming an American.

As the months passed and I did my best to settle in and learn to live with this uncertain new existence, it seemed that all around me Americans were becoming more unsettled, more unhappy, and increasingly prone to asking what was wrong with their lives and their society.

Since I’d arrived in the United States a couple of months after the Wall Street collapse, people were talking more and more about the huge gap between the very rich in America and the rest of us, and about stagnation in the incomes of the middle class. Politicians were also fighting, of course, over what to do— if anything— about the tens of millions of Americans who lacked health insurance. In the meantime the nation was buckling under the astronomical costs of medical care, burdening everyone else. At parties or get-togethers, a frequent topic of conversation was the fights that people were having with their health-insurance companies.

Lots of people were also discussing how America could improve its failing schools. I read about poor families trying to get their children out of terrible schools and into experimental ones that might be better. Well-to-do families were competing ever more fiercely, and paying ever-larger sums, for coveted spots at good schools, and at the same time competing ferociously in the workplace for the salaries they needed to pay the out-of-control expenses of not only private schools but also of college down the road.

The American dream seemed to be in trouble.

Unprepared for all this, I struggled to reconcile myself to it all— to my new home, to the excitement of this country’s possibility, but also to the intense anxiety and uncertainty that America wrought, on me and seemingly most everyone I met.

 

Kindle Locations 3802-3849

This could have been a scene from a Charles Dickens novel depicting the impoverished suffering of the nineteenth century. It could have been a scene in some dirt-poor Third World country. But it took place in an otherwise clean and orderly twenty-first-century New York City subway car, not long after my arrival in the United States, and it left me disturbed for days. I had seen homeless people before, of course. But never in my life had I seen such an utter, complete, total wreck of a human being as that man on the New York City subway, and certainly never back home in Helsinki.

The Nordic countries have their psychiatric patients, alcoholics, drug addicts, and unemployed, but I couldn’t imagine a person in a similar state roaming the streets of Finland’s capital or any other Nordic city. Usually everyone has someplace to stay, if not in public housing, then in a decent shelter. And while you see the occasional person talking to themselves in public, the health-care systems reach more of the mentally ill than in the United States. Encountering the man on the New York subway was one of the moments that made it clear to me early on that in the United States you are really on your own.

Eventually I got so used to seeing the homeless that I stopped paying attention. Instead my attention was drawn to the other end of the spectrum.

As I began meeting people and sometimes getting invited to events or gatherings in apartments with roof decks, or gorgeous lofts with windows overlooking the Manhattan skyline, or brownstones with several floors and backyard gardens, I began performing a new calculation in my head. How were they able to afford it all? Some of these people were lawyers, doctors, or financiers, which easily explained their wealth, but some were artists, employees of nonprofits, or freelancers working on their own projects. Their well-appointed lifestyles mystified me, but I felt awe and cheer when faced with such uplifting examples of America’s ability to remunerate talent. The American dream seemed to be alive and well, not to mention within my reach. If all these people were making it, surely I could, too.

Finally I realized that many of the people with an expensive lifestyle but a seemingly low-earning profession had family money supporting them. I hope it doesn’t take someone from stuffy old Europe, like me, to point out that inheriting wealth, rather than making it yourself, is the opposite of the American dream. America became an independent nation partly to leave behind the entrenched aristocracy of the old country, to secure the opportunity for Americans to be self-made men and women.

I’d traveled the globe, and I’d lived in Finland, France, and Australia. Now in America I felt as if I’d arrived not in the land of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, but in that proverbial nineteenth-century banana republic of extremes— entrenched wealth, power, and privilege on the one hand and desperate poverty, homelessness, and misfortune on the other. A cliché, yes. But that makes the reality of it no less brutal. Never before had I seen such blatant inequality, not in any other nation in the modern industrialized world.

For someone coming from a Nordic country, it’s hard to comprehend the kinds of income inequalities one encounters in the United States. The twenty-five top American hedge fund managers made almost one billion dollars— each— in 2013, while the median income for an American household hovered around fifty thousand dollars. At the same time homeless shelters were overflowing with record numbers of people seeking help. It’s telling that many of them were not drug addicts or the mentally ill, but working families. The United States has returned to the age of the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and The Great Gatsby, and the trend in that direction isn’t showing signs of slowing. After the financial crisis, incomes for the wealthiest bounced back quickly, while the vast majority of Americans saw little improvement. Between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent captured more than 90 percent of the entire country’s gains in income. This is not a problem that is only connected to the financial crisis. The share of income going to the richest Americans— the 1 percent, or even the 0.1 percent— has grown dramatically in recent decades, while the rest of America has faced stagnating incomes or even seen wages diminish.

The reasons commonly given in America for these changes are by now familiar. There’s globalization, free trade, deregulation, and new technology, which allow the brightest talent to reign over larger realms and to amass more wealth. Today the most visionary CEO presides over a vast multinational corporation, instead of having fifty top executives running smaller companies. The best product is now sold everywhere, replacing local products. Because of advances in technology and the outsourcing of low-skilled work to poorer countries, workers in developed countries need increasingly specialized skills. The few who have such skills benefit. The many who don’t suffer. At the same time arrangements at work have become less stable. Part-time and low-paying work has become more common, as technology has let employers optimize production, and as the power of labor unions has faded.

However, these oft-repeated reasons are not the whole story. Every wealthy nation is dealing with all these dislocating changes, not just the United States. Yet how different the experience has been in places like the Nordic countries, which have made serious efforts to adapt to this brave new future with smart government policies that fit the times. Rising inequality doesn’t simply result from inevitable changes in the free market. Much of it follows from specific policies, which can direct change in one way or in another. Even though the times demand the opposite, American taxes have become more favorable to the wealthy. Partly as a result of this shortsighted change, American social policies have had to move from supporting the poorest to having to help prop up the middle class. Income inequality has increased everywhere, but in the United States it’s particularly pronounced because taxes and government services do less to mitigate the effects of the changes in the marketplace than elsewhere in the modern developed world.

Social Disorder, Mental Disorder

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”
~ Johann Harri

On Staying Sane in a Suicidal Culture
by Dahr Jamail

Our situation so often feels hopeless. So much has spun out of control, and pathology surrounds us. At least one in five Americans are taking psychiatric medications, and the number of children taking adult psychiatric drugs is soaring.

From the perspective of Macy’s teachings, it seems hard to argue that this isn’t, at least in part, active denial of what is happening to the world and how challenging it is for both adults and children to deal with it emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.

These disturbing trends, which are increasing, are something she is very mindful of. As she wrote in World as Lover, World as Self, “The loss of certainty that there will be a future is, I believe, the pivotal psychological reality of our time.”

What does depression feel like? Trust me – you really don’t want to know
by Tim Lott

Admittedly, severely depressed people can connect only tenuously with reality, but repeated studies have shown that mild to moderate depressives have a more realistic take on life than most “normal” people, a phenomenon known as “depressive realism”. As Neel Burton, author of The Meaning of Madness, put it, this is “the healthy suspicion that modern life has no meaning and that modern society is absurd and alienating”. In a goal-driven, work-oriented culture, this is deeply threatening.

This viewpoint can have a paralysing grip on depressives, sometimes to a psychotic extent – but perhaps it haunts everyone. And therefore the bulk of the unafflicted population may never really understand depression. Not only because they (understandably) lack the imagination, and (unforgivably) fail to trust in the experience of the sufferer – but because, when push comes to shove, they don’t want to understand. It’s just too … well, depressing.

The Mental Disease of Late-Stage Capitalism
by Joe Brewer

A great irony of this deeply corrupt system of wealth hoarding is that the “weapon of choice” is how we feel about ourselves as we interact with our friends. The elites don’t have to silence us. We do that ourselves by refusing to talk about what is happening to us. Fake it until you make it. That’s the advice we are given by the already successful who have pigeon-holed themselves into the tiny number of real opportunities society had to offer. Hold yourself accountable for the crushing political system that was designed to divide us against ourselves.

This great lie that we whisper to ourselves is how they control us. Our fear that other impoverished people (which is most of us now) will look down on us for being impoverished too. This is how we give them the power to keep humiliating us.

I say no more of this emotional racket. If I am going to be responsible for my fate in life, let it be because I chose to stand up and fight — that I helped dismantle the global architecture of wealth extraction that created this systemic corruption of our economic and political systems.

Now more than ever, we need spiritual healing. As this capitalist system destroys itself, we can step aside and find healing by living honestly and without fear. They don’t get to tell us how to live. We can share our pain with family and friends. We can post it on social media. Shout it from the rooftops if we feel like it. The pain we feel is capitalism dying. It hurts us because we are still in it.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems
by George Monbiot

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.

Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us
by Paul Verhaeghe

We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you’re reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.

There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won’t really be noticed.

It’s important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you’ve got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That’s why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare, the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society
by Paul Verhaeghe
Kindle Locations 2357-2428

Hypotheses such as these, however plausible, are not scientific. If we want to demonstrate the link between a neo-liberal society and, say, mental disorders, we need two things. First, we need a yardstick that indicates the extent to which a society is neo-liberal. Second, we need to develop criteria to measure the increase or decrease of psychosocial wellbeing in society. Combine these two, and you would indeed be able to see whether such a connection existed. And by that I don’t mean a causal connection, but a striking pattern; a rise in one being reflected in the other, or vice versa.

This was exactly the approach used by Richard Wilkinson, a British social epidemiologist, in two pioneering studies (the second carried out with Kate Pickett). The gauge they used was eminently quantifiable: the extent of income inequality within individual countries. This is indeed a good yardstick, as neo-liberal policy is known to cause a spectacular rise in such inequality. Their findings were unequivocal: an increase of this kind has far-reaching consequences for nearly all health criteria. Its impact on mental health (and consequently also mental disorders) is by no means an isolated phenomenon. This finding is just as significant as the discovery that mental disorders are increasing.

As social epidemiologists, Wilkinson and Pickett studied the connection between society and health in the broad sense of the word. Stress proves to be a key factor here. Research has revealed its impact, both on our immune systems and our cardiovascular systems. Tracing the causes of stress is difficult, though, especially given that we live in the prosperous and peaceful West. If we take a somewhat broader view, most academics agree on the five factors that determine our health: early childhood; the fears and cares we experience; the quality of our social relationships; the extent to which we have control over our lives; and, finally, our social status. The worse you score in these areas, the worse your health and the shorter your life expectancy are likely to be.

In his first book, The Impact of Inequality: how to make sick societies healthier, Wilkinson scrutinises the various factors involved, rapidly coming to what would be the central theme of his second book — that is, income inequality. A very striking conclusion is that in a country, or even a city, with high income inequality, the quality of social relationships is noticeably diminished: there is more aggression, less trust, more fear, and less participation in the life of the community. As a psychoanalyst, I was particularly interested in his quest for the factors that play a role at individual level. Low social status proves to have a determining effect on health. Lack of control over one’s work is a prominent stress factor. A low sense of control is associated with poor relationships with colleagues and greater anger and hostility — a phenomenon that Richard Sennett had already described (the infantilisation of adult workers). Wilkinson discovered that this all has a clear impact on health, and even on life expectancy. Which in turn ties in with a classic finding of clinical psychology: powerlessness and helplessness are among the most toxic emotions.

Too much inequality is bad for your health

A number of conclusions are forced upon us. In a prosperous part of the world like Western Europe, it isn’t the quality of health care (the number of doctors and hospitals) that determines the health of the population, but the nature of social and economic life. The better social relationships are, the better the level of health. Excessive inequality is more injurious to health than any other factor, though this is not simply a question of differences between social classes. If anything, it seems to be more of a problem within groups that are presumed to be equal (for example, civil servants and academics). This finding conflicts with the general assumption that income inequality only hurts the underclass — the losers — while those higher up the social ladder invariably benefit. That’s not the case: its negative effects are statistically visible in all sectors of the population, hence the subtitle of Wilkinson’s second work: why more equal societies almost always do better.

In that book, Wilkinson and Pickett adopt a fairly simple approach. Using official statistics, they analyse the connection between income inequality and a host of other criteria. The conclusions are astounding, almost leaping off the page in table after table: the greater the level of inequality in a country or even region, the more mental disorders, teenage pregnancies, child mortality, domestic and street violence, crime, drug abuse, and medication. And the greater the inequality is, the worse physical health and educational performance are, the more social mobility declines, along with feelings of security, and the unhappier people are.

Both books, especially the latter, provoked quite a response in the Anglo-Saxon world. Many saw in them proof of what they already suspected. Many others were more negative, questioning everything from the collation of data to the statistical methods used to reach conclusions. Both authors refuted the bulk of the criticism — which, given the quality of their work, was not a very difficult task. Much of it targeted what was not in the books: the authors were not urging a return to some kind of ‘all animals are equal’ Eastern-bloc state. What critics tended to forget was that their analysis was of relative differences in income, with negative effects becoming most manifest in the case of extreme inequality. Moreover, it is not income inequality itself that produces these effects, but the stress factors associated with it.

Roughly the same inferences can be drawn from Sennett’s study, though it is more theoretical and less underpinned with figures. His conclusion is fairly simple, and can be summed up in the title of what I regard as his best book: Respect in a World of Inequality. Too much inequality leads to a loss of respect, including self-respect — and, in psychosocial terms, this is about the worst thing that can happen to anyone.

This emerges very powerfully from a single study of the social determinants of health, which is still in progress. Nineteen eighty-six saw the start of the second ‘Whitehall Study’ that systematically monitored over 10,000 British civil servants, to establish whether there was a link between their health and their work situations. At first sight, this would seem to be a relatively homogenous group, and one that definitely did not fall in the lowest social class. The study’s most striking finding is that the lower the rank and status of someone within that group, the lower their life expectancy, even when taking account of such factors as smoking, diet, and physical exercise. The most obvious explanation is that the lowest-ranked people experienced the most stress. Medical studies confirm this: individuals in this category have higher cortisol levels (increased stress) and more coagulation-factor deficiencies (and thus are at greater risk of heart attacks).

My initial question was, ‘Is there a demonstrable connection between today’s society and the huge rise in mental disorders?’ As all these studies show, the answer is yes. Even more important is the finding that this link goes beyond mental health. The same studies show highly negative effects on other health parameters. As so often is the case, a parallel can be found in fiction — in this instance, in Alan Lightman’s novel The Diagnosis. During an interview, the author posed the following rhetorical question: ‘Who, experiencing for years the daily toll of intense corporate pressure, could truly escape severe anxiety?’* (I think it may justifiably be called rhetorical, when you think how many have had to find out its answer for themselves.)

A study by a research group at Heidelberg University very recently came to similar conclusions, finding that people’s brains respond differently to stress according to whether they have had an urban or rural upbringing. 3 What’s more, people in the former category prove more susceptible to phobias and even schizophrenia. So our brains are differently shaped by the environment in which we grow up, making us potentially more susceptible to mental disorders. Another interesting finding emerged from the way the researchers elicited stress. While the subjects of the experiment were wrestling with the complex calculations they had been asked to solve, some of them were told (falsely) that their scores were lagging behind those of the others, and asked to hurry up because the experiments were expensive. All the neo-liberal factors were in place: emphasis on productivity, evaluation, competition, and cost reduction.

Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?
by Mark Fisher
pp. 19-22

Mental health, in fact, is a paradigm case of how capitalist realism operates. Capitalist realism insists on treating mental health as if it were a natural fact, like weather (but, then again, weather is no longer a natural fact so much as a political-economic effect). In the 1960s and 1970s, radical theory and politics (Laing, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, etc.) coalesced around extreme mental conditions such as schizophrenia, arguing, for instance, that madness was not a natural, but a political, category. But what is needed now is a politicization of much more common disorders. Indeed, it is their very commonness which is the issue: in Britain, depression is now the condition that is most treated by the NHS. In his book The Selfish Capitalist, Oliver James has convincingly posited a correlation between rising rates of mental distress and the neoliberal mode of capitalism practiced in countries like Britain, the USA and Australia. In line with James’s claims, I want to argue that it is necessary to reframe the growing problem of stress (and distress) in capitalist societies. Instead of treating it as incumbent on individuals to resolve their own psychological distress, instead, that is, of accepting the vast privatization of stress that has taken place over the last thirty years, we need to ask: how has it become acceptable that so many people, and especially so many young people, are ill? The ‘mental health plague’ in capitalist societies would suggest that, instead of being the only social system that works, capitalism is inherently dysfunctional, and that the cost of it appearing to work is very high. […]

By contrast with their forebears in the 1960s and 1970s, British students today appear to be politically disengaged. While French students can still be found on the streets protesting against neoliberalism, British students, whose situation is incomparably worse, seem resigned to their fate. But this, I want to argue, is a matter not of apathy, nor of cynicism, but of reflexive impotence. They know things are bad, but more than that, they know they can’t do anything about it. But that ‘knowledge’, that reflexivity, is not a passive observation of an already existing state of affairs. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Reflexive impotence amounts to an unstated worldview amongst the British young, and it has its correlate in widespread pathologies. Many of the teenagers I worked with had mental health problems or learning difficulties. Depression is endemic. It is the condition most dealt with by the National Health Service, and is afflicting people at increasingly younger ages. The number of students who have some variant of dyslexia is astonishing. It is not an exaggeration to say that being a teenager in late capitalist Britain is now close to being reclassified as a sickness. This pathologization already forecloses any possibility of politicization. By privatizing these problems – treating them as if they were caused only by chemical imbalances in the individual’s neurology and/ or by their family background – any question of social systemic causation is ruled out.

Many of the teenage students I encountered seemed to be in a state of what I would call depressive hedonia. Depression is usually characterized as a state of anhedonia, but the condition I’m referring to is constituted not by an inability to get pleasure so much as it by an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure. There is a sense that ‘something is missing’ – but no appreciation that this mysterious, missing enjoyment can only be accessed beyond the pleasure principle. In large part this is a consequence of students’ ambiguous structural position, stranded between their old role as subjects of disciplinary institutions and their new status as consumers of services. In his crucial essay ‘Postscript on Societies of Control’, Deleuze distinguishes between the disciplinary societies described by Foucault, which were organized around the enclosed spaces of the factory, the school and the prison, and the new control societies, in which all institutions are embedded in a dispersed corporation.

pp. 32-38

The ethos espoused by McCauley is the one which Richard Sennett examines in The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, a landmark study of the affective changes that the post-Fordist reorganization of work has brought about. The slogan which sums up the new conditions is ‘no long term’. Where formerly workers could acquire a single set of skills and expect to progress upwards through a rigid organizational hierarchy, now they are required to periodically re-skill as they move from institution to institution, from role to role. As the organization of work is decentralized, with lateral networks replacing pyramidal hierarchies, a premium is put on ‘flexibility’. Echoing McCauley’s mockery of Hanna in Heat (‘ How do you expect to keep a marriage?’), Sennett emphasizes the intolerable stresses that these conditions of permanent instability put on family life. The values that family life depends upon – obligation, trustworthiness, commitment – are precisely those which are held to be obsolete in the new capitalism. Yet, with the public sphere under attack and the safety nets that a ‘Nanny State’ used to provide being dismantled, the family becomes an increasingly important place of respite from the pressures of a world in which instability is a constant. The situation of the family in post-Fordist capitalism is contradictory, in precisely the way that traditional Marxism expected: capitalism requires the family (as an essential means of reproducing and caring for labor power; as a salve for the psychic wounds inflicted by anarchic social-economic conditions), even as it undermines it (denying parents time with children, putting intolerable stress on couples as they become the exclusive source of affective consolation for each other). […]

The psychological conflict raging within individuals cannot but have casualties. Marazzi is researching the link between the increase in bi-polar disorder and post-Fordism and, if, as Deleuze and Guattari argue, schizophrenia is the condition that marks the outer edges of capitalism, then bi-polar disorder is the mental illness proper to the ‘interior’ of capitalism. With its ceaseless boom and bust cycles, capitalism is itself fundamentally and irreducibly bi-polar, periodically lurching between hyped-up mania (the irrational exuberance of ‘bubble thinking’) and depressive come-down. (The term ‘economic depression’ is no accident, of course). To a degree unprecedented in any other social system, capitalism both feeds on and reproduces the moods of populations. Without delirium and confidence, capital could not function.

It seems that with post-Fordism, the ‘invisible plague’ of psychiatric and affective disorders that has spread, silently and stealthily, since around 1750 (i.e. the very onset of industrial capitalism) has reached a new level of acuteness. Here, Oliver James’s work is important. In The Selfish Capitalist, James points to significant rises in the rates of ‘mental distress’ over the last 25 years. ‘By most criteria’, James reports,

rates of distress almost doubled between people born in 1946 (aged thirty-six in 1982) and 1970 (aged thirty in 2000). For example, 16 per cent of thirty-six-year-old women in 1982 reported having ‘trouble with nerves, feeling low, depressed or sad’, whereas 29 per cent of thirty year-olds reported this in 2000 (for men it was 8 per cent in 1982, 13 per cent in 2000).

Another British study James cites compared levels of psychiatric morbidity (which includes neurotic symptoms, phobias and depression) in samples of people in 1977 and 1985. ‘Whereas 22 per cent of the 1977 sample reported psychiatric morbidity, this had risen to almost a third of the population (31 per cent) by 1986’. Since these rates are much higher in countries that have implemented what James calls ‘selfish’ capitalism than in other capitalist nations, James hypothesizes that it is selfish (i.e. neoliberalized) capitalist policies and culture that are to blame. […]

James’s conjectures about aspirations, expectations and fantasy fit with my own observations of what I have called ‘hedonic depression’ in British youth.

It is telling, in this context of rising rates of mental illness, that New Labour committed itself, early in its third term in government, to removing people from Incapacity Benefit, implying that many, if not most, claimants are malingerers. In contrast with this assumption, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to infer that most of the people claiming Incapacity Benefit – and there are well in excess of two million of them – are casualties of Capital. A significant proportion of claimants, for instance, are people psychologically damaged as a consequence of the capitalist realist insistence that industries such as mining are no longer economically viable. (Even considered in brute economic terms, though, the arguments about ‘viability’ seem rather less than convincing, especially once you factor in the cost to taxpayers of incapacity and other benefits.) Many have simply buckled under the terrifyingly unstable conditions of post-Fordism.

The current ruling ontology denies any possibility of a social causation of mental illness. The chemico-biologization of mental illness is of course strictly commensurate with its de-politicization. Considering mental illness an individual chemico-biological problem has enormous benefits for capitalism. First, it reinforces Capital’s drive towards atomistic individualization (you are sick because of your brain chemistry). Second, it provides an enormously lucrative market in which multinational pharmaceutical companies can peddle their pharmaceuticals (we can cure you with our SSRIs). It goes without saying that all mental illnesses are neurologically instantiated, but this says nothing about their causation. If it is true, for instance, that depression is constituted by low serotonin levels, what still needs to be explained is why particular individuals have low levels of serotonin. This requires a social and political explanation; and the task of repoliticizing mental illness is an urgent one if the left wants to challenge capitalist realism.

It does not seem fanciful to see parallels between the rising incidence of mental distress and new patterns of assessing workers’ performance. We will now take a closer look at this ‘new bureaucracy’.

The Opposite of Addiction is Connection
by Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Not for Alexander. He was bothered by the fact that the cages in which the rats were isolated were small, with no potential for stimulation beyond the heroin. Alexander thought: Of course they all got high. What else were they supposed to do? In response to this perceived shortcoming, Alexander created what we now call “the rat park,” a cage approximately 200 times larger than the typical isolation cage, with Hamster wheels and multi-colored balls to play with, plenty of tasty food to eat, and spaces for mating and raising litters.[ii] And he put not one rat, but 20 rats (of both genders) into the cage. Then, and only then, did he mirror the old experiments, offering one bottle of pure water and one bottle of heroin water. And guess what? The rats ignored the heroin. They were much more interested in typical communal rat activities such as playing, fighting, eating, and mating. Essentially, with a little bit of social stimulation and connection, addiction disappeared. Heck, even rats who’d previously been isolated and sucking on the heroin water left it alone once they were introduced to the rat park.

The Human Rat Park

One of the reasons that rats are routinely used in psychological experiments is that they are social creatures in many of the same ways that humans are social creatures. They need stimulation, company, play, drama, sex, and interaction to stay happy. Humans, however, add an extra layer to this equation. We need to be able to trust and to emotionally attach.

This human need for trust and attachment was initially studied and developed as a psychological construct in the 1950s, when John Bowlby tracked the reactions of small children when they were separated from their parents.[iii] In a nutshell, he found that infants, toddlers, and young children have an extensive need for safe and reliable caregivers. If children have that, they tend to be happy in childhood and well-adjusted (emotionally healthy) later in life. If children don’t have that, it’s a very different story. In other words, it is clear from Bowlby’s work and the work of later researchers that the level and caliber of trust and connection experienced in early childhood carries forth into adulthood. Those who experience secure attachment as infants, toddlers, and small children nearly always carry that with them into adulthood, and they are naturally able to trust and connect in healthy ways. Meanwhile, those who don’t experience secure early-life attachment tend to struggle with trust and connection later in life. In other words, securely attached individuals tend to feel comfortable in and to enjoy the human rat park, while insecurely attached people typically struggle to fit in and connect.

The Opposite Of Addiction is Connection
By Jonathan Davis

If connection is the opposite of addiction, then an examination of the neuroscience of human connection is in order. Published in 2000, A General Theory Of Love is a collaboration between three professors of psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. A General Theory Of Love reveals that humans require social connection for optimal brain development, and that babies cared for in a loving environment are psychological and neurologically ‘immunised’ by love. When things get difficult in adult life, the neural wiring developed from a love-filled childhood leads to increased emotional resilience in adult life. Conversely, those who grow up in an environment where loving care is unstable or absent are less likely to be resilient in the face of emotional distress.

How does this relate to addiction? Gabor Maté observes an extremely high rate of childhood trauma in the addicts he works with and trauma is the extreme opposite of growing up in a consistently safe and loving environment. He asserts that it is extremely common for people with addictions to have a reduced capacity for dealing with emotional distress, hence an increased risk of drug-dependence.

How Our Ability To Connect Is Impaired By Trauma

Trauma is well-known to cause interruption to healthy neural wiring, in both the developing and mature brain. A deeper issue here is that people who have suffered trauma, particularly children, can be left with an underlying sense that the world is no longer safe, or that people can no longer be trusted. This erosion (or complete destruction) of a sense of trust, that our family, community and society will keep us safe, results in isolation – leading to the very lack of connection Johann Harri suggests is the opposite of addiction. People who use drugs compulsively do so to avoid the pain of past trauma and to replace the absence of connection in their life.

Social Solutions To Addiction

The solution to the problem of addiction on a societal level is both simple and fairly easy to implement. If a person is born into a life that is lacking in love and support on a family level, or if due to some other trauma they have become isolated and suffer from addiction, there must be a cultural response to make sure that person knows that they are valued by their society (even if they don’t feel valued by their family). Portugal has demonstrated this with a 50% drop in addiction thanks to programs that are specifically designed to re-create connection between the addict and their community.

The real cause of addiction has been discovered – and it’s not what you think
by Johann Hari

This has huge implications for the one hundred year old war on drugs. This massive war – which, as I saw, kills people from the malls of Mexico to the streets of Liverpool – is based on the claim that we need to physically eradicate a whole array of chemicals because they hijack people’s brains and cause addiction. But if drugs aren’t the driver of addiction – if, in fact, it is disconnection that drives addiction – then this makes no sense.

Ironically, the war on drugs actually increases all those larger drivers of addiction: for example, I went to a prison in Arizona – ‘Tent City’ – where inmates are detained in tiny stone isolation cages (“The Hole”) for weeks and weeks on end, to punish them for drug use. It is as close to a human recreation of the cages that guaranteed deadly addiction in rats as I can imagine. And when those prisoners get out, they will be unemployable because of their criminal record – guaranteeing they with be cut off ever more. I watched this playing out in the human stories I met across the world.

There is an alternative. You can build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world – and so leave behind their addictions.

This isn’t theoretical. It is happening. I have seen it. Nearly fifteen years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with 1 percent of the population addicted to heroin. They had tried a drug war, and the problem just kept getting worse. So they decided to do something radically different. They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them – to their own feelings, and to the wider society. The most crucial step is to get them secure housing, and subsidized jobs – so they have a purpose in life, and something to get out of bed for. I watched as they are helped, in warm and welcoming clinics, to learn how to reconnect with their feelings, after years of trauma and stunning them into silence with drugs.

One example I learned about was a group of addicts who were given a loan to set up a removals firm. Suddenly, they were a group, all bonded to each other, and to the society, and responsible for each other’s care.

The results of all this are now in. An independent study by the British Journal of Criminology found that since total decriminalization, addiction has fallen, and injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. I’ll repeat that: injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. Decriminalization has been such a manifest success that very few people in Portugal want to go back to the old system. The main campaigner against the decriminalization back in 2000 was Joao Figueira – the country’s top drug cop. He offered all the dire warnings that we would expect from the Daily Mail or Fox News. But when we sat together in Lisbon, he told me that everything he predicted had not come to pass – and he now hopes the whole world will follow Portugal’s example.

This isn’t only relevant to addicts. It is relevant to all of us, because it forces us to think differently about ourselves. Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love. The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster’s: “only connect.” But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, or offer only the parody of it offered by the Internet. The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live–constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.

The writer George Monbiot has called this “the age of loneliness.” We have created human societies where it is easier for people to become cut off from all human connections than ever before. Bruce Alexander, the creator of Rat Park, told me that for too long, we have talked exclusively about individual recovery from addiction. We need now to talk about social recovery—how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

But this new evidence isn’t just a challenge to us politically. It doesn’t just force us to change our minds. It forces us to change our hearts.

* * *

Social Conditions of an Individual’s Condition

Society and Dysfunction

It’s All Your Fault, You Fat Loser!

Liberal-mindedness, Empathetic Imagination, and Capitalist Realism

Ideological Realism & Scarcity of Imagination

The Unimagined: Capitalism and Crappiness

To Put the Rat Back in the Rat Park

Rationalizing the Rat Race, Imagining the Rat Park

The Desperate Acting Desperately

To Grow Up Fast

Morality-Punishment Link

An Invisible Debt Made Visible

Trends in Depression and Suicide Rates

From Bad to Worse: Trends Across Generations

Republicans: Party of Despair

Rate And Duration of Despair

Social Conditions of an Individual’s Condition

A paradigm change has been happening. The shift began long ago, but it’s starting to gain traction in the mainstream. Here is one recent example, an article from Psychology Today—Anxiety and Depression Are Symptoms, Not Diseases by Gregg Henriques Ph.D.:

“Depression is a way the emotional system signals that things are not working and that one is not getting one’s relational needs met. If you are low on relational value in the key domains of family, friends, lovers, group and self, feeling depressed in this context is EXACTLY like feeling pain from a broken arm, feeling cold being outside in the cold, and feeling hungry after going 24 hours without food.

“It is worth noting that, given the current structure of society, depression often serves not to help reboot the system and enlist social support, but instead contributes to the further isolation of the individual, which creates a nasty, vicious spiral of shutting down, doing less, feeling more isolated, turning against the self, and thus getting even more depressed. As such, depressive symptoms often do contribute to the problem, and folks do suffer from Negative Affect Syndromes, where extreme negative moods are definitely part of the problem.

“BUT, everyone should be clear, first and foremost, that anxiety and depression are symptoms of psychosocial needs and threats. They should NOT be, first and foremost, considered alien feelings that need to be eliminated or fixed, any more than we would treat pain from a broken arm, coldness and hunger primarily with pills that takes away the feelings, as opposed to fixing the arm, getting warmer or feeding the hungry individual.”

It’s a pretty good article. The focus on symptoms seems like the right way to frame it. This touch upon larger issues. I’d widen the scope even further. Once we consider the symptoms, it opens up a whole slew of possibilities.

There is the book Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari. The author discusses the rat park research, showing that addiction isn’t an individual disease but a social problem. Change the conditions and the results change. Basically, people are healthier, happier, and more well-adjusted in environments that are conducive to satisfying basic needs.

Then there is James Gilligan’s Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others, an even more hard-hitting book. It shows (among other things) suicide rates go up when Republicans are elected. As I recall, other data shows that suicide rates go up in other societies as well, when conservatives are elected.

There are other factors that are directly correlated to depression rates and other mental health issues.

Some are purely physical. Toxoplasmosis is an example of that, and its related parasitic load that stunts brain development. Many examples could be added, from malnutrition to lack of healthcare.

Plus, there are problems that involve both the physical environment and social environment. Lead toxicity causes mental health problems, including depression. The rates of lead toxicity depend on how strong and effective are regulations, which in turn depends on the type of government and who is in power.

A wide variety of research and data is pointing to a basic conclusion. Environmental conditions (physical, social, political, and economic) are of penultimate importance. So, why do we treat as sick individuals those who suffer the consequences of the externalized costs of society?

Here is the sticking point. Systemic and collective problems in some ways are the easiest to deal with. The problems, once understood, are essentially simple and their solutions tend to be straightforward. Even so, the very largeness of these problems make them hard for us to confront. We want someone to blame. But who do we blame when the entire society is dysfunctional?

If we recognize the problems as symptoms, we are forced to acknowledge our collective agency and shared fate. For those who understand this, they are up against countervailing forces that maintain the status quo. Even if a psychiatrist realizes that their patient is experiencing the symptoms of larger social issues, how is that psychiatrist supposed to help the patient? Who is going to diagnose the entire society and demand it seek rehabilitation?

Uncomfortable Questions About Ideology

On Quora, someone asked, “What is the link between conservatism and paranoid schizophrenia?” It’s an intriguing and provocative question. One could also ask it of other ideologies in relation to other mental illnesses. (Just the other day, I speculated a bit about depression and schizophrenia, in a similar line of thought).

The responses on Quora were mostly dismissive, some in knee-jerk fashion. I’m not sure why that is. I actually think this is a fair question. It’s too bad some people are unable or unwilling to engage, just because it makes them uncomfortable. This kind of thing doesn’t bother me as long as it is being discussed sincerely and honestly, and I find it odd that others are resistant to even considering it.

There are clear differences in how the brain functions for liberals and conservatives, along with many other ideological demographics you might want to consider: left-wingers and right-wingers, socialists and capitalists, anarchists and authoritarians, etc. And these proven differences in brain functioning presumedly would include how the brain malfunctions (or, if you prefer, functions neuroatypically).

For example, some data shows liberals have higher rates of drug use (“fairly steady increase in amount of drug use as one moves from the conservative to the radical end of the scale.”) and alcohol use (“when a state becomes more liberal politically, its consumption of beer and spirits rises”) and this leads to higher rates of addiction and alcoholism. Some of this is just demographic, as substance abuse increases with increasing wealth and increasing IQ, both correlated with liberalism (i.e., liberals on average are wealthier and higher IQ than all other demographics, besides libertarians). But others argue that it is an inherent tendency to liberal psychology, related to high ‘openness to experience’ and low ‘conscientiousness’. Liberals are prone to curiosity and experimentation, rule-breaking and authority-challenging.

Another example is that some have found that liberals have higher rates of depression. This makes sense, as liberals have lower rates of such things as religiosity (e.g., church attendance) that is negatively correlated to depression. So, either the liberal personality itself predisposes one to depression or predisposes one to behaviors that make one vulnerable to depression. There is also a link between depression and both high and low IQ, liberals on average being on the high end.

On a related note, some research shows that conservatives aren’t actually happier, despite self-reporting as happier. In some studies, liberals were observed as smiling more often and more naturally, and also using more positive words (University of California, New Yorker, Time, Washington Post, NYT, & FiveThirtyEight). Then again, maybe there is some psychological benefit to reporting one is happy, specifically as a desire to fit into social norms and so to be socially accepted (happiness or its appearance most definitely is a social norm in American society). But it could be that liberals have both higher rates of depression and happiness, which is to say they are disproportionately represented at both ends (similar to how Democrats include more people at the low and high IQ extremes, whereas Republicans are disproportionately found in the average IQ range)—or maybe liberals are just moody.

Anyway, it would be beyond bizarre if we didn’t find these kinds of correlations across the political spectrum, including for conservatives. Every ideological predisposition has its problems and deficiencies (I have a lovely post about the weaknesses and failures of liberalism). With almost anything pushed to an extreme, one would reasonably expect to find such things as mental illnesses. This relates to personality traits, for when imbalanced they lead to all kinds of psychological and behavioral issues.

Let me get back to the original question. Schizophrenia is an interesting issue. But it is complex. There may or may not be a correlation to conservatism. I don’t know. More probable would be correlations found between conservatism and certain mood disorders, specifically those involving fear, anxiety and conscientiousness. One possibility is something like obsessive-compulsive disorder (“These findings support the view that OCPD does represent a maladaptive variant of normal-range conscientiousness”). Still, there are those who argue that there is a link between schizophrenia and conservatism, and some might consider their theories to be scientifically plausible—from Neuropolitics.org:

“Previc’s review of religiosity and mental disorders also adds fuel to the fire of a schizophrenic-conservative link. Previc writes “psychotic delusions are a common feature of mania, [temporal lobe epileptic] psychosis, and paranoid schizophrenia…all of these disorders are to varying degrees associated with overactivity of the fronto-temporal pathways (mostly on the left side), elevated [dopamine], and a bias toward extrapersonal space”. […] The conservatives seem to be more prone to mental disorders of the left hemisphere, while, based on the evidence we’ve gathered, liberals are more prone towards depression and anxiety disorders, which are predominately right hemispheric in origin. The mental disorder evidence supports both Brack’s hemisphericity theory of political orientation and Previc’s dopaminergic-spatial theory of religiosity.”

I’m not familiar with that research. But it seems a reasonable hypothesis. I can think of no justifiable criticism, other than political correctness, for not taking it seriously and for scientists to not study it. If it isn’t worthy of further appraisal and analysis, some counter-evidence would need to be offered to explain why it is unworthy—such as a critique of this research or, better yet, other research with alternate conclusions.

Let’s look at this dispassionately. Think of this in terms of other distinctions, as shown in diverse social science research. Do different people measure differently on personality traits/types? Yes. Do people who measure differently on personality traits/types have different rates of ideological tendencies? Yes. Different rates of psychological conditions? Yes. All of this is entirely non-controversial.

In this context, let me give a basic example that could explain possible higher rates of schizophrenia among conservatives. Liberalism correlates to high ‘openness to experience’ and the opposite for conservatism. So, how do schizophrenics measure on ‘openness’? According to one scientific study—Personality traits in schizophrenia and related personality disorders (where SZ refers to “a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder”):

“On the five-factor personality scales, SZ subjects showed higher levels of neuroticism, and lower levels of openness, agreeableness, extraversion, and conscientiousness than control subjects.”

The psychological trait of ‘openness’ is one of the most defining features of liberalism. This has been found in endless studies. That schizophrenics rate lower levels of this is extremely telling. It doesn’t prove the hypothesis of a conservatism-schizophrenic link. But it does indicates that it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

To shift to a different perspective, consider it in terms of something like gender. Are gender differences real? Yes. They can even be seen in brain scans, as can personality traits/types and even ideological differences. Is there gender differences in measures of personality traits/ types and ideological differences? Yes. In MBTI, a disproportionate number of women measure as Feeling types and a disproportionate number of men measure as Thinking types. As for ideology, a disproportionate number of women are Democrats, but men are more evenly divided between the parties (disproportionate number of men, instead, are found among Libertarians and Independents).

Well, what about mental illnesses? Are there gender differences in mental illnesses? Yes. Emily Deans, at Psychology Today, wrote:

“Psychiatrically speaking, it is probably not a coincidence that dopamine related disorders, such as schizophrenia, addiction, ADHD and autism are more common in men, whereas the serotonin/norepinephrine linked anxiety and depressive disorders are more common in women. Of course dopamine is also associated with depression and opiates with addiction, and men get depressed and anxious while women have ADHD and autism. These are obviously not absolutes, just trends.”

I saved one of the most compelling pieces of evidence for last.

A major discovery about conservatism and liberalism involves brain structure. Conservatives on average have a larger amygdala (i.e., emotional learning and relating) and liberals on average have a larger ACC (i.e., emotional regulation and cognitive control/flexibility). Both are important, and so an emphasis of one over the other creates different tendencies.

The amygdala sometimes gets associated with fear responses, but it is also necessary for empathy and without it functioning well you could become a psychopath. Also, this emotional learning is what builds emotional bonding, which isn’t just about empathy but also group identity. This is probably why conservatives are inclined to identify with family, church, ethno-nationalism, etc.

It’s not that liberals lack empathy. It just expresses differently, less of a strong emotional pull from conservative group-mindedness. Instead, liberals are prone to an abstract, universalizing empathy—which is why conservatives will, for example, argue that liberals sympathize with the enemy and to an extent they’re right (at the same time, liberals are right that conservatives lack this broader empathy toward those outside of some narrow group identity). Conservatives are much more loyal than liberals, because they are more group-minded, related to their being more partisan as well and less tolerant of cooperation and compromise.

If you want to see the extreme of liberalism, look to libertarians who promote a hyper-individualistic laissez-faire worldview that is the complete opposite of conservative group-mindedness. Indeed, libertarians show the least amount of empathy than any other ideological demographic, not even showing the liberal non-groupish empathy. As such, liberals could be seen as in the middle between the extremes of conservatism and libertarianism. If the problem of liberal politics is the difficulty of herding cats, then the challenge of libertarian politics is that of trying to train lizards for synchronized swimming. Almost any trait of liberalism is going to be found even higher among libertarians. Libertarianism is liberalism on drugs or rather on more drugs—quite literally, as libertarians do have very high drug use. Liberals are downright conservative-minded compared to libertarians (and I’d expect brain scans to show this).

The difference between conservatives and liberals has more to do with who they empathize with and to what degree. As National Review discusses, conservatives place their empathy of US soldiers above even the innocent foreigners that US soldiers kill, whereas liberals don’t place US soldiers so high in the empathy scale and actually see them as equal to foreigners—so who has more empathy? Overall, liberals tend to favor those perceived as outsiders and underdogs, which is why they aren’t overly loyal and patriotic. On some measures (e.g., empathic concern), liberals even rate higher than conservatives. This probably has to do with other factors besides just the amygdala, but surely the amygdala plays a role. From a conservative standpoint, liberals (as with libertarians) have a deficiency in group-mindedness, to the point of being seen as a danger to society, which is to say the conservative’s society.

If a liberal becomes deficient enough in this area, they likely will be drawn to libertarianism. Does that mean libertarianism itself is a mental illness? No, but to have any less empathy than the average libertarian would clearly push one toward psychopathic territory. At the same time, the libertarian’s lack of emotional response is what makes them so idealistic about rationality, which is why they are the most idealistic of post-Enlightenment classical liberals. Conservatives are right that group concern is important, just as libertarians are right that groupthink can be oppressive, but one could argue that conservatives are making the stronger point considering humans are first and foremost social animals. For a social animal to disregard and devalue the group obviously would be less than optimal according to social norms, including psychological and behavioral norms (i.e., mental health). Libertarianism taken to the extreme would be severely dysfunctional and even dangerous, but that is true for almost anything taken to an extreme.

As a side note, gender plays into this, as I noted earlier. Matt Ridley has a WSJ article, in which he writes that: “The researchers found that libertarians had the most “masculine” psychological profile, while liberals had the most feminine, and these results held up even when they examined each gender separately, which “may explain why libertarianism appeals to men more than women.”” On this scale, I guess conservatives are in the middle—one might call them ideologically bisexual (I couldn’t help myself).

I got a bit distracted there. The data is so fascinating. To get back to my point, my last point, the brain structure issue hits home what is so central, at least in terms of conservatives and liberals (I don’t know about libertarians, much less anarchists, socialists, communists, Marxists, etc). What struck me is something Chris Mooney said in a Discover article:

“People with some forms of schizophrenia, Paranoid Type, for instance, typically have a poorly functioning ACC, so they have trouble discerning relevant patterns from irrelevant ones, giving equal weight to all of them.”

The one part of the brain liberals clearly express high function is with the ACC (anterior cintulate cortex). And this is precisely what is relatively smaller for conservatives. This biological variance is one of the main defining distinctions in ideological expression, what makes liberals liberal-minded and conservatives conservative-minded. Isn’t it interesting that highly functioning ACC correlates both to lower rates of conservatism and schizophrenia? It’s just a correlation, but one has to admit that it is interesting, to say the least.

It is the opposite of surprising that different rates of various psychological illnesses, disorders, and behaviors would be found disproportionately among various demographics. This is true in terms of gender, class, and even race. In the US, whites are more likely than blacks to commit suicide. So, why not look at ideologies in this light? None of this proves a causal link. There are endless confounding factors. Correlations aren’t necessarily meaningful, but they aren’t necessarily meaningless either. They are just evidence to be considered.

A Plague of Possessions

The Discover Magazine blog discusses an unusual paper. This quote amused me:

The Babylonians were remarkable observers and documentalists of human illness and behavior. However, their knowledge of anatomy was limited and superficial. Some diseases were thought to have a physical basis, such as worms, snake bites and trauma. Much else was the result of evil forces that required driving out… many, perhaps most diseases required the attention of a priest or exorcist, known as an asipu, to drive out evil demons or spirits.

Back in the ancient days of the mid-1990s, I spent several summers in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. It is part of the Bible Belt and sometimes it is referred to as the Buckle. There are a lot of fundamentalists there, more than I ever met in South Carolina or Iowa.

There was one shocking incident that I still have a hard time believing. I was riding with a friend along some winding mountain road. We passed by a billboard. It was an official public health message. It stated that epileptic seizures aren’t caused by demonic possession and that people should seek the help of a doctor.

From the earliest civilizations millennia ago to modern America, there has been a continuous belief in demon-caused mental illness and health conditions. When will it ever end?

I told my friend about this and his half-humorous response was that maybe there is something to it when it’s lasted that long. Considering that, someone really needs to take care of this demonic and spirit infestation. Imagine all that we humans could have accomplished by now, if not for evil beings keeping us down.

Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

   

Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

mikeS said Oct 12, 2008, 12:57 PM:             

  I recently posted this on my blog because I thought it a bit long for a thread. However, on second thought, maybe it might initiate some discussion. My thanks to Nicole.It seems fundamentally evident that, in order to aspire to a career in politics, one must eventually seek ‘votes’ to advance one’s career to ever higher office. Seeking votes means essentially being liked and to be elected to political office means being liked by more people than others seeking the same office.  This requires the acute and finely detailed tailoring of one’s ‘self’ in order to be liked, as opposed to NOT liked. This process easily eliminates those who are unable, for whatever reason, to tailor the ‘self’ in a way that generates votes through ‘likability.’ This tailoring process seems so deeply inherent to a political career, that the political aspirant may need to compromise his or her longstanding values and standards to achieve votes. A career in politics is not necessarily compatible with higher values like integrity (maybe this is why so much corruption exists in the field).   In fact, if standards and values are not to some degree compromised in order to increase ‘likability’ and collect votes, then the politician will eventually be eliminated from the field or at the least stuck in less esteemed positions. This elimination process, particularly in seeking the highest offices in which more votes are required, tends to produce a specific character type that, in many cases, may be inclined toward personality or character dysfunction almost to the point of a full-blown personality disorder.    I have found that the specific character disorder frequently exhibited by political aspirants is labeled Narcissistic Personality Disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, APA, (In fact, the spiritual philosopher, Ken Wilber, believes that “narcissism” is one of the most significant impediments to Deep Spirit, although his “narcissism” is a bit more complicated that the APA’s definition).       The APA has never, to my knowledge, made any psychological classification of politicians. However, I believe it is warranted. The problem is that in the field of politics it can be very difficult or almost impossible to identify those politicians with the disorder, since we all realize and tend to accept that politics is often a personality competition of celebrity proportions. Therefore, we could be witnessing a full-blown Narcissistic disordered personality right before our eyes, yet fail to recognize the symptoms of the disorder due to the very nature of politics in this postmodern age.          My point in this essay is in relation to the appearance of Deep Spirit and not necessarily, the appearance of narcissistic symptoms. However, Narcissism impedes Deep Spirit, particularly in those exhibiting symptoms of the disorder, and is generated primarily from fear. More specifically, in politics the fear is of not attaining votes because more voters dislike the political candidate. This is the fear of un-likability, that we all on some level experience. Yet my being disliked by many people may not result in the need to tailor my personality in order to be more liked so as to enhance my career, but for the politician this tailoring is crucial to career enhancement.             

Narcissism is a personality or “character” disorder actually diagnosable through the psychiatric model of mental disorders as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The officially accepted criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder according to the DSM-IV is as follows :             

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

            

              

 

recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)  to be(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects          

            

 

with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love   is preoccupied(2)         

           

(3) believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)    

        

          

(4) requires excessive admiration       

     

       

(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations          

  

    

(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends             

(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others             

(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her             

(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes             

Although Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a classification of the psychiatric model of mental disorders, the condition is pervasive to the personality or ‘self’ and is essentially impervious to medications, and most psychotherapies. In other words, if you are afflicted with this ‘disorder,’ narcissistic personality is what you ARE and you most likely can be NO different since the core ‘self’ IS the disorder and will not change (at least, not in this lifetime, anyway). This is different from psychiatric mental disorders which are primarily due to brain or neurochemicals imbalances and can be treated through medications             

As the symptoms reveal, there is an almost complete self-absorption with little regard for others or the suffering of others. In fact, others are seen as only means to greater enhancement, or advancement, of the ‘self.’ Therefore, any spiritual perspective of ‘oneness,’ any unity of perception or converging of perspectives to include the collective as opposed to the Narcissistic individual, is essentially absent or at the least, greatly minimized.             

I contend that many of our national leaders meet, if not all the criteria, many of the symptoms of this character disorder (notice that only 5 of the 9 symptoms need be met for the diagnosis to be applied).             

Based on the limited research available regarding Narcissistic Personality Disorder it appears to be the result of early childhood deprivation or neglect in terms of building healthy psychological ego-self structures. Based on current statistics, only a very small percentage of the U.S. population is afflicted with this disorder (many medical statistics claim only 1% of the population, however, since narcissists rarely admit to the symptoms of this disorder they rarely attend treatment and thus fail to be statistically counted).             

POLITICAL NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER

Due to the grandiose nature of politics, individual politicians must be predisposed to acquiring high public esteem and self-glorification through the acquisition of ‘votes’ related to election and re-election. This election process tends to funnel, collect and lump together those who may be prone to narcissistic personality disorder, particularly at the highest political levels. This is a bit different then celebrity status, although certainly there are many narcissistic personalities in that field as well. Yet, since celebrities tend to be esteemed based on some artistic talent and exist primarily to entertain, politicians need not exhibit any specific talent other than that of tailoring the personality so as to attain the greatest number of votes thereby beating opposition. In addition, a movie or rock star can enhance their celebrity status through controversy, while a politician’s career can be completely derailed through anything less than a perfect personality and a stellar past. Therefore, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, though evident in other careers, is abundantly manifest in politics at the highest or national level.             

However, this is not to assume that all politicians exhibit the full-fledged disorder with most of the symptoms. It may be more indicative of a greater possibility of manifesting the “traits” or “styles” of the disorder. Some politicians will be more narcissistically disordered, while others may be less afflicted. But I contend that due to the nature of the career, most will exhibit symptoms even those who seem to appear the most “honest” (I hate to say it, but George Bush tends to conform quite adequately to this model of narcissism)             

One thing is certain however, the higher the office the greater the likelihood that those elected will exhibit symptoms of the disorder as opposed to merely traits or styles. Therefore, we will suffer, more or less, dependent on the degree of Narcissistic Personality symptoms the elected office holder is afflicted by.             

Based on this, and my strong belief that regardless of one’s professed religion, seekers of Deep Inner Spirit tend to be more inclined to a more generous “worldcentric” perspective and a vision that integrates all levels of our evolving global society. This vision is completely opposite of narcissism and actually demands the clearing of narcissistic symptoms (traits and styles) in order for others, as opposed to ‘self,’ to be even considered, let alone considered through a correspondence with a deeper Spirit within.             

However, Narcissistic individuals are very adept at “lip-service” or telling us what they believe we want to hear regardless of the truth factor (this is why outright ‘lies’ are referred to “mis-stating” the facts) in order to enhance likability and acquire votes . Due to this magnified self-absorption, they tend to lack a “worldcentric” perspective and are terminally ‘stuck’ in an egocentric view of the world and others. In fact, they tend NOT to be capable of considering any other perspective but their own (unless, of course, other perspectives are similar). The Narcissistic personality is dysfunctionally self-absorbed and wholly self-oriented and obviously not amenable to the progress of an evolutionary collective consciousness that seeks to encompass all perspectives, all the time.             

So, when you cast your vote this November, stop to consider which of the politicians seeking office seem to meet the above psychiatric criteria. This may help to insure that you are not voting for a candidate who is Narcissistic Personality Disordered having one chief value in mind above all others and that is the glorification of self. If this is the primary perspective they hold, then most likely they should not hold public office.             

Clearly, we are approaching difficult times ahead and the leaders we choose will need a foundation of Deep Spirit in order to help us seek that same foundation within ourselves. If we elect officials, no matter what party, who are personality/character disordered, we have no one to blame but ourselves for the disorder and corresponding symptoms we will no doubt experience. Of course, this statement may initiate an examination of the two-term election of George Bush and the question:
Can a large segment of a national population be Narcissistic Personality Disordered? I’ll leave that to brighter minds than mine, but the implications are bone-chilling.             

Peace Angels,
mike S              

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Alan said Oct 12, 2008, 3:01 PM:             

  A narcissist is simple a man or woman who’s ego is so out of control that even in this egoic age they’re out of balance.  

I have had up close personal views of narcissists.  Of course, power draws people who live solely for themselves and  to please their self-image.  As does wealth.  These are the flames the intensely ego-centric flock to, like moths, only to burn.
This is why we have this pain-filled world, I agree.  
Time to declare war on greed.  (for money, power, pleasure, whathaveyou)
Time to stop declaring war on eachother.  Every time we do, we lose sight of the real enemy
as surely as Iraq had little to do with bin laden.

              

 

        

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 13, 2008, 9:36 AM:             

  Alan and Mike, thanks.Mike, I am very grateful for you beginning the discussion with this marvelous blog of yours. It’s interesting, I just read a blog by Marmalade which is an in-depth personality analysis and comparison of the current candidates and past presidents, with a lot of detail of what leads to success in presidency, including the ability to lie well and being impulsive and passionate rather than collegial. It’s a very detailed blog though and I can’t do it justice so I hope you will check it out yourselves – Politics, Personality, and Character  I would love to hear what Marmalade and others think about this thread.    Alan, you’re so right about losing track of the real enemy. It has never been other people.    Light and peace,       Nicole          

 

        

 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 13, 2008, 2:20 PM:             

  Thanks for the advertisement of my blog, dear Nicole.  As you know, I have a strong interest in personality.  Its quite fascinating all of the info that is out there.I noticed this thread when it was first posted.  I don’t know that I have much to add.  I can see the perspective of leadership roles attracting narcissists.  The one thing I would question is the issue of personality disorder.  If narcissism has offered survival value to the human species, then its not fair to call it a personality disorder.  Similarly, I’ve heard the theory that Attention Deficity Disorder may simply be a type of personality that no longer has a place in our society and such people are unfairly medicated.  The problem is that the world now is different than it was when humans evolved personality traits.  Narcissism may be quite benificial in a leader of a tribe but maybe dangerous on the largscale of international politics.  Also, maybe traditional cultures had ways of controlling narcissism from going out of control.   Marmalade   
 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Alan said Oct 13, 2008, 2:46 PM:             

  Marmalade, 

Having lived with a narcissist, while I disagree with the very idea of ‘personality disorders’ a great deal, I can say that if the definition of personality disorders includes maladaptation, eg a state of being that causes extreme harm to the self or others, Narcissism must be a personality disorder.  We probably disagree about the idea that this state of being is or has ever been helpful.  Narcissism ruins everything it touches.  The story of King Midas is a very good myth about it.
In leaders, it is the most dangerous thing in the world…. whether tribe or nation.  These are just my .02 though…
Also, I’d be interested in reading a study about narcissism cross-culturally.  In Japanese culture, for example, as far as I know the children are so asked to empathize with each other that an individual who seemingly has no empathy at all (eg, a narccisist) is probably less of a likely phenomenon.  In fact, this set of behaviors, to me, is no more than a symptom of the larger imbalance of this particular society.  

              

 

            

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 13, 2008, 3:20 PM:             

  Alan,I haven’t ever studied it much, but from my meager research it seems that narcissism is a broad category.  I guess its important to know whether this thread is about narcissism in general or only narcissism as a personality disorder.  Here is something from the Wikipedia article:  Johnson [9] discusses Narcissism as constituting a spectrum, from a severe disorder with much in common with borderline personality disorder, to a much less severe, high-functioning form he calls “the narcissistic style.”   
“People who have a narcissistic
personality style rather than narcissistic personality disorder are relatively psychologically healthy, but may at times be arrogant, proud, shrewd, confident, self-centered and determined to be at the top. They may not, however, have an unrealistic image of their skills and worth and are not so strongly dependent on praise to sustain a healthy self-esteem.” [10]
As there are different types of Narcissism, I’d guess there are probably different causes of it also.  As an example I noticed acquired situational narcissism:    Acquired Situational Narcissism is a form of narcissism that develops in late adolescence or adulthood, brought on by wealth, fame and the other trappings of celebrity     

.

            

              

 

disorder.  pesonalityI was wondering about the social components to narcissism in our culture.  Maybe narcissistic personality style is common, but maybe narcissistic personality disorder isn’t.  Furthermore, maybe they exist on a gradient and maybe there is something about our society that turns the personality style into a          

            

 

, but this leads people to an even greater focus on their own personal problems because they have no one else to turn to.   is discouragedA cross-cultural study would be interesting.  I’ve read something about Japanese culture that relates to your comment.  The author was saying that Japanese culture has the opposite effect from what would be expected.  Individual expression         

           

I liked your last point.  Is Narcissism a personality disorder or a societal disorder?    

        

          

Marmalade      

     

       

   

  

    

   

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

mikeS said Oct 13, 2008, 3:48 PM:             

  I realize the title of this post was rather pejorative and exaggerated. Nevertheless, I was not addressing “leadership roles” per say since clearly in many industries and fields leadership does not rely as heavily or at all on ‘likability’ or attractiveness. Many leaders rose to leadership positions meritoriously or through talent and there is not the need to tailor the personality so acutely as with politics.If narcissism has offered survival value to the human species, then its not fair to call it a personality disorder.   That would be an interesting discussion as to whether personality disorders have survival value. As Alan points out, they are maladaptive to the person and society and do tend to impair the individual or others in some way. There are many different personality disorders and I’m mostly familiar with antisocial (sociopathic) and narcissistic from 8 yrs of work in a prison.
Actually, it seems to me that Narcissism would have little survival value since it is not amenable to leadership roles beneficial to the tribe.
In addition, although I use psychiatric diagnoses in my work, I am also very suspect of the criteria. Rarely do individuals meet even the minimum requirments and personality disorders often overlap with mood disorders. This is why I mentioned “traits” and “styles” in my initial post. Attention Deficit is a mood disorder and treatable through drugs and personality disorders are frequently untreatable since it involves impaired ego development usually traced to childhood parenting in combination with genetic predispositions   My  point was  that diagnosable “narcissistic personality disorder” may be more observable through the political arena than in any other public realm. In addition, due to the postmodern politics, and the cult of celebrity, this may be more true than in previous times. In that sense it would be a societal problem particularly if the society is narcissistic, but that would also make it less visible TO the society. A good book on sociel narcissism would be “Culture of Narcissism” by Christopher Lasch, which is quite an indictment of American society.    Thanks : )
mike S       
 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 1:16 AM:             

  Hey Mike!  I’m not really in disagreement with you.  I just like to complicate
things. I was reading that research shows that Japanese are more self-critical. 
Self-criticalness intuitively seems quite opposite from Narcissism.  But I also
noticed that in an articleabout narcissism that strong self-criticism is
sometimes seen in relationship to strong self-regard.  I came across the view
that it might be helpful to separate two types of narcissism.  One more overt
and what is typically thought of as narcissism, but the other more hidden. 
Here is a paper that speaks about narcissism amongst Japanese being more
of the latter type:      

http://www.athleticinsight.com/Vol1Iss1/Asian_Aggression.htm          

That paper also points out how narcissism relates to dependence.  Its not 
that  narcissists think only about themselves but that they think too much
about how others think about them.  They need confirmation of their own
self-regard.  Its the need for social acceptance that can lead to the
self-criticalness when they don’t live up to those externalized expectations.            

Of course, narcissism is very different in various populations.  The narcissism
of politicians is probably quite different than narcissism of prisoners, and the
narcissism of both of those populations probably would be quite different than 
narcissism amongst more average people.            

As a different perspective, here is an book excerpt about the relationship
between personality traits and narcissism:            

http://books.google.com/books?id=K-LLSx-n0lwC&pg=PA234&lpg=PA234&dq=narcissism+ffm&source=web&ots=oyZrnfCrwl&sig=cH6QbfKisuHszOWarrR8pG1mZYs&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result

p. 234: One of the facets of FFM antagonism is arrogance, the central
trait of NPD (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, Millon et al., 1996). 
An advantage of the FFM dimensional classification of personaity disorder
though is the ability to distinguish between arrogant persons who are high
versus low in neuroticism. A longstanding concern within the clinical
literature on narcissism is the distinction between narcissistic
persons who
are consistently self-confident, arrogant, andconceited (what
Ronningstam, 2005, describes as the “arrogant narcissit”) versus the
narcissistic person who is quite insecure and self-conscious (the
“shy narcissist”; Ronningstam, 2005). The dimensional perspective of the
FFM would not create subtypes of a diagnostic category to address the
considerable variation that does occur, but would simply describe the
extent to which a person high in arrogance is also low in the anxiousness,
self-consciousness, and vulnerability facets of neuroticism. Further
distinctions would be provided by the extent to which the person is low in
extraversion (the shy narcissist) versus high in extraversion (the outgoing,
interpersonally engaging narcissist), or high in conscientiousness
(the narcissist who is relatively successful in school, college, and career).
           

And here is narcissistic personality disorder translated into FFM traits:            

http://www.ptypes.com/narcissisticpd.html
             

High Neuroticism
Chronic negative affects, including anxiety, fearfulness, tension,
irritability, anger, dejection, hopelessness, guilt, shame; difficulty in inhibiting
impulses: for example, to eat, drink, or spend money; irrational beliefs: for
example, unrealistic expectations,perfectionistic demands on self,
unwarranted pessimism; unfounded somatic concerns; helplessness and
dependence on others for emotional support and decision making.             

High Extraversion
Excessive talking, leading to inappropriate self-disclosure and social
friction; inability to spend time alone; attention seeking and overly dramatic
expression of emotions; reckless excitement seeking; inappropriate attempts to
dominate and control others.        
     

Low Openness
Difficulty adapting to social or personal change; low tolerance or
understanding of different points of view or lifestyles; emotional blandness and
inability to understand and verbalize own feelings; alexythymia; constricted range
of interests; insensitivity to art and beauty; excessive conformity to authority.             

Low Agreeableness
Cynicism and paranoid thinking; inability to trust even friends or family;
quarrelsomeness; too ready to pick fights; exploitive and manipulative; lying; rude
and inconsiderate manner alienates friends, limits social support; lack of respect for
social conventions can lead to troubles with the law; inflated and grandiose sense of
self; arrogance.             

Low Conscientiousness
Underachievement: not fulfilling intellectual or artistic potential; poor
academic
performance relative to ability; disregard of rules and responsibilities can
lead to
trouble with the law; unable to discipline self (e.g., stick to diet, exercise plan)
even when required for medical reasons; personal and occupational aimlessness.

        

Here are some other links that interested me:          

http://www.ptypes.com/narcissistic.html

http://www.ptypes.com/compensatory-narcissisti2.html           

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2277465            

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Controversial+Issues+in+the+Diagnosis+of+Narcissistic+Personality…-a070739740             

Marmalade             

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

mikeS said Oct 14, 2008, 5:39 AM:             

  Whoa! Marm,You are ‘researcher extraordinaire’!  In addition, I did not necessarily perceive you as disagreeing or agreeing. The point is achieving synthesis through the ongoing dialogue. I only feel disappointed if my posts stimulate NO discussion (I think you have said as much before).The point of ALL my posts, blog and threads, is to either initiate discussion, for OR against, and continue it possibly toward such a synthesis. I have not cornered the market on knowledge, nor am I narcissistically certain of anything (neat how I slid that in!)   You seem to have deconstructed the DSM-IV Narcissistic classification. I love deconstructing accepted beliefs and although I have not heard of FFM It certainly looks credible (although i do take issue with the old freudian term “neuroticism” which is rarely used in clinical circles due to its being so nebulous).    

The narcissism of politicians is probably quite different than narcissism of prisoners, and the narcissism of both of those populations probably would be quite different than narcissism amongst more average people.

            

              

 

disorder shine brightly as the prison environment lends itself to that presentation.  narcississtichis disorder in politics, but as soon as we put him behind bars we would see his  demonstrateon environmental factors. In other words, the same narcissist would covertly  be dependent psychosocial environment. To say that one type is overt and another covert, I believe, would the thebased on  be differentI disagree in that the “narcissism” would be the same, however, the behaviors would          

            

 

japanese narcissism, but could we posit then a further contrast in that  the narcissism of Japanese culture is much more covert than American? Yet, the narcissism is the same psychological phenomenon, only tailored to the cultural norms?   regardingI have not yet read the link you provided         

           

I will look over the links you have provided since they seem highly informative.    

        

          

However, my general point from the previous posts was that we could see, if we know what to look for, Narcissism (based on the DSM, but maybe even more adequately based of FFM) in the highest level of politics. My hypothesis was that at the highest level of political functioning, those most deeply afflicted by this disordered personality could be seen. But, again, only if we know what we are looking for and thus, I used the DSM criteria as model. I do feel we need to differentiate between average everyday narcissism, or selfishness, and the narcissism of a disordered personality.       

     

       

My suggestion that the disorder is “destroying the world” is related to the idea that if you place a conglomeration of Narcissistically disordered personalities in one big room, say the U.S. Congress for instance, with the intent of making decisions beneficial to the world, most likely nothing will get done and thus the world will gradually devolve into some form of self-destruction. Quite a leap, I know, but that’s my general thesis.
Sometimes I wonder if, in our politically correct society, we have a tendency to water down what are truly dysfunctional personalities. I feel this neither serves well the person nor the society.          

  

    

believe me when I say that I genuinely look forward to your complicating things further!! : )             

Peace Angels,
mike S             

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 14, 2008, 9:11 AM:             

  Mike, I too am very pleased at the level of discourse this has generated, with Marmalade and Alan’s input! You guys all rock!I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into that link about the Japanese, seems particularly relevant this week as I’m in the midst of arrangements for the pre-conference activities in early December with my colleagues in Tokyo and surroundings 🙂  Light and peace,   Nicole   
 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 3:11 PM:             

  Mike, this comment of yours stood out to me.My suggestion that the disorder is “destroying the world” is related to the idea that if you place a conglomeration of Narcissistically disordered personalities in one big room, say the U.S. Congress for instance, with the intent of making decisions beneficial to the world, most likely nothing will get done and thus the world will gradually devolve into some form of self-destruction. Quite a leap, I know, but that’s my general thesis.

Its always a strange experiment when you stick a bunch of similar people together.  The similarities become magnified.  I first noticed this when visitng type forums.  Put the same type in a single forum and you get weird social dynamics.  Its an educational experience because you quickly discover what distinguishes people amidst their similarities.  I wonder what the social dynamics are in a group of narcissists?  I wouldn’t want to be the observer.  It could get ugly.   Marmalade    
 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 2:13 PM:             

  I just thought of something amusing.I learned about FFM through studying MBTI.  FFM is a popular topic on MBTI forums and there has been correlations made between the two systems.  Both models have been researched on their own, but also some research has been done on how well they correlate.  Here is a paper about this:  http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3852/is_/ai_n9213480   FFM Extraversion correlates to MBTI Extraversion
FFM Openness correlates to MBTI Intuition
FFM Agreeableness correlates to MBTI Feeling
FFM Conscientiousness correlates to MBTI Judging    The fifth FFM factor of Neuroticism doesn’t correlate as strongly but does have some correlation to MBTI Introversion.        So, the fun part is if we take the FFM correlation to MBTI (ignoring Neuroticism) and add it to the FFM correlation to Narcissism.  What we get is that the ESTP type correlates to a Narcissistic personality.   The real fun part is looking at the MBTI analysis of politicians.  I’ve looked around at various blogs, articles and forum discussions.  There seems to be a consensus that McCain is an ESTP.          Of course, MBTI focuses on the positive and isn’t designed to understand psychiatric disorders.  But its a fun game to play.  Here is a humorous page about negative descriptions of MBTI types:             

ESTP: The Conman
As an ESTP, you are driven to succeed and to win. Your personality is dominated by your drive to test yourself and to triumph over your fellow man.
This generally expresses itself as an overwhelming urge to prove your self worth (and fatten your wallet) by taking advantage of the suckers, marks, and dupes who surround you–after all, isn’t that what they’re there for? It’s not your fault that their stupidity and gullibility lets them believe you when you say that Hershey’s Kissesses exposed to your patented psychic amplifier rays will let them fly! As your hero and fellow ESTP, P. T. Barnum, once said, “it is morally wrong to let a sucker keep his money.”
As an ESTP, your greatest fear is failure. Under no circumstances will you permit yourself that kind of weakness, which makes you ideally suited for a job at Enron, where your natural talents can be recognized and rewarded.
RECREATION: ESTPs enjoy recreational activities such as card sharking, pool sharking, and conning little old women out of their lives’ savings. They’re often fond of polo as well.          

Famous ESTPs include P. T. Barnum and DR. PETER OKOYE, SON OF THE LATE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA M. B. OKOYE, WHO REQUESTS YOUR URGENT ASSISTANCE IN HELPING TO TRANSFER $150,000,000 (THE SUM OF ONE HUNDRED FIFTY MILLION USD) INTO YOUR U.S. BANK ACCOUNT SO THAT IT MAY BE DISTRIBUTED TO NEEDY CHILDREN, IN GOD’S CHARITY.
 
Marmalade     

        

 
   

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 14, 2008, 2:46 PM:             

  Related to FFM is the SLOAN model that takes the traits and describes all of the possible combinations.  This makes it more of a typology system like the MBTI.  MBTI ESTP translates into 2 SLOAN types:http://similarminds.com/global5/scuen.html  SCUEN 
(2.9% of women; 3.2% of men) 

not easily hurt, spends more time in group activities than solitary activities, comes alive at parties and in crowds, not very religious, would not want to give up drinking or smoking, not mystical, not big on science fiction, does not care if people think poorly of them, not very introspective, fits in most places, does not like to go days without speaking to people, likes change, trusting, not very intellectual, underachiever, not easily moved to tears, thrill seeker, does not like to compromise, not apologetic, avoids difficult reading material, relaxed most of the time, likes danger, not punctual, impatient, not upset by the misfortunes of strangers, believes in an eye for an eye, not detail oriented, uninterested in the needs of others, avoids responsibilities, not known for generosity, more dominant than submissive, underachiever, likes crowds, aggressive, willing to take risks, not embarrassed easily, not passionate about improving the world, show off, socially comfortable, acts as they please, not bothered by disorder

http://similarminds.com/global5/sluen.html             

SLUEN 
(4.5% of women; 2.1% of men)       

quick tempered, thinks winning is no fun unless people know you have one, does not keep emotions under control, prefers to do things with others, emotional, not very intellectual, prone to envy, comes alive in night life activities and crowds, vain, would not be happy if poor, prefers instant gratification, easily hurt, not very introspective, wants to be famous, seductive, does not readily admit mistakes, more comfortable when things are imperfect, would rather spend than save, feels best when others find them physically attractive, materialistic, finds ordinary tasks draining, wants things done their way, overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings frequently, spontaneous, easily frustrated, impatient, low self confidence, prone to jealousy, misbehaves, improper, acts out frustrations on others, opinionated, non known for generosity, more pleasure seeking than responsible, ambivalent regarding the suffering of others, hard to reason with, does not accept what others say, does not value solitude, unpredictable
 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 15, 2008, 8:26 AM:             

  Thanks, Marmalade, I really enjoyed that link with all the twisted MBTI characters! LOLOL!Thanks too for the SLOAN model, that’s an approach that was new to me. You are a veritable wealth of fascinating information.  Love,   Nicole      
 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Marmalade said Oct 15, 2008, 12:50 PM:             

  Yeah, I love that site.  I wonder if it was written by a disgruntled INFP.  The INFP description is not entirely unflattering.  Its good that the INFP population is kept from outgrowing its niche.There are few things that interest me more than personality.  Its researching personality that got me interested in the world wide web.  Its the web is a veritable wealth of fascinating information.  Marmalade   

            

 
     

Re: Is “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” Destroying the World?

Nicole said Oct 16, 2008, 9:05 AM:             

  I think it’s quite likely that it was a disgruntled INFP, LOL! I especially enjoyed “The Cult Leader”, as an ENFJ :):)Love,  Nicole