The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-TR) is the diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals. A diagnosis of narcissism requires five out of nine characteristics. Note these traits must endure overtime and must not be reactions to a particular situation or environmental stressor:
- Grandiose sense of self-importance.
- Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, beauty, or ideal love.
- Sense of specialness, belief he can only be understood by or should associate only with other special or high-status individuals or institutions.
- Need for excessive admiration.
- Heightened sense of entitlement, leading to unreasonable expectations that others should treat him especially favorably or comply automatically with his expectations.
- Tendency to be interpersonally exploitive. A person with NPD does not hesitate in taking advantage of others to meet his own ends.
- Lack of empathy, an inability or unwillingness to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others.
- An envy of other people, or conversely, a belief that other people envy him.
- A tendency toward arrogant behavior or attitude.
In his essay on Obama’s narcissism, Sam Vaknin references Obama’s haughty body language and condescending attitude. Vaknin also points out Obama’s “emotion free language.” Commentators frequently describe Obama as cool and aloof.
Some narcissists learn to mimic normal human emotions. Clinton is the master of this; he claimed to feel our pain, and plenty of Americans believed him. Clinton learned how to win people over with his pseudo empathy. Obama has yet to demonstrate anything we could call true empathy; irrespective of the words he uses, there is no real emotional content.
When children experience overwhelming trauma, they protect themselves as best they can with a variety of defense mechanisms. There is no question that life for little Barry was traumatic, full of chaos and abandonment, as well as genuine fear. The adults in his life betrayed him and taught him hate and mistrust. Otto Kernberg, in his research on narcissism, states that it evolves as a defense against a cold and unsympathetic parent. The child withdraws part of himself from the unavailable parent and turns it back toward himself, creating a grandiose sense of self. Healthy emotional development was just not possible in young Barry’s environment.