A Special Report -- The Faces of Mental Illness

The tragic shootings in Arizona last week have once again turned our attention to the importance of identifying and treating the mentally ill. In a Special Report -- The Faces of Mental Illness, we asked our own Dr. Lucy Van Pelt to elaborate on the important symptoms we, as citizens, need to look for to help prevent future tragedies.

One of the most prevalent mental illness associated with violent behavior is Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms may include:

  • Believing that you're better than others
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Believing that you're special and acting accordingly
  • Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
  • Taking advantage of others
  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
  • Being jealous of others
  • Believing that others are jealous of you
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Being easily hurt and rejected
  • Having a fragile self-esteem
  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional

Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence or strong self-esteem, it's not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence and self-esteem into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal. You might tell people that you are a political consultant or perhaps the editor of a Review. In contrast, people who have healthy confidence and self-esteem don't value themselves more than they value others.

When you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. This leads to problems in personal relationships that often results in multiple divorces. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may have a sense of entitlement. And when you don't receive the special treatment to which you feel entitled, you may become very impatient or angry. If you have a webblog, you may write letters to yourself so that it appears people are paying attention to you. You may also manipulate your counter so that it appears that many people read your website.

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But underneath all this behavior often lies a fragile self-esteem. You have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have a sense of secret shame and humiliation. And in order to make yourself feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and efforts to belittle the other person to make yourself appear better. You may file lawsuits against people that criticize you.

It is important that we as citizens look for and identify these people and administer to them large doses of high voltage electro-shock therapy.