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Structural Abnormalities in the Brains of Narcissists


I have already posted many articles about how being brought up by a parent with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can be extremely traumatic and lead to the development of our own psychological conditions once we ourselves have become adults (e.g. click here). However, in this post I want to look at how the structure of the brains of narcissists differ from the brains of others.

With advances being made all the time in the field of neuroscience, and brain scanning techniques improving at a rapid pace, it is becoming increasingly clear that those with NPD frequently display STRUCTURAL ABNORMALITIES in a region of the brain known as the CEREBRAL CORTEX (specifically, it has been found to be SIGNIFICANTLY THINNER than is normal).

This finding is of particular interest as the brain’s cerebral cortex is known to be involved in generating our feelings of COMPASSION for others, and, therefore, is closely linked to our capacity to EMPATHIZE (Stefan Ropke, School of Medicine, Berlin University). It is known that the narcissist’s capacity to feel empathy for those they interact with is SEVERELY COMPROMIZED.



One of the main hallmarks of NPD is a seriously impaired ability to EMPATHIZE with others. This means that they are able to emotionally hurt those around them (especially those close to them whom they may well treat worst of all) WITHOUT FEELING GUILT, SHAME OR REGRET FOR HAVING DONE SO.

Indeed, they may even relish the hurt they have caused and mock, deride or otherwise display contempt the person whose feelings they have damaged.

On a quick personal note, I remember when I was a child and my mother would reduce me to floods of tears she would respond in a ridiculing and contemptuous tone of voice : ‘Oh, turn off the bloody waterworks for Christ’s sake you little crybaby. I’ve no sympathy for you whatsoever. WHATSOEVER!’ (Or something similar along the same lines.)

Looking back on such treatment, it seems to me quite possible that my mother enjoyed my reaction as it provided her with a sense of POWER to compensate for her deep feelings of inadequacy.

However, it should also be noted that many narcissists can appear, SUPERFICIALLY, to be compassionate. This is often likely to be because they have learned (sometimes very convincingly) to mimic such pro-social behaviours in order to win social acceptance and approval. Thus, a person with NPD may APPEAR TO OUTSIDERS to be a perfectly reasonable, even caring, person whilst being highly unreasonable and uncaring BEHIND CLOSED DOORS in the home. Simply put, individuals with NPD can learn to put on a highly convincing SOCIAL MASK.

Finally, for those who have not read my other posts on NPD, I will end with a list of other common behaviours that sufferers of this disorder are likely to display:

– grandiosity

– entitlement/expects to be treated as ‘very special person’ at all times

– exploits others

– deep need to be admired

– prone to intense jealousy

– arrogant

– prone to fantasies involving great personal achievement and/or power




David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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