FRIDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Ever met a guy who talks only
about himself, thinks he's superior to everyone and who tends to
view women as little more than playthings?
That man may very well have narcissistic personality disorder, a
condition marked by an inflated sense of self-importance and a
profound lack of empathy for others.
And new research suggests the anger, hostility and short fuse
that accompany a man's narcissism tend to be directed toward
"Heterosexual, narcissistic men become enraged at people who deny them gratification, whether it's social status, having a trophy partner or sexual gratification," said lead study author Scott Keiller, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Kent State University Tuscarawas in Ohio.
"The group that could gratify heterosexual men the most is heterosexual women," Keiller said. "To the extent narcissistic men would get resistance, that would make them enraged."
For the study, published online July 23 in the journal
Sex Roles, Keiller and his colleagues gave 104 male undergraduates questionnaires designed to measure narcissism. Questions included: "I love to be the center of attention" or "It embarrasses me when I am the center of attention." The former is associated with narcissism, the latter with modesty and humility.
They were also asked about their attitudes toward gay men,
lesbians, straight women and other straight men, including how much
they ascribed to traditional -- some would say sexist -- male and
None of the men questioned had diagnosable narcissistic
personality disorder, said Keiller. (The disorder is diagnosed when
one meets five symptoms on a list that includes grandiosity, a
strong sense of entitlement, and an overwhelming need for
admiration, according to the American Psychiatric Association.) But
narcissism is a continuum, and plenty of the young men had a
pronounced tendency toward those traits, he said.
Men who scored the highest on the narcissism test were more
likely to view women as conniving gold diggers, as teases who tempt
men with sex and don't deliver, or as seductresses with plans to
trick men and "get them under their thumb," Keiller said.
"Narcissistic men hold overtly hostile, adversarial ideas about women," Keiller said.
While narcissistic men also showed rancor toward gay men, their
hostility toward them was no worse than that of other straight
About the only group that escaped narcissistic men's anger were
lesbians, possibly because straight men tend to eroticize them,
Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State
University and author of "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the
Age of Entitlement," said the study fits with other research on
"Narcissists don't have a problem with everyone, or with people that are different. They have a problem with people who may reject them," Twenge said. "They have a problem with heterosexual women, because those are the people who might see through them, reject them and not give them the attention and adulation they feel they deserve."
The findings suggest they view their relationships with women as
patriarchal rather than egalitarian, the authors said.
Men tend to have more narcissistic traits than women, possibly
because girls, more than boys, are taught to be nurturing, selfless
and to put others first, according to background information in the
article. Likewise, men are more frequently diagnosed with
narcissistic personality disorder than women.
Research suggests narcissistic men are also more likely to
commit domestic violence because of their egocentrism and lack of
empathy, although many men who commit violence are not narcissists,
Over time, narcissistic men do tend to get their comeuppance.
Eventually, their anger and aggression turns off loved ones and
employers, experts say.
"They can be charming, self-promoting and even in the face of evidence they are not great, they still think they're great," Twenge said. "But as they age, they are also more likely to fail at school, work and relationships. It's tough to be a middle-aged narcissist."
Just ask actor Mel Gibson, who's made headlines recently with
aggressive verbal outbursts directed at women. According to
Keiller, it's impossible to know if he's a narcissist without a
full exam, but his sexist comments toward a female police officer
and his latest reported tirades toward ex-partner Oksana Grigorieva
would seem to indicate he fits the bill.
Cleveland Clinic has more on narcissistic