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Politicians, Narcissism and Cheating — Oh, My!

There's been no shortage of politicians in the news who cheated on their wives (Sanford, Spitzer, Clinton — we're talking about you), and the television show The Good Wife is even dramatizing this all-too-familiar story. Most social scientists and psychologists are not surprised; many of the traits that are required for political leadership are prevalent in narcissism: ambition, risk-taking, and charisma. You don't need to be a narcissist to be a political leader, but it doesn't hurt.

So what is narcissism exactly? We all have self-love on some level, but in the '80s, the American Psychiatric Association argued that it can become pathological enough to be considered a personality disorder. They claimed that one percent of the population has NPD (narcissistic personality disorder); it's since been revised by The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, which said that 6.2 percent of the population has NPD. To find out about NPD,

According to the DSM-IV, here are the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

"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:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love (megalomania)
3. Believes they are 'special' and can only be understood by, or should associate with, people (or institutions) who are also 'special' or of high status
4. Requires excessive admiration
5. Has a sense of entitlement
6. Is interpersonally exploitative
7. Lacks empathy
8. Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes"

Most of us will never date or marry a narcissistic politician, but some of us will have the misfortune to date narcissists, who have a tendency to cheat. "Infidelity," says Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist at City University of New York and who writes about psychology and political behavior, "is a byproduct of narcissism."

Do you know any narcissists or have you ever dated one?


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