Narcissism Leads to Health Problems in Men

Narcissism may be damaging to the soul and bad for relationships, but a new study has suggested that narcissism can also be bad for men's health.

The two traits of narcissism, entitlement and exploitativeness, is relative to higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can lead to high blood pressure. According to, researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Virginia have found that men who had those traits are prone to heart problems and while females, who are equally narcissistic, didn't have the same stress hormone response.

One of the authors of the study, Sara Konrath, an assistant research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, said that the study was a way of getting under the skin of narcissists to see if there were physical consequences.

"We generally see narcissism as a personality trait that's bad for others but not narcissists," Konrath said.

The study, which was published in PloS ONE, found that narcissists generally have more stress hormones in their veins, according to Konrath.

"This ultimately has implications for their long-term health -- cardiovascular wellness, for example -- if this physiological state of 'high alert' goes unrecognized or unacknowledged," Konrath said.

The study characterized five components of narcissism, self-absorption, and overestimations of their uniqueness, attractiveness, intelligence and a sense of grandiosity. A questionnaire was given to over 100 college students to measure these traits, while cortisol levels in their saliva were measured, according to Health Day.

The cortisol measurements led the researchers to find that unhealthy narcissism predicted cortisol levels in males were double as compared to females. Cortisol levels also indicated that their body's stress response system was chronically activated, and not regulated by stressful situations, according to Cosmo magazine. This is an indication that unhealthy narcissism affects the body in daily life, triggering long-term health problems such as immune system suppression and poor cardiovascular performance.

Konrath indicated that three of the five narcissism traits are considered useful. Leadership/authority, superiority/arrogance and self absorption/self-admiration can all be healthy. She said that narcissists can also be creative people with low levels of depression; however they have fragile views of themselves and react aggressively when their sense of superiority is threatened.

Authors of the study also found that elevated levels of cortisol were found only in men with unhealthy narcissism and their stress response system is chronically activated.

Konrath said that the data study didn't explain why men suffer from higher stress responses than women, but speculated that masculinity traits, like arrogance and dominance may leave men vulnerable physiologically. She added that men suffering from stress can be too proud to seek help if they needed it.

Future research will focus on the reason women don't respond to narcissism as men do, even though narcissism levels have increased in both gender groups.

Dr. Mark Russ, director of psychiatric services at Zucker Killside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., said that the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between narcissism and the body's stress response. He also noted that the study invites people to look at the issue in a more comprehensive way.

"People with narcissism may be type-A, very driven, perfectionistic and seek high-stress situations, and the cortisol levels may be measuring that," Russ said. "There may be an overlap."