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Narcissists are less likely to experience stress and depression, new research suggests

Narcissism isn’t generally considered a good thing.

And no, we don’t recommend that you lean too hard into the self-love and become self-obsessed.

But there could be a benefit to thinking you’re super important.

Narcissism can lead to mental fortitude and being less prone to stress and depression, according to a new bit of research led by Queen’s University Belfast, was published in the journals Personality and Individual Differences and European Psychiatry.

Narcissistic personality disorder is characterised by believing you’re better and more deserving of good things than other people. Those who are narcissists might act as if they’re ‘above’ others and will easily exploit or screw over other people for their own gain.

A narcissist will also desperately need to be looked up to. They might feel upset if people who don’t recognise their achievements or resent other people’s success.

Dr Kostas Papageorgiou, from Queen’s school of psychology, says there are actually two types of narcissism – grandiose and vulnerable.

He says: ‘Vulnerable narcissists are likely to be more defensive and view the behaviour of others as hostile, whereas grandiose narcissists usually have an over-inflated sense of importance and a preoccupation with status and power.

‘Individuals high on the spectrum of dark traits, such as narcissism, engage in risky behaviour, hold an unrealistic superior view of themselves, are overconfident, show little empathy for others, and have little shame or guilt.’

Those who are vulnerable are more likely to have low self-esteem, whereas those who are grandiose have a mental toughness that can make them less prone to stress and depression.

illustration of muscly man taking a selfie in a mirror with unimpressed woman

Three studies involving more than 700 people in total found that those who scored highly for grandiouse narcissism had lower levels of perceived stress and were less likely to view their life as stressful.

Dr Papageorgiou said: ‘The results from all the studies that we conducted show that grandiose narcissism correlates with very positive components of mental toughness, such as confidence and goal-orientation, protecting against symptoms of depression and perceived stress.

‘This research really helps to explain variation in symptoms of depression in society – if a person is more mentally tough they are likely to embrace challenges head-on, rather than viewing them as a hurdle.

‘While of course not all dimensions of narcissism are good, certain aspects can lead to positive outcomes.

‘This work promotes diversity and inclusiveness of people and ideas by advocating that dark traits, such as narcissism, should not be seen as either good or bad, but as products of evolution and expressions of human nature that may be beneficial or harmful depending on the context.’

So, should we all try to be narcissistic?

No, probably not. But we can learn from this study that a little bit of self-importance – whether that’s putting yourself first, telling yourself you’re brilliant, or believing you deserve good things – could be handy boost to our mental state.

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