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Narcissism Can Be Deadly

Unhealthy narcissism leads to elevated stress hormone in men.

Narcissists exist throughout society. Self-absorbed. Entitled. Lacking empathy. In mild forms, narcissism can help men succeed. More unhealthy forms can affect relationships and lead to aggression. Around one percent of the population suffers from narcissism severe enough to be classified as a personality disorder.

The effects that narcissists have on those around them are easily noticeable. Less clear, though, is the damage that they do to themselves. A new study of 106 undergraduate students in the U.S. shows that unhealthy narcissism in men is strongly related to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This connection was 2.5 times greater than what was seen in women with the same type of personality.

Cortisol—part of the fight-or-flight response—primes the body to respond to potential threats. When threats are real—such as during a fire or physical attack—cortisol is extremely useful. Chronically elevated levels can increase the risk of many conditions, such as heart disease or depression.

Researchers think that gender may play a role in the different responses seen in narcissistic men and women. “We think what’s going on is, there’s some sort of especially toxic relationship between both being male and having a sense of masculinity or threat to a masculine identity,” co-author Sara Konrath of the University of Michigan told CNN.

So the next time you spend over an hour preening in front of the mirror before a night out, remember you're stressing out more than just your friends who are wondering what's taking you so damn long.

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