Looking through a Rainbow

What categorizes abnormality?

  1. Dangerousness to self and others
  2. Maladaptiveness – is the behavior interfering with the individual’s ability to live fully
  3. Irrationality – can the behavior be explained?
  4. Violation of Standards – is the individual violating social standards?
  5. Rareness and Unconventionality
  6. Causes distress to self and others

However, to be considered mentally ill, an individual does not have to meet all of these qualifications. Additionally, to be considered for a diagnosis, the individual does not have to meet all of the following criteria but key characteristics of that disorder. For this analysis on the evolutionary basis of psychopathology, the two pathological disorders which will be discussed in relation to evolutionary theory are Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A variety of characteristics entail Narcissistic Personality disorder, including unabashed entitlement, lack of empathy towards other, envy, arrogant behavior, a sense that he/she is better than others, and he/she is special or unique in some way different from the majority.

An individual with narcissistic personality disorder requires admiration and attention at most times. They often delude themselves into believing in their control, power, immense success, and beauty. Additionally, they feel self-important compared to others, masking a fragile identity and not a true self. Despite the tough exterior a narcissist will front, the individual usually oscillates between feelings of inferiority to superiority. Close relationships are distant although parasitic in nature. Narcissists categorize themselves as lonely and may seem to be the most “feeling” of individuals, though deep down they still lack empathy. Surface level guilt, loyalty, and concern may be shown; however, they are essentially surface-level emotions. Narcissistic Personality Disorder occurs in roughly 6% of the United States’ population.

In contrast, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a dysfunction distinguished by a traumatic event or series of traumatic events resulting in symptoms somewhat debilitating for the individual. Sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder have symptoms like insomnia, angry outbursts, hypervigilance, difficulty concentrating, nightmares related to trauma, flashbacks, and exaggerated startle responses. For instance, if a child were abused by an individual who was right handed any adult raising their right hand in front of the child while facing him/her would see a startle response in the child. Similarly, if an abusive partner, when angry, began banging cabinet doors and other items prior to attacking his/her partner, the victim (abused partner) would begin to panic, enter a state of hypervigilance prior to and after the attack. The hypervigilance would begin once the sound of banging started. Severe cases of PTSD results in dissociation, excessive, inappropriate emotions, impulsivity, depression, and self-destructive behavior. Interestingly, Borderline Personality Disorder is thought to be a misunderstood or severe version of PTSD mainly due to many cases of BPD have a history of chronic abuse. Individuals with BPD have symptoms similar to Narcissistic Personality Disorder in that they are impulsive, maintain chaotic relationships and self-mutilating behavior. Oddly, Borderline Personality patients and Narcissistic Personality patients have a tendency to develop very co-dependent relationships with each other.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Has grandiose sense of importance
  • need for admiration
  • Fantasizes for unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes he/she is special or unique in a way different from others
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitative
  • Lacks empathy – unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings/needs of others
  • Envious of others or believe others are envious of him/her
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors
  • Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • Unstable interpersonal relationships which shift between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  • identity disturbance – persistent unstable self image or sense of self
  • Impulsivity in at least 2 areas that are considered self-damaging
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior/self-mutilating behavior
  • affective instability due to reactivity of mood
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate intense anger /difficulty controlling anger
  • Stress-related paranoid ideation/severe dissociative symptoms
  • exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence
  • recurrent involuntary distressing memories of traumatic events
  • intense prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal and external cues
  • marked physiological reactions to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event
  • negative alterations in cognitions and mood associated with the traumatic events
***Chart produced based on information provided in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The information provided in the chart is copied from DSM-V.***

In relation to evolution, both Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder have distinct patterns to ensure survival based on the situation. PTSD prepares the body for an oncoming fight or flight based on previous experiences. For instance, hypervigilance is the body maintaining high adrenaline levels to ensure success when faced with a threat. Whether a partner is ready to abuse his/her significant other, at least the significant other is prepared by past experience to run when need be. Unfortunately, the long-term stress on the emotional and endocrine system reduces their ability to function and react properly – even in future offspring. Additionally, long-term stress reduces the immune system response and increases the likelihood of illness and inflammation in the body. During a hypervigilant state, the individual can only focus on one thing: the threat or perceived threat. All other thoughts and responsibilities cannot be worked on because of the hypervigilance, resulting in zero concentration. This is maladaptive in our time since most of life rotates around a 5 day a week, 9 to 5 job. Our current society is not set up to allow the individual to cope with the conflict on the schedule of his/her body. Additionally, with widespread social media, email, text, and cell phones in general, threats or perceived threats can be made anywhere and at any time – triggering panic in the victim. Basically, PTSD prepares a victim of trauma to survive.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder plays a role more covertly, in a sense. Narcissists are often charming but do not have an integrated identity. Although they seem to have goals in every society, they essentially did not grow into their true selves. The front they portray can provide protection, better resources, better reproductive opportunities, and nowadays, better job opportunities. Some might consider Charles Manson a narcissist. he was able to gain followers and convince them enough of his own beliefs for them to be willing to kill and carry out a life sentence. Although research indicates more males suffer from narcissism and antisocial disorders, females may go undiagnosed due to the societal pressures placed on the socialization of females. In other words, females may be just as likely to suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder but may go undiagnosed by unconscious means of hiding it.

Overall both personalities increase self-preservation and some in more direct ways than others with the end-all goal being survival and reproduction.

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