Psychologists have been using Donald Trump as an example of narcissism since 1988

Donald Trump
(Image credit: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

When Donald Trump denies you interviews because you spoke with one of his old enemies, there's little left to do as a biographer than to look elsewhere. As the Pulitzer-prize winning author Michael D'Antonio found while working on Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success, that can mean turning to the extensive collection of psychology books that posit Trump as the epitome of a narcissist.

Donald Trump's psychiatric status is an overarching question that writers and filmmakers and even psychologists have long tried to answer. Trump was offered as a journalist's paragon of narcissism at least as far back as 1988. Trump makes an appearance in texts for the profession, including Abnormal Behavior in the 21st Century and Personality Disorders and Older Adults: Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment. He also appears in books for laypeople such as The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement; Help! I'm in Love with a Narcissist; and When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself.Many recent books about narcissism echo Christopher Lasch's landmark Culture of Narcissism (1979), a lament that would have us place Trump in "an age of diminishing expectations." Lasch saw an epidemic of self-involvement emerging as young adults with a weak sense of identity sought continual affirmation in attention, material comforts, and exciting experiences. What Lasch feared, Donald Trump lived with more verve than anyone else on the planet. Others may have matched him in one category, such as fame. But no one equaled him on all three levels of narcissistic achievement. [Politico]

In all fairness to Trump, D'Antonio notes that recent studies have determined narcissism is "not a disease," but rather "an evolutionary strategy that can be incredibly successful — when it works." There's no question it worked for Trump, but can it win an election? TBD.

In the meantime, the pathologically curious can take a sneak peak at D'Antonio's biography over here at Politico.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.