AUDIE CORNISH, host:
You only have to turn on the TV these days to wonder whether our culture has gotten a little bit narcissistic.
Ms. BARBARA WALTERS (Newscaster): Do you think you're fascinating?
SNOOKI (Cast Member, "Jersey Shore"): I think I'm fascinating, yeah.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Unidentified Man #1: You know, you're-coming-home-with-me type of look.
Unidentified Man #2: I'm the eighth wonder of the world.
THE SITUATION (Cast Member, "Jersey Shore"): I'm like a Ferrari. I'm high maintenance, OK?
CORNISH: OK, OK, so most of those people are actually from one show, "Jersey Shore." But whether those reality TV stars could be clinically diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder? Well, that's a matter of debate.
The American Psychiatric Association recently announced that it may pull five personality disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder, from the highly influential "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."
So what does the move tell us about our culture of me? We put the question to Dr. Keith Campbell. He heads the psychology department at the University of Georgia. He's also the co-author of a book, "The Narcissism Epidemic." Campbell says in most cases, there's a difference between a clinical narcissist and one we watch on TV.
Dr. KEITH CAMPBELL (Psychology, University of Georgia, Co-Author, "The Narcissism Epidemic"): The thing that makes it clinical is when you go to the extreme where it's pervasive, where it affects all aspects of your life - not how maybe you act at work or you act in certain situations. You can't help yourself but trying to get attention or seek admiration - and where it interferes with your life, where it distorts your decision-making, it destroys your relationships. So when there's real pathology associated with it.
CORNISH: What are the other disorders that are under consideration to be dropped?
Mr. CAMPBELL: Currently, there are 10 personality disorders, and they're looking to dropping five of these. In addition to narcissism, there's dependent personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder - which is sort of being dramatic or outgoing - paranoid personality disorder and schizoid personality disorder.
CORNISH: What's the thinking behind dropping them?
Mr. CAMPBELL: It's a complicated story. What we think, with personality disorders, is that they're a manifestation of normal personality. And so we should think about disorders the same way we think about normal personality, which is rather than being given a diagnosis that was a type - so you have narcissistic personality disorder - what they'd say is you have a combination of traits that maybe lie on a continuum or on a spectrum, and you have high levels of traits that are associated with narcissism.
CORNISH: So you could be told you're a little bit narcissistic?
Mr. CAMPBELL: Yeah. And you can. I mean, people clinically think of narcissism as a spectrum.
CORNISH: But how would it affect, then, the treatment of whatever - what disorder you may have?
Mr. CAMPBELL: You know, if you're treating somebody and it's more extreme or less extreme, the treatment's going to be very similar. There's no treatment for extreme narcissism that's somehow different than moderate levels of narcissism.
CORNISH: So it sounds like this change is really about the clinicians in the world of psychology than the rest of us, you know, sitting on the therapist couch.
Mr. CAMPBELL: When this happened, I went and looked at Twitter just to see what people are saying about it. And the most common response was, it must be so normal now it's no longer a disorder. And the second-most was, well, gee, I guess I'm OK, then.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. CAMPBELL: So, you know - so people see there's narcissism everywhere, and they're just shocked that the disorder is being - they're considering getting rid of it. It's such a perfect term for so much of what we see in society.
CORNISH: That's Dr. Keith Campbell, head of the psychology department at the University of Georgia, and co-author of "The Narcissism Epidemic." He spoke with us from the University of Georgia.
Dr. Campbell, thanks for talking with us.
Mr. CAMPBELL: Oh, thanks for having me.
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