Donald Trump & Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD): Sam Vaknin Interview, Expanded

Updated, below

Expanded from American Thinker

We may believe we know celebrities from the familiarity of their video appearances. But the persona we may get used to seeing is not necessarily the real, nor whole person. Some now see candidate Donald Trump’s public behavior and are quite concerned. Is he merely the benign if very outspoken rogue, as so often depicted by grinning pundits? A known quantity? I suggest no easy dismissal of caution after sharing observations with Sam Vaknin.

Vaknin-Narcissistic-Psychopathic-Leaders-Book-300wShmuel “Sam” Vaknin, Ph.D. is an authority on the subject of narcissism, having written the widely read and very favorably reviewed book, Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, also Narcissistic and Psychopathic Leaders. His work is cited in dozens of scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. He may be described as a polymath, with extraordinary expertise (and experience) in abnormal psychology, and with focuses including temporal physics (his Ph.D.) and politics (see his Web site and YouTube site).

AW: Psychiatrists are generally precluded from publicly discussing their opinions or findings concerning individuals’ mental illnesses. But Dr. Vaknin, your expertise comes by over twenty years of focused study of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) free of such inhibition.

You have related grave concerns about one of our Republican presidential candidates. I think anyone might connect narcissism with Donald Trump as a fairly obvious and perhaps innocuous trait. But you mean something else.

Vaknin: I do. I was the first to introduce pathological narcissism into the terms of the political debate with my July 2008 essay where I suggested that Obama may be a narcissist. Obama is intelligent and prosocial. Trump clams to be the former, but he is definitely not the latter. I regard him as much more of a menace than Obama ever was to the future of the USA and by extension, the world. I am shocked that — despite an increasing awareness of the dangers of narcissism in the media and in the public — Trump is still making any headway in this election cycle.

AW: What is NPD and how “malignant,” as your book title implies, is it?


Sam Vaknin

Vaknin: The latest, fifth, edition (2013) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) — the classificatory bible of psychology in North America — has done an excellent job of revamping the definition of NPD by introducing a dimensional description of the disorder. But, the diagnostic criteria from the previous, fourth, edition of the DSM are more accessible to laymen. So, here they are, updated with the latest knowledge we have about this pernicious disorder. You can easily see Trump writ large in each and every one of the nine criteria.

The narcissist …

  • Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates accomplishments, talents, skills, contacts, and personality traits to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

  • Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequaled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion

  • Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions)

  • Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply)

  • Feels entitled. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her unreasonable expectations for special and favorable priority treatment

  • Is “interpersonally exploitative,” i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends

  • Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others

  • Constantly envious of others and seeks to hurt or destroy the objects of his or her frustration. Suffers from persecutory (paranoid) delusions as he or she believes that they feel the same about him or her and are likely to act similarly

  • Behaves arrogantly and haughtily. Feels superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, “above the law,” and omnipresent (magical thinking). Rages when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted by people he or she considers inferior to him or her and unworthy

AW: How likely do you believe it is that Donald Trump has NPD, and why? Can you surmise how far up or down the NPD scale he may be?

Tump-for-president-Facebook-profileVaknin: I have watched 600 hours of video of Trump. Here are my preliminary clinical observations:

Trump confabulates a lot and has grandiose fantasies, which he has come to believe in, thus partially and intermittently losing touch with reality (delusionally “failing the reality test”).

Trump is hypervigilant to the point of paranoia, besieged by conjured enemies and imaginary slights to his person, appearance, or accomplishments. He reacts aggressively and vindictively to such perceived narcissistic injuries and humiliations. His is a siege mentality.

Trump is a compulsive attention-seeker and will go to any extreme to obtain it.

Trump is counterdependent: he abhors authority, rules, traditions, and “The Establishment” and rebels against them vociferously and ostentatiously. He is manifestly defiant and abrasive.

Trump talks about himself in the third person (“Trump will do this”) and often uses the royal “we” to refer to himself. His first person pronoun density (the number of times he uses “I,” “me,” and “myself” in a conversation or in interviews) is the highest I have ever heard from any politician, Obama included.

Trump places a premium on appearances rather than on substance.

Trump is highly somatic and hypochondriac as he emphasizes the way he dresses and refrains from damaging his shrine-like body by consuming substances like alcohol or nicotine. He is self-worshiping and painfully self-conscious.

Trump is disproportionately aggressive, hypersensitive, and defensive, faking superiority which, in all probability is compensatory: it masks a deep and unsettling sense of inferiority and extreme awareness of and an agonizing dependence upon what other people think of him (“thin skin”).

Trump lacks empathy and clearly enjoys embarrassing and hurting other people gratuitously. Such antisocial misconduct makes him feel (and in his mind, actually renders him) all-powerful and God-like (“omnipotent”).

Trump has an inordinately developed “cold empathy”: the kind of an “x-ray vision” that allows him to immediately spot the vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and chinks in the armor of his interlocutors, adversaries, partners, and enemies and to leverage this knowledge to his benefit by penetrating their defenses. He therefore resonates powerfully and intimately with the hidden hopes, dreams, fantasies, delusions, and negative emotions (rage, hatred, fear) of his “constituencies.” He is a consummate predator.

To my mind, Trump is the most perfect example I have ever come across of a malignant and probably, psychopathic narcissist. Of course, he cannot be fully and assuredly diagnosed this way. Only a qualified mental health diagnostician can determine whether someone suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and this, following lengthy tests and personal interviews. But the overwhelming preponderance of presenting symptoms and visual and textual evidence for tentative profiling is definitely there.

AW: Mr. Trump is renowned for his personal attacks through mass media including his Twitter account. He has recently threatened two other wealthy men with reprisals for behavior he purports to be against him: Tom Ricketts (also, Ricketts’ family) allegedly for “secretly” spending money in opposition to his political ambitions, and also Jeff Bezos, whose Washington Post has editorialized against his candidacy. He also threatened to sue Ted Cruz for his ad about Trump’s varying positions on abortion. Is such behavior likely to be a trait of NPD?

Also, one doesn’t usually associate narcissism with violence, but Trump has apparently come out for ordering our military and/or intelligence personnel to murder the families of terrorist combatants, also to torture supposed terrorists in ways “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” These are regarded as war crimes. Does this suggest problems in his make-up beyond NPD?

Vaknin: All narcissists lack emotional empathy and are, to some extent, anti-social. Many narcissists are somewhat psychopathic and therefore, sadistically prone to violence. They get a high and derive an almost sexual gratification from wielding power and inflicting pain and humiliation on others. It sustains their grandiose fantasy of omnipotence (that they are Godlike, all-powerful). That’s why many narcissists are litigious, threaten “their enemies” incessantly, seek to embarrass and humiliate them in public, stalk them, and harass them recurrently. Narcissists have a black and white view of the world: if you are not 100% with me, you are 110% the enemy (this is known as “splitting” in the psychological jargon). Trump strikes me as this type of narcissist.

AW: Is it your considered opinion that Donald Trump would represent a significant danger were he to become president of the United States of America and if so, how?

Vaknin: You just have to look at Trump’s business history to extrapolate America’s future under a President Trump. Narcissists are unstable and go through repeated cycles of self-destruction (with other people usually paying the heft of the price). Narcissists tend to be divisive, vindictive, confrontational, aggressive, hate-filled, raging, incoherent, judgment-impaired, and irrational. Narcissists are junkies: they are addicted to attention (“Narcissistic Supply“) and will go to any extreme to secure it. Narcissists are liars, confabulators, and miserable failures (although some of them, like Trump, are geniuses at disguising the fact that they are, in fact, losers). Is this the kind of person you want in the White House?


While Dr. Vaknin was the first to publicly point out Barack Obama’s narcissistic tendencies (and took a great deal of heat for it) other experts in human behavior have also been warning of the apparently more pervasive problems of Donald Trump.

“A Psychologist’s Open Letter to U.S. Voters,” Huffington Post, Aug. 8, 2015
Dr. Craig Malkin

“Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In!” Vanity Fair, Nov. 11, 2015
Henry Alford
“Textbook narcissistic personality disorder…”
“He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics…”

“A Neuroscientist Explains: Trump Has a Mental Disorder that Makes Him a Dangerous World Leader,” RawStory, Jan. 18, 2016
Bobby Azarian

“Does Donald Trump Have Narcissistic Personality Disorder?” Psychology Today, Oct. 18, 2015
Randi Kreger

“Donald Trump and Our Obsession With Narcissistic Leaders,” Psychology Today, July 28, 2015
Ray Williams

“The Populist Appeal of Trump’s Narcissism,” Psychology Today, Aug. 14, 2015
Joseph Burgo Ph.D.

“Here’s the Truth about Donald Trump’s Narcissism,” Time, Aug. 11, 2015
Jeffrey Kluger

“Can You Spot 10 Signs of a Childish Adult? In Donald Trump?” Psychology Today, Mar. 4, 2016
Susan Heitler , Ph.D.

“Till Death Do Us Part…” Dr. Ramani’s Blog, Mar. 2, 2016
Dr. Ramani Durvasula

Other Trump articles by Dr. Ramini

RUNNING UPDATE, additional related articles:

“The Stupid Psychopath Problem,” National Review, March 28
Kevin D. Williamson

“Was ‘Trump 2016’ Prophesied in the 19th Century?” Charisma, March 29
Matt Barber

Also see “The Trump Revolution,” (NPD & Angry Followers’ Shared Psychosis) by Sam Vaknin, subsequently published.

Arlen Williams publishes and edits; Twitter: @ArlenWms.


  1. What’s up with all these ‘experts’ of varying degrees doing by diagnosing someone without, obviously, having interviewed Trump throughout many sessions in order to make this assessment?? Is any one of them a trained, experienced psychiatrist? a forensic psychiatrist? BPD is a serious issue and one has to be properly diagnosed! If ever personally assessed by any one of these people, what about doctor/patient privacy laws? I am not a Trump supporter, but these guys are doing no differently than Trump, grabbing and choking down the publicity. How pathetic of you to publish this….for attention to you own blog, as well? Shameful. Trump may some legal grounds. Hope so.

    • What’s up with all these ‘concealed carry gun owners’ and ‘police’ shooting a man who is shooting people in the middle of 5th Avenue?

      What if experts warned in advance:

      What’s up with all these ‘experts’ of varying degrees diagnosing (pick the name: Huey Long, Ira Einhorn, Pol Pot, John Wilkes Booth, Charles Coughlin, Nimrod, O.J. Simpson, Hugh Hefner, Mohamed, John Phillips, Joseph Stalin, Alfred Kinsey, Benedict Arnold, John Wayne Gacy, Adolph Hitler, Bill Cosby, Nebuchadnezzar, Charlie Manson, Robespierre, Aaron Burr, Farrakhan)….

    • Even a football fan way up in the 3rd deck in the nose-bleed seats can tell that if a quarterback throws 10 interceptions on 12 passes that the QB is not any good. The fan doesn’t have to interview the moke on why he throws the ball to the other team so much. That fan can evaluate and take his measure of the quarterback to make his decision on the player’s ability.

      Likewise, neither you nor I have to interview Trump to determine what his character make-up is. It’s not Trump’s first rodeo, we’ve seen him hog the camera in our face for over 30 years. There are no secrets that he is a pompous braggart that demands that people recognize his power and his riches as conditions that make him preeminent over us poor saps at the bottom of the ladder.

      Donald Trump has always been a legend in his own mind. Find me a person who’s given it more than a thought that disagrees with me.

      It is essential that people understand the nature of pathological narcissism. Look at the deception pulled off by Obama and look at the disaster he has brought upon this country. Voters need to go into the election booth with eyes wide open this year. Blogs such as these and expert doctors on the subject are performing an announcement to interested readers on the BPD of Donald Trump. Dr. Vaknin’s conclusions are apolitical. He caught plenty of heat by accurately labeling Obama as the narcissist he turned out to be. I would hope that if he found similar conclusions about Cruz, Hillary or Bernie that he would forewarn us about them as well. To date he hasn’t rung the bell on any of them.

      Trump has no legal redress to this column. He is a “public figure” and holds himself out to the general public for their approval or disapproval. He has to endure the criticism as well as the worship from his acolytes. No human on 2 legs is above reproach. Of course you are displaying the hatred and revenge that fuels the Trump phenomena so a call from you for retribution is understandable.

      Donald Trump was born on 3rd base and believes he hit a triple. He’s revealed himself to be a vile, despicable and thoroughly nasty piece of work to anyone that opposes him. The words from his own mouth condemn him as a smear merchant who must think he can get by on sound bites. The reality TV host has an intellect that is 5 miles wide and an inch deep. A vote for him is another slam by the hammer to nail shut the coffin of the United States.

  2. This is shameful and off professional limits,
    SOME more people looking to profit off the movement of genuine help. What MD isn’t a Demi God? What
    Entrepreneur hasn’t washed floors with a few haters. Get out of the armchair diagnostics, observations and introverted attacks and get to know people before you make rash deductions. Gag me with a spoon, go back to teaching, same s***, over and over again.

  3. trump any day over any one … he may be all those things or may not but one thing he is , is a business genius, a negotiating genius and anything else that has to do with creating,building and running an empire. surely he can run the US standing on his head a hell of a lot better than any of these so called experts..f**king idiots really …….TRUMP 2016

  4. I wish everyone that till has the naivity to think that D. Trump is a good choice for president of the USA , a near experience with a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
    I had a great teacher, he opened my eyes to this evil world, and I can see now the wolf under the sheeps skin. You don’t need any psychiatrist or psycologist to made a appeciation who ist evil. You see what the acts of this person made with his family, co-workwers and near people and you know that it’s something wron with them. The only way to take them power is to turn their your back forever. That is what the US citicens would be to such person.
    I like the interview and I appreciate your work to bring clarity in the fog

  5. Arlen, thank you for these articles, they are excellent. EVERYONE diagnoses public figures, nothing wrong with that. Other people are just afraid to speak their minds, even though without any training they come to the same types of conclusions about public figures all the time, and probably with far less training or time spent studying the person.

    I have been starting to wonder, based on how quickly he changes his mind, or forgets what he said, or remembers it different, and doesn’t even blush, whether he has also got something neurological going on. His dad developed Alzheimer’s before he died. Knowing how difficult it is to deal with memory issues in people with a normal, socially functional psychology, and especially when they are just beginning to affect the person and no one quite knows what is going on, I imagine if he is starting to develop issues like this all of his malignant traits are going to just get far worse.

  6. This is a fair assessment given the author’s background and analysis of video. His article underscores what many have discerned about trump. Can Dr. Vaknin write up an assessment of hillary clinton? Also for Ted Cruz?

  7. General P. Malaise says

    it was these types of assessments that led me to stop visiting this site. now that the election is over I came to see what gulagbound was saying.

    if anyone thinks hillary is a better choice than trump then they are either “true believers” /commies or deluded.

    that also goes for those who think cruz/rubio/romney are better choices are in my opinion in the same camp.

    I do like reading Dr. Vaknin but I will still make my own opinion of Trump. he did nail obama correctly but i don’t think he is correct that trump is more dangerous. and like gustavo asks where is his assessment of hillary or cruz.

    good day as my opinion of gulagbound remains poor.

  8. Dr. Vaknin is ethically challenged to say the least. He knows full well a diagnosis takes specialized testing, not a few interviews. Common sense here: sociopaths and psychopaths are living all around the USA right now, they don’t all break the law. Many are very intelligent CEO’s, Doctors, Lawyers, etc and very
    successful. They have zero empathy for others because they lack emotions.(guilt, remorse, grief, etc.)
    All serial killers are psychopaths but NOT all psychopaths are serial killers.
    Look at Hillary she has a criminal history 30yrs +, yet she carries on like nothing has happened. She never takes responsibility for her actions, always someone else fault. she has no shame or guilt!!!
    Wait until the truth about Bari Shabazz, Barry Setero, Barack Obama comes out. He has committed treason sooooo many times, 35+ czars in his admin., war crimes, etc. He only became President to destroy America and yes I am serious.
    Trump may be head strong, opinionated, rude, say mean things but he has a heart. You may disagree with me but he loves this country just like any other American.
    9yrs ago a black homeless woman was caught by staff in one of Trumps buildings. She would not leave so they called Mr. Trump for help. That woman is still living in his building, free, she gets 3 meals a day and fresh flowers every week. Trump does things for people in private, doesn’t toot his own horn, that my friend is very telling about a persons character. Look I don’t think Trump walks on water, I am old enough to know we all make mistakes. The odds were stacked against him and look where he is standing? 45th President of the USA and I can’t wait to MAGA!!!

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