Acquired Situational Narcissism

"Fame got to him." "The success changed him."

Acquired situational narcissism is said to occur when a person develops narcissistic traits as a result of becoming famous or successful.

Acquired situational narcissism differs from narcissist personality disorder in 3 main ways. It typically starts in adulthood, the cause is known and with treatment it can be reversed. Apart from this, the narcissistic traits and behavior are similar.

As the name implies it occurs in particular situations, those situations being where the person becomes rich or famous, or rich and famous.

Robert B. Millman, professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical School started using the term in 2000 to describe what occurs to some famous actors, sportsmen and women and rock stars. However, it is likely that the condition existed for a long time before that!

For example, early civilizations were aware of the danger of power and pride and roman generals, during a procession in their honor, had a slave behind them in the chariot whispering over and over something along the lines of 'Remember that you are only a mortal human being.' The idea was to prevent them from falling into the trap of acting like a god.


Narcissistic to begin with?

Those who crave fame and fortune are often a little narcissistic to begin with, but there's no law against that (see healthy narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Inventory). The difficulty arises when they actually achieve fame or success. As Millman points out, they get so used to having people look at them that they stop looking at other people.

They develop a very strong belief in their own importance and this is reinforced by the way they are treated by the people around them. They are treated as special, superior and gifted by fans, groupies, agents, TV interviewers and the public.

Football stars are asked for their opinion on the economy. Rock stars are asked about what should be done about world poverty.

The individual develops grandiose fantasies, loses touch with what is actually happening, becomes full of their own importance, thinking of no-one else but themselves, they lose empathy and voila... acquired situational narcissism.


Who else?

Acquired situational narcissism can also occur when there is a lot of money involved, when people get very rich. The folks around them treat them differently, sucking up to them, fawning over them, believing they have amazing skills and can do all sorts of wonderful things.

This is very obvious nowadays in the financial sector where individuals who have made a lot of money get very arrogant and extravagant, believing they are invincible.

It can also occur in people who get a promotion at work and start acting as if they own the place.

Occasionally, the children of someone who becomes rich and famous can begin to show signs of narcissism, too.


It gets worse...

Acquired situational narcissism starts with the symptoms above and then degenerates into a disregard for rules and laws and moral codes. The narcissist considers themselves above such things. Those restrictions are for the 'lesser people'.

This means that, just like those with personality disorder, they have affairs, drink to excess and take drugs, get into trouble with the law in various ways and cause chaos and destruction around them.



Narcissists generally don't seek treatment. After all, they don't consider that there is anything wrong with them. And, of course, this is confirmed by those around them who are forever complimenting and praising them.

However, what those with acquired situational narcissism do seek help for are difficulties in their relationships and drink and drug problems. This gives the therapist (if they know about this condition) the opportunity to introduce the idea that the person has a problem with narcissism.

Some respond well to the idea and receive treatment. Many do not return to therapy after the acute problem is sorted out, but continue the reckless living until it eventually all comes crashing down around them.


The 'fans'

Those who spend time with narcissists are taken advantage of. They become sources of narcissistic supply.

There are various ideas about how fans project their own desire for fame and celebrity status on their idols while secretly wishing for the idol to fall off their pedestal and so on.

The fact remains that those in close proximity to narcissists are used to feed the narcissists ego, wallet and delusions. They will usually end up worse off and frequently end up a lot worse for wear.

The usual advice for narcissists applies. Learn to spot narcissistic people and keep your distance.

But this is very difficult in a culture where fame and fortune, and those who have it, are seen as very attractive and something to aspire to (in effect, a culture of narcissism)


Already a victim?

The best way out, in fact, currently the only way out, is to learn about narcissists, why they do what they do, how they use mind control techniques, what techniques they used with you and what your response was. Only then does the mind control and manipulation lose it's power over you.

Read more about narcissistic behavior and narcissistic abuse...

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