Narcissists lack empathy because they are apathetic

Neurology: Narcissists' brains noticeably altered

Who does not know them: bosses who are in love with themselves, heartless partners or colleagues who go to the ceiling at the slightest criticism. Almost inflationary, they are now often referred to as narcissists. Some critics have seen Western societies long on the way to the narcissistic age anyway - and even see the latest banking crisis as an outgrowth of it.

In the strictly medical sense, however, narcissism is difficult to grasp. In a new study, the Berlin Charité located it in the brain. The thesis: Narcissism can be reflected in regions that control empathy.

Narcissus: The constant need for admiration

The images of the brain from the magnetic resonance tomograph (MRT) at the Charité are a cautious approximation of a phenomenon that has so far played a role primarily in psychotherapy and psychiatry. Dealing with narcissism as a mental disorder, which Sigmund Freud already described, is not easy in these disciplines to this day.

An evidence-based therapy that has been shown to be effective in controlled, randomized studies and superior to other approaches does not yet exist, says Wolfgang Maier, President of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN).

There is not even a global consensus on the classification. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association, there is a “narcissistic personality disorder”.

According to this, special characteristics include excessive self-esteem, constant desire for admiration and a lack of empathy. It is named after the demigod Narcissus from Greek mythology, who haughtily rejected admirers and fell in love with his reflection in the water as a punishment. Narcissus eventually drowned.

No uniform definition