Stigma Is Bad… Except for one Diagnosis?

The slippery slope of narcissistic personality disorder and mental illness stigma

Reproduction of Narcissus by Caravaggio — public domain

And yet, when it comes to narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), all of a sudden there are boatloads of people all over the internet becoming armchair diagnosticians and talking about “narcissistic abuse.”

Here’s my issue. Emotional/psychological abuse is horrendously damaging, and it’s an issue that doesn’t get anywhere near the attention that it deserves. But when you drag a diagnostic term into it in relation to the abuser, that can cause a number of problems. And if it can be done so zealously with one diagnostic term, who’s to say that the next big pop culture fad isn’t going to be borderline abuse, or bipolar abuse? Can’t we just talk about the nature of the abuse itself without dragging the abuser’s mental health, or lack thereof, into it?

Even the way terms like “the narcissist” and “the narc” are used would probably be considered cringeworthy if one were to substitute “the borderline,” “the schizo,” “the bipolar,” or “the psycho.”

If it’s not okay with other conditions, why is it so enthusiastically embraced with another? Language use is a surface issue in terms of the greater pop culture phenomenon, but it does clearly illustrate the contrast.

Generalizing that everyone with a certain type of disorder is exactly the same and behaves in exactly the same way is stereotyping, which is a key pillar of mental illness stigma in general.

It’s a slippery slope. Maybe it’s best to back away from the armchair and focus on supporting the people we should be talking about in this situation (i.e. those who have been emotionally abused) without trying to weave the abuser’s mental health into the mix.

Mental health blogger | Former MH nurse | Living with depression | Author of 3 books, latest is Managing the Depression Puzzle | mentalhealthathome.org

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