The Price Men Pay For Narcissism

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Vanity can be hazardous to a man's health. Image by raichinger

Reducing Health Risks To Narcissistic Men

Elevated cortisol levels have been linked to several health issues, including hypoglycemia, bone or muscle density loss, increased body fat, increased risks for heart attacks and strokes, and high blood pressure.

Understanding people at risk for higher cortisol levels can help doctors with preventative care, before life threatening side effects occur.

Regarding her research and potential health risk prevention, Dr. Konrath stated,

Our study does not examine how we can reduce the health risk to narcissistic males. It simply finds that they may be susceptible to more stress-related health risks because of their high cortisol levels. However, there are a number of ways that narcissistic males can help to alleviate any potential risk to their health from having high cortisol.

First, they can try to work on having a more realistic sense of their self worth, but this would likely be difficult for them. Another thing that they can work on, which is also difficult for them, is their connections with others. Social relationships are associated with a number of health benefits, and narcissists tend to have low quality relationships because they do not value others and they are not afraid to make that obvious. Finally, we would recommend that narcissistic males try to find ways to deal with the physiological over-reactivity that is present in their bodies by finding ways to reduce their stress levels. They may for example want to go to the gym more, try out a low-key activity such as yoga or tai chi, or try a variety of mental strategies to cope with stress. 

Women Off the Hook?

Dr. Konrath’s research showed higher levels in men, than in women. While vanity is a part of life for many people, the research into health problems related to vain women has been mixed. Dr. Konrath’s assessment on female narcissistic risks states,

Well so far two different papers (including ours) has found that the health risks seem lower for narcissistic women. But there are a couple of other papers that suggest that even if narcissistic females don’t have higher cortisol, they do seem to have more extreme cardiovascular responses to stressful situations. So more research is needed to better understand potential health risks that may be associated with excessive self-focus.

This doesn’t mean that women do not experience health related problems as a consequence of being vain. More research is needed to examine different ways that women are at risk through their vanity.

As for men, the main reason for cortisol increases is the fragile worldview they hold of themselves. Using “fight or flight” responses, men become agitated and agressive quicker than women. This is one potential reason for the increase in stress levels amongst narcissistic men. As scientists complete more research, we will gain a better understanding of how to prevent cortisol levels in everyone – vain or not.

References: 

Konrath, S., Reinhart, D. & Lopez, W. Expensive Egos: Narcissistic Males Have Higher Cortisol. (2012). PLoS One. Accessed January 30, 2012.


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