In this article, we are going to explore the definition of a megalomaniac and how it may apply to politicians or people in positions of power.
Megalomaniac comes from the Greek words “μεγαλο”, or megalo, meaning grand or large, and “μανία,” or mania, meaning frenzy or madness. Together, a megalomaniac is someone who displays manic behavior, often paired with delusions of grandeur.
Someone who fits these classic definitions of megalomania typically has an enhanced sense of self. They believe that they have larger powers than others, and have the ability to yield that power over large populations. In the most extreme cases, they think that they can control the world.
You won’t find “megalomania” in WHO’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems or the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Nowadays, people who have megalomaniac tendencies may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one in which, essentially, a person believes the whole world revolves around them. A person with NPD may not try to conquer the world, but they often try to exert power and control over other people in their lives. They act without empathy or consideration for the needs of others.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a person with NPD possesses at least five of these nine traits:
This can look like many things. A person with NPD may act selfishlessly, only to fulfill big goals and obtain power. Maybe they use manipulation to get there, or maybe they use the charm and charisma that they know they have. Narcissists tend not to care who they hurt along the way. If someone criticizes them, the person may act out.
A trained professional must interview an individual before they can be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Less than 1% of the population is said to be a narcissist. According to current statistics, men are more likely to have NPD than women.
You might be surprised to hear that only 1% of the population are considered narcissists. Some of the characteristics I just mentioned might describe a colleague, an ex, or the leader of your country.
In 2009, two psychologists published The Narcissism Epidemic. It argues that American culture, social media, and other factors have turned all millennials toward narcissism. It’s probably not the first time that you’ve heard someone accusing millennials of being “entitled,” spoiled, or feeling the need to be constantly validated by social media.
So what does that mean? We’re all megalomaniacs? That we’re no better than the world leaders who have been accused of having NPD?
Not exactly. Remember, a person needs to carry at least five of the nine traits to be considered for NPD. Asking for engagement on your social media is a far jump from exploiting others or having a lack of empathy. But maybe these psychologists may be onto something. There is no clear cause of narcissistic personality disorder. But multiple experts have suggested that American culture could contribute to these traits.
Some experts suggest that genetic factors could contribute to NPD and related personality disorders. Others say that “nurture,” rather than “nature,” is to blame. It could be a culture that tells children that they can do anything, and they are a unique and special person. Lack of authentic validation from teachers, parents, or other figures may also lead to NPD. Oversensitivity, abuse, or unreliable caregiving may also contribute.
Again, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done before any direct causes of NPD can be confirmed. And it’s not always easy to study NPD – not a lot of narcissists seek help from mental health professionals. Mainly because they feel that they’re above it or don’t need it.
Symptoms of NPD or megalomania can be treated, but again, only if the person is willing to enter treatment in the first place. Different forms of talk therapy may be used to help a person with NPD “come down to earth” and see themselves in a more realistic light.
We all know someone who displays at least one of the “signs” of NPD. Without a sense of empathy or a realistic picture of themselves, it can be hard to get that person to change. The best way to deal with a megalomaniac or a narcissist is to set boundaries. Don’t give into the delusions that the person has created for themselves.
Don’t expect the person to show empathy toward you if you need help or are trying to explain your feelings. And don’t take their behavior personally – they are only trying to hurt you because they likely don’t know any better.