Narcissism and stress-reactivity: a biobehavioural health perspective

Sulamunn R.M. Coleman, Aaron Lee Pincus, Joshua Morrison Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


From a perspective broadly informed by Stress and Coping Theory, this review examined whether theoretically distinct and important dimensions of narcissism (grandiosity and vulnerability) associate with health-related stress-reactivity. Literature searches were conducted and articles were included if they contained a validated baseline assessment of narcissism, a stressor, and a within-person assessment of stress-reactivity (i.e., a baseline and post-stress assessment of a health-related psychological, biological, or behavioural process). Additionally, narcissism measures had to be systematically categorised as assessing grandiosity or vulnerability (see Grijalva, E., Newman, D. A., Tay, L., Donnellan, M. B., Harms, P. D., Robins, R. W., & Yan, T. (2015). Gender differences in narcissism: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 141(2), 261–310. doi:10.1037/a0038231), and narcissism dimensions had to be assessed independently of other constructs. Findings were narratively synthesised within three broad dimensions of stress-reactivity (psychological, biological, and behavioural). Overall, there appear to be relatively consistent patterns that grandiosity and vulnerability are related to altered stress-reactivity. Additionally, grandiosity and vulnerability may differentially influence stress-reactivity depending on the type of stressor and/or indicator of stress-reactivity (e.g., under certain conditions, grandiosity may confer some level of resilience). This review highlights important theoretical and empirical gaps in the emerging narcissism and health literature. Furthermore, this review may help inform methodological considerations for future research, and may also point to physical health outcomes that could conceivably be affected by narcissism over time (e.g., overweight/obesity, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-72
Number of pages38
JournalHealth Psychology Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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