Pathological narcissism and the depressive temperament

Shona M. Tritt, Andrew G. Ryder, Angela J. Ring, Aaron L. Pincus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Background: Although relations between depressive and narcissistic pathologies have been proposed in both psychoanalytic and phenomenological literatures, empirical research generally fails to confirm this link. Common measures of narcissism, however, emphasize grandiose rather than vulnerable traits, and include both adaptive and maladaptive features. We therefore assessed the relation between narcissistic personality and depressive temperament (DT) using a recently developed measure designed to assess a wide range of pathological narcissistic (PN) traits. We also examined the distinctiveness of the association between DT and PN controlling other temperaments. Method: The Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI; Pincus et al., 2009), the Temperament Evaluation of the Memphis, Pisa, Paris, and San Diego Auto-questionnaire (TEMPS-A; Akiskal et al., 2005), and a modified Schedule of Fatigue and Anergia (SOFA; Hadzi-Pavlovic et al., 2000), were administered to 228 university students. Results: Principal component analyses yielded two components of PN: Component 1 items reflect narcissistic vulnerability-negative affect when narcissistic needs are not met; Component 2 items reflect narcissistic grandiosity-positive affect related to self-enhancement. Component 1 significantly predicted DT, an effect that remained after controlling for Component 2 and other temperaments in the TEMPS-A and SOFA. A similar effect was observed for the anxious temperament. Limitations: Our study is limited by the use of a homogenous, non-clinical university student sample unscreened for clinical depression, and by reliance on self-report questionnaires. Conclusions: Contrary to past research, DT is associated with narcissistic disturbance, in particular with the avoidance of narcissistic injury, when the PNI is used. Clinical intervention targeting this avoidance might help patients with a DT develop self-esteem that is not overly dependant upon recognition from others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-284
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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