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Fear and decision-making in narcissistic personality disorder

The Narcissist as VAMPIRE or MACHINE

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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2013 Jun; 15(2): 191–201.
PMCID: PMC3811090
Language: English | Spanish | French

Fear and decision-making in narcissistic personality disorder—a link between psychoanalysis and neuroscience
Elsa Ronningstam, PhD*
Elsa Ronningstam, Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA;
Arielle R. Baskin-Sommers, MS
Arielle R. Baskin-Sommers, Harvard Medical School, McLean Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA;
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Linking psychoanalytic studies with neuroscience has proven increasingly productive for identifying and understanding personality functioning. This article focuses on pathological narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), with the aim of exploring two clinically relevant aspects of narcissistic functioning also recognized in psychoanalysis: fear and decision-making. Evidence from neuroscientific studies of related conditions, such as psychopathy, suggests links between affective and cognitive functioning that can influence the sense of self-agency and narcissistic self-regulation. Attention can play a crucial role in moderating fear and self-regulatory deficits, and the interaction between experience and emotion can be central for decision-making. In this review we will explore fear as a motivating factor in narcissistic personality functioning, and the impact fear may have on decision-making in people with pathological narcissism and NPD. Understanding the processes and neurological underpinnings of fear and decision-making can potentially influence both the diagnosis and treatment of NPD.

Keywords: narcissistic personality disorder, psychopathy, fear, decision-making, somatic marker hypothesis, psychoanalysis

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