Disturbed emotion recognition in patients with narcissistic personality disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2012 Jul 30;198(2):269-73. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2011.12.042. Epub 2012 Mar 9.


Although theoretically the lack of empathy is a supposed key symptom of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), empirical studies examining empathy in NPD are scarce. In the present study it was examined whether patients with NPD differ from healthy controls and a psychiatric control group in their empathic abilities. In order to examine this question, 20 patients with NPD, 20 patients with a personality disorder in the Cluster C spectrum and 20 healthy control participants were presented with a questionnaire and a facial recognition task designed to measure empathic abilities. It was found that patients with NPD did not differ from the two control groups on a self-report questionnaire indicating that patients regard themselves as sensitive to the feelings of others. On the contrary, it was found NPD patients generally performed worse on a facial emotion recognition task compared to both control groups. In addition to this general deficit in emotion recognition, patients with NPD showed a specific deficit for emotions representing fear and disgust. These results provide the first empirical evidence for impaired emotion recognition in patients with NPD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Emotions*
  • Empathy
  • Facial Expression
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Disorders / psychology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Self Report