3 Problems with Labeling Narcissism a Mental Health Disorder
Depression / Mental Illness
By Vivian Bricker, Crosswalk.com
Recently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) has labeled narcissism as a mental health disorder. There are many problems associated with this new addition to the list of mental health disorders. While many health disorders are valid disorders, such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders, narcissism shouldn't be labeled a mental health disorder. Mental health disorders are outside of our control, but narcissism is not.
Here are three problems with labeling narcissism as a mental health disorder:
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1. It Invalidates Other Mental Health Disorders
The first problem with narcissism being labeled as a mental health disorder is that it invalidates other mental health disorders. As someone who struggles with mental health and mental health disorders, it is truly invalidating to know that narcissism is labeled as a mental health disorder. As a trusted friend told me, narcissism is not a mental health disorder—it is a sin. I completely agree with my friend, as narcissism is a sin problem, not a mental health disorder. It undermines true mental health disorders to label a sin alongside legitimate disorders.
Mental health disorders are often inherited or developed for a myriad of reasons. These disorders are never a result of the person's choices in life. Mental health already has much stigma surrounding it. Therefore, it doesn't help by labeling a sin, such as narcissism, a mental health disorder. There are many individuals, including those in the Christian culture, who believe all mental health disorders are sin problems, but that isn't true. Having a mental health disorder is not a sin. However, narcissism is a sin because it is a choice of consistent selfishness.
Depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and eating disorders are not related to sin. A person is not sinning for having these disorders. Often, many people believe mental health disorders are the person's fault, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Just as cancer is not someone's fault, neither is it a person's fault for having legitimate mental health disorders. The stigma surrounding mental health needs to stop because mental health disorders are not choices, and they are not sins.
Narcissism should not be labeled as a mental health disorder because it invalidates other mental health disorders. The root of narcissism is sin, which is radically different from other mental health disorders. Instead of diagnosing narcissism as a mental health disorder, professionals need to view it as it is—a sin. Those who struggle with narcissism need to turn to God and ask for His help. They don't need to shrug off their sin as only a mental health disorder. Rather, they need to own up to their actions and take the incentive to change.
2. It Rationalizes Sin
A second problem with narcissism being labeled as a mental health disorder is that it rationalizes sin. As human beings, we are notorious for rationalizing sin. Rather than taking responsibility for our sins, we tend to rationalize them. Narcissism is a sin, and it does not be treated as a mental health disorder. This will only further the idea that the person has a disorder causing them to act the way they do instead of them taking responsibility for their soul's actions. When we come to know Christ, He wants us to repent of our sins. He doesn't want us to rationalize sin in our mind nor does He want us to accept our sin as simply being a disorder that we just endure throughout our lives.
Narcissism is a terrible character trait for an individual to have because it is deeply rooted in pride. Those with the sin of narcissism have a hard time understanding other people's feelings, and they often have a hard time admitting they are wrong. In the same way, narcissistic people see themselves as self-righteous and can even see themselves as perfect. This can make it extremely hard for them to see that they sin against others and against the Lord.
Narcissistic individuals will also have a hard time accepting Jesus as their Savior and Lord because they don't see they have done anything wrong. As we can see, this can be extremely dangerous for a person's eternal destiny. A person has to recognize that they are a sinner in need of a Savior in order to accept the Lord. However, if the mind of a narcissist believes that they are self-righteous—or they are the way they are solely because of a physical diagnosis—how can they ever see they have sinned and need a Savior to redeem them of their sins?
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3. It Misidentifies Mental Health Disorders
A third problem with narcissism being labeled as a mental health disorder is that it gives a false definition of mental health disorders. If a person doesn't know much about mental health disorders, the addition of narcissism to the DSM 5 can cause great confusion and misinterpretation of the mental health field. Narcissism is a sin that a person needs to repent of and work through with God. It does not need to be labeled as a mental health disorder because it isn't a true mental health disorder and gives an inaccurate view of mental health.
Mental health disorders must be treated with therapy, medications, or both. Narcissism is a sin problem. Thus, it cannot be treated through therapy and medication. It's almost the same as categorizing lying or cheating as a mental health disorder. Since almost nobody would categorize lying or cheating as a mental health disorder, why are individuals labeling narcissism as a mental health disorder now? It could be that many individuals don't want to own up to their actions, or they don't want to accept they have done something wrong.
There cannot be healing from narcissism unless the person makes the intentional change to turn away from this sin. It can be easier to simply label it as a mental health disorder, but God knows the truth. We cannot hide our sins from God because He knows everything. Narcissism should not be labeled as a sin because it gives an erroneous definition of mental illness, and it can cause many individuals to rationalize their sin and believe it to be a disorder.
If you struggle with narcissism or a loved one does, turn to the Bible. Ask God in prayer to help you in this struggle and ask Him to use His Spirit to convict you of your sin. God is faithful, and He will help you as you battle narcissism. No matter how much the human mind tries to rationalize sin, it is wrong. Narcissism is a sin problem, not a mental health disorder. Take the incentive to turn away from rationalizing sin or shrugging it off as a mental health disorder when it isn’t. Those who struggle with narcissism can get help from the Lord and also get help from trusted believers.
It is a major problem for narcissism to be labeled as a mental health disorder because it’s going to cause the person to remain in their sin. Mental health diagnoses need to be strictly related to mental health concerns. Struggling with sin and struggling with mental health are two distinct things. Simply having a mental health disorder does not mean the person is participating in sin. On the other hand, narcissism is a sin, and it will impair one’s relationship with God. If the narcissist never sees they do wrong and are in need of a Savior, they will never come to know Christ the Lord.