Malignant Narcissism

Recognizing a Dangerous Disorder

by Cary Stacy Smith and Li-Ching Hung


Infamous murderers Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy qualify as malignant narcissists.

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Cover image for Malignant Narcissism

August 2020


Pages 240
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Psychology/Abnormal
  Current Events and Issues/General
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Illustrating with case studies, presents the grisly case for official recognition of the worst form of psychopathology.

Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in 1964 developed the term "malignant narcissism," believing it to be the worst form of psychopathology, a disorder that essentially epitomized evil. Malignant narcissism, however, has never been identified as a clinical condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; instead, it is seen as a conglomeration of several other disorders.

Yet researchers since Fromm have described malignant narcissists as unique in their callous nature and proclivity to extreme violence, with a component of sadism bringing them pleasure when inflicting pain. The largest concern about malignant narcissists is that "some have the ability and wherewithal to rise to great positions of power and influence" and to affect large numbers of people.

In this book, a psychologist and professor detail the history, psychology, and effects of this little-studied condition that has altered individuals and societies worldwide, arguing that the disorder deserves its own classification. Authors Smith and Hung explain the differences between malignant narcissists, "everyday" narcissists, and psychopaths, illustrating these conditions with vignettes of historic public figures and people in popular culture, among others.


  • Illustrates concepts through case studies from history and popular culture and of prison inmates
  • Explains how malignant narcissism differs from psychopathy and related disorders
  • Details the absolute characteristic that sets this disorder apart from others: sadism
  • Addresses theories and research on this disorder as well as treatments and medications
  • Includes a bibliography
Author Info

Cary Stacy Smith, PhD, is a forensic psychologist at Green Bay Correctional Institution in Green Bay, WI. He received his doctoral degree at Mississippi State University, was psychology fellow at Rogers Memorial Hospital, and became adjunct professor of psychology at China Medical University, Taiwan. He has worked as a drug and alcohol abuse therapist and as a behavior specialist for a city school system. Smith has over 70 publications, including two books: The Patriot Act: Issues and Controversies and Subclinical Psychopaths: How They Adapt, Their Interpersonal Interactions With and Effect on Others, and How to Detect Them.

Li-Ching Hung, PhD is professor and dissertation chair at Northcentral University. She completed her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Mississippi State University and holds a master's degree in counselor education. Her earlier roles include work as a counselor at Taichung Male Prison in Taiwan. She is credited with more than 60 publications and is coauthor of The Patriot Act: Issues and Controversies, and Subclinical Psychopaths: How They Adapt, Their Interpersonal Interactions With and Effect on Others, and How to Detect Them.

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