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Surprising Science

Narcissism Can Kill You

People with narcissistic personalities show greater levels of stress hormones in their bodies, according to new research. In the long run, that can mean higher rates of heart disease and hypertension.

What’s the Latest Development?

Certain individuals who score high on tests of narcissism also exhibit elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. That is the conclusion of new research which gave 106 college students personality tests and measured the presence of cortisol in their saliva. Students who exhibited more negative traits associated with narcissism, such as feelings of entitlement and the desire to exploit others, also carried higher biological markers of stress. Those with positive traits, like self-confidence and leadership skills, were not as stressed.

What’s the Big Idea?

Cortisol is a biological necessity. The stress hormone is a natural response to environmental threatsbeing chased by a saber-toothed tiger or a warring clan, for example. Its presence increases the heart rate, making you more alert but also putting stress on blood vessels. That is why a constant flow of cortisol can result in fatal conditions like heart disease. What’s worse, negatively narcissistic people, unlike extremely anxious individuals, did not register their own feelings of stress, making it less likely they would seek treatment.

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