Megalomania

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1857 lithograph by Armand Gautier, showing personifications of dementia, megalomania, acute mania, melancholia, idiocy, hallucination, erotomania and paralysis in the gardens of the Hospice de la Salpêtrière.

Megalomania is a psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of power, relevance, omnipotence, and by inflated self-esteem.[1] Historically it was used as an old name for narcissistic personality disorder prior to the latter's first use by Heinz Kohut in 1968, and is used today as a non-clinical equivalent.[2][3] It is not mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)[4] or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD).

Etymology[edit]

The word megalomania is derived from the Greek μεγαλο- megalo- "large, great", and μανία mania "madness, frenzy". The first attested use of the word "megalomania" in English is in 1890 as a translation of the French word mégalomanie.

Early Freudianism[edit]

Sigmund Freud commented of the adult neurotic's sense of |omnipotence that “this belief is a frank acknowledgement of a relic of the old megalomania of infancy”.[5] He similarly concluded that “we can detect an element of megalomania in most other forms of paranoic disorder. We are justified in assuming that this megalomania is essentially of an infantile nature and that, as development proceeds, it is sacrificed to social considerations”.[6]

Edmund Bergler also considered megalomania to be normal in the child,[7] and to be re-activated in later life in gambling.[8] Otto Fenichel states that, for those who react in later life to narcissistic hurt with denial, a similar regression to the megalomania of childhood is taking place.[9]

Object relations[edit]

Whereas Freud saw megalomania as an obstacle to psychoanalysis, in the second half of the 20th century object relations theory, both in the States and among British Kleinians, set about revaluing megalomania as a defence mechanism that offered potential access for therapy.[10] Such an approach built on Heinz Kohut's view of narcissistic megalomania as an aspect of normal development, by contrast with Kernberg's consideration of such grandiosity as a pathological development distortion.[11]

Everyday[edit]

As well as a symptom of pathology, a degree of megalomania is a way of defending against loss in everyday life - a manic defense against the experience of separation and loss.[12] When linked to a position of power, whether military, political, or control-freak bureaucratical,[13] it is likely to lead to miscalculation as a by-product of the figure's swollen head.[14]

Barack Obama pointed out that “If you don't have enough self-consciousness to see the element of megalomania involved in thinking you should be President, then you probably shouldn't be President”.[15]

Therapy[edit]

Because the megalomaniac tends not to be particularly interested in examining or in changing the self,[16] talking cures may be less effective than medication in their treatment.[17] The transference in a talking cure may also be compromised by the patient's enhancement of any megalomaniac tendencies within the analyst him/herself.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ I. B. Weiner/W. E. Craighead, The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology: Vol III (2010) p. 977
  2. ^ Megalomiacs abound in politics/medicine/finance Business Day 2011/01/07
  3. ^ Kohut H The Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders: Outline of a Systematic Approach, 1968
  4. ^ The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual published by the American Psychiatric Association
  5. ^ Sigmund Freud, Case Histories II (PFL 9) p. 113
  6. ^ Freud, p. 203
  7. ^ Edmund Bergler, "The Psychology of Gambling", in J. Halliday/P. Fuller eds., The Psychology of Gambling (London 1974) p. 176 and p. 182
  8. ^ Robert M. Lindner, "The Psychodynamics of Gambling", in Halliday/Fuller eds., p. 220.
  9. ^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neorosis (London 1946) p. 420
  10. ^ Judith M. Hughes, From Obstacle to Ally (2004) p. 175
  11. ^ Judith M. Hughes, From Obstacle to Ally (2004) p. 149
  12. ^ "Bonnet". Enotes.com. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  13. ^ Hani Montan, Thorny Opinion (2008) p. 15
  14. ^ Robin Skynner/John Cleese, Families and how to survive them (London 1994) p. 206-7
  15. ^ Quoted in David Remnick, The Bridge (2011) p. 415
  16. ^ I. B. Weiner/W. E. Craighead, The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology: Vol III (2010) p. 977
  17. ^ "The megalomaniac differs from the... at BrainyQuote". Brainyquote.com. 1970-02-02. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  18. ^ J. Bensman/R. Lilienfeld, Craft and Consciousness (1991) p. 159

Further reading[edit]

  • Lewis, Michael J. Ego, vanity & megalomania. (Frank Lloyd Wright & Lewis Mumford: Thirty Years of Correspondence) An article from: New Criterion (2002)
  • Robbins, John. Ecclesiastical Megalomania: The Economic and Political Thought of the Roman Catholic Church ISBN 0-940931-78-8 [1] (1999)
  • Roberts, John Megalomania: Managers and Mergers (1987)
  • Rose, Larken How to Be a Successful Tyrant : The Megalomaniac Manifesto (2005)
  • Rosenfeid, Israel Freud's Megalomania: A Novel (2001)
  • Scull, Andrew Madhouse: A Tragic Tale of Megalomania and Modern Medicine (2007)
  • Sleigh A Hitler: a study in megalomania Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal 1966 Jun;11(3):218-9.
  • Tretiack, Philippe Megalomania: Too Much is Never Enough (2008)


External links[edit]