Narcissistic personality and vulnerability to late-life suicidality

Marnin J Heisel, Paul S Links, David Conn, Robert van Reekum, Gordon L Flett
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 2007, 15 (9): 734-41

OBJECTIVE: Narcissistic personality (NP) has been implicated as a potential vulnerability factor for late-life suicide. The present study investigated whether NP increases vulnerability to suicidal ideation and behavior among geriatric depression day-hospital patients.

METHODS: Using a retrospective database analysis, the authors examined demographic data, diagnostic information, and scores on self-report (Geriatric Depression Scale [GDS]) and clinician-rated depression measures (Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression [HAM-D]), for 608 geriatric psychiatry patients 65 years or older.

RESULTS: Of the 538 patients meeting study inclusion criteria, 20 had NP, defined as either narcissistic personality disorder (n = 13) or narcissistic personality traits (n = 7). Patients with NP were rated significantly higher on the HAM-D suicide item than those without NP, controlling for age, sex, depression (GDS), and cognitive functioning.

CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that NP may be a clinical marker of elevated suicide risk among depressed older adults. Clinicians are advised to assess the presence of self-pathology and its potential impact upon psychological functioning in depressed older patients, and to incorporate discussions of life transitions into therapeutic work with those at-risk for suicide.


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