Hubris syndrome: Proposed criteria and their correspondence to features of cluster B personality disorders in DSM-IV

Muppet leadership

The symptoms of hubris syndrome

Proposed criteria for hubris syndrome, and their correspondence to features of cluster B personality disorders in DSM-IV

  1. A narcissistic propensity to see their world primarily as an arena in which to exercise power and seek glory; NPD.6
  2. A predisposition to take actions which seem likely to cast the individual in a good light—i.e. in order to enhance image; NPD.1
  3. A disproportionate concern with image and presentation; NPD.3
  4. A messianic manner of talking about current activities and a tendency to exaltation; NPD.2
  5. An identification with the nation, or organization to the extent that the individual regards his/her outlook and interests as identical; (unique)
  6. A tendency to speak in the third person or use the royal ‘we’; (unique)
  7. Excessive confidence in the individual’s own judgement and contempt for the advice or criticism of others; NPD.9
  8. Exaggerated self-belief, bordering on a sense of omnipotence, in what they personally can achieve; NPD.1 and 2 combined
  9. A belief that rather than being accountable to the mundane court of colleagues or public opinion, the court to which they answer is: History or God; NPD.3
  10. An unshakable belief that in that court they will be vindicated; (unique)
  11. Loss of contact with reality; often associated with progressive isolation; APD 3 and 5
  12. Restlessness, recklessness and impulsiveness; (unique)
  13. A tendency to allow their ‘broad vision’, about the moral rectitude of a proposed course, to obviate the need to consider practicality, cost or outcomes; (unique)
  14. Hubristic incompetence, where things go wrong because too much self-confidence has led the leader not to worry about the nuts and bolts of policy; HPD.5

APD = Anti-Social Personality Disorder; HPD = Histrionic Personality Disorder; NPD = Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

In making the diagnosis of hubris syndrome we suggest that 3 of the 14 defining symptoms should be present of which at least one must be amongst the five components identified as unique.

Owen, D. and Davidson, J. Hubris syndrome: An acquired personality disorder? A study of US Presidents and UK Prime Ministers over the last 100 years. Brain 2009: 132; 1396–1406

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