Send to

Choose Destination
PLoS One. 2018 Aug 15;13(8):e0201216. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0201216. eCollection 2018.

Symptom severity and mindreading in narcissistic personality disorder.

Author information

Third Center of Cognitive Psychotherapy, Rome, Italy.
Department of Psychology, University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, Caserta, Italy.
Department of Psychology, Center of Cognitive Science, University of Turin, Turin, Italy.



Grandiose narcissism has been associated with poor ability to understand one's own mental states and the mental states of others. In particular, two manifestations of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can be explained by poor mindreading abilities: absence of symptomatic subjective distress and lack of empathy.


We conducted two studies to investigate the relationships between mindreading capacity, symptomatic subjective distress and narcissistic personality. In the first study (N = 246), we compared mindreading capacities and symptomatic distress in three outpatient samples: narcissistic patients (NPD); patients with other Personality Disorders (PD); patients without PD. In the second study (N = 1357), we explored the relationships between symptomatic distress, mindreading and specific NPD criteria.


In the first study, the NPD patients showed poorer mindreading than the patients without PD and comparable to patients with other PDs. Symptomatic subjective distress in the narcissistic group was less severe than in the other PDs group and comparable to the group without PDs. However, no relationship emerged between mindreading and symptomatic subjective distress. In the second study, taking the clinical sample as a whole, symptomatic distress appeared negatively linked to grandiosity traits, while mindreading scores were negatively linked to empathy.


NPD showed specific mindreading impairments. However, mindreading capacity did not appear to be directly connected with subjective distress, but did appear to be connected with specific aspects of narcissistic pathology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Public Library of Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center