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Is Arrogance A Mental Illness?

1330028_15994738C.R. writes:

Some stories of arrogant people and their victims.

1. Blatant

The other day, someone I know well, who I’ll call Michelle, told me a story. Michelle is afraid that if her boss, who’s probably never heard of the Therapy Soup blog (and maybe not even sees this, she’ll lose her job.

She’s not being paranoid. Staff members at her level have been set up and fired for far less.

Here’s what happened. Michelle was sitting in her office, working on a budget for the office she runs for a medium-sized company. Gwen walked in and said, “People like me who make the big bucks, really aren’t having too much of a problem with the higher taxes taken out of our paychecks like you people. I don’t know how you guys are hanging on.”

There was no caring or concern in Gwen’s voice. This was a slap-down and a vicious one.

Gwen is Michelle’s department manager.

What is particularly vicious about Gwen’s comment, is that she has refused to sign-off on pay raises or bonuses for Michelle each year for the four years she has worked there. Even when Michelle’s direct supervisor recommended that Michelle be given top bonuses.

Michelle is desperate to find another job, but no one in her field is hiring.

According to Michelle, who I have every reason to believe, Gwen has crashed and burned through large swathes of the company, leaving a trail of interpersonal and budgetary disasters behind her. She is disliked by virtually everyone at the company. Yet, she keeps getting promoted by the oblivious owners.

Or, are they really oblivious?

Michelle’s theory is that the owners are afraid to fire, discipline, or to even not promote Gwen because she knows where “the bodies are buried.” In other words, Michelle believes that Gwen knows company secrets.

The reason Michelle believes this is because Gwen boasts about having “dirt” on the owners.

Gwen also takes credit for Michelle’s and other staff members’ work. Once she was caught, but although her supervisor confronted her and, as per the dysfunctional company culture, shamed her publicly, no actions were taken other than short-term humiliation.

Gwen never faces any consequences. A sick company allows an arrogant employee to flourish.

2. Inverted

Dee tells nearly everyone who’ll listen how poorly she did on her exam. When the results come back, she’s in the top 1 percent of scorers.

She invites a few friends over for dinner, “casually”, and says, “Don’t expect too much, I’m not a gourmet chef.” What she doesn’t tell her friends is that she has entered numerous cooking contests and won a top amateur award. (She also apologizes for the house being “a mess” when it’s obviously been cleaned from top to bottom.)

Dee, who is attractive and well-dressed, puts herself down, occasionally saying, “I’m nothing special.” Yet, more than one friend (and soon to be ex-friends) have caught her blatantly flirting with their partners. Sometimes she does it behind their backs, but quite often, she does it right in front of them.

Dee’s friends don’t count. They only matter if she gets admiring or even better, jealous responses from them. She enjoys seeing them squirm.

3. Double-trouble

Larry and Meg are husband and wife. Together they manipulate, lie, and plot on how to “get ahead.” This often involves using others and then discarding them. Sometimes, they get caught, but so far, they have never really been confronted or have faced consequences.

They are not Bonny and Clyde. They hold more-than-respectable positions and do very well in their chosen fields.

They are not sociopaths. They love their children and each other and are generally supportive of family members. It’s just that outsiders (non-family members) are relegated to such a negative status that they lose their humanity in Larry and Meg’s eyes.

They gossip about their “dearest” friends, but only when they are alone.

There is no pathology associated with any of these people.

They would not be diagnosed as *narcissists, they don’t have all the traits needed to be classified in this way.

They function normally and even have friends and a social life. They do reasonably well in their careers.

But, they are not living full lives. They lie, they grandstand, they don’t view (most) other people as being as “important” as they are.

What else do they have in common?

Not one of these people would dream of being violent. They all lie, in various ways. They are not introspective or self-reflective. They don’t understand how others view them, or, if they do, they find the negative feedback rewarding (it makes them feel smug and superior).

Arrogance is not technically a mental illness. It isn’t really a personality disorder, at least not recognized as one.

Is it a spiritual illness?

*Someone with a personality disorder like narcissistic personality disorder has other traits, too and cannot be open and loving with even close family members.





Is Arrogance A Mental Illness?

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2013). Is Arrogance A Mental Illness?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Feb 2013
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