Wealth, Power, or Lack of Basis for Many Mental Disorders


Research from the University of California at Berkeley has linked feelings of self-worth and socio-economic status with mental disorders.

The study links self-worth in individuals based on their perception of their income and lifestyle. Inflated or deflated senses of self-worth are linked with bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, anxiety, and depression.

"We found that it is important to consider the motivation to pursue power, beliefs about how much power one has attained, pro-social and aggressive strategies for attaining power, and emotions related to attaining power." noted Sheri Johnson, U.C. Berkeley psychologist and senior author of the study.

The Numbers

More than 600 young men and women were involved in the study which measured perceived social status and relation to mental illness. Published in the journal Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, the study assessed traits such as "discomfort with leadership," and "hubristic pride."

The research found that people prone to depression or anxiety often reported feeling little sense of pride in accomplishment or in their personal power. People at risk for mania, by contrast, reported high levels of pride and pursued power regardless of interpersonal cost.

Evolutionary Roots

Johnson and fellow researchers Eliot Tang-Smith of the University of Miami and Stephen Chen of Wellesley College looked at how study participants fit into the "dominance behavioral system," a construct in which humans and other mammals assess their place in the social hierarchy and respond accordingly to promote cooperation and avoid conflict and aggression.

The concept is rooted in the evolutionary principle that dominant mammals gain easier access to resources for the sake of reproductive success and the survival of the species.


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