The Psychology of “Star Disease”: Understanding and Overcoming Narcissism

serene sunset person releasing star shaped balloon

Who among us hasn’t felt like Napoleon, standing atop a conquered peak? 

The world seems to applaud your success, and suddenly your reflection appears taller, brighter, cooler. 

These are the telltale signs of “star disease,” and it’s more dangerous than we think.

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What is “Star Disease”?

The Narcissism Epidemic

According to Professor Alexander Bondarenko, a doctor of psychological sciences at Kiev National University, “star disease” is the colloquial term for bouts of narcissism. 

These episodes can evolve from fleeting moments into a persistent behavioral pattern. In today’s social media-driven world, the opportunities for narcissistic behavior have multiplied exponentially.

social media influencer self absorbed restaurant

Two Types of Narcissism

Psychotherapists recognize two varieties:

  1. Primary narcissism: childhood egocentrism
  2. Secondary narcissism: adult form

In the adult version, individuals lose interest in the world, focusing entirely on themselves. 

This self-absorption can lead to a distorted view of reality and strained relationships.

man stares distorted mirror reflection

The Cultural Context

It’s worth noting that what we call “star disease” can vary across cultures. In some societies, individualism is highly prized, potentially fostering narcissistic tendencies. 

In others, collectivism may temper such impulses. Understanding these cultural nuances is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.

person staring screen distorted social media reflections

Symptoms of Star Disease

The Inflated Ego

The hallmark of this condition is a painful exaggeration of one’s own importance. “Narcissists” attribute all positive life events solely to their own doing. 

This can manifest in various ways:

  • Constant name-dropping
  • Exaggerating achievements
  • Dismissing others’ accomplishments

teenager not satisified with trophies certificates

Behavioral Red Flags

Key symptoms include:

  • Excessively high self-esteem
  • Intolerance of criticism
  • Categorical thinking
  • Hypersensitivity to perceived slights
  • Obsessing over minor details
  • Difficulty accepting responsibility for mistakes

woman brain overwhelmed by social media icons

Mood Swings and Validation Seeking

Those afflicted experience frequent mood fluctuations and constantly seek confirmation of their idealized self-image. 

This can lead to:

  • Fishing for compliments
  • Surrounding oneself with “yes-men”
  • Extreme reactions to perceived rejection

Physical Manifestations

Interestingly, “star disease” can have physical symptoms:

  • Exaggerated posture
  • Loud, domineering voice
  • Invasive body language

therapy session group discussion resolution

Who’s at Risk?

Personality Factors

Professor Bondarenko identifies a predisposition in demonstrative, superficial, and less educated individuals. Conversely, those with depth and substance are less susceptible. 

However, it’s important to note that intelligence doesn’t preclude narcissism; in fact, gifted individuals may be at higher risk due to early praise and recognition.

celebrity red carpet cameras papperazzi

High-Risk Professions

Careers with heightened risk include:

  • Actors and celebrities
  • Writers and journalists
  • Teachers and professors
  • Artists and musicians
  • Politicians and public figures
  • CEOs and high-level executives

These public-facing roles often amplify narcissistic tendencies. The constant spotlight and adulation can feed into an already inflated ego.

father son fight over mobile phone

Hereditary Factors

Dr. Natalia Kostinskaya, a professor and medical doctor at the International Homeopathic League, notes that star disease can be inherited. 

Children of famous or talented individuals are particularly vulnerable.

woman-head-is-surrounded-by-social-media-icons

Gender Dynamics

Interestingly, when the mother is famous, sons are more at risk. For renowned fathers, daughters are more susceptible. 

This could be due to same-sex parent competition or idealization of the opposite-sex parent.

person alone top of mountain

Age and Life Stage

While narcissism can develop at any age, certain life stages present higher risks:

  • Adolescence: A natural period of self-focus
  • Early adulthood: When career success may first hit
  • Midlife: Often a time of reassessment and potential crisis

person trapped in mobile phone

The Impact on Health and Relationships

Physical Health Consequences

Dr. Kostinskaya outlines several health risks:

For Men:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (increased risk of heart attacks and strokes)
  • Neurasthenia (chronic fatigue, anxiety, and headaches)
  • Alcoholism tendency (as a coping mechanism)

For Women:

  • Painful menstruation and menstrual irregularities
  • Heavy bleeding leading to anemia
  • Fibroids and ovarian cysts
  • Benign tumors in breast tissue
  • Early, painful menopause
  • Hormonal imbalances (particularly elevated testosterone)
  • Infertility and increased risk of miscarriages

person on stage empty threater spotlights

The Toll on Relationships

Star disease often leads to loneliness. The constant need for admiration and control can strain or destroy personal relationships. 

This can manifest in:

  • Failed marriages and partnerships
  • Estranged children
  • Lack of close friendships
  • Difficulty maintaining professional relationships

Case Study: Oksana’s Story

Dr. Kostinskaya shares a poignant example:

Oksana, a successful 35-year-old marketing executive, divorced her husband of ten years. She left the courtroom smiling, determined to prove her happiness and self-sufficiency to the world. 

Over the next decade, Oksana climbed the corporate ladder, bought a luxurious home, and traveled extensively.

On the surface, she appeared to have it all. She became a self-styled guru, offering unsolicited advice to friends on relationships and parenting. 

However, her own family life was far from ideal. Oksana used silent treatment as punishment, once ignoring her 12-year-old son for two months for a minor transgression. 

She constantly criticized her older son, trying to mold him into her image of perfection.

Tragically, Oksana’s life was cut short at 45 by an aggressive brain tumor. 

Her younger son’s response to her death was telling: “Now I can get a cat.” This simple statement revealed years of emotional deprivation and control.

This case illustrates the profound impact of unchecked narcissism on family dynamics and personal well-being. It also highlights how external success can mask deep-seated psychological issues.

therapy session group discussion

Treatment and Management

Education as Medicine

The best treatment for star disease is learning. Bondarenko recommends:

  • Attending a good university or continuing education program
  • Studying philosophy to gain perspective on human nature and existence
  • Exploring anthropology to understand cultural diversity
  • Delving into philology to appreciate the nuances of language and communication
  • Tackling mathematics to develop logical thinking skills
  • Studying psychology to gain self-awareness and understand others
  • Immersing oneself in art history to appreciate human creativity and expression

Homeopathic Approaches

Dr. Kostinskaya suggests homeopathic remedies:

  • Platinum-based treatments to correct excessive self-love
  • Aurum metallicum for those with delusions of grandeur
  • Lycopodium for individuals with compensatory narcissism

She also recommends:

  • Fasting combined with prayer, humility, and repentance
  • Meditation and mindfulness practices
  • Yoga and other body-mind therapies

Developing Healthy Traits

Key qualities to cultivate include:

  • Sense of humor, especially self-deprecating humor
  • Self-criticism and honest self-reflection
  • Self-irony and the ability to laugh at one’s own foibles
  • Empathy and active listening skills
  • Gratitude and appreciation for others

Coping Strategies for Friends and Family

For those close to a “star”:

  • Develop stress resilience through self-care and support networks
  • Understand it’s an altered state, not a reflection of your worth
  • Don’t take reactions at face value; look for underlying insecurities
  • Maintain common sense and tolerance in the face of grandiose claims
  • Practice patience, but also set firm boundaries
  • Encourage professional help when necessary

Prevention and Early Intervention

Recognizing Early Signs

Early indicators may appear in school:

  • Perfectionism and inability to handle criticism
  • “Ends justify the means” mentality in achieving goals
  • Taking on excessive responsibilities to be in the spotlight
  • Difficulty working in teams or sharing credit

Building a Balanced Perspective

Encourage:

  • Recognition of others’ contributions to one’s success
  • Appreciation for teamwork and collaboration
  • Understanding of external factors and luck in success
  • Regular volunteer work or community service
  • Mentoring relationships with older, wiser individuals

Parenting Strategies

For parents concerned about raising narcissistic children:

  • Offer praise for effort, not just results
  • Teach empathy through example and discussion
  • Encourage activities that require cooperation
  • Address entitlement early and consistently
  • Foster a sense of responsibility and consequences

The Spiritual Dimension

Star disease can be seen as a form of spiritual emptiness or pride – the first biblical sin. 

Dr. Kostinskaya advises that it’s better to cry and accept humility than to carry the banner of self-sufficiency at the cost of one’s health.

Many spiritual traditions offer wisdom on combating narcissism:

  • Buddhism emphasizes the illusion of the self
  • Christianity promotes humility and service
  • Hinduism teaches about the interconnectedness of all beings
  • Islam stresses submission to a higher power

Incorporating these spiritual perspectives can provide a broader context for personal growth and self-understanding.

Learning from Nature

The sun, a literal star, sets a good example. It warms the world with light and heat, then humbly sets each evening without pomp or ambition. 

This natural cycle reminds us of the importance of balance and the transient nature of any “moment in the spotlight.”

Other natural metaphors can be instructive:

  • Trees grow tall but remain rooted
  • Rivers flow towards the sea, not away from it
  • Mountains stand firm but are shaped by wind and water

The Role of Society

Our culture often celebrates narcissistic behavior, particularly in celebrities and business leaders. This societal reinforcement can make it challenging for individuals to recognize and address their own narcissistic tendencies.

Media literacy and critical thinking skills are crucial in navigating a world that often conflates self-promotion with genuine achievement. 

Schools and community organizations can play a vital role in teaching these skills.

The Path to Balance

Star disease, while challenging, is not insurmountable. Through education, self-awareness, and cultivating humility, individuals can overcome narcissistic tendencies and lead more balanced, fulfilling lives.

Remember, true greatness lies not in self-aggrandizement, but in recognizing our place within the larger tapestry of life and the contributions of those around us. By working to overcome star disease, we not only improve our own lives but contribute to a healthier, more compassionate society.

About the Author

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Svyatlana Fedarova D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences, a specialist in regulatory issues, writes for Mister Blister on such topics as drug registration, pharmacovigilance and legislative changes in the EAEU and the Caucasus region. She received her PhD in Pharmacology from Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University and has more than 20 years of industry experience. She currently holds the position of Regulatory Affairs Manager and responsible for PVG at Maxima Health Research in Minsk.

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