Are You Dealing with a Megalomaniac? 

Are You Dealing with a Megalomaniac? 


Etymologically the word megalomaniac has its roots in the Greek word megalo- which means “large”, it is used to refer to a person who is megalomaniacal or has a mental disorder marked by feelings of personal greatness. We have heard of many historical figures who are often associated with megalomaniacs like The Roman emperor Caligula demanded to be worshipped as a god, and many dictators have Been called megalomaniacs, with the most famous example of a megalomaniac being Hitler.

The Canadian physician W.H.D. Vernon who had been one of the first psychiatrists credited Hitler with the classical symptoms of schizophrenia and proposed such symptoms as the key to understanding Hitler’s authoritarian leadership. In his essay, he stated that Hitler suffered from hallucinations, voices in his head, paranoia and megalomaniac.

Joseph Stalin, former premier of the Soviet Union showcased symptoms of paranoia which is often seen in megalomaniac individuals. He had thousands executed to satisfy his desire for power and grandeur. Another example is J.B. Bokassa, a dictator of a small and extremely poor African nation, who proclaimed himself emperor of the country, he even renamed it the Central African Empire. Even democratic countries where leaders are elected have often displayed huge egos. But megalomaniac is generally used as an insult and rarely refers to real mental illness.

Although some may consider the terms megalomania and narcissism slightly different in shades of meaning, the terms megalomaniac and narcissist are often used interchangeably because thus far megalomania is diagnosed with a narcissistic scale of traits. Some critics and psychologists suggested that a megalomaniac differs from a narcissist as he only wishes to have power rather than be seen as charming, and seeks to be feared rather than just admired or loved. To this category belong many lunatics and most of the “great” men of history some of which are mentioned above.

One who fits these definitions of megalomania tends to believe, that he or she has greater powers than any other human and has the talent and capability to use that power over a large population. Research shows power corrupts people. Like many other megalomaniac dictators, President Ileana Aliyev of Azerbaijan is seen as a dictator due to the lack of free and fair elections and violations of human rights. Similarly, Donald Trump was also considered a megalomaniac based on the speeches he made during his presidency.

The DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders doesn’t distinguish between megalomania and narcissism, but The most recent edition of the DSM (DSM-5) classifies both these terms as a form of narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissism can be defined as an exaggerated sense of self-love while megalomania on the other hand is an exaggerated sense of self-worth based on delusions of power, therefore, all megalomaniacs are narcissists, but not all narcissists are megalomaniacs.

In certain extreme cases, megalomaniacs believe they can control the world like in the case of dictators. They feel as though they have a right to control the people around them and delude themselves into believing that it’s their destiny to rule over others.

How to detect megalomania? What are the signs? 

  • Megalomaniacs would  act without any  empathy or consideration for the needs of others
  • Expect lavish treatment from others
  • Demeaning and belittling others
  • Exploiting people 
  • Delusional about power, success
  • Self-perception of being unique, better than others,
  • Need for continual admiration from others
  • Intense jealousy towards others, 
  • God syndrome or they may believe that they are god  

A megalomaniac will also overstate his abilities in an irrational, egoistic manner, believing themselves to be exceptional and displaying self-centred behaviour, Experts claim that this behaviour is to narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), The development of this kind of illness may be caused by a variety of behavioural traits, childhood experiences, and the parenting style during those formative years of an individual.

Megalomaniacs are unable to control their cravings. They constantly exalt themselves, generally for trivial reasons (an act, for example), as it is difficult to verify the reality, Put simply, they daydream. In addition, the victim is unable to value other people or their accomplishments. They won’t accept the actions or ideas of another person,

Furthermore, the victim cannot appreciate other people or their achievements. They devalue others and believe that they are better than them, and they won’t accept the opinions or acts of others. Therefore, megalomaniacs are immature. They don’t want to accept themselves or their reality, They live a deluded life in their fantasy world.


Treatments for megalomania depend on the underlying condition causing it but can include medication and psychotherapy. Treatments for megalomania in personality disorders are difficult as in many traditional views, personality disorders are thought to arise from some failure of development in childhood to create a whole self, often as a result of trauma or neglect.

This cannot be addressed with medication unless they have been diagnosed with a co-morbid biological disorder. Psychotherapy is the main solution for personality disorders, and it can take several different forms. The classic therapeutic approach comes from the various Object-Relations schools of therapy. The therapist helps a client build this lost part of himself/herself learn to connect with and reflect upon narcissism as a defence mechanism, and understand their inner turmoil and revaluation of their self-worth and identity.

Reference +
  • Book review. (2005). Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 12(2), 435–438.
  • Book review. (2005). Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 12(2), 435–438.
  • Chad Seifried, Matthew Katz, Adam G. Pfleegor; Megalomaniac or Narcissist? Re-examining the Leadership Style of Huey P. Long through Sport. Journal of Sport History 1 April 2015; 42 (1): 39–58. doi:
  • Hassan S. The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control. Free Press, 2019

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