Is Jodi Arias a narcissist? In prior blogs I have examined and rejected many diagnoses that armchair psychiatrists have slapped on her. As I have discussed: No she is not a sociopath (though she shares many traits with OJ Simpson), doesn’t have borderline personality disorder, and is not a battered woman suffering from PTSD. The conclusion reached in these blogs was that she had no psychiatric diagnosis, rather: "She is evil and a murderer and now will be held accountable. Justice was served."
Not long ago Dr. Drew asked what my diagnosis of Arias would be if I had to give one. My answer was Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), though she did not meet all the criteria. However when it recently came to light that Arias might be defending herself in the upcoming death penalty trial, it was time for a recalibration. Who else but a pathological narcissist would lay their life on the line in order to bask in the spotlight one last time? So, it’s time for an analysis of whether Jodi meets the criterion for narcissistic personality disorder.
When Jody was found guilty in 2013 for the first degree murder of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander, she was publicly despised for her arrogance and lack of remorse. She reveled in the media spotlight while describing her sexual escapades, sparred with the prosecutor, changed her story repeatedly and dragged Alexander through the mud, all in an attempt to convince the jury she was not guilty. It was agonizing and humiliating, a TV train wreck that had millions tuned in.
Even though she was in jail Arias flourished and embraced all the attention -- negative though it was --and took advantage of every opportunity. She sold her drawings via her own website and eBay, had a Twitter account and conducted jailhouse interviews. But now, with the death penalty trial looming, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
What is the mindset here? She has already been found guilty and this time she's literally fighting for her life. Who in their right mind would not want the resourcefulness of a savvy defense attorney to minimize the chance of receiving a lethal injection? Does she really believe that she can offer a defense even close to that of an established attorney?
Frankly the logic here is irrelevant in Arias’s mind and the answer is quite simple: Arias craves the attention, more than she fears death. What better way for her to get all the attention than by self-representation? Now she can show the world just how savvy she is without having to share the spotlight with a pesky lawyer. Does the high school dropout think she can trump the seasoned prosecutor? Or is Arias confident she will connect with at least one male juror -- which by the way is all she needs- in order to escape the death penalty?
Arias is gambling with her life because she wants to be -- in fact NEEDS to be -- the star. She would love to face off with Martinez without any law experience, any college or even a high school diploma. All she has to show for an education is a GED, which she obtained while in jail. Her two defense attorneys, Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott, have been ordered to remain as Arias' advisory council. But she didn't listen to them before. How much will she listen now?
With this latest piece of information in mind let's take a look at the nine diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the DSM 5. Keep in mind that of the nine listed symptoms, five must be present for a NPD diagnosis. Also, I have not evaluated Jodi and the following is not a true diagnosis, merely speculation based on the evidence at hand.
• Has a grandiose sense of self-importance: The stakes could not be higher. Arias, facing the experienced and effective prosecutor Juan Martinez, is trying to avoid the death penalty, yet considers self-representation. Enough said.
• Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love: She once made a self-comparison to Albert Einstein, but eventually decided (and bragged) that she was much smarter than he was. Even considering self-representation in the death penalty trial proves that she truly believes she is smarter and more savvy than any qualified attorney. Add another check.
• Believes that she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people: Arias absolutely believes she is special but does not hang or seek out high status people. Travis, like her other boyfriends, was nice but by all accounts just a regular, good guy. No to this one.
• Requires excessive admiration: Jodi's crazy has resurfaced, this time by self-representation. She truly believes she can pull it off -- and perhaps she can. It just takes one juror to side with her. She's hungry for the world to marvel at her brilliance, and she's going to feed that need no matter the cost. During her time on the witness stand, Arias was cool and defiant, almost taunting prosecutor Martinez with the graphic sexual questions and discussions- all designed to garner the spotlight. Jodi thrives on being the center of attention. She wants to be admired (remember, she's smarter than Einstein), even if she's admired behind bars for the rest of her life.
• Has a sense of entitlement: Arias felt she deserved Travis and no one else did. She was extremely jealous when he showed anyone -- male or female -- attention. When he began seeing someone else, Arias slashed his tires -- twice. She also sent the other woman harassing emails. She wanted one hundred percent of Alexander's attention to be focused on her, and if it wasn't, she'd lash out, then lure him back with wild sex. Arias murdered Alexander and believes he deserved it. He was leaving her, after all (how dare he!), so she was justified in killing him. She has never and will never show remorse, because she can't. Check.
• Is interpersonally exploitative: Arias smothered Alexander with affection, but that wasn't enough to keep him. She hacked into his social media accounts and frequently looked in his phone to see who he was talking to. She played the victim (to bring out Alexander's protective side) by sending herself anonymous emails of a stalking nature. It was all a way to manipulate Alexander into staying in the relationship. Arias has a history of taking advantage of others. She stole her own grandmother's gun to commit the murder, then went out of her way to visit another man for an alibi. Yep, extremely exploitative.
• Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others: Again, this relationship was all about Arias, not Alexander. The fact that he wanted out was irrelevant. She wanted him for her own, and therefore used whatever means necessary to win. When that failed a decision was made that no one else would have him. She coolly lied to the police as they questioned her whereabouts on the day he died without shedding a tear. To this day she fails to show even the slightest hint of remorse or any grief for the family. She truly has NO feelings for others.
• Is often envious of others, or believes that others are envious of him or her: Arias was jealous of Alexander and wanted to be the center of his attention. She was not envious of others, so No to this one.
• Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes. If you want to see arrogant behavior from Jodi, take a look at social media activities she conducts from behind bars. She puts a hefty price on her "drawings", and there are those adoring fans who will buy them. She openly taunts Martinez, and her contempt for him is easily evident. You would think Arias would tone it down or at least pretend to have some sort of remorse for killing her boyfriend, but no. She is arrogant and defiant to a fault. Don't expect that to change any time soon. Haughty and egotistical attitude? Check and check.
In conclusion, Arias scored seven of the nine criteria needed for a NPD diagnosis. She went through life thinking the world revolved around her, and that she was really something special. How dare Alexander attempt to break up with her! Hell hath no fury like a narcissist scorned.
Arias once embraced death, proclaiming "Death is the ultimate freedom, so I'd rather just have my freedom as soon as I can get it." She changed that tune, however, soon after her guilty verdict was read.
NOTE: Just before I was set to post this blog, Arias changed her mind and is now seeking representation. Some legal newscasters say Arias knew all along she wasn't going to self-represent, that was just a way to manipulate Judge Stephens to dismiss Nurmi. But, in either case, it does not change my assessment --just one more example of her extreme manipulation at work and the mere fact that she even considered self-representation also speaks volumes. Also, she achieved the desired effect of basking in the spotlight yet again. The conclusion remains valid for a NPD diagnosis.
Judge Sherry Stephens, who granted the motion warned Arias she would not be allowed to seek self-representation again. She denied Arias' request for a new lawyer, saying her attorneys would remain Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott. Arias is discovering that while she may be able to manipulate various men in her life, these tactics just don't seem to work on the judge.
Whether Arias sought to represent herself because she wanted to get Nurmi off her case or to create the media buzz that resulted, the fact remains that we are fascinated by Jodi Arias, and she in turn seems to thrive on that fascination. Recently, the eyeglasses she wore during her 2013 trial went up for auction on her website. Starting bid is $500.
Arias is fed by her supercharged ego, and she thinks she's the superior being while the rest of us are fools, an afterthought. After all, Jodi knows what’s best for her—right? To the narcissistic Arias, the infamy and notoriety of being a killer is so much better than fading off into the obscurity of life in prison.
You can read my other blogs on Jodi Arias here: