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Young people crave self-esteem: study


(Reuters) Ohio State University released a study in January suggesting that college students would prefer a boost to their self-esteem more than any other gratifying activity. This research indicates that getting a good grade or hearing a nice compliment means more to a student than drinking alcohol, hanging out with friends, having sex and getting paid. While some individuals are pleasantly surprised with this information and believe there are more dangerous things in the world people should be concerned about, others are completely shocked and worried that narcissism has become a full-fledged addiction among young adults of the "Y" generation.


How was the study conducted?

OSU News Research
Brad Bushman, a communications and psychology professor at Ohio State University, and his colleagues conducted two separate experiments on 282 college students. In both experiments, Bushman asked each person to rate, on a scale of one to five, how much they wanted and liked various pleasurable activities such as getting a paycheck, seeing a friend, eating a favourite food, drinking a favourite alcoholic beverage, having sex, and boosts in self-esteem. In both experiments, students rated a self-esteem boost highest. Higher wanting scores than liking scores are one sign of addiction. While it would be inaccurate to say participants were addicted to these little boosts in confidence, Bushman found that students were closer to being addicted to self-esteem more than any other act in the study.


The evolution of selfishness

The Narcissism Epidemic
This is not the first time that researchers have studied self-absorption in young people of the "Y" generation. In 2007, Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, both American psychology professors, began to explore narcissism in college students and found that it has been on the rise since the 1980s and 1990s. While this site only summarizes important parts of their study, the entire analysis has been published in a book. Twenge and Campbell found that members of the "Y" generation have prioritized themselves above nearly everyone and everything else in their life. This conceited behaviour and sense of entitlement is called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) in the medical community. It is a result of greed and the increasing emphasis society has placed on things like material wealth and physical appearance. To explain their findings and prove that teens of this era are more selfish than most, Twenge and Campbell reference empowering song lyrics and the television program, My Super Sweet 16.


Narcissism and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

For years, psychiatrists have been debating whether narcissism should be considered an addiction. According to the DSM, the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) guide to classifying dependence, an addiction is present in an individual who demonstrates any combination of three or more of the following symptoms: preoccupation with a chemical or feeling, using more of the chemical than he or she had anticipated, the development of tolerance to the chemical in question, withdrawal when the chemical or feeling is absent from his or her life, and the list goes on. Wikipedia is a popular online encyclopedia driven by contributions from people all over the world. While some discredit Wikipedia as a news source, this article contains a lot of valuable links. In addition to this, it outlines the main differences between the current version of the APA's manual, the DSM-IV, and the new model, the DSM-V, expected out in 2013. One of the revisions is the elimination of NPD as an addiction. Many medical professionals believe this could cause problems because the DSM's formal definition of narcissism is much more precise than the dictionary meaning.


More serious addictions

The Hot Button Blog
Connected to the Globe and Mail's website, The Hot Button Blog allows Globe reporters from various news sections to comment freely on the most popular news stories of the week. Publishing two to four pieces a day, posts on this blog fuel many online discussions between readers in the comments section. In this particular piece, Tralee Pearce makes a significant point about the Ohio State University study, prompting people to consider narcissism in comparison to alternative addictions. While narcissism is an addiction according to the DSM-IV if practiced excessively, so is substance abuse, anorexia and bulimia, as well as extreme forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and paraphilia - just to name a few. Therefore, as far as addictions go, there are much worse and more dangerous things to depend on than self-esteem boosts.


Positive effects of selfishness

Rebecca Thorman manages public relations for Alice, an online company that buys and sells household items online for cheap. In her free time, Thorman blogs about relationships, new trends in social media, and often offers career advice. Although selfishness has many negative connotations, such as a narcissistic individual failing to admit they were wrong, Thorman believes that it can have many positive effects. For example, high self-esteem can be valuable when it comes to success. Whether it be at a party or in the workplace, a person who loves and believes in him or herself will be more successful than a person with very little confidence. This is particularly true during times of struggle because narcissists are more likely to believe in themselves and their abilities when things go wrong than other individuals. In addition to maintaining a positive outlook on life, extremely confident people will be quick to pick themselves up and try again.

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