What was he thinking?
As Rep. Anthony Weiner performed his mea culpas for tweeting naughty photos and engaging in salty online chatter at a press conference Monday, mental health professionals debated how a politico with a glittering future could conduct himself as if he were insulated from consequence.
Could a frontal lobe dysfunction explain his colossal lack of judgment and sexual impulsivity? Was he blinded by his own grandiosity? Did he have some kind of exhibitionistic need or death wish? A yen for cheap thrills?
Guys who engage in lewd and lascivious behavior with strangers, particularly when married, “have serious character pathologies,” said Ronald Levant, a psychology professor at the University of Akron and editor of The Psychology of Men and Masculinity.
All men are not dogs, said Levant, adding that the odd, explicit behavior such as Weiner exhibited comports with a narcissism disorder and/or an anti-social personality disorder. Such patients “believe the world exists for them. They think they’re exceptional and can’t believe someone doesn’t love them as much as they love themselves.”
“They start with small transgressions and are always able to call in a favor and are shielded by their staffs and press agents,” which allows them to feel invincible, added Martin Evers, M.D., a Katonah psychiatrist in private practice.
Weiner also may suffer from a sexual desire disorder, added Evers, noting that the rise of internet services such as Weiner used (Facebook, Twitter) has allowed many people, including sex addicts, to engage in reflexive, depersonalized sexual gratification. “You don’t even have to go to the magazine store,” he said.
Can Weiner reform? Perhaps – provided he receives a lengthy course of appropriate therapy and that he is highly motivated to change his maladaptive habits, said the experts. But “there are not great therapeutic outcomes for these guys,” cautioned Evers. The bizarre, arrogant behaviors in which Weiner engaged, he noted, “are very ingrained.”
Of course, now that his hubris has turned to humiliation and he is threatened with loss of his professional future, he just might be motivated enough to turn a new leaf. “Someone pricked his balloon of narcissism and self love. Right now, he’s probably feeling pretty depressed,” Levant added.