I've watched a few Youtube videos about dealing with narcissists and I noticed a few patterns.


The videos appear to be genuine attempts to provide some help to people who are dealing with narcissistic abuse. The people publishing them are either practitioners or coaches. Usually they post contact information in the video descriptions to promote their practices. This seems par for the course. Some videos provide examples of narcissistic behavior by showing recorded episodes of interactions with extreme narcissists. They claim to have been recorded legally, which is fine.


I also noticed that many of the comments to the videos seem to express a great deal of hostility towards current of former narcissists in their lives. Frankly, I am having trouble telling the difference between the narcissists, as they are described in the videos, and those who claim to be their victims in the comments.

It's not that there is just a rage directed towards those whom they perceive as having taken away their control over their lives. It's that these supposed narcissists do not acquiesce to the victims' various demands. Which shows both a feeling of entitlement and a lack of self-awareness. And it is, in fact, expressed with a great deal of rage.


I am having a difficult time making sense of it because, on the one hand, the "victims" do describe some patterns of behavior which the videos attribute to narcissists. On the other hand, the "victims" themselves seem to exhibit behavior symptomatic of narcissists.

The recorded audios of narcissists abusing their victims demonstrate clearly abusive behavior. But the definitions of narcissistic abuse, given in the videos, seem to "cast too wide a net". They provide good guidance for what makes a narcissist, but do not provide any real tests to exclude the possibility of someone being a narcissist. They can probably provide a justification for actual narcissists to justify their abuse of their victims, as they appear to do in the comments.

The fact that all these practitioners can correctly identify narcissists as such, but give poor definitions, as guidance for other on how to identify potential narcissists, makes me think that the practice of making such videos should be unethical.


Is it unethical though? Is the idea of avoiding the risks of casting aspersions (through definition which are overly pathologizing of normal behaviors) a part of ethics of clinical psychiatry?

  • $\begingroup$ A lot of the videos I have seen seem to be more of the self-help variety which I do not see a problem with. Sure, there might be some people watching who misinterpret the information in the video but I believe for the most part those who watch those videos are seeking and receiving validation for the unhealthy/abusive relationships they have been in. The practitioners' videos I have seen describe unhealthy behaviors in others one should avoid whether that person could be a diagnosed Narcissist or not. I am curious which behaviors described in the videos are ones you see as normal. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2019 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ Who in the world decided to move the above answer by pocket.therapist into a comment? This is not a comment on the question. It doesn't contain any suggestions on how to improve the question, which is what the comments are for. This is shoddy moderation. $\endgroup$
    – grovkin
    Sep 13, 2019 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ @grovkin - I am not the one who moved it to comments, but I would have flagged it for moderators to move it. The reason is that it doesn't answer the question posted and is more a comment rather than an answer. Answers are for just that - to answer the question posed. Anything which doesn't answer the question can be deleted or moved to the comments. It is better than receiving downvotes, which again, it is not compulsory to comment on. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2019 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ We also work differently to most SE sites, where we have a strict policy that all questions should show evidence of prior research. Please help us to help you and edit your question to provide more information on what you have read about clinical psychology ethics, and any problems you are having understanding your research. If you found nothing, what did you Google? This helps to provide an answer which will be more helpful. If you still have trouble with this, please visit the How to Ask page or Psychology & Neuroscience Meta. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2019 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ @grovkin Unfortunately pocket.therapist's answer (which wasn't really an answer as per the community guidelines on this site) was too long as a comment. The moderator who turned it into a comment probably didn't notice an important part was cut off. I truncated the comment (kept the important bits) to reflect clear input which questions part of your question. In particular, notice the last part: "I am curious which behaviors ..." $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Sep 15, 2019 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


The enforceable ethical guidelines a given practitioner must adhere to are defined by several codes or areas of law: state licensure, (usually national) board certification, and employment contracts. On top of that, there are typically non-enforceable ethics codes on the profession level.

I’m not sure what the ethical concern would be in the videos you’re talking about, as long as the stated information is accurate and the limited scope (“this is not a training on how to diagnose”) is clear. There is no duty to only ever provide absolutely comprehensive information.

The only possibly applicable thing I can come up with is the Goldwater Rule against armchair diagnosing:

"The Goldwater Rule embodies these concepts and makes it unethical for a psychiatrist to render a professional opinion to the media about a public figure unless the psychiatrist has examined the person and has proper authorization to provide the statement," said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A.


  • $\begingroup$ I was mostly thinking along the lines of the ethical restrictions which come with professional licensing. Employment contracts can vary widely (obviously), so it seems moot to consider those. It seems like your answer is a "no". It's perfectly OK for answers to be "no". Although it seems to throw off people, on this site, when they see a yes/no questions and the best answer turns out to be a "no". If no such ethical restrictions exist, then the answer should be "no". $\endgroup$
    – grovkin
    Sep 15, 2019 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ In order to answer “no”, one would have to actually review the national certification guidelines for each mental health profession as well as the licensure laws for each profession in each state, and all of those can change as often as yearly. Then there are non-enforceable guidelines and position statements which can also be used to define what is and isn’t ethical. I haven’t personally comprehensively combed over all of those sources to be able to give a solid “no”, even a “not as of now” answer. $\endgroup$
    – Maria
    Nov 4, 2019 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ The answer is broader than licensing. Licensing is via state government laws defining responsibilities and scope of practice for each specific profession, and as a byproduct that limits then scope of those not holding the license (coaches, other licenses, laypersons, academics). There is no federal licensure. National certification is sometimes (not always) a prerequisite for licensure and it’s done through private organizations. $\endgroup$
    – Maria
    Nov 4, 2019 at 1:18

As @Maria points out, a code of ethics would be formed from the governing regulatory bodies surrounding the profession within the country concerned. For example:

All APA members are bound by the ethical code of the medical profession, specifically defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry (“Principles”) (American Psychiatric Association, n.d.).

A copy of the APA code of ethics is available on the website page linked.

The governing regulatory body the practitioner is licensed through will handle any ethical concerns surrounding a registered practitioner and if they consider that they have acted unethically, the regulatory body can take relevant actions including removing their license to practice.

To view the current code of ethics you need to go to the relevant regulatory body, for which you would need to know who the practitioner is registered with.


American Psychiatric Association (n.d.) Ethics. Retrieved from: https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/ethics


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