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What's REALLY Wrong With the Octomom?

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Nadya Suleman's been called plenty of terrible names. But is there an actual clinical label for her behavior?

People just love to call Nadya Suleman names. In the intense media scrutiny of the single, unemployed mother of 14, she is often referred to as publicity-obsessed train-wreck mom from hell. And those are the nicer ones.

But perhaps, the name we should be calling Suleman is simply narcissist.

Narcissism, the psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem, says licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Chrystal Evans, might have developed in Suleman out of the fear of abandonment when Suleman was a child. "She could have suffered some kind of trauma  from being an only child -- maybe her parents weren't available to help fill the void of her loneliness." The "lonely only" scenario doesn't usually result in a personality disorder, clarifies Dr. Evans, but it is possibly how Suleman dealt with her personal situation.

Suleman's narcissistic tendencies, says Dr. Evans, might be precisely the reason Nadya wants to have so many children. "The babies feed into her narcissism. They are dependent on her. She is in a position of power," speculates Evans.

The psychological disorder also could illuminate why there are no men in Suleman's life. Most women who suffer from a fear of abandonment suffer from the "You can't fire me, I quit" philosophy --  they push people away. And now that she's kicked out the free nanny service Angels in Waiting, she literally has no one -- she doesn't even appear to have any close friends helping her out. "I'd be very interested to find out if she has some support system," says Dr. Evans, "even cousins, who are a part of her life."

So is being stalked by the paparazzi, as Suleman is night and day, a narcissist's dream? "For someone who craves love and other people's attention, she's loving it. It's likely it doesn't matter to her that the attention is mostly negative."

The bottom line hypothesizes Dr.Evans is Nadya Suleman might not be operating with the same set of values as most of society -- which is how she's able to go shopping, get manicures and pose for the paparazzi instead of taking care of her babies. And in true narcissistic fashion, she probably doesn't care what anyone thinks.  "Most people have a sense of integrity and pride," says Evens, "needing to feel that other people like us and respect us, but narcissists generally don't." 
Does this mean parents of only one daughter should be concerned that they'll be so lonely one day they'll try to fill that void by having as many children as humanly possible?

"No," says Dr. Evans, who is herself an only child. "There is a healthy way of doing that. I don't want to blame her mom and dad, but maybe they didn't facilitate friendships. It's important. Make sure your only child develops friendships with other children."

With two more of the octuplets returning home today, Suleman's story has not even begun to play out. Only time will tell how Suleman, possibly burdened with a personality disorder, will make her situation work. Dr. Evans would like to wager a guess: "I think eventually they will take her children away."

Do you agree?


next: The Avalanche of an Affair
21 comments so far | Post a comment now
ame i. March 27, 2009, 5:19 PM

I have several friends who were only children. One friend was responsible for getting himself up in the morning, fed, dressed,and on the school bus at the age of 7 because his mom wanted to sleep in, but the others grew up pretty much the same normal way I did.
Being an only child is not an excuse for Nadya’s selfish, self-centered, irresponsible behavior.
I think she truly thought an altar would be built for her for having far too many children than she can finacially support or physically care for alone. She is a self-made martyr.

Vladimir March 27, 2009, 6:14 PM

No, she is not simply a narcissist (or egoist, to be exact and to use the traditional scientific term). She is also a very skillful parasite and manipulator, exploiter of yet-unborn babies.

Anonymous March 27, 2009, 7:14 PM

I was married to a Narcissist, and Dr. Evans has hit the nail on the head with some of her observations of Nadya’s behavior.

I can say that, indeed, a true Narcissist does not care how negative the attention is, as long as there is attention, and lots of it. And they will say anything; lie compulsively, say horrible and destructive things about friends, family members, whoever happens to meet their needs at the time. It is all about them. Everything. All the time. And they have no ability to empathize, to care who they’ve hurt in the process, or to love anyone other than themselves.

The shame that most of us experience when exposed for a moral indiscretion, or for selfish, or even criminal behavior, is absent in these people. They actually exhibit a kind of pride in their bad behavior. Like Suleman does when she talks about how angry the sperm donor was to find out about the 8 babies. She smiles. When she talks about the diaper and formula companies who have reneged on their sponsorship, she openly states the reason is because of her negative publicity. That doesn’t bother her - that she is the problem. Most of us would feel terribly and be embarrassed. But as long as the cameras are on her - as long as someone reports what she is saying, then her need for attention is being filled - at least for the moment.

Unfortunately, there is never enough for a Narcissist. They use people up, and then move on to the next for more. Always more.

Laura March 27, 2009, 8:16 PM

I was an only child grew up with a single mom, I have no problems that she is having and my mother worked quite a bit rarely did I see my mom, Something is clearly wrong with her only time will tell

Bec Thomas March 27, 2009, 8:39 PM

I was not an only child but my mother was a Narcissist and it is absolutely hell on children. It really is a very destructive personality disorder that leaves a wake of vitcums in their path. Suleman shows many signs of having this disorder, being an only child is unlikely the cause of it. Her children are likely going to suffer for it more then anyone else, it’s truely sad.

Kind David March 27, 2009, 9:03 PM

I agree with you Dr. Evans. She is a textbook narcissist.

I thought it was interesting as heck that Dr. Phil got involved with her, and then RAN FROM HER. She is one toxic person, and yet it took him a couple of weeks to really get it.

Clearly the survival of her first SIX is a testament to Nadya’s parents. But I fear for these infant’s lives. It seems though that a disaster must happen before Nadya’s unfitness to be a mother to FOURTEEN is going to be realized by the state of California.

Gwen March 27, 2009, 9:57 PM

Being an only child has nothing to do with the sickness she has. I am an only child and grew up with a single mom and this can’t be blamed on that.
This young woman has a serious problem mentally and it is so sad for those children. I think they will be taken from her for their own good, and maybe she needs to be locked up and get therapy.

Grace March 27, 2009, 10:35 PM

Dr. Evans guesses that eventually California might remove the children from her home?

I hope so. For the children’s sake. She cannot meet their needs. And she’s being horrible to her own mother, who undoubtedly worked very hard helping to bring up the first 6.

I blame Dr. Phil for getting involved as he did, before he “ran”. He gave her cover for getting the first few babies home.

I’m not sure the hospital or authorities would have signed off without that.

Please, California, protect these children and give them a better future. With real parents.

CS March 27, 2009, 10:56 PM

Thank you Dr. Evans! I’ve been wondering how long before someone calls Nadya out on this - Narcissism!!
I’ve watched for one sign, in seeing how obviously difficult all of this is and has been on Nadya’s mother Angela… never a “Thank You.” How might Nadya have survived until now without her parents support and tolerance? How tragically sad for all of these children.

Anonymous March 28, 2009, 12:47 AM

could you have offered info that we DIDN”T know?

Leeza March 28, 2009, 12:58 AM

Nadya is a narcissist. She has no friends, because friends “give and take”, Nadya only wants to “take”. Nadya claims she was a lonely only. Come on! The truth is that even as a child, Nadya already was a narcissist. I know plenty of “only’s” that have more close friends than most people. I don’t want to sound cold, because I am normally a kind and empathetic soul. But Dr. Phil, Radar Online,Donations,Volunteers, etc. need to completely cut Nadya off! ENABLING Nadya’s narcissistic outlook on life, is actually prolonging the inevidable for these 8 helpless preemies. Nadya spends the donated money on Nadya, not her children! She needs to hit bottom and be as broke as possible- in order to come back to reality and do whatever it requires for each and every one of these 14 children to not only survive, but THRIVE!!! If that means letting childless couples adopt or open-adopt the octuplets, then she needs to “let go”. These babies deserve better! Or the state needs to step in as a last resort.

laco March 28, 2009, 2:49 AM

You can not diagnose a patient without meeting them. Anyone who attempts to do so should lose their license. I would if I did. There is no way to know if she suffers a mental disorder without meeting her and having in depth conversation with her. Get real!

Peggy Gorman March 28, 2009, 5:04 AM

Angels in Waiting was Nayda’s saving grace and the only real hope in these childrens lives. I am hoping the State of California allows the Angels in Waiting to care for all 14 children and let Nayda go to them, proving she truely is willing and loveling is able to. I believe she is narcissist. Take away any money she has received and put it to the care of these babies ,all 14.The money will be gone or hidden otherwise. Its the only way I can see the children getting any care and love.

shasta March 28, 2009, 9:22 AM

I believe that her childern need to be taken away from her, there is no way she can support them let alone give every single one of them the attention they need for being childern this woman has alot of problems and no child should have to go through what they’re being put through. she thinks of herslf and thats not right.

Anonymous March 28, 2009, 4:30 PM

I agree that it is not ethical to diagnose a patient without meeting them and then publicizing a diagnosis.

Carol Summers March 28, 2009, 5:31 PM

I don’t think her mother will be able to do all of the childcare. Hope she can do some, at least. Being a teacher, she might be counted on steering them in the right direction. Also, I think her father said she spoiled her rotten (his words). I can’t see how those last two babies could be sent home —- they weighed just one pound and a few onces and will have problems. That and the fact that her children are hyperactice, two have learning disabilities and one is autistic. Even one autistic child takes hours and hours each day. Yes, I have to agree —- they will eventually take the children away. And, if she refusess to let them be adopted, they’ll go into the foster child jungle. I wonder, also, that if they don’t take the children away, could she ever be emotionally available for them? I bet she will love having 14 children fight over her; but, babies, there’s no one there!

Sharon Brehm March 29, 2009, 2:22 PM

There are several things wrong with Dr. Chrystal Evan’s actions.

First, offering this diagnosis—of someone who is not ones patient and who one has quite obviously never met is a breach of ethics.

It seems the sole motivation for Dr. Chrystal Evans to take this kind of action is to squarely place herself in the media spotlight in order to further her questionable goals.

Also, aside from this ‘interview,’ when Dr. Chrystal Evans posts a scathing review of a colleagues book, and does so under a false name, thinking she’s anonymous, it’s yet again another ethical breach of not only her license but her integrity. Taking such an action for the sole purpose of trying to remove or denigrate someone Dr. Chrystal Evans sees as a threat to her goals of media stardom is shameful.

Tara March 30, 2009, 8:28 AM

Where can I begin? lol. I wouldn’t judge Nayda for having so many kids. There are people out there with lots more than that. I know she doesn’t have a job, this economy is crap and we all know that. I don’t agree with her though for not looking for a job or trying to make a reality show of her kids to make money. That’s just not right. Also I find it’s not right of her to spend tons of money on things just for herself. I’m a mother of a two-year-old and I really can’t remember the last time I went and did something or spent money on something for just myself without thinking about my son’s welfare. The money that is being given to her needs to be strictly for the kids. I know if I asked for help I know they wouldn’t give me tons of money to spend on whatever, it probably wouldn’t even be enough to cover costs for my child so I really don’t know how she got so filthy rich. I really hope she’ll rethink how she is spending her money and make sure those kids are taken care of.

kathleen March 30, 2009, 8:46 AM

I grew up in a home with a disfunctional mom and I have chosen to raise my children the opposite way and I feel that some wemon were not ment to have children for a reason, I think that all her children need to be placed up for adoption the state is paying for them already and doesw not need to raise 14 in a bad economy for 18 years since she does not want to work. She has had all of the opportunities for help and she through them away. The babies are going to suffer and that is not right. There is one blessing for her behavior and that is the fact that fetilization og eggs is going to be regulated more stricltly to avoid this from happening again.

Meret April 10, 2009, 1:03 PM

She’s like Jolie or Madonna (narcissistic personality disorder or borderline), only poorer and low-functioning.

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