Under the Hood

What's Happening To Kanye West? We Asked A Psychologist For Her Opinion On His Twitter Rants

Kanye West
Medical Daily asked a psychologist to give us her thoughts on Kanye's Twitter feed. Getty Images

Ah, Yeezy.

The self-proclaimed deity and perennial mogul Kanye West is once again receiving a surge of media attention for his social media output — to the point where no tweeter could be in the dark about the coinciding release of his new album and fashion line. Kanye’s latest tweet-based pontifications have ranged from the promotional to the banal to the full-on adversarial, all as dizzyingly captivating as the next.

Kanye’s larger-than-life persona, one fueled by the outsized and well-earned influence he’s had on pop culture for more than a decade, can’t help but leave us hanging onto his every word. For all our fascination with Mr. Kardashian, though, there’s often an underlying current of macabre curiosity, almost as if we’ve been given front row seats to see the world’s shakiest unicycle rider bike through a hurricane. Meanwhile, a certain question lingers on the tips of our tongues — just what is Kanye’s deal?

In that exploratory spirit, Medical Daily decided to enlist the help of Dr. Jean Twenge, an author and professor of Psychology at San Diego State University. Twenge has frequently explored the personality trait of narcissism, such as when she co-authored The Narcissism Epidemic, published in 2009. We asked Twenge to comb through Kanye’s tweets and give us her unfettered thoughts.

“We can compare the characteristics of narcissistic people to some of Kanye West's tweets,” she told Medical Daily. “Many of his tweets are classic examples of these characteristics.”

For one, there’s grandiosity:

Then there’s entitlement, defined by Twenge as expecting others to provide for one's needs:

Mixed with a heavy dose of acting angrily or aggressively when challenged or insulted:

And lastly, an inability to take others' perspectives or empathize with their needs:

Twenge also noted that a routine item on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, the gold standard of measurement in the social psychology field (though others exist), asks the test taker whether they agree with the statement, "if I ruled the world, it would be a better place." Which:

This isn't the first time someone, even one as knowledgeable as Twenge, has taken a crack at deciphering the psychology of a celebrity from afar. This past Tuesday, The Root’s Danielle Belton asked readers to consider the possibility that Kanye’s latest Twitter rants are a crystal clear sign he may need counseling. However, others, such as Kathleen Smith, a licensed professional counselor and mental health journalist who has touched on the subject herself, caution against reading too much into someone’s public utterings.

“I think it can be very tempting for people to make assumptions about someone's mental health based on their social media presence. But the reality is that unless you're standing in front of them and observing and asking good questions, then it's really just a shot in the dark,” she told Medical Daily. “Take Carrie Fisher, for example — an actress who has received a bipolar diagnosis in the past and is open to talking about it. Her recent emoji-filled tweets might be interpreted by one person as mania, when it's likely that she's just being silly and engaging her 'Star Wars' fans.”

That same caveat could apply to someone even as unabashed as Kanye, she added. “Many successful artists have a little bit of grandiosity. Social media just gives fans greater access to some of those traits. Whether those delusions of grandeur are a mental health problem or not is debatable. Kanye's grandiosity has worked for him in the past. He tweets, sees an instant response from thousands of people. Who wouldn't be tempted to keep tweeting when you have that kind of ripple effect?”

Smith isn’t entirely skeptical about the idea of social media serving as a useful mirror to our innermost thoughts, though, she merely advocates restraint. “Observing human behavior on social media can be a great tool for alerting you that your friends and family might be experiencing a mental health crisis,” she said. “It's not your responsibility to take care of Kanye, but you can step in and intervene when someone you know appears symptomatic. You can look for signs such as heightened grandiosity, risky photos that seem out of character, posting frequently and/or in the middle of the night, and threats of suicide or self-harm.”

For those wondering by the way, yes, there is indeed a #PrayForKanye hashtag out and about.

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