Metrosexuality: A Personality Disorder?

Opinion.jpgIt isn’t simply about paying nearly obscene sums for your haircut, or ordering your theta meditation-delta sleep system pack from It’s about creating an image of yourself as an exceptionally groomed specimen, dressed and odored to kill.

Nothings wrong with that at a personal level. In fact, current levels of permissiveness allow far worse than that, culturally speaking. But the hidden agenda behind metrosexuality, the ulterior motive, is best expressed by the term’s inventor, Mark Simpson’s description on

The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis — because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. Particular professions, such as modeling, waiting tables, media, pop music and, nowadays, sport, seem to attract them but, truth be told, like male vanity products and herpes, they’re pretty much everywhere.

If young Narcissus was immortalized as a personality disorder by Freud, isn’t it unfair not to accord the same status to today’s metrosexuals? Unfair to the rest of us, I mean.

In a world increasingly driven by social and community awareness, dedicating your life to look and walk like Austin Powers has the real seeds of triggering off a regressive evolutionary step. Increasingly fueled by the fashion and leisure industry, glossy magazines for men and advertisements carefully designed to subliminally merchandise the metrosexual lifestyle almost certainly have a profound effect on today’s youth, alienating them from today’s real-life issues that matter.

In Freudese, narcissism is the “libidinal compliment to the egoism of the instinct of self-preservation” or in simple words: the development of your “self” gets arrested at the level of obsessive self-love. Is metrosexuality any different then?

I would argue that its political correctness is sustained by our media’s dependence on advertisements as its life-blood. While metrosexuals represent a quantum leap in market expansion for the fashion industry, it represents a step backward for the post-modern psyche — minds that could have been better utilized for ‘real’ issues facing mankind. ASN (Acquired Situational Narcissism), a term coined by Robert B. Millman, professor of Psychiatry, Cornell
University, describes it as being:

…triggered and supported by the celebrity-obsessed society: fans, assistants and tabloid media all play into the idea that the person really is vastly more important than other people, triggering a narcissistic problem that might have been only a tendency, or latent, and helping it to become a full-blown personality disorder.

But today’s metrosexuals might be blissfully unaware that their much admired lifestyle might fulfill all the criteria for making it into the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), the holy book of medical disorders.

  • hs96dwl

    womanhood: a personality disorder?

  • Only a fraction of women abandon womanhood to search for the attain a form of self-expression that metrosexuality implies (?chickhood, maybe is a right expression). For them, ASN is an accurate description of the personality disorder.

  • hs96dwl

    most, although by no means all, of the women i know are exceptionally groomed, dressed and odored to kill (your definition of a metrosexual.) in the west, this is the norm. perhaps we’re in danger here of medicalising normal behaviour (were you being gay sensitive in quoting icd-10 rather than dsm?)

    you also say that there’s nothing wrong with metrosexuality at the personal level, then expand your thesis to include consumerism and alienation. i would suggest bakunin is better than freud at this level of analysis.

    still, maybe i’m simply not familiar enough with the concept to follow your reasoning. although i’ve spent time in nyc, i live in the uk. metrosexuality hasn’t made such an impact here. i think our teeth are too crooked to take it seriously.

  • I do agree that many metrosexuals (and others) are in danger of staring at themselves into oblivion, we may be jumping the gun here to describe this as a personality disorder. As much as I love acronyms, Acquired Situational Narcissism (ASN) seems pretty normal to me.

    This might just be my burgeoning metrosexuality talking, but after seeing a lot of well-dressed people doesn’t it make you thinking about your dress? In a similar way, after watching a commercial about pies or hamburgers, it may make your hungry for the same. Of course someone could be described (and I’m sure they are) as having Acquired Situational Gluttony, but sometimes pies are just delicious.

    If we let others always determine how we dress/look, then there is probably a problem there — not necessarily a disorder per se though. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of what we are doing and why.

    Again though, maybe I’m just so into the metrosexual machine that I can’t see past my cardigan…

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  • Women abandoning femininity, men abandoning masculinity. Is anyone getting laid?

  • James

    Yes, people are having sex. And, men are not abandoning masculinity nor are women abandoning femininity….I think what is happening is that both sexes now see a far greater range of gender identity options, especially in terms of behavior and preferences.

  • Amanda

    This phenomena is nothing new. Look at David Bowie and Carnaby Street. Look at Oscar Wilde. Look at fops and dandies from Regency times. What about the Greeks version of masculinity? This is far from Post Modern and far from unnatural, its just a quirk in human nature, probably more to do with a pack instinct than narcissim…

Sudip Ghosh, MD

Sudip Ghosh, MD, is a surgeon at the University of Manchester, UK and a medical writer.

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