Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Is Power the Ultimate Addiction?

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Is Power the Ultimate Addiction?

Article excerpt

As I look at the global political landscape, I am struck by a pervasive theme. High-ranking officials and politicians often resist giving up power--and are willing to do practically anything to hold on to it.

Of course, this is far from a new phenomenon. But as our understanding of human behavior and brain chemistry deepens, we have to ask: Among some people, is this constant quest for power pathological? Is it an addiction?

After all, an addiction is a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences to the individual's health, mental state, or social life. This term covers other compulsions, such as gambling, eating, Internet surfing, work, or lust for power.

Power addiction can reach pathological proportions. Perhaps it's time for psychiatry to take a serious look at how to categorize and treat this problem.

We see this type of addiction not only in politics but also in hospitals, academic institutions, and other workplaces. Its key characteristic is that those who suffer with this addiction are willing to secure power at all costs. Such addicts have been known to secure their hold on power by violating rules and ethics, and by offering perks, bribes, and inappropriate favors. Bullying and silence also are used as weapons.

In a well-known psychological experiment conducted in 1971 by Philip G. …

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