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Dr. Peggy Drexler Headshot

He's Justin Bieber: Or So He's Been Told

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You could say that Justin Bieber's recent arrest was inevitable. At the very least, predictable. His bad behavior, after all, has been escalating for a while. Last summer, he was caught on camera squirting cleaning fluid and shouting expletives at a photograph of former president Bill Clinton. That same night, he urinated into a mop bucket used to clean restaurant floors. In November, he got into a Twitter feud with the president of Mexico. Last week, a neighbor alleged Bieber pelted his house with 20 eggs, prompting a police investigation, and just three days ago, the 19-year-old racked up a $75,000 tab at a Miami strip club. Could reckless driving be far behind?

And yet, when he was arrested -- for driving under the influence and drag racing, along with resisting arrest -- he displayed, or so it seems, none of the panic another his age might. Among his comments to the officer who pulled him over just after 4 a.m., in fact: "Why the f**k are you doing this?" and "I ain't got no f***ing weapons" (well, thank goodness for that). In his mug shot, he grins broadly. And why wouldn't he? After all, he's Justin Bieber, or so he's been told.

Since being discovered at age 12, Bieber has grown up on a wave of popularity. His fans are among the most loyal and devout in all of entertainment, and he's got the world's second-most followed Twitter account -- ahead of the leader of the free world at number three. But just as Bieber's not the only one responsible for his success, he's not the only one to blame for his arrest. Celebrity is a narcissistic business, and there's millions to be made off of the cultivation of narcissists. Since Bieber entered the business, his career has grown at the hands of music executives who stood to make a profit on his popularity, not his mental health. He has been surrounded and supported -- raised, you could say -- by professional ego-boosters.

While many celebrities come into the business with narcissistic tendencies that cause them to seek out fame, money and adulation, the entertainment industry does a pretty good job turning the narcissistically-inclined to sufferers of full-blown narcissistic personality disorder, a condition included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Those with it may display such characteristics as having a grandiose sense of self-importance and a belief that you're extraordinarily special or unique. People with NPD have a strong sense of entitlement and lack empathy. There is a preoccupation with money, power or fame. There is no thought to consequences.

And NPD is rampant in Hollywood. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality concluded that celebrities are significantly more narcissistic than the general population. The disorder is especially likely for those who enter show business at a time when their personalities and belief systems are still forming. For former child stars like Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, Macaulay Culkin -- the list goes on -- and, yes, Justin Bieber, narcissism gets worked into the fiber of their being. They take on the role of the narcissist, but less willingly than an adult might. Instead of making a conscious decision about how to act, they act in the only way they know.

While it's possible for NPD to be "passed down" from parent to child, the most common cause of NPD is a combination of factors, not least of which is having other people fueling these most narcissistic characteristics. Bieber has received much support from his fans, some of which gathered to serenade him outside his hotel in the hours after his arrest. During the urinating incident, his companions cheered him on. "That's the coolest spot to piss," said one. "You know, you will forever remember that."

This isn't to say Bieber could help himself. He may still be a teenager, but he's also an adult, and he should be held accountable as one. But let's not forget, he was also raised to act this way. If Bieber is to blame, so, too, is Hollywood itself.