Desperate Housewife: Diagnosing Countess LuAnn de Lesseps


I have a degree in Psychology—as well as one in Early Childhood Development—but am not a practicing mental health professional. I’m determined to uncover the disorders lurking inside the various Real Housewives to better understand them.

Read this post with the usual disclaimer for entertainment purposes only, mostly my entertainment, to be frank.

I continue with another one of the featured people on The Real Housewives Of New York aka RHONY, the Countess LuAnn de Lesseps. I will warn you I may slip and call her countless or LuMan, not professional of me but funny at any rate and force of habit.

LuAnn is, in my opinion, a compensatory type narcissist. The compensatory narcissist covers up a deep-seated deficit in self-esteem with grandiose behavior. Bear with me as I illustrate how I came to this conclusion, because it did take me awhile to pinpoint what exactly was going on with Ms. de Lesseps.

One of the most memorable moments to me on RHONY was during the reunion show. At some point the women were all discussing LuAnn and her book about class, making the usual catty comments when suddenly LuAnn bursts into tears and says with utter shock, you don’t think I am a classy woman? The raw emotion and shame she showed has never been seen by LuAnn on RHONY before or since. Her persona as a Countess with class is so important to her that pointing out it might be mere illusion seems to be the only thing that can drive her to tears.

Other than this we do not see much emotion from LuAnn. She maintains a veneer of polite interest and at times enjoys *witty* depreciation of those she considers beneath her. For the most part though we seem to see very superficial displays of emotion from LuAnn. She maintains a demeanor of somehow being above it all, as if emotions are common and not something a Countess should indulge in. She makes plays at empathy towards Jill but she does not seem to genuinely want to help her or anyone else, in fact she is usually adding to any drama in her subtle and passive aggressive way.

LuAnn recently went through quite a life changing event, she divorced. Much of LuAnn’s self-esteem was tied up in her title and her lifestyle. She has lost the lifestyle which makes her cling all the harder to her to her delusions of grandeur. When Ramona’s husband Mario referred to her as *Countless* it was such a personal affront to her that she could not let it go. She talked and talked of it, a one-off remark, as if it were the worst insult someone ever gave to anyone. A definite overreaction.

The event even resulted in the two separate parties that fateful Labor Day weekend. LuAnn would not attend Ramona’s party until Mario called her personally to apologize for the Countless comment. She threw her own party in revenge and tried to steal all Ramona’s guests. At Ramona’s were Bethenny and Alex and at LuMan’s were Kelly and Jill. Thus the season of two teams started, all because of LuAnn’s revenge play.

LuAnn had a memorable conversation with Bethenny in season one where she corrected her introduction of her to a chauffeur, telling Bethenny that she was to be introduced as the Countess de Lesseps and not as LuAnn. I understand she possessed a title but even real royalty seem to be less concerned about the proper usage of their titles. Throughout the seasons this need to be addressed as the Countess continues to come up.

The fact that an American who merely married into a title insists on its usage even after a divorce from the person who bestowed it on her just strikes me as odd. She clings to it like a security blanket. I believe the fantasy she has created of herself (the Countess) is more valuable to her than her actual self (LuAnn de Lesseps). To call herself a Countess at this point seems to be a wee bit of an exaggeration as she was not born to it and is no longer married to a Count. There is insecurity in being merely LuAnn hiding behind her elegant Countess façade.

I also see her insecurity in her relationship with Jill Zarin. Two narcissists but Jill is clearly the alpha dog. LuAnn bows to her advice, needs her for housing in New York, defends her vehemently to others and seems lost at the idea that Bethenny may intrude on this friendship. LuAnn seemed bound and determined to thwart any reconciliation of the two women. She took every chance to point out the ill behaviors and *betrayals* of Bethenny and seemed to egg Jill Zarin’s rage on. She certainly seemed to be right in the middle of everything and was not ever trying to foster any good between them.

LuAnn continues to seek recognition in other ways. She wrote a book called Class With The Countess, attempting to push herself as a royal version of Miss Manners. During this process she took time to mock Alex and Simon’s attempts to write a parenting book. Even though the topics were different, I think she perceived a threat and went on a bit of a mocking passive aggressive type attack. LuAnn will spin it as wit but there was an underlying hostility that was unwarranted.

When the book failed to generate the glory that LuAnn craves she moved on to a singing career. Referring to herself as a female Barry White, she found a fawning producer to create utter dreck with. This career move was as sudden as the book, out of the blue LuAnn magically is a singer. No further training, seemingly no thought or plan. She just rushed headlong into it, seeking immediate gratification. She is not just doing this as a lark either, she has delusions of an actual career as a singer. Typical of a compensatory narcissist.

Judge for yourself though.

Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder presents as a pervasive pattern of unstable, overtly narcissistic behaviors that derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem, as indicated by ten (or more) of the following:

  • seeks to create an illusion of superiority and to build up an image of high self-worth
  • has disturbances in the capacity for empathy
  • strives for recognition and prestige to compensate for the lack of a feeling of self-worth
  • may acquire a deprecatory attitude in which the achievements of others are ridiculed and degraded
  • has persistent aspirations for glory and status
  • has a tendency to exaggerate and boast
  • is sensitive to how others react to him or her, watches and listens carefully for critical judgment, and feels slighted by disapproval
  • is prone to feel shamed and humiliated and especially hyper-anxious and vulnerable to the judgments of others
  • covers up a sense of inadequacy and deficiency with pseudo-arrogance and pseudo-grandiosity
  • has a tendency to periodic hypochondria
  • alternates between feelings of emptiness and deadness and states of excitement and excess energy
  • entertains fantasies of greatness, constantly striving for perfection, genius, or stardom
  • has a history of searching for an idealized partner and has an intense need for affirmation and confirmation in relationships
  • frequently entertains a wishful, exaggerated, and unrealistic concept of himself or herself which he or she can’t possibly measure up to
  • produces (too quickly) work not up to the level of his or her abilities because of an overwhelmingly strong need for the immediate gratification of success
  • is touchy, quick to take offense at the slightest provocation, continually anticipating attack and danger, reacting with anger and fantasies of revenge when he or she feels frustrated in his or her need for constant admiration
  • is self-conscious, due to a dependence on approval from others
  • suffers regularly from repetitive oscillations of self-esteem
  • seeks to undo feelings of inadequacy by forcing everyone’s attention and admiration upon himself or herself
  • may react with self-contempt and depression to the lack of fulfillment of his or her grandiose expectations

This post originally appeared on A Real Housewife’s View. Republished with permission.

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