Surviving Malignant Narcissism: Causes Traits and Effective Treatment

Mental Health

Understanding Malignant Narcissism: Traits, Causes, and How to Deal With It

Do you know someone who is always talking about themselves, exaggerating their accomplishments, and putting others down? Maybe they have a tendency to manipulate others to get what they want and have a desire for control.

They may also lack empathy, have a constant need for attention, and hold grudges. If these behaviors describe someone you know, you may be dealing with a malignant narcissist.

What is Malignant Narcissism?

Malignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome that encompasses both narcissism and antisocial behavior.

People with this disorder are often characterized by their deep-seated need for admiration and their lack of empathy towards others. They may also display sadistic tendencies, exhibiting a pleasure in causing others pain or discomfort.

Unlike other forms of narcissism, malignant narcissists often have a paranoid streak and can be extremely manipulative.

What Are the Characteristics of a Malignant Narcissist?

Malignant narcissists have a wide range of traits, which can make it difficult to recognize and deal with them. Some of the key characteristics include:

  • Exaggerated self-importance: Malignant narcissists have an inflated sense of self-worth and may constantly seek validation from others.
  • Extremely manipulative: They know how to push people’s buttons and manipulate them to get what they want.
  • Antisocial: They may have a disregard for social norms and rules, or even laws.
  • Paranoia: They may have an irrational fear of others and be constantly on guard against perceived threats.
  • Attention-seeking: They crave attention and will go to great lengths to get it, such as by telling elaborate stories or exaggerating their accomplishments.
  • Tendency to lie: Malignant narcissists may lie about anything to maintain their image, even when there is no benefit to it.
  • Desire for control: They may have an intense need to control others or situations for their benefit.
  • Holding grudges: They may not forgive or forget past insults, perceived slights, or perceived damages.
  • Pleasure in others’ suffering: Malignant narcissists may be sadistic and enjoy seeing others suffer.
  • Inability to accept fault: They may refuse to take responsibility for any mistakes and instead blame others or circumstances.
  • Having many rivals: They may see others as potential threats and may become intensely competitive with them.
  • Concern for appearance: Malignant narcissists may spend a lot of time and effort on their physical appearance, maintaining a facade of importance or attractiveness.
  • Hidden insecurity: Their often grandiose and confident behavior may actually be masking a deeply insecure or wounded sense of self.
  • Inability to handle criticism: They may react poorly to any critique, real or perceived, and may attack the person critiquing them.
  • Lack of empathy: They may be unable to understand or experience the feelings of others and can be callous or cruel to those they see as beneath them.

What Causes Malignant Narcissism?

Malignant narcissism can have a variety of causes, some of which include:

  1. Excessively Pampered Parenting

    Children who are overindulged and told they can do no wrong may grow up with a sense of entitlement and superiority.

  2. Excessively Strict Parenting

    Children who grow up in harsh or punitive households may end up feeling insecure or angry, leading to a need to control or dominate others.

  3. Childhood Trauma and Abuse

    Experiencing trauma or abuse as a child can lead to a range of issues, including a sense of powerlessness and difficulty forming healthy relationships.

  4. Personality and Temperament

    Some researchers believe that people with narcissistic traits may be born with a certain personality and temperament that makes them more likely to become malignant narcissists.

  5. Genetics

    There may be a genetic component to narcissistic personality disorder although the extent of that link is still a matter of research.

How Can You Deal With a Malignant Narcissist?

Dealing with a malignant narcissist can be challenging, but there are strategies that can help protect your own mental health and well-being.

  • Moving away: If possible, try to create some physical distance between yourself and the malignant narcissist.
  • Seeking help: Consider speaking with a mental health professional who can help you sort through your feelings and develop healthy coping strategies.
  • Making no contact: Sometimes the best way to deal with a malignant narcissist is to have no contact with them at all. Block them on social media or cut off all communication.
  • Being prepared for the outcome: Narcissists often become extremely angry or vindictive when challenged, so be prepared for backlash if you choose to confront them.
  • Not internalizing the insult: Try not to take the narcissist’s behavior personally, as it is often a reflection of their own issues rather than a reflection on you.

Can Malignant Narcissism be Treated?

As with any personality disorder, treatment for malignant narcissism is complex and often involves psychotherapy.

While some people with this disorder may be able to make progress in managing their symptoms, others may not be willing to change or may lack insight into their behavior. It is important to remember that you cannot change a person’s behavior against their will.

The best you can do is take care of yourself and seek support when needed.

In conclusion, malignant narcissism is a serious psychological syndrome that can be extremely challenging to deal with. However, with the right strategies and support, you can protect your own mental health and well-being. By staying informed and educated about this disorder, you can better understand the behavior of the malignant narcissist in your life and develop a plan for dealing with them while also taking care of yourself.

Causes of Malignant Narcissism: Exploring the Root of the Problem

Malignant narcissism is a complex psychological disorder that can be caused by a multitude of factors. While there is no one definitive cause of malignant narcissism, a wide range of factors can contribute to the development of this personality disorder.

Excessively Pampered Parenting

One of the main causes of malignant narcissism is excessively pampered parenting. Children who are constantly praised and rewarded for everything they do, regardless of whether it is good or bad, learn that they are entitled to special treatment.

This creates a strong sense of entitlement and self-importance, which can become a defining feature of their personality later in life. They may also develop a belief that they are superior to others, leading to a lack of empathy and an inability to relate to others.

Excessively Strict Parenting

On the other hand, excessively strict parenting can also lead to the development of malignant narcissism. Children who grow up in households where punishment is severe and relentless become fearful of making any mistake.

They may also develop an intense need to please others, leading to a fear of standing out or being different. Alternatively, they may become rebellious in response to strict parenting, which can manifest later in life as antisocial behavior and a disregard for rules and norms.

Childhood Trauma and Abuse

Childhood trauma and abuse can have a profound impact on a child’s development, leading to a range of emotional and psychological issues in adulthood, including malignant narcissism. Children who experience physical, emotional, or sexual abuse may develop a sense of distrust and paranoia towards others, causing them to become manipulative and controlling later in life.

They may have difficulty forming healthy relationships and struggle with feelings of worthlessness.

Personality and Temperament

Some researchers believe that certain personality traits can make an individual more susceptible to developing malignant narcissism. For instance, individuals who have an extreme need for control and perfectionism may be more likely to develop this personality disorder.

Additionally, people who are easily overwhelmed, anxious or stressed may be more likely to develop this disorder as they crave the attention and validation that come with the narcissistic personality.


Genetics may also play a role in the development of malignant narcissism. Certain genes have been implicated in the development of personality disorders, including narcissism.

However, it’s important to note that genetics alone do not determine the outcome of personality development. Environmental factors and life experiences also contribute to the development of personality disorders.

How to Deal with a Malignant Narcissist: Strategies to Stay Safe and Sane

Dealing with a malignant narcissist can be daunting, but there are strategies you can use to protect yourself and maintain your mental well-being.

Moving Away

If you are in a relationship with a malignant narcissist, consider moving away. While this may not always be possible if you are still living with them, relocating to a different state or country can create physical distance and lessen contact.

Seeking Help

If you are struggling to manage your relationship with a malignant narcissist, seek help. Therapy can provide you with valuable coping strategies, as well as help you process any trauma that may have arisen from the relationship.

Making No Contact

Often, the most effective way to deal with a malignant narcissist is to make no contact with them. This means cutting off all forms of communication, not answering their calls, and block them on social media.

This strategy can help you cut ties and move on from the harmful relationship.

Being Prepared for the Outcome

When you confront a narcissist or challenge their behavior, they are like to retaliate with anger, vindictiveness and aggression. It is important to prepare mentally and emotionally for the repercussions that may result.

Not Internalizing the Insult

It is common for a malignant narcissist to engage in verbal abuse, belittling and demeaning language towards their victims. It is best to remember that the narcissist’s behavior, thoughts and feelings are not a reflection of you as a person.

If you are dealing with a situation such as this, do not internalize the insults.

In conclusion, malignant narcissism is a complex disorder that can have a variety of causes. While there is no one definitive cause, a combination of environmental, situational, personality and genetic factors can contribute to its development. Coping with a malignant narcissist can be challenging, but there are strategies that can help you protect and maintain your mental well-being.

By understanding the root causes of this disorder and taking steps to protect oneself, one can avoid being subject to the negative consequences of narcissistic behavior while also maintaining their own sense of self-worth.

Treatment of Malignant Narcissism: A Comprehensive Approach to Recovery

Malignant narcissism is a challenging personality disorder to treat.

Because it is a complex mental health condition that manifests differently in each individual, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. However, psychotherapy has been shown to be an effective tool in helping individuals with this disorder manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counseling, is a form of treatment that involves talking with a trained mental health professional.

Psychotherapy can be done in an individual or group setting, and sessions may be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. There are different types of psychotherapy, and the right one for an individual depends on their individual needs and symptoms.

How Can Psychotherapy Help People with Malignant Narcissism?

Psychotherapy can help people with malignant narcissism in several ways:

  1. Develop Insight

    First and foremost, psychotherapy can help individuals with malignant narcissism gain insight into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By becoming aware of how their disorder affects their relationships with others, they can begin to make changes and work towards improving their interpersonal skills.

  2. Learning Coping Strategies

    Psychotherapy can offer education on effective coping strategies and provide opportunities for skill-building.

    Malignant narcissists often struggle with managing anger, impulsivity, and maintaining relationships with others. By learning coping skills such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and communication strategies, they can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their relationships with others.

  3. Addressing Underlying Issues

    Individuals with malignant narcissism often have underlying emotional and psychological issues that contribute to their condition.

    Psychotherapy can help address these issues and offer support and guidance to help individuals work through traumatic experiences, unresolved emotional conflicts, or other unresolved issues.

  4. Strengthening Self-Esteem

    Psychotherapy can also help people with malignant narcissism strengthen their self-esteem. An individual’s sense of self-worth may be low due to the exaggerated sense of self-importance commonly seen in malignant narcissism.

    By building self-esteem, they can learn to feel better about themselves and improve their relationships with others.

What Types of Psychotherapy are Helpful for Malignant Narcissism?

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach that aims to help individuals identify and change negative or unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors.

    CBT can help individuals with malignant narcissism recognize their patterns of behavior, assist them in identifying negative thoughts and attitudes, and develop new problem-solving skills. CBT focuses on the importance of recognizing and changing problematic thoughts and behaviors to improve your overall mental health.

  2. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

    Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a therapeutic intervention designed mainly for individuals with borderline personality disorder but can also help people with malignant narcissism.

    It includes an emphasis on emotional regulation and improving one’s ability to manage problematic interpersonal relationships. DBT combines behavior therapy with mindfulness meditation in an effort to increase self-acceptance and achieve balance, improve emotional control and regulation.

  3. Psychodynamic Therapy

    Psychodynamic therapy is a therapeutic approach that emphasizes the individual’s relationship with their unconscious thoughts and feelings.

    This technique can help individuals with malignant narcissism identify their defense mechanisms such as denial, projection or splitting which are often a detrimental aspect of this personality disorder. Psychodynamic therapy can be helpful in treating childhood traumas, attachment disorders or dissociative states.

  4. Family Therapy

    Family therapy is another therapeutic approach that can be helpful in treating individuals with malignant narcissism.

    Family therapy aims at exploring family dynamics and interpersonal issues between family members to help improve communication and reduce negative emotions. As oftentimes family members play an influential role in the development of the disorder, family therapy can be helpful in addressing more systemic dynamics related to the formation of malignant narcissism.

In conclusion, psychotherapy can be a valuable tool for individuals with malignant narcissism. While it may be challenging, with the right approach, psychotherapy can help people with this disorder gain insight into their condition, learn coping skills, and improve their relationships with others.

A combination of different therapeutic approaches such as CBT, DBT, Psychodynamic therapy or Family therapy can tailor the treatment to the individual’s needs and help them achieve a healthy and fulfilling life.

In conclusion, malignant narcissism is a complicated psychological condition that can lead to dysfunction in personal relationships, work, or societal structures.

It can be caused by an array of environmental, situational, personality, and genetic factors. Learning how to manage or treat malignant narcissism can not only help individuals with the disorder but also improve interactions with people and communities who are struggling with people who have the disorder.

While it may be challenging to deal with malignant narcissism, psychotherapy has been proven to be a helpful tool. With the right approach and combination of therapies, individuals with malignant narcissism can gain a better understanding of themselves by managing their symptoms, and improving their interpersonal relationships.

Improved treatment and awareness of malignant narcissism can significantly enhance the well-being and emotional fulfillment of individuals and communities affected by this disorder.

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