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Do Narcissists Self-Harm?

May 3, 2021 Martyna Halas

Narcissism and self-harm may not seem like an obvious pair. After all, most narcissists think extremely highly of themselves, so engaging in self-injurious behaviors might seem like a counter-intuitive action. However, there is a form of narcissism where self-harm is more prominent, and some might even use it to manipulate their victim.

What Is Narcissism and How It Links to Self-Harm

According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder, is a mental condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward others.1 A relationship with a narcissist can be extremely challenging as it often goes with emotional abuse and rage outbursts towards the partner.

In general, there are two types of narcissism:

  • Grandiose narcissism — This is the most apparent type that many people recognize. It includes common narcissistic traits such as elevated self-esteem, low empathy, aggression, and fascination with power.
  • Vulnerable (or covert) narcissism — Contrary to popular belief, not all narcissists think highly of themselves. Vulnerable narcissism includes atypical symptoms such as low self-esteem, fear of criticism, shame, and poor emotion regulation.

Vulnerable narcissists seem quiet and introverted at first. However, they still display neurotic behaviors and demand constant attention. They will often believe that the world is out to get them and make themselves look like victims in all situations. They are also more prone to depression and self-harm than grandiose types.2

Both groups treat criticism as a personal attack. For this reason, they might engage in reckless, self-destructive behaviors and be prone to other issues such as substance abuse and mood disorders.3

Do Narcissists Self-Harm? Some of Them Do

Many people think that narcissists would never self-harm due to their inflated egos. However, that may not always be true.

Research shows that vulnerable narcissists are at higher risk of self-injury as their self-esteem is low, and they often struggle with feelings of shame and guilt.2 However, it's important to note that suicide attempts might occur with both grandiose and vulnerable types.

Grandiose narcissists might hurt themselves (impulsively rather than repetitively) in an attempt to manipulate or exploit their victims.3 Although the motivation for this behavior is very different from a typical self-harmer who is far from attention-seeking, it's still a form of self-mutilation. 

Besides all that, narcissism often goes hand-in-hand with other co-morbidities, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is a condition commonly associated with self-injury.4 Therefore, we can assume that some narcissists do self-harm, though it's not a typical trait.

Have you come across a narcissist who self-harms? Let me know in the comments.

Sources

  1. Mayo Clinic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Diseases and Conditions, Accessed May 2021.
  2. Stoner, P., "Vulnerable Narcissism, Self-Criticism, and Self-Injurious Behavior: Emotion Regulation as a Moderator." Master's Theses, December 2018.
  3. Dawood S. et al., “Pathological Narcissism and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury.” Journal of Personality Disorders, February 2018.
  4. McCommon B., “Borderline Personality Disorder with Narcissistic Features." Borderline Personality Disorder, September 2018.

APA Reference
Halas, M. (2021, May 3). Do Narcissists Self-Harm?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, September 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/5/do-narcissists-self-harm



Author: Martyna Halas

Find Martyna on Facebook, InstagramMedium and on her blog.

SP
September, 10 2021 at 7:40 am

Yes... my narc bf has used self harm to manipulate me. The first time was in bed and I was falling asleep... he didn't like that... I was supposed to be up and paying attention to him. You can't go to bed until he says so, after all. I heard him saying "Oh man, that feels good..." and I opened my eyes to see him burning his own arm with a cigarette. He did this multiple times in our relationship.
In one of his past relationships he severely burned himself with a red hot fork in order to manipulate his ex. He said he intended to burn her but at the last moment decided to burn himself. Very sick.

Jk
July, 1 2021 at 10:30 pm

I am married to a man that has a lot of childhood trauma. We have been married 6 yrs., together for 8 yrs. It is difficult to figure out. I feel like it is a mixture of BPD, NPD, bipolar, DID. I am at my white end. He loves me to the point of being obsessed but then hates me sometimes and accuses/threatens. There is no middle ground. It is a constant mind game. Trying to exit smoothly. Fearing he might stalk me.

Ceren
June, 14 2021 at 6:34 pm

Honestly too many. Both the grandiose who use it to manipulate and the vulnerable who use it to self-regulate, I also saw the malignant who used it to scene someone with a crime they didn't commit... All in one family, I am the scapegoat of.
I saw less normal (personality-wise) people self-harming than narcissists, and imho narcissists are more prone to self-harm after a traumatic past that non-narcissists would make it out of without self-harm, like they aren't emotionally resilient.
I'm a (luckily) non-narcissistic member of two narcissistic dynasties, am a scapegoat and saw all kinds of severe&repeated abuse including sexual abuse at 2 y/o, routine neglect, bullying, traffic accidents, murder attempts, trauma was my daily life. I am suffering from DID and c-PTSD, yet I don't self harm as much as my golden sisters who were put on a pedestal and treated like treasures do. Normally I would be more likely to self-harm, CSA, dissociation, PTSD... But my golden sister, who is a full-blown grandiose narcissist now with no history of "typical" abuse and neglect, used to cut herself bc her teacher didn't pay "enough" attention to her at class that week... The enough here being not focusing solely on her and stuff.
Like that's all it got for her to injure herself. It was so weird seeing someone so full of herself going so far to hurt herself at the same time.
My malignant NPDd mom, who got diagnosed after her scapegoat (me) left and she collapsed, multiple times used suicide as a weapon, and projected even that trait on me when I was suffering from suicidal thoughts during a major depressive episode, saying I was just manipulating her, wasn't seriously suicidal and guilt-tripping them to take care of me.
Everything comes after their egos, your health, their health, your life, even their own lives sometimes. The holy ego is everything. And we are all nothings in its disposal.

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