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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 2022, January 18 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.

Mercival
December, 18 2021 at 7:44 am

I'm a vulnerable narcissist (comorbid with BPD, OCD and others) and I have been cutting myself on and off for about 10 years (since I was ~16).
It feels a bit hurtful of you to assume we're doing this to manipulate others. I feel a great deal of guilt, whenever I feel like I do something like this for "attention", though I really only do that when I'm at my absolute wit's end. Oftentimes, I do it when I'm alone, it has to do with the tremendous emotional pain and internalized feelings of my emotions not being valid.
I would NEVER cut myself to intentionally manipulate anyone. If I end up doing that, it's really an inevitable consequence of the tremendous emotional pain, and I always try to put it away as much as I possibly can, as hurting others just isn't something, I take enjoyment in.

December, 20 2021 at 11:12 am

Hi Mercival,
While I am not the author of this post (the original author no longer writes for this blog), I just wanted to say that I'm sorry this post made you feel this way. The intention on this blog, always, is to educate, motivate, and help people feel heard. I believe the author's goal in writing this was the same—to share information about self-harm among narcissists that would help raise awareness about the issue and increase the general population's understanding of it.
I don't think the intention here was to assume that ALL narcissists are using self-harm to manipulate others all the time, but rather to point out that it can (and does) happen and is not uncommon. Some people do it intentionally, others unintentionally, and for some people, it simply isn't the case at all.
Thank you for sharing your perspective; it's important to speak up when you feel misunderstood or misrepresented. I hope future posts around this topic will resonate better with you, and I hope you find our other resources helpful as well. I hope you are able to continue the healing process if you have already begun your recovery journey. If not, I hope that you're able to begin walking that path sooner, rather than later.
If you have any further questions, comments, etc., feel free to post again here or elsewhere on the blog.
Sincerely,
Kim Berkley

JS
October, 30 2021 at 9:24 am

My NPD ex-husband would chew and pick at his nails until they only covered half of the nail bed they are supposed to cover. It was painful just to look at his fingers. He would do it until he would make himself bleed. When I confronted him about it and offered to look into ways to help him stop, he looked at me with angry, lifeless eyes and said slowly and deliberately, “I like the pain.” I left a month later after a 12 year relationship that had advanced to physical abuse after years of emotional abuse, manipulation, and control. I never looked back.

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.

Candace
November, 3 2021 at 9:43 pm

Girl my mom is a covert, brother a (now) toned down malignant, and my two longest relationships: a covert as my high school sweetheart and the man I’ve spent most of my time with, and a grandiose (I just spent 4 years with) I fell for afterwards when I tried to get away from the covert. I am just now realizing messed up dynamic and figuring out a plan. I’ve been looking into whether or not I’m the narcissist. From what I gather it’s likely because I am an empath and most of the people I’m close to from childhood are different types of narcissists... but I haven’t concluded yet. There are some stark differences, I seem to be a clear aura... I think when I act narcissistic it’s because I’m fed up with the narcissist then they turn it around, make me feel bad and make me think I’m at fault. Want to be friends? I want to know what a normal friendship is like. Email me at icandax@gmail.com if you want to be friends!

November, 17 2021 at 8:50 am

Hi Candace,
Although I am not the author of this post, I wanted to pop in to let you know that Martyna is no longer writing for us, and thus might not see your request to connect. You can find more information here, including how to reach her if you'd still like to:
https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/8/goodbye-speaking-out…
For what it's worth, I'm glad that you are on a healing path—simply recognizing that you are in an unhealthy setting is a very important step forward, as is making the choice to try and change your situation. Please be careful about self-diagnosing; it's something I personally have been prone to in the past, and it can sometimes be more of a distraction (and stressor) than a help. If you haven't already, please consider reaching out to a therapist or counselor for additional support; someone like this can be key to helping you gain clearer insight into the problems you are facing and the best ways for you, personally, to overcome them.
I wish you all the best with your recovery. Feel free to reply here or comment again if you have more questions or concerns you'd like to share. Take care!
Sincerely,
Kim

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