Do Narcissists Self-Harm?
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.
- Mayo Clinic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Diseases and Conditions, Accessed May 2021.
- Stoner, P., "Vulnerable Narcissism, Self-Criticism, and Self-Injurious Behavior: Emotion Regulation as a Moderator." Master's Theses, December 2018.
- Dawood S. et al., “Pathological Narcissism and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury.” Journal of Personality Disorders, February 2018.
- McCommon B., “Borderline Personality Disorder with Narcissistic Features." Borderline Personality Disorder, September 2018.
Halas, M. (2021, May 3). Do Narcissists Self-Harm?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, May 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/speakingoutaboutselfinjury/2021/5/do-narcissists-self-harm
Author: Martyna Halas
I had a 10 year marriage to a man with classic vulnerable NPD. (We were late middle-aged.) But probably many other mental health issues. His personality profile from marital counselor was scary! Histrionic over non-events. Abusive verbally and physically. Inability to keep jobs or maintain friendships. Inert unless he was up to no good eg cheating, spreading lies. But extremely under-functional in household. I was in fact shocked that someone his age had so little comprehension of normal things that go into basic home care and relationships. Such as But not nearly limited to family calendar, dryer lint filter, grocery list, ovens have to be cleaned. Leaving note when you go out. It was like living with a Conehead. Then always trying to control and teach ME how to do everything.
I single patented for several decades (2 children 20 years apart. Five college degrees. Professional career. I had to know how to run a home efficiently and well. And so, when he was always trying to change the way I ran the household- I knew he was FOS. He was less than polite and didn't offer to help. Just always telling me I was doing it all wrong
He was always looking for confirmation bias with outsiders. Always took all credit for house, garden, finances, children, pets. Took control and pretended my stuff wasn't mine. Started going to my friend's house without me - telling her how badly he was treated. Took all credit. She decided he sounded like a good catch.
I overheard plans that were rather sinister. Filed for divorce and order of protection. Submitted evidence on the truth about everything I knew he would lie about. I just started out by asking a few questions - immediately caught him in a lie. Just shrugged and let the judge take over.
My ex ran his mouth and told lie after lie. Judge kept catching him in lies and general admissions of bad behavior. I ended up with 80% of the house- which wasn't what he was expecting.
As soon as the judgement was made, he balled up his fist and punched himself fairly hard on thr side of his head. While we were both standing right in front of the judge.
Have you come across a narcissist who self-harms? hahahahaha
Every now and then she'll hit her face and once she strangled her neck leaving nail marks. Who do you think people blamed??? come on guess. Aha, you got that right, ME!?!?!?
At first, she'd just hit herself over the face or neck and everyone would blame me... some almost either called the police or wanted to give me the same marks but she'd stop them claiming she's the bigger person.
That's until she accidentally used her nails and that's when I could prove it wasn't me because I don't have nails duh. and people started to believe me and started pointing fingers at her. that's when she stopped.
I did, however, split her lip once, I know I messed up and did a very very bad thing, but after 3-4 hours of gaslighting for a few days straight, while I was trying to work from home during the pandemic, and me asking her repeatedly to stop without raising my voice or arguing back. I remember yelling STOP! and closing my eyes, next thing I knew she started bleeding, and she called 911(ambulance) while I went mad punching every wall in the house because of what I did..., I was lucky she needed me for cash and did not ask for the police. Stayed 3 more years with her and finally escaped from there.
My boyfriend just committed suicide this past Sunday. He was a vulnerable narc. He suffered a narc collapse and took his own life with his gun.
I am so sorry for your loss. I know there is not much that a stranger on the internet can say that will help in a situation like this. But I do want to share our resources page with you, in case you're feeling like you can use some extra support (either in terms of information or therapeutic services—it would not be surprising to me if you wanted/needed some extra support during a time like this):
That page also includes suicide hotline numbers, in case you or anyone else you know may need them—whether to talk through anything you may be going through, yourself, or simply to talk about what happened with your boyfriend.
I also wanted to thank you for sharing this, as difficult as it must have been to. It's important that people recognize that narcissists, too, can be vulnerable and can struggle with the same darkness and difficulties that other human beings can (and do, on a daily basis).
If you have anything else you'd like to share (or ask), don't hesitate to reply here or elsewhere on the blog. I'll be here.
I had one that would hurt his self when he made up stories that made it seem like he saved the day. He made up a story that someone broke in his garage, they fought, and he beat the guy up and knocked him out, and he called the police. It was weird and creepy, because I didn’t see no police.
That does sound strange and definitely scary. I hope both of your situations have gotten better since then. If you need any support or resources at this time, be sure to check out our resource page:
Yes, Mine was diagnosed with depression which requires medication (prozac). I had two opportunities to leave, once in couples therapy and another when I almost filed for divorce 11 years ago. Of course, I was love bombed and hoovered the first time I wanted to get a divorce. I put her self-centredness to narcissism, but I hadn't heard of pathological narcissism until recently. She drinks alcohol even though medicated with Prozac, which is a no-no. I confronted her about this several times. I think this combination clouded her judgment to the extent that she amputated the tip of a finger.
Anyway, somehow the topic of recreational marijuana came up and my wife said, "I hope that our state adopts this because I want to sit by the pool and get a buzz." Then she confesses to using recreational marijuana at least once. I have to admit I think she has probably done it more times than just once.
Just marijuana and prozac are a bad combination, which my wife who had worked in the pharmaceutical industry should have known. When I told my lawyer who is filing my divorce that she mixed alcohol and Prozac. And he interrupted to say, “alcohol, Prozac, and marijuana are a bad combination.” And I hadn’t even mentioned the marijuana at that point.
Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry to hear you and your wife have been through so much. It's definitely not a good place to be when you start mixing alcohol and drugs like Prozac—and adding other substances on top of that isn't likely to improve the situation. I hope the divorce helps you get back control of your life, and I hope your wife gets the help it sounds like she needs.
I’ve been in two relationships wherein I would be hurt or upset about something and I’d see this shocking, red fury flash across their faces and they’d start hitting themselves repeatedly. I did it once, too, in one of these relationships. I will ever do it again.
I'm sorry you've been through such intense and distressing situations. It's good to hear that you don't intend to hurt yourself again. That's an important resolution both to make and to hold on to. If you ever find yourself wavering, please don't hesitate to reach out for support.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com if you want to be friends!
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:
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!