Does Narcissism Get Worse with Age
Does Narcissism Get Worse with Age

As we age, we often witness changes in our personalities and behaviors. For some individuals, these changes can be positive, leading to personal growth and wisdom. However, for others, particularly those with narcissistic traits, the question arises: Does narcissism get worse with age?

Narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy towards others.

In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of narcissism and explore whether it intensifies as individuals grow older, shedding light on the potential factors that contribute to this phenomenon and its implications for both the individuals themselves and their relationships.

Key Takeaways

  • Narcissism is a complex personality disorder characterized by an inflated sense of self – importance, lack of empathy for others, and an exaggerated sense of entitlement.
  • While some studies suggest that certain aspects of narcissism decline with age, more severe cases may worsen due to personal vulnerabilities and external influences such as societal factors like ageism or sexism.
  • As narcissists age, their personality traits can become more pronounced and difficult to manage, including heightened insecurity and paranoia, increased demands for attention or control over situations while decreasing empathy towards those around them.
  • Aging narcissists may also struggle with feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness as they lose the ability to manipulate others as effectively as they once could. It’s important to recognize these patterns early on in order to prevent further harm towards oneself or others.

Understanding Narcissism

Narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by grandiose self-importance, lack of empathy for others, and an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

Definition And Symptoms

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, excessive need for admiration, and lack of empathy towards others.

Individuals suffering from NPD often possess fragile self-esteem that relies heavily on external validation or narcissistic supply.

Some common symptoms associated with NPD include arrogance, entitlement, envy of others’ success or achievements, constant demands for admiration and attention, belittling those perceived as inferior or weaker, and inability to take criticism constructively.

Additionally, narcissists may exhibit inappropriate displays of anger known as “narcissistic rage” when confronted with setbacks or threats to their elevated status.

Different Types Of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a complex mental health condition with varying types and symptoms. Understanding these distinct subtypes can help identify the root of narcissistic behavior and provide insight into effective treatment or coping strategies. The different types of Narcissistic Personality Disorder include:

  1. Grandiose Narcissism: Characterized by excessive self-importance, grandiose expectations, and a lack of empathy for others. Grandiose narcissists are often outwardly confident and charismatic but depend on constant praise and admiration.
  2. Vulnerable Narcissism: Unlike their grandiose counterparts, vulnerable narcissists have fragile self-esteem, are prone to depressive symptoms, and feel easily threatened by criticism or perceived slights.
  3. Malignant Narcissism: This subtype involves a toxic mix of antisocial behavior, dangerous levels of aggression, and sadistic tendencies alongside traditional narcissistic traits like inflated self-esteem.
  4. Covert (or Closet) Narcissism: Covert narcissists possess many characteristics typical of classic narcissism but may not outwardly display them. Instead, they are more subtle in seeking attention and validation while nursing a deep sense of insecurity.
  5. Somatic Narcissism: Somatic narcissists derive their self-worth from their physical appearance or attractiveness, often obsessing over fitness routines, diets, or cosmetic procedures to maintain an ideal image.
  6. Cerebral Narcissism: Intellectual prowess is the primary source of pride for cerebral narcissists who use their intelligence to assert superiority over others while belittling those they perceive as less smart.
  7. Spiritual Narcissism: By presenting themselves as spiritually enlightened individuals with divine connections or special gifts, spiritual narcissists exploit religion or spirituality to manipulate others while feeding their need for admiration.
  8. Parental (or Inverted) Narcissism: Parental narcissists live vicariously through their children’s achievements and success in order to bolster their fragile egos, often controlling or dominating their children’s lives and exhibiting signs of narcissistic abuse.
  9. Communal Narcissism: These individuals maintain an inflated self-image by showcasing their contributions to the community or engaging in charitable acts but are primarily motivated by the recognition and praise they receive rather than genuine care for others.

It is crucial to recognize that these subtypes often overlap, with individuals demonstrating symptoms from multiple categories. By understanding the various manifestations of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, we can better comprehend the complexities of this mental health condition and its impact on both narcissists and those who interact with them.

The Influence Of Age On Narcissism

As we age, our personality traits tend to become more stable, but does narcissism worsen with time? Discover the research findings and possible reasons for worsening of narcissism in this section.

Research Findings And Studies

Numerous studies have been conducted to understand the relationship between aging and narcissism, with varying results. In a longitudinal study by psychologist Brent Roberts and his colleagues from the University of Illinois, it was discovered that certain aspects of narcissism tend to decline as people grow older.

The researchers found that traits such as vanity, exploitativeness, and self-centeredness saw a notable decrease in individuals aged 40 to 60.

However, not all research aligns with these findings. A study published in the Journal of Personality Disorders examined pathological narcissists who exhibited extreme levels of fragility and vulnerability alongside feelings of grandiosity; this type of severe condition tended to persist well into old age for some subjects.

In summary, while various studies indicate that some components of narcissism do wane as individuals mature chronologically, more severe cases may defy this trend – thus underscoring the importance of considering individual differences when examining the link between age and these personality traits.

Possible Reasons For Worsening Of Narcissism

There are several possible reasons why narcissism can worsen with age. One reason is the difficulty of facing one’s own mortality and physical decline, which can cause heightened insecurity and paranoia in aging narcissists.

Additionally, as they lose their ability to manipulate others, they may become more desperate for attention and validation, leading to increased demands and outbursts. Moreover, research suggests that a history of unresolved childhood trauma or failed relationships can contribute to the development of pathological narcissism later in life.

Finally, societal factors such as ageism and sexism may also play a role in exacerbating pre-existing narcissistic tendencies.

The Role Of Life Events In Narcissistic Traits

Narcissistic traits often emerge or intensify during certain life events, such as losing a job, ending a romantic relationship, experiencing financial difficulties, and facing health issues.

For example, if a narcissist loses their job or experiences financial setbacks, they may become increasingly demanding and manipulative towards family members or partners who are financially supporting them.

Similarly, if a narcissist ends a romantic relationship, they may feel rejected and humiliated which can cause them to engage in destructive behaviors like stalking or spreading rumors about their ex-partner.

Does Narcissism Get Worse With Age?

As we explore the impact of aging on narcissism, we’ll examine why some experts believe that this personality trait can actually worsen over time.

The Impact Of Aging On Narcissistic Traits

As narcissists age, their personality traits may become more pronounced and difficult to manage. Heightened insecurity and paranoia can cause them to lash out at those around them in fits of rage, often accompanied by hurtful comments and actions.

In addition, as they lose the ability to manipulate others as effectively as they once could, aging narcissists may struggle with feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness.

This can lead to an increase in demands for attention or control over situations, along with a decrease in empathy towards those around them.

Heightened Insecurity And Paranoia

As narcissists age, they become increasingly insecure and paranoid. They are often plagued by fears that others are plotting against them or trying to take advantage of them.

Narcissists also experience heightened feelings of insecurity as they age. They may become more sensitive to criticism or rejection, even if it is not intended as such. This fragility can lead them to lash out at others or withdraw completely from social situations.

Physical Deterioration And Narcissistic Supply

As narcissists age, their deteriorating physical appearance can severely impact their sense of self-worth. The loss of their youthful looks and abilities often leads to a decline in the amount of attention they receive from others, which is known as narcissistic supply.

Without this constant stream of attention and admiration, aging narcissists may become even more aggressive and demanding. They may lash out at those closest to them or resort to extreme measures such as plastic surgery or other treatments in an attempt to reverse the effects of aging.

In conclusion, physical deterioration can indeed play a significant role in exacerbating narcissistic traits among aging individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Decreased Ability To Manipulate Others

As narcissists age, their ability to manipulate others often decreases. This is because aging brings physical and cognitive decline, which can impair a narcissist’s capacity to control situations and people.

For instance, an aging narcissistic parent may no longer be capable of pulling all the strings in a family as their children mature into adults with independent lives.

This reduction in manipulative power can cause a narcissist to feel threatened and insecure. They may lash out with rage or become withdrawn and depressed when they cannot get what they want through manipulation tactics like gaslighting or guilt-tripping.

In severe cases, this loss of control over others can lead to explosive behavior that damages relationships and creates long-term emotional scars for those involved.


In conclusion, it is evident that narcissism can indeed get worse with age. Aging narcissists often struggle to uphold their grandiose image and may lash out in rage when challenged.

The decline of cognitive abilities and physical health may also contribute to an increase in insecurity and paranoia. While some individuals may naturally mature out of their narcissistic traits, others may require therapy or other interventions.