Oct 6th 2023
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition that impacts a person’s mood, behavior, and relationships. People with NPD can experience what is known as narcissistic collapse when their self-esteem is threatened or damaged. This can cause several reactions, including withdrawal, emotional outbursts, and aggression.
Narcissistic collapse is a term used to describe an emotional response experienced by people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with NPD rely heavily on the admiration and approval of others for their self-esteem. When this is lacking, or they are publicly criticized, it can damage their ego, leading to a narcissistic collapse .
Studies suggest that there are two types of NPD. Overt or grandiose NPD and covert or vulnerable NPD. People with overt NPD tend to have a more substantial belief in their superiority and self-worth, so they might be less likely to experience narcissistic collapse than people with covert NPD, who are more likely to have a fragile ego and low self-esteem .
Narcissistic collapse can happen for various reasons and may appear differently from person to person. The signs and duration of a narcissistic collapse can vary depending on the type of NPD, the cause of the collapse, and the context in which it occurs .
Signs of narcissistic collapse can vary depending on the person and the situation. Some people may display more outward expressions of collapse, while others are more inward and withdrawn. People with covert NPD may show more inward or passive-aggressive signs, while people with overt NPD may show more outwardly expressive signs .
Signs of narcissistic collapse can include:
People with NPD can experience varying levels of self-esteem, which may fluctuate. Studies suggest that, despite outward expressions of arrogance and superiority, people with NPD have a deeply rooted sense of inadequacy and insecurity, which they may or may not be aware of .
Typically, narcissistic traits develop either following abuse, as a defense mechanism and way of reducing feelings of worthlessness, or after receiving excessive praise as a child, thus creating an inflated ego. In both cases, the individual’s belief in their superiority relies heavily on the admiration and validation of others, known as ‘narcissistic supply’ .
If this supply is diminished for any reason, the person with NPD experiences a decrease in their self-worth and self-esteem, which can lead to narcissistic collapse. This may occur due to:
When this occurs, the ego and confidence of the person with NPD are damaged, and their self-esteem cannot be upheld, causing them to recognize or be reminded of their flaws and inadequacies. As such, they experience emotions such as anxiety or shame, causing a ‘collapse’ in their narcissistic traits as they try to recover their control and power .
This reaction will vary depending on the individual. It may cause an outward and aggressive response to someone they believe has damaged their self-esteem. Alternatively, it might result in withdrawal and impaired functioning. In both instances, the individual will likely experience self-criticism and a fear of failure or inferiority .
Narcissistic collapse can last for any length of time and will vary from person to person. For some, it may last just a few hours, while for others, it may last several months or even years. How the individual responds to the narcissistic collapse will influence how quickly they recover.
Often, a person with NPD will lack self-awareness, so they cannot self-reflect and recognize their role in the situation. They will likely blame others for their collapse, causing them to lash out and deflect responsibility .
This helps them release the negative emotions they experienced during their collapse and recover their perceived control and self-esteem. Once this is achieved, the narcissistic collapse will end, and their previous behavior and presentation will return .
Although there is limited evidence for treatments of NPD, various professional interventions are available that can help manage symptoms, including therapy and medications.
Although the FDA has not approved any medications to treat NPD, medications are sometimes prescribed to help manage co-existing conditions or symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, agitation, and aggression. Medicinal treatments that may be helpful for someone with NPD can include :
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