Published On: September 27, 2023
Reviewed On: September 27, 2023
Updated On: September 27, 2023
Narcissistic personality disorder affects about 6% of the population, according to research. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a type of personality disorder that causes someone to have an extreme need to be admired. People with narcissistic traits also tend to lack empathy, exhibit patterns of grandiosity and an inflated sense of self-worth, and can have episodes of intense, uncontrollable aggression and rage.
Multiple studies found that a common aspect of narcissistic vulnerability (as opposed to narcissistic grandiosity) is rage. What is narcissistic rage? When someone with this multifaceted personality disorder is challenged, they commonly react with outrageous, uncontrollable, out of proportion outbursts. This is frequently referred to as narcissistic rage, and anyone in a relationship with someone who has NPD should learn to recognize the signs so they can protect themselves.
Continue reading to learn more — we’re sharing some specific narcissistic rage examples and covering how to identify and cope with a rage episode.
To recognize narcissistic rage signs, look for extreme emotional reactions that occur after somebody receives what they feel is a threat to their self-esteem or sense of superiority. Rage can be triggered by criticism, perceived rejection, or any situation where they feel they’re not being treated as the special and important person they believe themselves to be.
Narcissistic rage may look like:
Tips on how to recognize narcissistic rage in yourself or others:
Some possible scenarios could look like any of the following:
Narcissistic rage is a direct response when someone with NPD perceives threats or attacks on their self-esteem, sense of entitlement, or grandiose self-image. When you know how to help someone with narcissistic personality disorder by understanding the triggers for this extreme and over-the-top emotional reaction, you can manage your emotions and respond effectively to narcissistic behavior.
Narcissist rage isn’t an isolated event. Instead, it’s a cycle that can be dissected and broken down into stages. When you can understand the cycle, you can manage and treat rage, whether you are experiencing it yourself, or you’re on the receiving end.
The following are key stages of the narcissistic rage cycle:
Understanding how to respond to narcissistic rage and learning how to get a narcissist to respect you can diffuse tension and prevent further escalations.
Expert Insight“Narcissistic rage is relatively challenging to deal with because people with narcissism have extreme difficulty taking responsibility for their actions or recognizing how their behavior played a role in creating turmoil.”
These effective strategies can help you navigate how to respond to a narcissist.
The next time you’re confronted with a narcissistic rage episode, try to remain calm and composed. Resist the temptation to get defensive or be aggressive in response. This will only fuel the anger and prolong the rage.
Expert Insight“Avoid reacting in front of someone with narcissism — play it cool.”
When someone is in a narcissistic rage, arguing or confronting them will most likely escalate the situation. Don’t try to prove them wrong, and don’t try to defend yourself against any accusations they might be making. They’re likely unfounded and arguing will do no good. Rather, acknowledge their feelings to defuse the situation — note this doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with them.
Expert Insight“Redirect attacks, by either not acknowledging them or changing the topic.”
If repeated narcissistic abuse is interfering with your relationship or affecting your mental health, it might be time to seek professional help from a therapist. Look for someone who has experience in dealing with personality disorders and can provide you with valuable insights and coping strategies specific to your situation.
Protecting yourself is an essential part of navigating a narcissistic relationship. Especially if the person tends to rage often, you must know how to preserve peace in your environment.
Boundaries are crucial in any relationship, but even more so when you’re in a relationship with someone with NPD. Learning how to set healthy boundaries doesn’t need to be overcomplicated.
Expert Insight“Limit phone calls, texts, and emails — wean off of them if there are currently a lot.”
Be sure to communicate your limits and boundaries so a clear line is drawn about what is acceptable behavior. Make consequences known, and be willing to remove yourself from the situation if things escalate too far.
Expert Insight“Determine what you are willing to accept and what you adamantly refuse to accept. Defend your boundaries to the best of your ability.”
Occasionally, getting out of a situation might be best until the rage has subsided. Before you need it, develop an exit strategy so you have the plan to get yourself — physically and emotionally — to a safe place.
Expert Insight“The best way to protect our peace when dealing with someone with narcissism is to increase our distance between us and them very slowly.”
Narcissistic rage is a complex, serious issue that can cause harm to both parties involved. Thus, you must be aware of how this rage might manifest and learn to deal with it effectively and safely when it happens.
If you need help or support, the mental health professionals at Talkspace understand how to treat and manage narcissistic rage episodes. If someone you care about struggles with narcissistic rage, don’t hesitate to seek help. Talkspace is an online therapy platform that makes getting support easy, affordable, and convenient.
Stinson FS, Dawson DA, Golstein RB, et al. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2008;69(7):1033-1045. doi:10.4088/jcp.v69n0701. Accessed April 18, 2023.
Krizan Z, Johar O. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2015;108(5):784-801. doi:10.1037/pspp0000013. Accessed April 18, 2023.
Meaghan Rice is a mental health consultant specializing in professionals who are looking to close the gap between where they are and where they envision themselves being. With a decade of experience in the mental health field, working in a variety of different capacities, Dr. Rice has found her niche amidst the therapist, consultant, and trainer roles.