What is a Malignant Narcissist?

Narcissism, word cloud concept on white background.

Dealing with a narcissistic person in any situation is challenging. You may be, for example, divorcing a narcissist and, as a result facing an onslaught of legal issues and disagreements.

Narcissistic people in that context tend to try to make a divorce as hard as they can, and they’re often unwilling to negotiate in any way. These situations tend to lead to a lot of drama, expense, and drawn-out legal processes.

You could be dealing with a narcissist in other situations as well, such as in your career or perhaps with a family member.

There’s also a specific type of narcissist that you may hear discussed, which is the malignant narcissist.

Below, we talk more about what exactly is meant by the term malignant narcissism.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

First, narcissistic personality disorder is much more than the shallow, self-loving concept we may see in the media or movies. Instead, someone with a narcissistic personality disorder is often driven by what they get from the environment around them. A person with NPD will work extremely hard to guard their fragile self-esteem. Narcissists have difficulties with emotional and self-regulation. They may experience co-occurring symptoms like anxiety, depression, shame, and anger if something outside their environment doesn’t match the inner self they work so hard to protect.

Someone with a narcissistic personality disorder may seek out attention and be highly extroverted. There are also patterns where the person is vulnerable and has avoidance, anxiety and mood problems.

Malignant narcissism is a variant of narcissistic personality disorder. It’s often considered the most severe type.

Someone with malignant narcissism goes beyond wanting to be seen in a certain way by the people around them. There are often darker and more damaging elements to how self-absorbed a malignant narcissist is.

Understanding Malignant Narcissism Malignant narcissists are, as was touched on, the most damaging type of person within this category. Malignant narcissists have the general traits of narcissistic personality disorder, like being egocentric. They also tend to have antisocial traits, a lack of a sense of self, and no empathy for others. Paranoia is often involved with malignant narcissism too.

Someone who’s a malignant narcissist will tend to be manipulative, not caring who’s hurt in their quest to get what they want.

Someone with this type of personality disorder tends to see things in black-and-white and desire to win at all costs. It’s possible someone with malignant narcissism doesn’t care if they hurt others, and they may revel in it or find it empowering. A malignant narcissist will also tend to do whatever they can to avoid any type of inconvenience or loss.

What Are the Signs?

Not everyone who has NPD is going to fall into the category of malignant narcissism.

Signs and severity can also vary depending on the person, but someone with this mental health disorder may be preoccupied with fantasies about power, beauty, or success. They’re often unable to handle criticism, and they’re very concerned with their appearance.

This type of narcissist is likely to lash out if they feel they’ve been wronged and they can’t self-regulate their emotions.

It’s difficult or impossible for someone with this harmful narcissism disorder to feel remorse for hurting others, and they expect to have the best of everything.

At the core, someone with this disorder tends to have a weak sense of self and many hidden insecurities.

Malignant narcissism isn’t an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, used by health care providers to diagnose psychiatric disorders. However, many mental health professionals believe that it’s actually a combination of a few diagnosable conditions which are antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, aggression and sadism and paranoia.

Not All Narcissism is a Personality Disorder It’s important to distinguish and say that not all narcissistic traits meet the diagnostic criteria of being a personality disorder. For a personality disorder, there would need to be symptoms that fall into at least two of four categories.

These categories are:

· Affective, which is how we respond emotionally

· Cognitive, referring to how you think about yourself and others

· Impulse control, meaning how a person controls their behavior

· Interpersonal, describing your relationship with others

The unfortunate reality is that having a family or romantic relationship with a malignant narcissist is highly challenging, and someone with this disorder is unlikely to seek treatment. Treatment, in general, is complex too because a personality disorder is so deeply ingrained into who someone is, and it’s difficult for them to see outside of that.

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