Can a Narcissist Change Their Behavior and Stop Abusing People?
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is typically a life-long condition. Like other personality disorders, NPD is challenging to treat. It affects every aspect of a person’s life, including their well-being, relationships, school, and work.
Treatment issues may arise when a narcissist is unaware of or refuses to acknowledge that they have a problem. So, when asking can a narcissist change, consider whether they are willing to do so.
A narcissist needs to be highly motivated to be transparent and self-reflective in order to change. With that said, a narcissist is capable of changing if they put up the necessary effort, intention, and dedication.
Not All Narcissism is Created Equally
Suppose you have a close relationship with a narcissist. In that case, whether it is your partner, parent, or boss, it is normal to wonder can a narcissist change. However, it is important to understand that narcissism is frequently found on a continuum. While some persons exhibit narcissistic personality traits, others are diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. The intensity of narcissism commonly determines the ability to change.
According to psychologists, each of us possesses narcissism to some degree. While a certain amount of self-regard is healthy, narcissism taken to an extreme can turn into mental illness, as is the case with a narcissistic personality disorder.
For example, being mildly self-centered can help you feel more confident, improve your resilience, and help you achieve your goals. However, narcissistic personality disorder often stems from highly fragile self-esteem. Narcissists exaggerate their sense of superiority and desire for praise to conceal their fragility.
Narcissistic thinking and behavior patterns interfere with their normal daily functioning. Therefore, it is not the same if the narcissist in your life has mild narcissistic traits or full-blown personality disorder.
Can a Narcissist Change Their Behavior (4 Factors to Watch Out For)?
While some people with narcissistic features are oblivious of their condition or reluctant to change, others may be willing to self-reflect and change.
How can you tell if a narcissist can change? Here are four tips to help you determine.
1. Type of Narcissism and Abuse
It is not the same if a person close to you has a few narcissistic traits or full-scale narcissistic personality disorder. However, spotting narcissistic personality disorder is crucial because relationships with these people can be very damaging.
The greatest challenge may be a narcissist’s refusal to change. Because narcissists are generally self-centered and self-absorbed, the main motivation to change usually lies in their interest and profit.
People with narcissistic personality disorder typically use emotional, physical, sexual, or financial abuse to manipulate their victims and maintain control in a relationship. So, no attempt to use logic with your narcissistic abusive partner will convince them to change their behavior.
Also, individuals suffering from NPD believe that their feelings are facts. As a result, they will always change the facts to suit their emotions, twisting the truth and using gaslighting to make you doubt everything you know and are.
For example, pleading with your narcissistic partner to change by telling them how much their behavior is causing you pain is unlikely to result in any change. On the contrary, they would most likely interpret it as blame, become defensive, and start a fight.
And when a narcissist becomes infuriated, they are impossible to communicate with or persuade to change their ways.
2. The Extent of Their Narcissism
The ability of a narcissist to change is determined by where they fall on the narcissistic continuum. Luckily, very few people (one in one hundred or between 0,5-1% of the population) meet the diagnostic criteria for clinical narcissistic personality disorder.
People with narcissistic tendencies but no NPD can change with the right psychotherapy approach and willingness to change. The change is possible as long as they can self-reflect and feel empathy for others.
For example, suppose your partner exhibits narcissistic tendencies when they feel threatened (emotionally or physically). In that case, their narcissism may retreat once the threat is addressed and removed.
However, if they have NPD, the change will be much more difficult because you are changing a personality rather than a behavior.
3. Do They Recognize Their Own Narcissism?
To intentionally change their behavior, a narcissist must first be able to recognize their own narcissism. But keep in mind that a narcissist will manipulate you into believing that they will change only to get what they want and keep you as their narcissistic supply. So, they will promise to change only to get their way.
However, if they are willing to self-reflect on their negative behaviors without devaluing and demeaning themselves or the person who offers feedback, a narcissist may be ready to explore a change in psychotherapy.
4. Do THEY Want to Change?
The narcissist must take the initiative to change their negative behavior. They must acknowledge that their own dysfunctional or abusive behavior is the source of suffering and demonstrate motivation to change. Finally, they must consciously make a choice, believing that they can change their own behavior.
While you can help them get there, the initiative to change must come from the narcissist.
The Bottom Line? Narcissists CAN Change If They Are Honest with Themselves and Willing
Narcissism is frequently the result of insecure attachment styles in childhood. People with NPD have learned not to rely on others, viewing vulnerability as dangerous and avoiding it at all costs. Instead, they conceal and deny their vulnerability in order to reshape their personality in social interactions.
People with NPD are frequently unwilling to change because regaining vulnerability and opening up means losing control. Also, they tend to see themselves and others in black-and-white terms (either completely good or completely bad), which makes them think that they can’t change or don’t need to.
But the change is not impossible. Narcissists can change if they are ready to accept accountability, able to see things from another person’s perspective, and willing to reflect on their negative behavior.
Because narcissism is such a complex personality trait, changing a narcissist can be much easier said than done. However, if the narcissist is motivated and willing to change, then change is possible.