Skip to Content

How does a narcissist end?

A narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of self-importance and lacks empathy. They tend to have grandiose fantasies about themselves, require constant admiration, and exploit others for personal gain. Narcissism exists on a spectrum, with narcissistic personality disorder at the extreme end. So how does the journey of a narcissist typically end?

Do narcissists ever change?

Narcissism tends to be a lifelong pattern of behaviors and attitudes. That said, some narcissists are higher functioning than others and can learn to manage their behaviors if properly motivated. With years of therapy and self-work, it is possible for narcissists to gain more self-awareness and relate to others in healthier ways. But overcoming their core narcissistic tendencies is unlikely.

Most narcissists do not seek help on their own because they do not think anything is wrong with them. They blame others for their problems and see no reason to change. Even if they do pursue therapy, progress can be limited because they have difficulty truly opening up, facing their flaws, and putting in the hard work required for change. Their sense of superiority, lack of self-awareness, and need to protect their fragile egos are obstacles to improving through counseling.

What happens as narcissists age?

As narcissists enter their elder years, there are a few different scenarios that often unfold:

1. They mellow out

Some narcissists do slowly start to mellow out as they age. Their desire for attention and status lessens. They become less impulsive and domineering. Essentially, the worst of their narcissistic traits soften. This natural mellowing out often happens because of diminished energy, health problems, or awareness of their own mortality.

2. Their narcissism gets worse

In other cases, aging fuels narcissists’ worst behaviors. As their looks fade, career stagnates, and support network shrinks, narcissists often become even more self-absorbed and hostile. They double down on their fantasies of perfection, seeking endless validation from others to boost their fragile self-image. Their sense of entitlement grows as they demand more rewards for less effort. They lash out more easily over minor slights or challenges to their inflated ego.

3. They withdraw into isolation

Faced with declining status and power, some aging narcissists retreat into isolation rather than adapt. They cut off friends and family who they feel no longer sufficiently admire them. They ruminate over their fading looks, achievements, and brilliance. Withdrawing into sullen isolation protects them from realities they cannot face.

4. They develop health problems

The cumulative stress of living with an exaggerated sense of self-importance and extreme need for validation takes a toll on narcissists’ health. Research shows narcissists are more prone to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and substance abuse. Chronic anger, hostility, and sensitivities to criticism also weaken their health over time.

Do narcissists have happy endings?

Narcissists often do not have particularly happy or fulfilling endings to their lives. There are a few key reasons why:

Troubled relationships

Narcissists struggle to build and maintain healthy, mutually satisfying relationships. Their arrogance eventually drives away friends and partners, leaving them isolated and lonely. Their constant need for validation exhausts those close to them.

Masks vulnerability

Under their showy, superior facade, narcissists feel empty inside. Their inflated self-image hides deep insecurity and low self-esteem. Fragile egos leave them constantly on guard against criticism that could shatter their false self.

Lives without meaning

Chasing endless applause and status often leaves narcissists feeling unfulfilled. Their selfishness cuts them off from pursuing selfless aims that could provide more meaning. When admiration fades, they are left with little inner purpose.

Downward spiral

As narcissists decline with age, lose status, or confront mortality, their internal distress intensifies. They lash out more but ultimately cannot escape the harsh truths undermining their exaggerated self-image. Their illusions and defenses slowly come crashing down.

Can narcissism lead to self-destruction?

In rare, extreme cases, narcissism can lead to self-destruction in a couple of ways:


The threat of losing status, power, looks, or admiration can lead narcissists to contemplate suicide. They would rather die than accept a reality contradicting their grandiose self-image. Stats show narcissists are at higher risk of suicidal thinking and behavior.


Narcissists may turn to drugs, alcohol, risky sex, gambling, or other addictions to find the validation missing in their lives. Compulsive addictive behaviors provide a distraction from their inner emptiness. Over time, the consequences of addiction spiral out of control.

Physical health impacts

The chronic stress, anger, and lack of self-care associated with extreme narcissism can take a toll on physical health. The cardiovasular strain and cortisol overload can potentially shorten narcissists’ lifespans.

Can narcissists redeem themselves?

It is possible for narcissists to start on a path to redemption, though their core personality is unlikely to transform entirely. With rigorous therapy and sincere self-work, narcissists can:

  • Become more self-aware
  • Curb their worst, most abusive behaviors
  • Develop more empathy for others
  • Find healthier ways to validate themselves
  • Let go of anger, resentment, envy
  • Build genuine relationships
  • Find purpose beyond ego gratification

The process requires truly seeing themselves clearly, taking accountability, and committing to change over the long haul. Unfortunately, few narcissists can overcome their defenses enough to engage in that challenging personal work.


Aging and life experience may mellow some narcissists out. But most go through late stages of life burdened by unstable relationships, fading status, and fragility of their inflated self-views. The disorder leads to significant emotional distress and sometimes self-destruction. With rigorous self-awareness and therapeutic work, redemption is possible but very difficult for those living with extreme narcissism.