Sociopath narcissistic rage

Understanding and Working Through It

Narcissistic rage is an outburst of intense anger or silence that can happen to someone with narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) happens when someone has an exaggerated or overly inflated sense of their own importance. It’s different from narcissism because NPD is linked to genetics and your environment.

Someone experiencing narcissistic rage may feel that someone else or an event in their life is threatening or may injure their self-esteem or self-worth.

They may act and feel grandiose and superior to others. For example, they may demand special treatment and honor even if it appears that they’ve done nothing to earn it.

People with NPD may have an underlying feeling of insecurity and feel unable to handle anything they perceive as criticism.

When their “true self” is revealed, a person with NPD may also feel threatened, and their self-esteem is crushed.

As a result, they may react with a variety of emotions and actions. Rage is only one of them, but it’s often one of the most visible.

Repeated unreasonable reactions happen to people with other conditions, too. If you or a loved one is frequently having these rage episodes, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and find the best treatment.

We all desire attention and admiration from the people around us.

But people with NPD may react with narcissistic rage when they aren’t given the attention that they feel they deserve.

This rage may take the form of screaming and yelling. Selective silence and passive-aggressive avoidance can also happen with narcissistic rage.

Most episodes of narcissistic rage exist on a behavior continuum. On one end, a person may be aloof and withdrawn. Their goal may be to hurt another person by being absent.

On the other end are outbursts and explosive actions. Here again, the goal may be to turn the “hurt” they feel into an attack on another person as a form of defense.

It’s important to remember that not all angry outbursts are episodes of narcissistic rage. Anyone is capable of having an angry outburst, even if they don’t have a personality disorder.

Narcissistic rage is just one component of NPD. Other conditions might also cause episodes similar to narcissistic rage, including:

  • paranoid delusion
  • bipolar disorder
  • depressive episodes

There are three primary reasons that narcissistic rage happens.

Injury to self-esteem or self-worth

Despite an oversized opinion of themselves, people with NPD are often hiding self-esteem that’s easily injured.

When they’re “hurt,” narcissists tend to lash out as their first line of defense. They may feel that cutting someone out or intentionally hurting them with words or violence can help them protect their persona.

A challenge to their confidence

People with NPD tend to try building up confidence in themselves by continually getting away with lies or false personas.

When someone pushes them and exposes a weakness, people with NPD may feel inadequate. That unwelcomed emotion can cause them to lash out as protection.

Sense of self is questioned

If people reveal that someone with NPD isn’t as capable or talented as they may pretend to be, this challenge to their sense of self may result in a cutting and aggressive outburst.

NPD can cause issues in a person’s life, relationships, work, and financial situation.

People with NPD often live with illusions of superiority, grandiosity, and entitlement. They may also face additional issues like addictive behavior and narcissistic rage.

But narcissistic rage and other NPD-related issues aren’t as simple as anger or stress.

A healthcare provider or a mental health specialist like a therapist or psychiatrist can diagnose symptoms of NPD. This can help someone with NPD and symptoms of rage find the proper help they need.

There are no definitive diagnostic tests. Instead, your healthcare provider will request and review your health history as well as behaviors and feedback from the people in your life.

how NPD is diagnosed

A mental health professional can determine if you have NPD based on:

  • reported and observed symptoms
  • physical exam to help rule out an underlying physical issue that could be causing symptoms
  • psychological evaluation
  • matching criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association
  • matching criteria in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), a medical classification list by the World Health Organization (WHO)

People in your life who have NPD and episodes of narcissistic rage have many resources to get help.

But it can sometimes be challenging to find the right help, as many treatment options haven’t been validated by research.

According to a 2009 report published in the Psychiatric Annals, there haven’t been many studies done on treatments for NPD and people who experience narcissistic rage as a symptom of NPD.

So while psychotherapy may work for some people, it’s not necessarily effective for all people with NPD. And not all mental health professionals even agree as to exactly how to diagnose, treat, and manage this disorder.

A 2015 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatrysuggests that the variety of symptoms that can happen in each individual with NPD can make it challenging to make a firm diagnosis of what “type” of NPD someone has:

  • Overt. Symptoms are obvious and easier to diagnose with the DSM-5 criteria.
  • Covert. Symptoms aren’t always visible or obvious, and behaviors or mental health conditions associated with NPD, like resentment or depression, may be hard to diagnose.
  • “High-functioning”. NPD symptoms may be difficult or impossible to consider separately from the person’s regular behavior or psychological state. They may just be identified as generally dysfunctional behaviors like pathological lying or serial infidelity.

Since conditions like NPD can often only be diagnosed by looking at observable symptoms, there may be many underlying personality traits or mental activities that are impossible to tease apart into a diagnosis.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek help. Try speaking with several mental health professionals and try different techniques to see what kind of treatment plan works best for you.

And while you or the person with NPD in your life are working through their behaviors and history, others might also find it beneficial to seek professional help for themselves.

You can learn techniques to manage narcissistic rage when it occurs or to prepare for future episodes to minimize or process the mental and emotional turmoil you might feel during an episode.

At work

Limit engagement with the individual. Trust what they say but verify that what they’ve told you is either true or false.

People with NPD may talk up their accomplishments and abilities. But if you realize they can’t or don’t perform important tasks, prepare yourself to manage their future professional deficiencies.

Also, be cautious in giving direct feedback and criticism. This can spur an intense reaction in the moment, which may put you at personal or professional risk.

It’s not your responsibility to get the person to seek help. Your feedback or criticism may be one way you’re able to encourage the individual to seek help.

Talk to your manager or the other person’s manager or seek help from your company’s human resources (HR) department.

Here are some other strategies you can use to manage interactions with coworkers who may have narcissistic tendencies or episodes of rage:

  • write down every interaction you have with them in as much detail as possible
  • don’t escalate conflicts with the person, as this may end up causing harm to you or others in the workplace
  • don’t take it personally or attempt to get revenge on the person
  • don’t reveal too much personal information or express your opinions to the person that they may be able to use against you
  • try not to be in the same room alone with them so that others can be witnesses to their behaviors
  • report any illegal harassment, activities, or discrimination that you observe firsthand to your company HR department

In relationship partners

It’s possible to have a healthy, productive life with a person who has NPD and episodes of rage.

But both of you may need to seek out therapy and build behavior and communication strategies that work for your relationship.

People with narcissistic rage can be hurtful. Learning how to communicate with them may help you protect yourself from physical and emotional harm. Try some of the following strategies for coping with NPD:

  • present the truest version of yourself to your partner, avoiding any lying or deception
  • recognize NPD symptoms in your partner or yourself, and do your best to communicate what’s going through your head when you exhibit certain behaviors
  • don’t hold yourself or your partner to difficult or impossible standards, as these may exacerbate feelings of insecurity or inadequacy that lead to narcissistic rage
  • set forth specific rules or boundaries within your relationship so that you and your partner know what’s expected of them as a romantic partner, rather than react on a situational basis with no structure to your expectations
  • seek therapy both individually and as a couple so that you can work on yourself and on the relationship in tandem
  • don’t think of yourself or your partner as having anything “wrong” but identify areas that may be disruptive to the relationship that need work
  • be confident in ending the relationship if you no longer believe a relationship is healthy for you or your partner

In friends

Limit your exposure to any friend who subjects you to physical, mental, or emotional harm from narcissistic rage.

You may want to consider removing yourself from your friendship entirely if you believe the friendship is no longer healthy or mutually beneficial.

If this is a close friend whose friendship you value, you might also seek help from a mental health professional.

They can help you learn behaviors that make coping easier. You may also learn behaviors that can help you better manage interactions and communicate with your friend during episodes of rage.

This can make your time together less frustrating and more fulfilling or productive.

From a stranger

The best option is to walk away. Neither you nor that person will likely be able to reach any constructive conclusion from your interaction.

But realize that your actions didn’t cause the reaction. It’s driven by underlying factors that you don’t in any way influence.

A mental health professional can help treat both NPD and rage.

They can use talk therapy, or psychotherapy, to help people with NPD understand their behaviors, choices, and consequences. Therapists may then work with the individual to address underlying factors.

Talk therapy can also help people with NPD create new plans for behavior to develop healthier coping and relationship skills.

Help if you feel threatened
  • People with NPD and narcissistic rage can hurt people in their lives, even when they don’t realize it. You don’t need to live with the constant worry about future rage. You can take steps to protect yourself.
  • If you’re afraid a person with NPD in your life may cross over from verbal abuse to physical abuse or you think you’re in immediate danger, call 911 or local emergency services.
  • If the threat isn’t immediate, seek help from the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233. They can connect you with service providers, mental health professionals, and shelters in your area if you need assistance.

Help is available for people with NPD and narcissistic rage. With proper diagnosis and ongoing treatment, it’s possible to live a healthy, rewarding life.

In the moment, the rage may seem all-consuming and threatening. But encouraging a loved one (or yourself) to seek help may spur healthier choices for you, them, and everyone else in your lives.

Triggers, Causes, & How to Respond

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Published: October 11, 2021 Updated: October 18, 2022

Published: 10/11/2021 Updated: 10/18/2022

Narcissistic rage occurs when a narcissist is confronted with contrary beliefs about their perceived importance or grandiosity. The narcissist is injured, and responds with anger. Being on the receiving end of this rage can produce feelings ranging from anxiety to downright terror. Therefore, it is extremely important that your response does not trigger more anger from the narcissist.

Therapy can help you recover from narcissistic abuse. BetterHelp has over 20,000 licensed therapists who provide convenient and affordable online therapy. BetterHelp starts at $60 per week. Complete a brief questionnaire and get matched with the right therapist for you.

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What Is Narcissistic Rage?

Narcissistic rage, a term first used by psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut in the 1970s, is a sudden and powerful outburst from a narcissist that could include anger, aggression, and violence.1 The behavior occurs when the negative feedback that a narcissist receives causes great discomfort and their defense mechanisms are activated. The rage associated with a narcissistic injury ranges from mild irritation to outright physical attacks. Some narcissists will gaslight, deflect, project, verbally assault, or collapse. Depending on the severity of the injury, others may be physically aggressive, becoming incredibly dangerous. The question “Are narcissists dangerous?” can be a legitimate concern, so appropriate caution should be considered.

Once given a dose of their own medicine, narcissists will become emotionally, psychologically, physically, or verbally abusive. One reason they respond this way is they recognize that direct exposure is happening and discovery of their false identity is being threatened. In order to keep their true selves secret, narcissists will “blow up” to deflect from the underlying issue.

Typical Response to Offense vs. Narcissistic Rage

Any mild disagreement or negative remark can trigger feelings of rejection or mockery for the narcissist, far beyond a typical level of offense. The first line of attack might be brutal shouting, screaming, and ridiculous accusations against you. They may project how they feel and think about themselves onto you.

Narcissistic rage may not appear much differently than other sudden outbursts from friends and loved ones at first. When these behaviors occur repeatedly, observers can begin to notice the trends and patterns that emerge.

Some of the most common signs of narcissistic rage include:

  • A bout of anger that is disproportionate to the triggering stressor, sometimes bordering hatred for the victim
  • A rage that may quickly end and never be discussed again
  • Anger that results in verbal or physical aggression towards another person or property
  • Anger that results in self-harm
  • Frustrations that seem to be brought on by the person not getting their own way, not receiving a wanted level of attention, or receiving the desired amount of praise
  • Irritability triggered by being criticized by loved ones or coworkers, getting caught in a lie, or feeling out of control

The outside observer may struggle to understand the connections between triggers and anger, especially since the narcissist will likely blame other people and situations. Careful attention and analysis will point to signs of narcissistic rage.

Therapy can help you recover from narcissistic abuse. BetterHelp has over 20,000 licensed therapists who provide convenient and affordable online therapy. BetterHelp starts at $60 per week. Complete a brief questionnaire and get matched with the right therapist for you.

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What Causes Narcissistic Rage?

Narcissistic rage happens when a narcissist receives an injury. This perceived offense causes the narcissist to flare up with anger.

What Is Narcissistic Injury?

Narcissistic injury occurs when a narcissist thinks their self-esteem or self-worth are threatened.2 The narcissist’s false self is exposed, causing distress that leads to narcissistic rage.

Narcissists are extremely sensitive individuals with very low self-esteem. When their shortcomings are pointed out, they become defensive and frustrated. Their delusions of grandeur are put on display and their inadequacies are highlighted.

8 Triggers of a Narcissist’s Rage

Here are eight ways a narcissist’s rage could be triggered:2

  1. They don’t get their way, even if what they want is unreasonable
  2. They feel that they’ve been criticized, even if the critique is constructive or said kindly
  3. They’re not the center of attention
  4. They’re caught breaking rules or not respecting boundaries
  5. They’re held accountable for their actions
  6. Their idealized self-image was harmed in some way
  7. They’re reminded of their manipulation, inadequacy, or shame
  8. They feel out of control of their surroundings

6 Examples of Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic rage can take infinite forms depending on the individual and the situation. Some possible examples of narcissistic rage include:

  1. The narcissist breaking all of the glasses in the house if a guest notices a smudge on one while taking a drink
  2. The narcissist punches a hole in the wall if their child does not finish first in a race at school
  3. The narcissist verbally abuses their spouse for three hours when they have not cleaned the house to their standard.
  4. The narcissist destroys a public bathroom after a stranger criticizes their dirty car
  5. The narcissist slashes the tires of the person at work who received the promotion over them
  6. The narcissist hits their spouse and/or children because they feel that they were embarrassed in front of coworkers

10 Ways to Avoid a Narcissist’s Rage

Dealing with any form of narcissist can be difficult, but when you see that the narcissist is enraged, do not continue engaging with them. Physically distance yourself from them as much as you can. Ignore them and avoid any interaction with them. Set your boundaries, remembering that they will try to manipulate you. Show empathy and validation, if possible, but it’s best to remove yourself completely from the interaction.

Here are 10 tips for when you’re faced with narcissistic rage:

1. Physically Distance Yourself

Once you see that the narcissist has become enraged, you should immediately remove yourself physically from the narcissist’s presence. Go to another room or office. Go outside or exit the car. With narcissistic rage, you can never be too careful.

2. Establish Your Boundaries

Firmly state your boundaries and stick to them. Remove yourself from the situation and disengage completely.  Have a few phrases to help disarm the narcissist, and tell them that you would be willing to discuss the situation once they have calmed down and are open to a more positive discussion.

Consistently establishing and sticking to your boundaries will let the narcissist know that their manipulative tactics do not work on you. Once you deviate from your established boundaries, the narcissist will continue their abuse.

3. Stay Calm

This is for your own well being. The narcissist enjoys seeing you rattled and upset. Make every effort to stay calm. Try meditation—it can help you to slow down your breathing and calm anxieties, creating a sense of detachment from the narcissistic drama. Counting down, refocusing, or finding your ‘happy place’ will keep you calm when faced with narcissistic rage.

4. Don’t Overreact to the Narcissist’s Rage

The narcissist gets joy from watching you react to their rage. They know that you are experiencing great discomfort and anxiety. Don’t feed their need for supply. No reaction is the best course of action.

5. Empathize With the Narcissist & Validate Their Viewpoint

Try to understand the narcissist’s point and empathize with them. By agreeing with some of their points, you give the narcissist a sense of validation. Try to avoid any condescending tone to avoid enraging the narcissist. Agree with their key points for the moment, until a later time when you can actually discuss the issue and share your viewpoint.

6. Don’t Raise Your Voice

Narcissists are often triggered by aggressive actions and tones. To avoid or discourage their rage, don’t threaten or challenge them with an assertive voice.

7. Take a Break

Pause and explain to the narcissist that you need time to think about what they are saying. This also validates the narcissist’s point of view because you are taking time to understand them.

8. Remember This Is Not About You

Everything is always about the narcissist, their wants, and their needs. When you understand this, it is easier to deal with them and the narcissistic tactics that come along with them.

9. Understand Where the Fault Lies

Victims of narcissistic abuse tend to blame themselves for the rage given by the narcissist, often finding reasons why their behavior led to the rage. Understand that this is a personality disorder that has nothing to do with you. It was probably established well before they met you. There is nothing within you that you need to fix in order to appease the narcissist. This is not your fault. They have an insatiable appetite for attention and there is nothing you can do about it.

10. Follow Through

Establishing boundaries and following through are key to stopping narcissistic abuse and rage. Actions speak louder than words.The narcissist does not listen to your words, but they pay very close attention to your actions. Being steadfast, assertive, and bold with your actions is essential to overpowering their abuse and tempering their rage.

Help For Narcissistic Abuse

Individual Therapy – Get personalized help with recovering from narcissistic abuse from a licensed therapist. BetterHelp offers online sessions by video or text. Try BetterHelp

Support Groups – You are not alone in dealing with a narcissist. Sesh offers over 100 different support groups per month, with at least once a week focused on narcissism. First Month Free

Books On Narcissism – See our handpicked selection of Narcissism Books List

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Dealing With Narcissistic Rage at Work

No one should have to endure the excessive and excuseless rage of a narcissistic at work, whether from a boss or coworker. When encountering narcissistic rage, you should consider:

  • Communicating your concerns to the coworker. Let the person know that you are not interested in having any part of their irrational levels of anger.
  • Establishing and maintaining boundaries. Whenever they exhibit unwanted anger, enact a set of behaviors that creates distance and separation between the two of you.
  • Stating your concerns to HR. Make the situation known to your human resources department at the first sign of issues. This way, no one can blame you for the issues that eventually present.
  • Setting your limits. Being around a narcissist will test your limits, so rather than constantly flexing your needs and wants, be stable and consistent. When the line is crossed, it’s time to move one.
  • Quitting immediately. If the narcissist is in a position of power like your boss, you may want to walk away at the earliest opportunity. Engaging with a narcissist will often be a losing battle. End it early.

Dealing With Narcissistic Rage in a Relationship

If you have read the criteria, understand the condition and think that your romantic partner is a narcissist, you have very few options. You can either:

  • Set your expectations very low. Of course not all narcissists are the same, and just because a person has narcissistic personality disorder does not mean they cannot love or have a successful relationship. It does mean, though, that there will be many challenges and obstacles to overcome. If you set your expectations of them low, you could appreciate the good and tolerate the bad.
  • Break up immediately. You may learn of their narcissistic personality disorder and decide that the benefits of the relationship will never outweigh the risks. After all, it is a static and stable personality disorder – it’s very unlikely that a narcissist will change. Attempting to single handedly correct a personality disorder is a losing battle. Breaking up with a narcissist may be the best option.

Dealing With Narcissistic Rage in a Friendship

Just like with romantic relationships, having a friend with narcissistic personality disorder will pose some unique challenges. They will often ask for elaborate favors or consistently see you as inferior.

When confronted with narcissistic rage from a friend:

  • Leave the situation immediately.
  • Let them know you will not stand for these actions.
  • Allow a cooling off period of several days or weeks before reestablishing contact.
  • Impose a cutoff to let them know you will not stand to be the target of rage over and again.

From a Stranger

Identifying a stranger’s rage as narcissistic in origin may be extremely complex, but under no circumstances should you accept the rage of another person. No matter what their excuse, you deserve to always be treated with dignity and respect.

If a person should ever confront you with narcissist rage:

  • Leave immediately
  • Call the police
  • Stay away

Coping With Your Own Rage as a Narcissist

Everyone suffers from a narcissist’s rage. This includes the narcissist as well as the target. If you happen to have narcissistic personality disorder and you wish to cope with your rage, consider:

  • Seek professional treatment. Narcissism is too intense and too challenging to manage without mental health treatment, but it is possible to change your behaviors. Start therapy and attend consistently.
  • Letting people know your patterns. Rage is not acceptable, but if you warn people ahead of time, it could help maintain your relationships.
  • Use your coping skills. Therapists will offer a wide range of healthy coping skills for anger. Accept them, practice them, and use them when the situation calls.
  • Isolate when necessary. If you are feeling like a bomb just waiting to explode, stay by yourself for a bit to limit the collateral damage. Once the period of rage or time of feeling easily triggered passes, test yourself by reemerging into your relationships.

Managing narcissistic rage is a tall task, but hopefully people appreciate the steps you take towards self-control.

Final Thoughts

Narcissistic rage is 100% about the narcissist ego, not the victim. You cannot control how they act, feel, or respond but you can control how you act and respond to them. If you think you have or are suffering from narcissistic abuse you can seek help from a licensed, trained mental health professional.

Additional Resources

Education is just the first step on our path to improved mental health and emotional wellness. To help our readers take the next step in their journey, Choosing Therapy has partnered with leaders in mental health and wellness. Choosing Therapy may be compensated for referrals by the companies mentioned below.

BetterHelp (Online Therapy) – BetterHelp has over 20,000 licensed therapists who provide convenient and affordable online therapy. BetterHelp starts at $60 per week. Complete a brief questionnaire and get matched with the right therapist for you. Get Started – The standard plan includes a weekly 45 minute video session, unlimited text messaging between sessions, and self-guided activities like journaling. Recently, they added Yoga videos. Get Started

Headspace (Meditation App) – Headspace is the leading mindfulness and meditation app with over 70 million members. Headspace offers guidance and exercises for all skill levels, including beginners. Free Trial

Choosing Therapy’s Directory – Find an experienced therapist who is committed to your wellbeing. You can search for a therapist by specialty, availability, insurance, and affordability. Therapist profiles and introductory videos provide insight into the therapist’s personality so you find the right fit. Find a therapist today.

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4 sources

Choosing Therapy strives to provide our readers with mental health content that is accurate and actionable. We have high standards for what can be cited within our articles. Acceptable sources include government agencies, universities and colleges, scholarly journals, industry and professional associations, and other high-integrity sources of mental health journalism. Learn more by reviewing our full editorial policy.

  • McLean J. (2007). Psychotherapy with a Narcissistic Patient Using Kohut’s Self Psychology Model. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)), 4(10), 40–47. Retrieved from:

  • Thomas, David (2010). Narcissism: Behind the Mask. Leicester, England: The Book Guild Ltd. ISBN 978-1846245060.

  • Ni, Preston. (2014). How to Successfully Handle Narcissists.

  • Cramer, Phebe. (2011). Young adult narcissism: A 20 year longitudinal study of the contribution of parenting styles, preschool precursors of narcissism, and denial. Journal of Research in Personality 45(1).

update history

We regularly update the articles on to ensure we continue to reflect scientific consensus on the topics we cover, to incorporate new research into our articles, and to better answer our audience’s questions. When our content undergoes a significant revision, we summarize the changes that were made and the date on which they occurred. We also record the authors and medical reviewers who contributed to previous versions of the article. Read more about our editorial policies here.

  • Originally Published: January 22, 2021
    Original Author: Nakpangi Thomas, PhD, LPC, TITC-CT
    Original Reviewer: Dena Westphalen, PharmD

  • Updated: October 11, 2021
    Author: No Change
    Reviewer: No Change
    Primary Changes: Updated for Readability; Added the sections “6 Signs of Narcissistic Rage”; “6 Examples of Narcissistic Rage”; “Dealing With Narcissistic Rage at Work”; “Dealing With Narcissistic Rage in a Relationship”; “Dealing With Narcissistic Rage in a Friendship”; “From a Stranger”; and “Coping With Your Own Rage as a Narcissist.” New sections written by Eric Patterson, LPC.

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