Narcissism and Anger: How to Protect Yourself From the Angry Narcissist

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) usually need constant admiration, praise, and attention from others.

Narcissists readily embrace the above qualities from others since they require lots of positive attention and feedback to feed their fragile, sensitive egos.

However, when people with NPD don’t get their way or feel slighted by others, this may cause them to fly off the handle and engage in narcissistic rage.

Narcissistic rage

The term “narcissistic rage” was initially coined by Heinz Kohut (1972) to describe how those with narcissistic personality disorder react to perceived criticism or (often innocent) remarks from others.

It’s common for someone with NPD to fly off the handle without an apparent reason or justified cause for such behaviour.

These individuals do not need much baiting or provocation to get angry or direct their narcissistic rage at others.

The narcissist

Narcissists do not react well to constructive criticism or other peoples’ boundaries.

When confronted about their behaviour, it’s not uncommon for narcissists to respond with narcissistic rage.

It’s challenging for narcissists to deal with negative feedback because it contradicts their beliefs about themselves, whether these traits are focused on self-entitlement, perfectionism, or grandiosity.

Essentially, narcissists do not like their character, self-image, or behaviour to be challenged in any way.

These are all hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder you must be aware of to protect yourself from future narcissistic rage or abuse.

Support is always on hand.

This article will explore narcissistic rage and how you can protect yourself from an angry narcissist.

There are various ways you can do this; however, if you feel isolated, alone, or uncertain about how to deal with the narcissist in your life, help, and support are always on hand.

Contact our friendly staff at Camino Recovery, who can help.

Dealing with narcissistic rage

young daughter not listening to mother

According to researchers, when narcissists are injured, their usual response is anger.

Recipients of narcissistic rage may experience various emotions when this happens; some of the more common feelings induced by narcissistic rage are fear, terror, and anxiety.

Victims of narcissistic rage must be conscious not to trigger more anger from the narcissist – learning how to protect yourself from the narcissist is vital to your well-being and safety.

Let’s look at narcissistic rage in more detail.

What is narcissistic rage?

It can be challenging to predict what triggers the narcissist to become angry.

And because each individual is so different, the narcissists’ triggers are likely to reflect these differences.

However, a common theme for most narcissists is the discomfort they experience when you (or someone else) confront them about their bad behaviour, set boundaries or when providing negative feedback.

Out of control

Narcissistic rage is often the “go-to” response for narcissists who feel threatened or attacked by others in some way.

All this may include sudden, intense outbursts of anger that can involve verbal threats, aggression, and violence.

What to expect from the angry narcissist

Again, each person’s responses vary – and depending on what type of narcissist you are dealing with, the reaction you get from a narcissist may be entirely different from what you might expect.

When a narcissist is injured, anything goes.

Here, the narcissist’s defences are exacerbated. Thus their reactions may vary from mild agitation to a full-blown physical or verbal attack (sometimes both).

Deflect, project and gaslight

Those with narcissistic personality disorder use various defence mechanisms when their sense of self is questioned or when they feel slighted by others.

Some narcissists respond to all this by deflecting the blame onto others.

While other narcissists will project their feelings and motivations outwards, accusing others of what they are guilty of saying or doing.

In addition, many narcissists cope with their rage by gaslighting their friends, family, and co-workers.

Narcissistic abuse

On the other hand, some narcissists will resort to violence and threats and may even become extremely dangerous.

Because of how unpredictable their behaviour can be, you must understand the warning signs of narcissistic rage and how to protect yourself.

Warning signs of narcissistic rage

a couple is sitting separately

Let’s start by saying that narcissistic rage differs from other types of anger.

Mental health professionals explain that narcissistic rage presents entirely different from usual rage.

This type of anger is often disproportionate to the perceived slight the narcissist may have received, which can cause shock or surprise in those witnessing this behaviour.

Signs

According to researcher Arlin Cuncic, some of the signs of narcissistic rage can include the following:

  • Powerful or explosive angry outbursts
  • Verbal or physical aggression
  • Episodes of rage when not given the praise or attention the narcissist thinks they deserve
  • Inability to control anger or rage
  • Shouting and screaming
  • Purposely inflicting pain, which can be emotional or physical, onto other people

Cuncic also says there are several hidden signs of narcissistic rage that people must be aware of – these present differently to direct anger and often show up as:

  • Avoidance
  • Giving others the silent treatment
  • A (quiet) sense of entitlement
  • Sarcastic comments or remarks
  • Passive-aggression
  • Repressed resentment
  • Hostility or bitterness
  • Ending relationships (or cutting them off) to preserve self-image or self-esteem
  • Anger that results in self-harm
  • A rage that quickly ends and is never discussed again

Narcissistic rage and how to deal with it

People witnessing this extreme anger may not entirely comprehend the triggers that may cause someone to engage in narcissistic rage.

Awareness is critical – and so is protecting yourself against this behaviour.

Managing narcissistic rage with therapy

You don’t have to put up with this type of abuse or manipulation from anyone – if you are struggling with narcissistic abuse and need someone to help you process your feelings, different types of therapy can help.

Speak to a mental health specialist at Camino Recovery who can provide further support and information.

It may also help if you understand what triggers narcissistic rage.

Triggers

When a narcissist feels exposed, threatened, or feels like they are being belittled in some way, their “false self” surfaces, which can cause profound distress to those with NPD.

How narcissists cope when they are “called out.”

daughter arguing with mother

If you imagine how fragile the narcissist’s ego is, you might get some idea of how distressing the experience of being “called out” or exposed by others can be.

When their unacceptable behaviour is brought into question, the narcissist often reacts by becoming frustrated or defensive.

There’s little reasoning in this process, and nothing works, no matter what you say or do.

With the narcissist, being exposed is like someone getting a magic marker and highlighting all their weaknesses and inadequacies for everyone to see.

Recognising the signs

But there are also specific situations that can trigger narcissistic rage.

These situations can include the following:

  • When the narcissist is not the centre of attention
  • When the narcissist is held responsible for their bad behaviour
  • When a narcissist feels out of their depth and not in control of their surroundings
  • When the narcissist doesn’t get their way, no matter how unreasonable the demands might be
  • When their self-image is harmed in any way, this is usually the idealised self-image the narcissist has of themselves
  • When the narcissist feels exposed, criticised, or put down in some way

What causes narcissistic rage?

The more helpful question here might be, what causes narcissistic personality disorder in the first place?

To determine its unpleasant sibling, it would help if you understand that narcissistic rage is often a key symptom of narcissistic personality disorder.

The two often go hand-in-hand.

Causes

Although mental health professionals do not know the exact cause of narcissistic personality disorder, research shows that it is likely caused by a combination of factors, such as:

  • A person’s upbringing
  • Genetics
  • Family history
  • Life experiences, such as trauma or other adverse experiences

If you think a loved one may have NPD, you must understand more about the condition and how to care for yourself.

Narcissistic personality disorder is classified as a “cluster b” condition, meaning that people diagnosed with this disorder often display dramatic, erratic, and unpredictable behaviour.

A person with NPD may exhibit overt signs of narcissism or be more discreet (covert).

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder

Close up young female blogger recording new video on smartphone

Common symptoms of narcissism include the following:

  • A sense of self-entitlement
  • A constant need for attention, praise, and admiration from others
  • A lack of empathy or compassion for other people
  • Arrogance
  • Jealousy of others and believing that others are envious of them

Examples of narcissistic rage

As well as understanding the signs of narcissistic personality disorder, you must also know how narcissistic rage unfolds.

When slighted or called out for their behaviour, the narcissist may react verbally, physically, or both.

Example one

Suppose the waiter at a restaurant doesn’t tend to the narcissists’ immediate demands for service. The narcissist may react by throwing cutlery off the table or vandalising a public restroom.

Example two

Let’s say a wife embarrasses her husband in front of guests at a dinner party.

Perhaps she teases him about one of his quirky traits or unknowingly belittles him; here, the narcissist responds by hitting his partner and children once everyone goes home.

Example three

If a colleague messes up a project or makes the narcissist look inadequate in front of other work colleagues, they may respond by punching a hole in the bathroom door or becoming vindictive.

Ways to manage narcissistic rage

There are various ways to protect yourself against narcissistic rage, from distancing yourself physically, setting firm boundaries, or cutting the narcissist off entirely.

You may also benefit from the following measures to protect yourself against narcissists and their abuse.

Protecting yourself

These protective measures include:

  • Not reacting to the narcissist’s anger – this method is often referred to as grey rocking; this involves giving no reaction or response to the narcissist’s abuse or rage.
  • Remaining cool, calm, and collected – the narcissist wants a response from you – the more dramatic and emotional, the better. Staying calm is your superpower; when you remain cool-headed in the face of narcissistic rage, the narcissist will eventually get bored and stop all the insults and abuse.
  • Sticking to your guns – creating boundaries is often much more straightforward than sticking to them. However, it would help if you stuck to the limits you have created with the narcissist in your life. Once they know you mean business, they will learn to respect you and your rules.
  • Therapy and support groups therapy is an integral part of surviving narcissistic abuse – many people benefit by talking about their concerns with a safe and trusted person, such as a therapist.

How Camino Recovery can help

narcissist man in therapy

If you think a loved one has any narcissism symptoms mentioned in this article, it’s time you spoke to someone who can help.

We treat and diagnose various mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and personality disorders, at Camino Recovery.

Our therapeutic programs can help you understand narcissistic traits better, helping you manage in times of stress or crisis.

Treatment programs

Cognitive behavioural therapies and trauma treatments may be recommended for victims of narcissistic abuse.

These therapies may help you understand where the narcissistic rage comes from and how to protect yourself. 

Now is the time to get help and support. After all, you owe yourself that much.

Speak to a specialist today.

Additional resources

  1. What Is Narcissistic Rage? Verywell mind, Arlin Cuncic, November 21, 2022
  2. Narcissistic Rage: Triggers, Causes, and How to Respond, Choosing Therapy, October 11, 2021
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