Why Are Narcissists So Evil? (Signs of A Cruel Narcissist)

Narcissists can be intently and irreversibly evil, though most of them are not. The question is, what makes them so wicked?

The simplest definition of narcissism is excessive self-love, but it isn’t the whole picture. Typically, narcissists are emotionally shallow people who cannot see beyond their own self-importance to appreciate other people’s subtle and deeper emotions.

Roughly 18% of men and 6% percent of women have narcissistic traits (Widiger & Mullins, 2003).

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5, a person clinically diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has grandiose fantasies, a constant need for praise, and a lack of empathy.

If you notice, these are not quite malicious qualities.

Then, why are some narcissists pure evil, like Ted Bundy and Adolf Hitler?

why are narcissists evil and cruel

Why Are Narcissists Evil?

Malignant narcissists are evil because of their extremely narcissistic, antisocial, sadistic, and aggressive nature. They are paranoid and stay ready to become hostile, especially when facing any criticism. Even when their victim is plainly suffering, they do not feel any sorrow, remorse, or empathy.

Malignant narcissists harm others intentionally and mercilessly. They are extremely abusive, both emotionally and physically. They each vengeance on innocent people for atrocities done to them as children.

They are always either angry or on the verge of becoming angry. A base level of aggression surrounds their sense of grandiosity, which often leads them to believe they are the most vicious kind of villains in their area.

In 1964, Erich Fromm, a social psychologist, invented the phrase “malignant narcissism,” defining it as a “severe mental illness” that represents “the quintessence of evil.”

Malignant narcissism is “the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity.” — Eric Fromm

Of the six types of narcissists, in fact, the malignant type is the most dangerous one.

In 1983, American psychiatrist Morgan Scott Peck identified malignant narcissists as evil people who engage in a persistent pattern of scapegoating others. He authored the book The Road Less Traveled, a book that spent more than 10 years on The New York Times bestsellers list.

According to psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg, antisocial people are fundamentally narcissists without a moral compass.

Kernberg felt that malignant narcissism is a syndrome consisting of:

  • narcissistic personality disorder (NPD),
  • antisocial features,
  • paranoid symptoms, and
  • egosyntonic aggression.

He said these people also have:


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  • an absence of guilt,
  • an intense drive for power, and
  • a fierce sense of grandiosity.

What’s the real reason behind a narcissist’s cruelty?

Most psychologists look to inadequate or outright abusive parenting as an explanation for narcissism. When parenting is indifferent, negligent, unempathetic, unloving, or outright abusive, instead of developing a strong self-confidence, the child is scarred with a permanent sense of shame, inadequacy, and damaged self-esteem.

Narcissism is probably a defense mechanism.

According to Heinz Kohut’s self-psychology model, narcissistic psychopathology is a result of parental lack of empathy during a child’s development.

The narcissistic adult, felt Kohut, swings between an irrational exaggeration of the self and an irrational sense of inferiority.

The hurt child develops narcissism as a defense mechanism to cope with their shame, insecurity, and low self-esteem.

They turn to rely on others to give them a sense of importance and boost their self-esteem. When they feel others do not acknowledge their importance, they react with anger.

10 Signs of A Cruel Narcissist

The following features of a malignant narcissist’s personality describe their cruelty:

1. They Lack Empathy

Malignant narcissists are simply unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

Empathy can be of three types: Cognitive, Emotional, and Compassionate.

The malignant narcissist does not have emotional or compassionate empathy, but has cognitive empathy.

They can well understand what is going on in your mind. They can well recognize what emotions are shaping your expressions and body language.

This gives them the ability to harm you more than your everyday enemy. They know when and where to hurt you so that the damage is maximum.

2. They Are Gaslighters

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where a person is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity.

Narcissists are masters of gaslighting. They are pathological liars who will manipulate you at every chance they get.

They are always looking to twist your perception and way of thinking to their will so that you become emotionally dependent on them.

When they succeed, you start doubting your own version of reality so much that you cannot make even small decisions on your own.

3. They Are Aggressive

They can be overly aggressive or passively aggressive, however, the aggression of the malignant narcissist is of the dangerous kind.

When they are passively aggressive, you are on your toes, guessing what wrong you could have done that soured their mood. You are also afraid to ask them because you know if you ask, they will blast you with their anger.

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4. They Are Revengeful

Narcissists are hurt children who grew their narcissistic traits to protect their self-esteem from further hurt.

According to Heinz Kohut, adult narcissistic psychopathology is the result of parental lack of empathy throughout a child’s development.

Malignant narcissists are quite revengeful. They remember the people who hurt their self-esteem and ego, and will keep tracking down opportunities to inflict pain on them, including their abusive parents.

5. They Are Highly Selfish

A selfish person puts their own needs and desires before those of others. Narcissists are unquestionably selfish.

The narcissist needs to feel appreciated. They make sure that everything they do is noticed and acknowledged. They require the adulation of other people to feel good about themselves.

They love to talk about themselves or show off their accomplishments because they want others to recognize what they are capable of doing.

But since they are selfish, they are stingy with their appreciation for others, do not thank others for favors done for them, and habitually neglect the rights and feelings of other people.

No number of sacrifices you do for them would make them step out of their selfish zone and value your contributions.

They simply do not care about you.

6. They Keep You Hypervigilant

A person on the receiving end of a narcissist’s abuse is always walking on eggshells. It means that the person is constantly trying to avoid doing anything that might set off the narcissist’s temper.

Walking on eggshells might be one of the most frustrating experiences in life. It makes a victim remain in fear and anxiety because they are always worried about what they should or shouldn’t do or say to their narcissist tormentor.

An evil narcissist may react with explosive rage to anything that they might read as an insult to criticism. They will do anything to avoid it, even if that means they have to put you down or make you feel bad.

7. They Don’t Help When In Need

Narcissists may be charming, and they may have many friends. But when you need them for something, they’re not there for you.

Narcissists are not the least helpful people because they are too self-absorbed and empathy-deficient to care about other people’s problems or needs.

You cannot depend on them to help you in your times of crisis. They will either flatly decline to help you or make an excuse that they are too busy to help you.

But if they are to face a crisis, and you are absent, they will flay you for being unreliable and insensitive.

8. They Backbite & Backstab

They can, and usually do trash you behind your back.

Narcissists betray their friends because it makes them feel all-powerful and further inflates their sense of self-importance. They constantly seek reassurance that they are admired by others, even if it means hurting other people in the process.

You can almost be sure that the narcissist you are in a relationship with will “b***h about” you with others. They tend to badmouth everyone apart from themselves to feel superior.

Backbiting assures them that they know your negative points and therefore have an upper hand in the relationship.

This behavior of theirs is often a cover-up for their insecurities within.

9. They Leave You When Done With You

They actually do not need you for any other purpose than serving them with narcissistic supply.

Narcissism, by definition, is a personality disorder characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward others.

The moment they are done with you, and realize you will not provide them anymore with their narcissistic supply, the narcissist will coldly dump you.

10. They Can Be Cruel

Human evil is deliberate harm or cruelty toward undeserving others. The malignant narcissists are exactly that.

Their malice drives them to seek and plot unimaginable evils against you. They can try to make you submissive to the point of being a slave, threaten you into silence and thought-blocks, and push you to cause yourself grave physical harm.

If you think you can change them with love and compassion, you will be humiliated and proven wrong every time.

They will never change their evil nature without intense therapy.

Final Words

Some narcissists are highly smart and have a brilliant capacity to read your mind.

Be wary if they are using their ability to read your emotions and thoughts to inflict pain on you when you are at your most vulnerable. They might be the devil incarnate among the six types of narcissists, the malignant narcissists.

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Check out the typical signs, and learn How To Spot A Narcissist.

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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, mindfulness, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).


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