The Dark Mystery of Why Some Narcissists Are So Evil

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Yes, 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% of women have narcissistic traits (Widiger & Mullins, 2003).

Then, why are some narcissists pure evil, or are they ill?

why are narcissists evil and cruel

Why Are Some Narcissists Evil?

A class of narcissists, labeled malignant narcissists, are naturally hostile, especially violent when they perceive being criticized. They can inflict physical and psychological harm on vulnerable and suffering people, with no remorse or distress. Their highly destructive behaviors are driven by their extreme egocentrism, lack of empathy, paranoid traits, and antisocial tendencies.

The worst part is that because of their sadistic inclinations, they derive pleasure from tormenting others.

So, overall, they are “evil” people who can be potentially damaging to civil society.

That said, are malignant narcissists truly evil?

The DSM-5 diagnostic criteria lists nine features of a clinical Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), like grandiose fantasies, a constant need for praise, and a lack of empathy. But none of those are quite “evil” or malicious qualities.

American psychiatrist Morgan Scott Peck identifies malignant narcissists as evil people who engage in a persistent pattern of scapegoating others. His book The Road Less Traveled spent more than 10 years on The New York Times bestsellers list.

I feel the term “evil” is morally loaded and can oversimplify the complex psychological underpinnings of malignant narcissism.

Malignant narcissists can torture and kill you
Malignant narcissists can torture and kill without remorse.

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

1. They Totally Lack Empathy

These 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. These narcissists do not have emotional or compassionate empathy.

But they have cognitive empathy, which makes them good at reading and understanding what is going on in someone’s mind. They can well recognize what emotions are shaping their victim’s 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 Habitual Liars & Gaslighters

This evil person can trick their blind girlfriend into walking into a quicksand, telling her they have a surprise just ten steps ahead.

The narcissist would have trained her many times to walk into pleasant surprises, so he could convince her to do it one last time.

Gaslighting is emotional abuse, where a person is manipulated into doubting their own beliefs, ideas, insights, and memories. The victim may ultimately trust their gaslighter so much that they start to think they are losing their own 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 Unpredictably Aggressive

This is the worst part of narcissist cruelty – their instant exploding into aggressive behavior can leave you with lifelong scars.

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

4. They Are Highly Revengeful

Narcissists were hurt as children, who then 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 people who hurt their self-esteem and ego. They will often keep tracking down opportunities to inflict pain on them, including their abusive parents.

5. They Are Extremely Selfish

A selfish person puts their own needs and desires before those of others. And narcissists are the very definition of selfishness.

They selfishly want to be appreciated on your grand occasions. They often do unsavory things on your birthdays and celebratory days to turn the focus on themselves.

They make sure that everything they do for you gets noticed and acknowledged. Their selfish need to feel adulated trumps your need to find relief from your pain.

Suppose their friend had a broken finger, and they took her to the hospital. They would tell everyone about their quick decisions and sacrifices to get their friend medical attention.

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

They must be made to feel good, at any cost. Otherwise, they start sulking, stonewalling, and resorting to cruel manipulations.

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 make 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 People 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 Abandon You When Done With You

They actually do not need you for any other purpose than serving them with a 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 Unnecessarily Cruel

Evil is deliberate harm or cruelty to others who don’t deserve it. But malignant narcissists do not realize this; they believe people deserve their cruel behavior.

The evilness of narcissists may be utilitarian, not because it is “in their nature.” They act cruelly because, first, it is more convenient than telling people they are hurt, and second, it is advantageous for them to control others.

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 thoughtblocks, 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 may never change their evil character without intense therapy.

Features of A Malignant Narcissist

  • Malignant narcissists harm others intentionally and malevolently, motivated by a twisted sense of justice.
  • Their cruelty, devoid of empathy, morality, and conscience, stems from an intense need to control and dominate others.
  • They view others as mere objects to be exploited for their own success and glory. To this end, they are often willing to use nefarious means to achieve their goals.
  • They realize their evilness secures a certain outcome. Their harsh actions are designed to subdue people they perceive to have shown them disrespect.
  • Their cruelty is frequently impulsive, but also a conscious choice to defend their self-esteem. Inflicting pain and misery on others to gain control over them comes naturally to them.

A moat of aggression surrounds their sense of self-worth and vulnerability.

Their volatile emotional state is a striking aspect of their character. They are either perpetually angry or on the precipice of narcissistic rage.

The Malignant Narcissist: Pure Evil

Malignant narcissists are so dangerous that they can torture and kill anyone without remorse.

They want to be feared by everyone. So, malignant narcissists typically project themselves as malevolent, revengeful figures.

They look dark and cold. They are unpredictably violent, indifferent to pain, and insensitive to people around them.

Their extreme form of narcissism is often marked by unrestrained emotional and physical abuse.

They can externalize their own traumatic experiences onto innocent individuals, seeking retribution for atrocities committed against them in the past.

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.

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:

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

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.


  1. Why are narcissists so cruel?

    Narcissists can be cruel for these reasons:
    1. Malignant character: Malignant narcissists are cruel because they are self-serving, antisocial, sadistic, aggressive, and remorseless.
    2. Lack of object constancy: Narcissists lack object constancy, which means that when someone is out of sight, they no longer exist in their minds. This can lead to cruel behavior towards loved ones.
    3. Idealization and devaluation: Narcissists often idealize their partners at the beginning of a relationship, but then devalue them when they realize that their partner is not perfect. This can lead to cruel behavior towards their partner.
    4. Urge to control difficult people: Narcissists may target strong, successful people to bring under their control, partly because they enjoy a challenge, and partly because controlling a more successful person would increase their social value. However, when they realize that the person is too difficult to tame entirely, they may resort to cruelly abusive behavior to break down their spirit.
    6. Deceptive nature: Narcissists are deceitful and tend to hide their actual character (grandiosity, lack of empathy, need for praise) from others. They may gaslight and mislead their partners about their feelings, thoughts, and intentions, leaving them cruelly betrayed. They show more cruelty when they are found out.
    7. Sadism: Some narcissists are inherently sadists and delight in inflicting pain and suffering on others. They take pleasure in how their “ratchet-able” cruelty can dominate their victim’s emotions while the narcissist remains aloof.

  2. Do narcissists know they are evil?

    Yes, some narcissists may indeed be aware of their malevolent nature. These individuals often interpret their cruel behaviors as useful acts intended to “teach” others proper conduct. Their actions—deceit, manipulation, abuse, and love-bombing—highlight their awareness of the damaging impact they have on their victims. They can often read thoughts and interpret the weaknesses of others (cognitive empathy). Moreover, their ability to hide their true intentions suggests they know they are treating others wrongly. However, their expertise in manipulation and exploitation can make it difficult to know whether they are aware of what they are doing.

  3. What do psychologists identify as the main cause of narcissism?

    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 strong self-confidence, the child is scarred with a permanent sense of shame, inadequacy, and damaged self-esteem.

  4. Are all narcissists bad?

    No, not all narcissism is bad. In fact, mild narcissism can have some positive aspects:
    1. Healthy self-esteem: Mild narcissism can indicate a healthy sense of self-esteem. Positive narcissists have a healthy sense of self-esteem and tend to have a pattern of behavior that could be mildly narcissistic.
    2. Mental toughness: Grandiose narcissism correlates with very positive components of mental toughness, such as resilience to stress and less likelihood of experiencing depression.
    3. Risk-taking: Positive narcissists often work hard to increase their intelligence and knowledge. This makes them more likely to pick up challenges when others are reluctant and succeed after taking risky decisions and irrational actions.
    4. Self-assuredness: Positive narcissists are more self-assured in their plans and are less prone to get intimidated by the negative judgments of others.
    5. Charismatic: Positive narcissists often have a strong presence and can influence others on the go. Their first impressions and opening lines have a charismatic effect on people working for them.

  5. What is the worst thing you can do to a narcissist?

    There are different opinions on what the worst thing you can do to a narcissist, and we feel you should make the choice from these below:
    1. Public humiliation: One particularly damaging action is publicly challenging their opinions, ignoring their commands, or unveiling their lies. Doing so strikes at the narcissist’s sensitive ego, causing profound discomfort.
    2. Walking away: Strikingly, the worst thing for a narcissist—ignoring them—can often be the best thing for your well-being. Narcissists despise feeling irrelevant and worthless. Even negative reactions affirm to them that they matter enough to incite your upset.
    3. Refusing to engage: Narcissists thrive on attention and drama. Consequently, withholding your engagement can be devastating for them. Don’t respond to their provocations, argue with them, or attempt to reason with them.
    4. Unmasking their true nature: Narcissists often hide their true selves, so unmasking their lies, deceits, secrets, or manipulative tactics can be a profoundly disturbing way to hurt them.
    5. Be happy and successful: Narcissists feel envious and oppressed when people are happy and successful, so living your best life can be a powerful way to get back at them. So, focus on your goals, achievements, and happiness, and refuse to let the narcissist’s actions affect you.

Final Words

Finally, why is a narcissistic person evil?

Some narcissists seem “evil” because they are typically not concerned about others’ feelings. They can hurt people without feeling sorry, be mean to others, and use them to get what they want. They think highly of themselves and can cause pain to even those who love them.

The evilness of these narcissists emerges from an extreme lack of empathy, an insatiable need for control, deep-seated anger, and unresolved childhood trauma.

Beware, they might be the devil incarnate among the six types of narcissists.

√ Also Read:

√ Please spread the word if you found this helpful.

Our Story!


When it comes to mental well-being, you don't have to do it alone. Therapists can help you work through your trauma triggers and emotional patterns. Reaching out to a professional to feel better is a positive choice.