Narcissistic Rage: Causes, Triggers, & How To Deal With It

You may not predict the onset of narcissistic rage, but you always know its consequences. What triggers it in your relationship with a narcissist?

A narcissist can erupt into a volcano of rage whenever they feel they are being mistreated or devalued, even if it is a trivial matter for most of us.

When neglected, the narcissist acts like a child in a grown-up body, throwing a tantrum and using their rage to force the victim to give in to their demands.

They don’t care if the victim is terrified and has been broken down by their actions. The cruel narcissist will have their way.

What Is Narcissistic Rage?

Heinz Kohut coined the term “narcissistic rage” in 1972 to describe the extreme rage that persons with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and other mental disorders experience as a result of narcissistic injury.

Narcissistic rage is an intense emotional reaction (typically a sudden and powerful outburst of anger) to a perceived threat to a narcissist’s self-esteem, whether real or imagined. It is disproportionate to the source of the rage and is expressed with righteous indignation and a sense of entitlement.

Please notice that the term “righteous indignation” is not something to be proud of because it includes the word righteous. It refers to an outburst of rage in response to perceived injustice, insult, or malice. Keep an eye on the word perceived because what you perceive as righteous may well be imagined.

What Causes Narcissistic Rage?

The common causes of narcissistic rage include feeling neglected or unappreciated, not receiving special treatment, being criticized or humiliated, perceiving they are not the center of attention, getting caught breaking rules or violating social norms, being held accountable, exposed as a liar or manipulator, not being in control of the people around them, or failing at something.

In short, narcissistic rage results when a narcissist is confronted with anything that threatens their self-esteem or their grandiose sense of self-worth.

The severity of narcissistic rage varies from person to person, depending on their past and present mental condition. Some people experience narcissistic rage when they feel unappreciated or ignored, some may get enraged when openly insulted or humiliated, while others may have it when they believe they are being made fools.

The underlying cause of narcissistic rage is a narcissist’s fear of losing their sense of self-identity.

When a narcissist is exposed as a narcissist, they see it as a survival threat since it trashes the only good thing in their life: their grandiose self-image.

It erodes their sense of grandeur, entitlement, and superiority. Their self-esteem and self-worth collapse, leaving them feeling inadequate, ashamed, and vulnerable.

When this happens, narcissists usually exhibit a wide range of emotions and behaviors, with one of the most repulsive ones being narcissistic rage.

How To Deal With Narcissistic Rage

What Triggers Narcissistic Rage?

Here are some instances that could set off a narcissistic rage:

  1. When narcissists do not get their way or receive preferential treatment, they erupt in narcissistic rage. Narcissists expect to have their way in everything, even if it is unrealistic. They expect special treatment wherever they go because they deeply believe they are unique and superior to all around them. Not getting special treatment causes them humiliation.
  2. When a narcissist is criticized, they become outraged. Criticizing a narcissist is like declaring war on them, no matter how mild or fair your critique was. And if you publicly criticize them, they will do everything in their power to destroy your reputation and credibility by starting a smear campaign.
  3. The narcissist gets into a fit of rage if they aren’t treated as the focus of attention. A narcissist constantly requires full focus. When they aren’t getting undivided attention, they usually try to shift the spotlight back to themselves through conflict, charm, or conflict followed by charm.
  4. When a narcissist has been discovered breaking rules, disrespecting social norms, or acting dishonestly or meanly, they become enraged. Narcissists have poor self-control which makes them regularly violate the rules. They enjoy breaking the rules and defying the norms. If you point them that they are lying or cheating, they will react by denying it flatly they did it on their own and alluding someone made them do it.
  5. When a narcissist is pressed to explain their behavior, they get enraged. Narcissists are not to be held accountable for their behavior. They frequently use blame shifting to divert attention away from themselves and their mistakes. They are known to make you feel like you are the one to blame because you were too harsh in scrutinizing them.
  6. When a narcissist is exposed as a liar or manipulator, they become furious. When confronted after public exposure, a narcissist will play the victim. And if you call them out in private, they can resort to anything to get back at you, from manipulation to violence.
  7. When the narcissist’s sense of control is taken away, they become outraged. A narcissist has a strong need to control the people around them, including their spouse, coworkers, friends, and neighbors. If there appears to be a loss of control, a narcissist may try hard to re-establish control over something or someone in their life. Their inability to regain control leads to narcissistic rage.
  8. When a narcissist experiences a setback or loss, it can emerge as intense fury, violent animosity, or insidious hatred. The first line of defense against you could be vicious yelling and screaming, as well as baseless charges. Any minor dispute or unfavorable remark might make them feel rejected or mocked, triggering far more hurt than they usually cause. They could project their own feelings and insecurities onto you.

What Happens During Narcissistic Rage?

Narcissistic rage typically comes in two forms: explosive and passive-aggressive.

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Explosive narcissistic rage usually manifests as an intense verbal outburst of anger followed by an aggressive physical attack on the victim. It’s like a complete loss of self-control.

They will be constantly cursing you, screaming at you, throwing objects, calling you names, threatening you, and even hitting you – all because they felt you disrespected them. Narcissistic rage can linger for days or weeks, and they may bring it up from time to time. Of course, they do not apologize for their cruel behavior.

Passive-aggressive narcissistic rage usually manifests as covert, underhanded tactics that can include intimidating someone or sowing seeds of doubt in their minds. For example, the person who is angry with you might quietly begin to spread rumors about your character, create difficulties in your life, or use a person in a position of power over you to take action against you.

When you trigger a narcissist, you should anticipate extreme cruelty. Here are some things that happen during narcissistic rage:

  1. Narcissists will have fits of rage that are out of proportion to the cause of their rage. Their rage can be so intense that you will find it hard to believe that you can leave the scene unharmed. You may witness their hatred in ways you could have never imagined. The ugliness of their rage may even numb you and freeze you on the spot.
  2. Some narcissists may experience rage that passes quickly and is never mentioned again. This type of narcissistic rage eventually fades and vanishes. Some narcissists may hide their rage by adopting cold silence (silent treatment). They may not speak to you for days and weeks believing you deserve such punishment for acting in a way they despise.
  3. Some narcissists provoke their victim’s rage before retaliating with verbal or physical violence. They will emotionally manipulate you, incite your fury, and then use verbal or physical violence against you when you are unable to control your outburst. They may yell, bully, shame, and threaten at first. Then they can resort to hitting their victims with objects or their hands to intimidate them and establish their dominance and superiority.
  4. Narcissists will detach or disconnect from reality. They are the only ones who exist in their parallel universe. During a narcissistic rage, they will withdraw from reality, making no one else’s perspective count or be correct. Their reality may be distorted and unrealistic, but they will never accept or listen to your point of view because they believe they are in control and you are not.
  5. Some narcissists will harm themselves in their fit of rage. Narcissists love dramas and strive to be the best performers in each scene they are in, even when venting their rage. Many people believe that narcissists would never injure themselves because of their inflated ego. This, however, is not always the case, and narcissists may hurt themselves to manipulate or exploit their victims.

What Happens When You Ignore Narcissistic Rage?

For true narcissists, ignoring their narcissistic rage makes them more inappropriately angry. If their victim is nearby, they will start escalating their voice and insults start breaking or throwing things around, and become physically violent. If the victim is away, their rage will keep boiling until they can erupt it on their victim or someone else.

For many benign narcissists, ignoring their narcissistic rage may take away its intensity. They may not attack them immediately or directly because they are aware it will cut off their narcissistic supply. Often, they unload their anger against easier targets, who cannot lash back, like children or subordinates.

In any case, experts suggest that the best course of action when a narcissist is exploding is to disengage and move out of their reach.

What Is The Difference Between Anger And Narcissistic Rage?

Narcissistic rage is not the same as anger.

Anger is a response to feeling wronged or threatened. Narcissistic rage, on the other hand, is a response to feeling humiliated, ignored, and minimized.

It’s important to note that while narcissistic rage can be directed at anyone, it’s most commonly directed at those who are closest in proximity or those with whom they have a relationship with (e.g., partners, family members).

Anger is a feeling that is linked to a sense of injustice. It can be triggered by many things, such as the feeling of being wronged, mistreated, or ignored. Narcissistic rage, on the other hand, is an overreaction to an event that feels personal.

The difference between anger and narcissistic rage can be explained in three ways:

  • Anger is a reaction to injustice while narcissistic rage is an overreaction to something that feels personal.
  • Anger can be triggered by many things while narcissistic rage only occurs when someone feels like they have been wronged.
  • Anger can occur at any time but narcissistic rage only happens when someone has been wronged and it’s not about anything else.

How To Protect Yourself From Narcissistic Rage?

A narcissist in narcissistic rage can be extremely dangerous.

Narcissistic rage is often triggered by a narcissistic injury, which is any threat to the narcissist’s ego and is based on vengeance.

Some strategies on how you can protect yourself from narcissistic rage:

1. Don’t Take The Bait

A narcissist is a master manipulator. They just know how to fire you up. They will snare you in an argument and then escalate it to the point of branding you “crazy.”

When you know beforehand they can do it to you, you can prevent yourself from getting baited into their cooked-up fights where you can never win.

Distance yourself from them. If you can’t, then take a deep breath and tell yourself, “Cindy, you are not biting into that.”

If it happens too often, consider breaking up the relationship.

2. Don’t Let Yourself Be Guilty of Their Faults

They will unload their accountability on you, for any mistake they made and you get to know of it. They are good at shifting their blame onto others.

Don’t accept the blames they heap on you. Don’t let yourself be burdened by the weight of their sins.

They are always in fear that their true selves will be outed, so they will project their wrong deed on you.

Do not let them get into panic mode so they can control you. If you cannot understand if you really are the one responsible, walk away from the scene to deliberate on the issue with a friend.

3. Respond With Empathy And Compassion

A narcissist is deprived of compassion most of the time. Somehow, people understand they are not persons to show compassion and kindness.

When a narcissist is in rage and trying to incite you into an outburst so that they can retaliate, let the occasion go to kindness.

Get your thoughts on the harsh upbringing they went through to become the narcissist they are today. Think of the daily humiliation and abuse they had to face when their friends were having happy times with their parents.

Understanding, where they are coming from, will help you be kind to them, and even forgive them, without condoning their behavior.

You can disarm them with your genuine compassion.

4. Build Psychological And Physical Boundaries

Narcissists will frequently break into your personal space, rummage through your personal things, and inquire about your intimate past.

They do this to collect your weaknesses which they will use at an appropriate time to exercise control, which is often in narcissistic rage.

The best way to tackle this is to create boundaries and enforce them. Every relationship should have these six boundaries. Let them know about your boundaries with them and constantly remind them to never infringe them whatever the situation, emergency or not.

Prevent them from breaking into your personal space by calling them out publicly, if you feel personal warnings are not effective. They will not cross over because they have a public image to save.

5. Don’t Trigger Them

It is highly possible that you have a tendency to say it as it is. This brutal honesty may seriously backfire on a narcissist.

Don’t provoke them with statements like, “You are so lazy, so dirty, so useless, so dependent, so praise-hungry.” It will incite their narcissistic rage, even if you have told them so in a jovial way.

An insult to their self-image is violent behavior, even if it is wrapped in a soft bouquet. They will react as soon as they can, and you can sense their aloofness coming over.

Do not provoke them.

6. Take Time To Self-Care

Narcissists are good at making you give your all to them in return for occasional morsels of love.

They will not let you sleep properly, and wake you up at unholy hours to tell you their thoughts about some incident or person. And keep you awake until you answer them to their satisfaction.

Narcissists are always pointing out what your flaws are. Elevate your self-esteem by going to places where you are welcomed and entertained for who you are.

Protect your self-love with self-care. Learn how to meditate, be mindful, and stay calm at times of stress.

Do not engage with them in their tone when they are in a fit of rage. Better still, keep a watch for the red flags when they are about to get triggered.

7. Protect Yourself Rightfully

First, your best fights are those that you don’t have to fight. It is futile to get into a fight or an argument with a narcissist because they become blind to logic in their narcissistic rage.

So, don’t step into the ring however much they instigate you. Walk away, because it’s their game all the way.

But if you have entered their arena, then protect yourself tooth and nail.

They will make you defensive by blaming and gaslighting. But your stance should be one of calling out their narcissistic traits and behaviors.

Start to record the entire argument. Use your phone camera or phone voice mike to record things. Evidence collected against them will go a long way since many of them will involve you in lawsuits to bring you down.

How to Calm down a Narcissist showing narcissistic rage?

Narcissistic rage is a sudden and uncontrolled burst of anger. It can be triggered by anything that threatens the narcissist’s ego and self-image, such as criticism, humiliation, or rejection.

The best way to calm down a narcissist showing narcissistic rage is to take a step back and let them cool off. Do not try to reason with them when they are angry because they will not listen. Instead, give them space and time to work through their feelings on their own.

Give them time to think about their behavior. You can also help them see the consequences of their actions and give them a hug.


What angers a narcissist the most?

A narcissist is most angered by a perceived attack on their self-esteem. They regard it as a life-threatening situation since it can irreparably damage their self-image and public image. Some covert narcissists may become enraged over a perceived insult to their partner.

How long does narcissistic rage last?

The most common answer to it is that narcissistic rage never subsides completely because a narcissist will never forget an insult to their self-esteem. Another reasonable response is “it depends.” According to an informal poll of 400 survivors of narcissistic abuse, the average duration of narcissistic anger is 3 hours.

Final Words

Once a narcissist is in a fit of rage, you cannot reason with them. It is like an amygdala hijack for them.

In fact, trying to reason with them while they are raging often causes epic meltdowns.

Don’t engage them at such times. Talk to them at a later time when they are calm and are embarrassed by their outburst.

But even at such calmer times, do not attack them. Because however sorry they feel, they will take seconds to get into another fit of rage.

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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, mindfulness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).

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