Before we start this post, there’s one thing we want you to consider first. We’d like you to take a moment to self-reflect and honestly answer:
Are you asking, “Can a narcissist change?”
Or are you really asking, “Can I change a narcissist?”
Since the answers to those questions are different, please keep that in mind while reading.
There’s a difference between having narcissistic traits and having narcissism personality disorder. Nowadays, we use the term “narcissist” probably more than warranted. We use it as a synonym for “selfish.” But someone can have selfish or narcissistic moments without being a full-blown narcissist with narcissism personality disorder.
Narcissism is described as:
Think of narcissism as a spectrum:
It’s important to consider that most people with narcissist traits do not have NPD. Narcissistic traits may include:
People with a few of these traits aren’t necessarily narcissists. Instead, they may fall somewhere between on the spectrum. People with many of these traits—especially displayed at high levels—may be clinically diagnosed with NPD.
Still wondering if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist? Read: Narcissist In A Relationship: 14 Eerie Signs You’re With A Narc
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition. Being diagnosed with NPD means there’s a pattern of behavior that affects your daily life. The only way to know if you have NPD is to be diagnosed by a professional.
People with NPD share common characteristics:
Causes of NPD may be genetic, environmental or developmental.
The good news: Narcissists can absolutely change!
The bad news: You can’t make a narcissist change! A narcissist has to be personally committed to change. And compared to other people in therapy, their road is often longer and more challenging.
In the next sections, we’ll discuss the ways a narcissist is able to change. You’ll learn about why change is more difficult for a narcissist and what challenges it poses during therapy.
A narcissist can change with therapy. While the traits of narcissism can be deeply ingrained, therapy can help a person with narcissistic tendencies develop more empathy and awareness of their behavior.
Can a narcissist be cured with therapy? Yes. Here are a list of things therapy may help a narcissist with:
People with NPD often also have mood disorders that a therapist can help with.
While the answer to “can a narcissist change through therapy?” is yes, it’s not that straightforward. There are several challenges to “curing” narcissism through therapy.
Everyone’s experience in counselling depends on their ability to introspect and make changes. However, this is even more difficult for someone with narcissist tendances or NPD. The nature of narcissism allows a narcissist to prop themselves up while blaming everyone else. This attitude can make therapy near impossible. A narcissist’s inability to be honest can create blind spots even a therapist may not see or be tricked by. It’s a main reason why many narcissists aren’t helped by therapy.
Other challenges of therapy for a narcissist include:
Whether narcissists can change with therapy also depends on the therapist’s experience and approach. There is no standardized treatment for NPD.
Therapy approaches to change a narcissist may include:
It’s important to note that these processes can be lengthier and more challenging for someone with narcissism personality disorder. This is why it’s important to seek out a therapist who’s comfortable working with and has experience with narcissistic individuals. Skilled therapists know the common potholes a narcissist may fall into. This allows them to redirect the session.
For example, psychologist and author Elinor Greenberg shared that during her therapy sessions, she only allows narcissists to talk about how they’d like to change themselves. She doesn’t give them space to blame or complain about others or tell ranting stories. This self-focused change approach forces the narcissist to honestly look inward instead of outward.
Along with therapy, a narcissist may change with medication. There isn’t a standardized or specific medication for people with narcissistic traits. Rather, therapists work with clients to assess whether they might benefit from various medications, like anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. Because many people with NPD also have mood disorders that exacerbate NPD, treating the mood disorder may also benefit their narcissistic traits.
Key takeaways of narcissist change through therapy:
Before we delve into whether you can change a narcissist, first ask, do they even want to change?
Sometimes, we want other people to change but they themselves don’t see it as necessary. This is often the case for narcissists. The very nature of narcissism means the person may be unable to see the problem. They believe their behavior is justified because they only see it from their perspective.
If this is the case, the only reason for a narcissist to change is to keep you around. Unfortunately, that’s never a good enough reason. If change isn’t motivated from within, it often leads to manipulation. That is, they’ll keep you on the line by saying change is coming, when they have no intention of actually changing.
If the narcissist doesn’t want to change, they won’t. You can’t will someone into change.
Now, let’s assume the narcissist genuinely wants to change. Can you cure a narcissist yourself?
We started off this article asking you to get honest. What are you really asking?
When we’re in a relationship with a narcissist, we see their good, lovable sides. We also see their bad, and sometimes abusive sides too. Through the dark periods, we remember their light and have empathy toward them. Naturally, we ask ourselves if we can brighten their light and discourage their darkness.
The feeling of wanting to change a narcissist is often necessary for a relationship to survive. For example, if you knew you’d never be able to change the narcissist in your life, you’ll be less likely to stay. Thinking you can change a narcissist keeps hope alive.
A narcissist’s manipulation or abuse can also lead us to believe we hold the key to change them. If we only acted better, supported them more, did more of the right things.
None of this is true.
You cannot cure a narcissist. A narcissist can only cure themselves with the support of a mental health professional. While you can support them in that journey, you should never do so at the expense of yourself.
Remember that a narcissist’s journey to change is a long one. Sticking it out for the long run could subject you to more manipulation, hurt and possibly abuse. If a narcissist does decide to seek help, supporting them is a personal choice. In some situations, a narcissist may be making progress and your relationship may improve. In other cases, it’s not safe to stay. Always prioritize your safety and emotional well-being over supporting a narcissist.
Key takeaways for personally curing a narcissist:
If you’re in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic tendencies, you might wonder, “can a narcissist change for the right woman?”
First, let’s talk about what this question implies. It implies that all your partner’s previous lovers didn’t have the magic key to change him, but you might. It implies that you might be more special. This does a disservice to the women who came before you. Like you, they probably tried to change him but were unsuccessful. But that’s not their fault. Because that’s not how change works. This leads us to our next point.
Asking “can a narcissist change for the right woman?” implies that change happens for another person. This isn’t true. Change happens for yourself. While change can be motivated by someone else, it doesn’t last unless the person feels it benefits them too.
Key takeaways for changing a narcissist with the right women:
Being in a relationship with a narcissist is difficult and confusing. Learn more:
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist and want to change him, the first step is recognizing that you can’t change anyone but yourself.
It’s difficult to accept that you can’t change someone you love when they’re impacting your well-being. So what can you do? Here are a few suggestions:
Narcissists can change, although the road will likely be long and challenging. The nature of narcissism can pose several challenges which impede the effectiveness of therapy. A narcissist can only transform with the right professional help and internal motivation. Other people can’t will a narcissist change.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, the best you can do is support their efforts to change. If they don’t want to change themselves, they won’t and you shouldn’t expect it. Instead, you should prioritize your own safety and emotional well-being. In abusive cases or cases where a narcissist doesn’t change, this means leaving the relationship.
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