Categories: BrainHeart

Can Narcissists Change? A Caring Guide for Rocky Relationships

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.

The Spectrum of Narcissism

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:

  • Excessive self-love
  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A constant need for admiration
  • A lack of empathy for others

Think of narcissism as a spectrum:

  1. On one end, narcissism rarely rears its head and empathy is leads. There’s a healthy level of self-esteem and confidence, allowing for healthy relationships and consideration for others’ needs and feelings.
  2. Moving along the spectrum, people with more severe narcissistic traits may become increasingly self-centered, lacking empathy and showing a disregard for others. They may have a grandiose sense of self-importance, feel entitled to special treatment, and have an intense need for admiration and attention. They may also engage in manipulative behaviors to maintain their sense of superiority and control over others.
  3. On the other extreme end of the spectrum, narcissism personality disorder exists (NPD). People with NPD often have difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships, and may engage in abusive or exploitative behavior towards others.

Read: 59 Narcissistic & Toxic Relationship Quotes For Him And Her

Narcissistic Traits

It’s important to consider that most people with narcissist traits do not have NPD. Narcissistic traits may include:

  • Grandiosity: An inflated sense of self-importance and believe they are better than others.
  • Need for admiration: Craving constant praise, attention, and validation from others to maintain their sense of self-worth.
  • Lack of empathy: Struggling to understand or relate to the feelings and needs of others.
  • Entitlement: Felling entitled to special treatment or privileges based on their perceived superiority.
  • Exploitative behavior: Taking advantage of others to achieve their own goals or maintain their sense of control.
  • Manipulative behavior: Using tactics like guilt-tripping or gaslighting to control others and maintain their sense of superiority.
  • Envy: Being jealous of others’ success or attention and believing they deserve it more.
  • Arrogance: Acting condescending or dismissive of others and their opinions.

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

Narcissism Personality Disorder

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:

  • Inflated sense of self-importance
  • A lack of
  • Need for admiration
  • Need for attention
  • Exaggerated sense of their own abilities and achievements,
  • Feel entitled to special treatment
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships
  • Consistently prioritize their own needs and desires over the needs and feelings of others.
  • Prone to intense feelings of jealousy and envy
  • Struggle with anger and impulsivity

Causes of NPD may be genetic, environmental or developmental.

Can Narcissist Change?

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.

Can Narcissist Change with 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:

  • Exploring the root causes of their behavior
  • Working through any underlying emotional wounds or insecurities that may contribute to behavior
  • Learning how to manage emotions by develop healthier coping mechanisms (stop lashing out)
  • Learning how to take personal accountability
  • Learning how to consider others and gain a better sense of empathy
  • Learning how to self-introspect
  • Improving communication skills

People with NPD often also have mood disorders that a therapist can help with.

Challenges of Therapy to Change a Narcissist

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:

  • Aversion to introspection. The nature of being a narcissist is not acknowledging problematic behavior. Their lack of empathy can make it difficult to understand why a problem is a problem.
  • Aversion to vulnerability. As we discussed, therapy takes introspection, which is difficult when a person is unwilling the be vulnerable and share their deep thoughts or feelings.
  • Aversion to feedback. Narcissists seek admiration and hate criticism, even when it’s kind and constructive. Their aversion to feedback may lead them to turn down a therapist’s suggestions.
  • A narcissist sense of grandiosity may make them feel smarter than the therapist. This is another reason they could turn down advice; they think they know better than the therapist.
  • A narcissist is good at manipulation and therapists, like all of us, are imperfect people who may fall prey. This is a common occurrence in couple’s therapy with a narcissist. The narcissist may convince the therapist that the problems lie with the other partner. This is dangerous possibility that can lead to victim blaming.
  • Time-consuming. Therapy isn’t one and done. The time commitment it takes to change narcissism make be more than a person is willing to devote.
  • Therapy is expensive, especially the amount of work required to change narcissism. A person may not be able to afford ongoing therapy. Although free and low cost resources exist, they may not be provided at the frequency or intensity that a narcissist needs to change.

Can Narcissist Change with Different Therapy Approaches?

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:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT may be helpful in addressing a narcissist’s tendencies towards grandiosity, low empathy, and difficulty regulating their emotions.
    Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT can be helpful in improving emotional regulation and reducing impulsive or reactive behaviors common for a narcissist.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy: Psychodynamic therapy may address a narcissist’s underlying emotional wounds and vulnerabilities that may be contributing to their behavior.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy can help someone with narcissistic traits develop a sense of empathy and better understand the other’s perspectives.
  • Mindfulness-Based Therapy: Mindfulness-based therapy can reduce reactivity and improve emotional regulation.

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:

  • There are many therapeutic approaches to treat NPD.
  • There isn’t a specific medication for NPD, but it may be treated by other medications like SSRIs.
  • When dealing with people with NPD, therapists should take care not to allow ranting stories or blame games.
  • Therapists can sometimes be “tricked” by people with NPD. This can lead to victim blaming during couples counseling, which can be extremely damaging for the other partner. In this case, the non-NPD partner should disengage from couples counseling and seek safety resources.
  • Therapy can be longer and more challenging for people with NPD. Still, a narcissist can absolutely change with the right therapeutic approach.

Can a Narcissist Be Cured By Me?

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?

  1. Can a narcissist change?
  2. Can a narcissist be cured by me?

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:

  • Can you cure a narcissist? No, only they can do that themselves.
  • A narcissist may manipulate you into thinking that if you did something different, they’d get better. That’s not true. In cases of abuse, this is a form of victim blaming.
  • A narcissist can trick you into thinking they want to or see the need to change when they don’t. They may simply say it to keep you around.
  • The best you can do is support a narcissist with their own decision and journey to change
  • Supporting a narcissist may mean enduring more hurt or even abuse and it isn’t always a safe decision.
  • Always put your safety and emotional needs first.

Can a Narcissist Change for the Right Woman?

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:

  • Other women before you probably tried to change him and failed.
  • Women don’t fail to change men because of their own inadequacies. Women fail to change men because men can only change themselves. Therefore you likely won’t be any more successful at changing him than the people before you.
  • Change comes from within and is motivated from within.
  • A narcissist isn’t waiting for the right woman to change him. He’s waiting for himself.

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is difficult and confusing. Learn more:

You Can’t Personally Change a Narcissist. Do This Instead

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:

  • Change your relationship with the narcissist. You can’t change someone, but you can always change your relationship with them. When a narcissist is negatively impacting your well-being, it’s best to change or end the relationship. In cases of abuse, seek safety resources and make a plan to leave.
  • Support them through their own journey. Only if it’s safe to do so and isn’t detrimental to your own well-being, you can support a narcissist in their own journey to change. This also means holding them accountable, even when they don’t like it.
  • See a therapist yourself. If you’re having trouble accepting you change the narcissist in your life, therapy can help you come to terms with reality. A therapist can also help you determine if it’s best to stay in or leave a relationship. Dealing with a narcissist can lead you to mental health problems of your own (or exacerbate the ones you already have). For this reason, seeking help is an important self-care step for those in relationships with narcissists. It can help you regain confidence and trust yourself.

Summary: Can a Narcissist Change?

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.


YoHumanz is a blog dedicated to helpful and inspirational content about being human today—written in a non-bullshitty, (hopefully) more approachable way. We focus on 3 main areas: Heart, Brain and Soul.

Recent Posts

Tarot Spreads for Self-Growth, Introspection & Transformation

Tarot isn’t just for fortune-telling—it can be used for “self-telling.” The symbols, imagery and metaphors… Read More

2 weeks ago

101+ Grief and Loss quotes for Grief Healing: Losing Loved One Quotes

We’re happy you’re here. It means you’ve decided to look your grief in the eye… Read More

1 month ago

143 Shadow Work Prompts To Ease Yourself Into Transformation

Shadow work is the person we want to be challenging the person we are now.… Read More

2 months ago

69 Cute Good Morning Texts for Him to Boost Love

Cute good morning texts for him can improve communication and have an uplifting effect on… Read More

2 months ago

How to Use Crystals: 60+ Ways to Inspire Life with Stones

How to use crystals goes beyond décor and keeping them in your pocket. Although those… Read More

3 months ago

18 Crystals for Grief to Ease Sorrow, Loss & Overwhelm

Grief is an emotion that actually encompasses a variety of emotions. Whether you’ve lost a… Read More

3 months ago