The Narcissist in Old Age

“Do not go gentle into that good night, / Old age should burn and rave at close of day; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” 

~Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”

“Everything is possible for you, because you have the only two things worth having…beauty and youth”                                      ~ Oscar Wilde,”The Picture of Dorian Gray”

narc in old ageThe narcissist ages without compassion or grace; he is shallow and does not accept aging well. His withered body and his overworked mind betray him at the same time. He stares in disbelief and rage at cruel mirrors. Subjected to childhood abuse, the narcissist ages prematurely and finds himself in a time warp; he is in a constant struggle with midlife crisis. When he was a child prodigy, a sex symbol, an actor or idol, a stud, or an outstanding intellectual-the narcissist was at the center of attention. He has become disillusioned in old age as his old charms have worn thin.

Growing old requires grace and courage.  Aging is a series of physical and mental insults that you have to take in stride or you become an unpleasant burden to yourself and those around you.  Grace and courage are not traits the narcissist possesses at any age, so the lack of these virtues becomes all the more apparent as he or she grows old. Old age points out and highlights what you’ve been all your life; narcissists are seen as odious inside and out.

Having been exposed for what he is-a deceitful, treacherous, spiteful egotist-the narcissist’s old tricks now fail him. People are on their guard and less gullible than before. The narcissist, with his rigid personality, can’t change. He reverts to old forms and old habits, surrendering to former temptations. He is made a mockery by his obstinate denial of the reality of aging, by his stubborn refusal to grow up, an eternal child in the sagging body of an old man.

Narcissists do not age well.  Whether they depended on their beauty or their intellect, they can no longer summon the charm or sophistication which previously enabled them to lure in their sources of supply. Withered and shrunken, their minds and bodies now betray them.  They are confronted daily with the huge gap between what they fantasize themselves to be and what the mirror reflects back to them.  This “grandiosity gap” i.e. the distance between reality and the narcissist’s grandiose vision of himself is now a gaping chasm. The narcissist is a curmudgeon, invariably angry and depressive, that most people have abandoned.

The narcissist is singularly maladapted to life’s trials and tribulations. Time tends to make child prodigies lose their magic, lovers exhaust their potency, and philanderers wear out their appeal.  The longer the narcissist lives, the more average he becomes. The wider the gap between his pretensions and his actual accomplishments, the more he is the object of derision and contempt by others who have learned to see through his facade.

Few narcissists bother to study a trade, get a degree, maintain a business, keep their jobs, raise functioning families or nurture their friendships. They are perennially ill-prepared. Those who do succeed in their vocation, end up bitterly alone having squandered the love of spouse, offspring and friends.  The more gregarious and family oriented often fail at work, leap from one job to another, and relocate erratically, forever wandering.  The contrast between the prime of his youth and his dilapidated present constitutes a permanent narcissistic injury. The narcissist retreats deeper into himself to find comfort and consolation, withdrawing deeper into his grandiose fantasies. They are bereft of any qualities that would make them content at this time of their lives.  The decrepitude of their character is reflected in the decrepitude of their bodies.

A rare minority of narcissists are able to accept their fate with good humor. These few are surprisingly healed of their megalomania by old age. They lose their narcissistic traits and respond to the world with the composure that they lacked when they were younger. Such changed narcissists develop more realistic expectations and hopes that are commensurate with their talents, accomplishments and education. Ironically, it is always too late. They are avoided and ignored, as they have been rendered transparent by their past behavior. They are passed over for promotions, never invited to professional or social gatherings, and cold shouldered by the media. They are being constantly and consistently punished for who they were. It is poetic justice that they are now being treated narcissistically by their previous victims.

For aging narcissists, it is too late. They initiated the demise of business partners, spouses, and former friends– who are now enemies. The narcissist has burned many human bridges. He has betrayed, abused, demeaned, and humiliated countless human beings. Some narcissists have even destroyed their own children as a result of repetitive abandonments, degrading criticisms and malicious agendas.


The narcissist cannot be distinguished from his image. He (or she) has created and protected a perfected facade over an entire lifetime.  Being attractive, mentally superior, socially adept, well connected and physically vigorous are essential to his identity.   Aging is an appalling prospect for the narcissist. He or she will go to great lengths to remain young looking with plastic surgery and a variety of other aesthetic enhancements. A common path to preserving his own youthful image is marriage to a partner who is many years younger and highly attractive.

Beneath his image of perfection, the aging narcissist feels helpless. This is expressed through frequent bouts of narcissistic rage. If you have lived with a narcissist for decades and plan to stay with him or her, don’t count on any psychological mellowing. If anything, the aging narcissist increases his tantrums, raising both their frequency and volume. As he loses his physical vigor and mental powers, narcissistic rages become more outstanding; tirades come faster in succession and develop more explosively. Narcissistic rage no longer has a beginning, middle or end. It is a continuous storm that appears to ebb for a while only to return with fury. The aging narcissist is not going to lighten up on his rage; it is as much a part of him as his grandiose sense of self, his arrogance and his delusions of superiority.



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About Alexander Burgemeester

15 Responses to “The Narcissist in Old Age”

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  1. alice says:

    Old narcissists become a shadow of their former selves once they retire and no longer have their job as a distraction and source of attention. Once they lose the identity they had through their job, they immediately turn inward to family, identifying themselves through their childrens meager accomplishments and living vicariously through them. Its absolutely sad and pathetic and their children suck it up like a sponge thinking their life long desperate need for daddys approval has finally been met. The old narcissist takes great pride in being viewed as the favorite parent/grandparent and the attention it brings and will do whatever it takes to keep that attention, bribing, guilt tripping and buying his childrens love. He insinuates himself into extended family members lives too, taking any and all the attention he can get. Family are the only ones who will put up with him at this point in his life as they are used to the extreme dysfuction.

    • Tempe says:


      Ouch!!! Me and my N are 50 years old, he is constantly saying he’s the favorite parent, he does more than I do, he’s better than me because he always finds some reason that I don’t address the kids’ needs before mine (meaningless things like serving myself dinner before one of the kids, or getting myself something I want out of a cupboard). I have more of this to look forward to?

      Tempe (another reader of

    • mitzi says:

      Thank you Alice, this is the first message EVER I read of Narcs in relation to aging and their “hidden” agendas with family members, and what I always felt was strange, you hit it home!!!! it’s exactly what you write that is the case with my Narc and his “relationship” with his kids, he NEEDS to be idolised by them and craves confirmation from their pals, that he is rich, gorgeous and the best daddy ever to have, it’s filled with fake superficial Narc behavior, it made me reel at times watching him….needless to say, his kids do not have a clue about what is really wrong with him, they would never accept him being a Narc, how can they; they are spoiled, given everything and more than they need and their aging Narc father prefers to party with them and hang out instead of being with people his own age……probably far too threatening and boring!!!

      • Alice says:

        Narcissists lack proper boundries with their family memebers, especially their children. There is never a healthy father/child relationship but rather they see themselves as their childrens friends or peers. And yes, they do enjoy the attention of their kids friends too. So much so, they’ll try to keep up with partying 20-30yr olds, coking, smoking and drinking it up with them at the expense of their own health. I’ve never seen anything like it and what a horrible example they set for their kids. Sadly, if the kids don’t end up like the narcissist, they end up in relationships with someone like them. Its inherited karma. I’ve watched this playing out over the last few years and all I can say is I actually pity this man and his family for the life they’ve had. 3 generations of dysfunction at the hands of narcissistic parents. Nothing about it gets better, not with age or any amount of love. Aging narcissists just become more depressed, angry and bitter as their life wears on, trying to steal the energy of and live vicariously through those closest to them.

  2. Amy says:

    This sums it up perfectly. And it is very pathetic and unfortunate but I have to wonder if this is not karma for the narcissist.

  3. Aymbeth says:

    The descriptions are spot on correct. The part about it being “too late”and “Burning human bridges” yes this is true. Also the part about their children being destroyed after years of “degrading criticisms and malicious agendas”. She disagrees (of course) and thinks I am being mean and cold…. I wouldn’t say I am destroyed, I am very USED up and chewed out after 45 years of emotional neediness and parentification. I have nothing left to give. I finally want to have my own whole separate happy place in the world and she is still here sucking at it wanting to swallow it whole.

  4. mc225 says:

    It most definately is karma for them. I’ve seen it 1st hand. The narcissist in my life mentally, psychologically, emotionally and sexually abused his ex wife for 26yrs only to find out he has HepatitisC after they divorced. He inflicted that same abuse on me for 5yrs and recently found out he has Silicosis. Karma is reaping what you’ve sewn. And any man that is dysfunctional enough to drive his own daughter to attempt suicide deserves to be stricken with a lung AND liver disease as far as I’m concerned. Narcissists are truely monsters and will never EVER change.

  5. alice says:

    I hate to say it but it usually gets worse as they get older. Its just sad and pathetic watching a 59 year old man trying to act like he’s 25, completely unaware of what a fool he looks like to everyone else. And yes, they will use a disease or health issue to garner their childrens sympathies and attention. They’re an emotionally stunted child in an adults body.

  6. Michelle says:

    I lived with a monster psychopath and didn’t realize it until I was discarded. Luckily it was for a short time and I realized what was wrong with me to not see this. I am spooked by the whole experience and would like to do anything I can to increase awareness and prevent anyone from having this painful experience. I walked in the valley of the shadow of death and live to tell my story.

  7. Lee says:

    True. They do not age well. My husband had diabetes which aged him. Then he fell from his horse and received a broken neck and a head injury. He never recovered. He could never do all the things that made him who he was. He was still very difficult to live with and still an angry man. I had livd with 30 years of emotional abuse and indifference. I always thought it would get better. Everything was my fault and I constantly walked on egg shells never know what he has going to do next. He thought he was a hero whe. He couldn’t be that person any more, guess what? He took his life and left us withi terrible guilt and grief. Nearly ten months on and we are healing but I am still very upset that I stayed with such a man for so,long. The damage it must have done to my kids. I will never know. He took me for a nasty ride and cheated on me for many many years. I think he got his karma. I am now free. My life is much easier and I am not worried about when I am going to be abused next. I feel very sorry for all the people out there who are like him but the joke is they don’t think there is anything wrong with themselves.

  8. mark says:

    Wow these feelings are so familiar to me as o approach 40, i left my narcissist girlfriend eighteen months ago when I realized what she was. Unfortunately I had a child from a previous relationship which made everything so much harder as the narcissist was to use them as a pawn in their sick games. I know now that my father was a narcissist who used me for his own ends and when my ex entered my life the warning signs were all present but for me they were normalised because of my father.
    I now find myself confused; I feel my self developing traits that are narcissistic; seeking social gratification, time spent frivolously in my own company. I was kind of fine before I left her but then found myself fighting for survival and when your in that position the world can be an unforgiving place. She did a good job of destroying my social network which has made a big difference to how things have panned out. Anyway I digress; yes I feel the narcissist growing inside me snarling and gnashing. I don’t like it and and it is getting difficult to keep in check.

    • NS says:

      Mark, you need to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t condone the person or the experience. It releases the pain and helps you to heal yourself. Once you do that, you will not only find the good from this horrible situation, but you will come away being a better person. I was in a similar situation with my ex and I carried a lot of pain and anger. I still do as I clean up the mess that he left behind. However, so much good has come out of it and I am a much better person because of it.

      Unforgiveness is the whole reason they act the way that they do. They will not forgive, hold on to the pain, and project that pain to others. Hurting people hurt people.

      Not sure if you are a religious person, but if you ever read the Bible you will see that it says that unforgiveness opens the door for the devil…and these unforgiving people sure do act like the devil. They also mention narcissist as being fools who hold anger in their hearts. It also says they set their own traps, so they aren’t getting away with it even though sometimes it seems like it. God has a way of dealing with them… by letting them destroy themselves. Unfortunately, they try to destroy us in the process.

      Sometimes they come to the light and sometimes they don’t, but in order to not become them, you have to let go of the pain and move on. The best revenge is living a happy pain-free life.

      Happy forgiving!

      • NS says:

        And you need to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes and a lot of them are caused by unconscious patterns that we developed as children.

        Forgive all those people who have hurt you in the past and you will find emotional healing and attract another emotionally whole person.

  9. Angie says:

    Wow. An amazing description of my mother who has no use for anyone, unless it benefits her peripherally.

    It must be lonely to be incapable of love, and have to manipulate outcomes of others. Tragic for adult children until they see beyond the mirage.

    Thanks for this informative article.

  10. Diane says:

    I hope that the outcome of the aging enabler/victim is better than that of the aging narcissistic. I am 65, he is 73 and this is perhaps the sixth time he has subjected me to the silent treatment over the course of the four/five years we have been back and forth with each other. I take responsibility for my role in this. I long ago saw his selfishness as a lack of empathy for others, detected the super fragile ego underneath all the bluster, showing off his clothes, his luxury watches, etc. I realized that his emotonal self seemed frozen in a time warp. Infantile.Immature. Getting to know him I discovered perpetually whining, hyper critical two year old — not the erudite, sophisticate that he appeared to be. I was taken aback by the tragedy of his 20 something grand daughter reaching out to meet him for the first time and then him not following up after that first meeting a couple of years ago. I could never fathom the random outbursts of rage, temper tantrums at things of small consequence. Going off on the poor guy behind the deli counter because the cost of Perrier water seemed excessively high.

    We’re in week three of the latest silent treatment and instead of pining over him, calling repeatedly to see if he is still alive, I intead discovered these wonderful online posts introducing me to behavior patterns, traits that I never knew had a name.

    I have been down this road in the past with other similar men. I believed there was something about me that drew and kept these men close to me–or at least tried to keep them close. Real closeness–not just sexual–is not something they are capable of. I want to believe that I at 65, a card crying enabler, selflessly trying to heal the mentally dysfunctional with the healing power of my love, can still grow emotionally, discover the power of self love, maintain a giving nature yet also maintain boundaries that will not let these truly toxic types manipulate my life again. I am ready to fall in love again–this time for real.

    Thank you all for being part of my recovery.

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