Last Updated on March 14, 2023 by Alexander Burgemeester
Narcissists generally dislike spending too much time alone. They crave attention from others because it provides them with validation. But they can also be introverted and enjoy their own solitude.
Whether they want to be alone at a given moment varies based on their mood, desires, and current connections to others. Keep in mind they don’t necessarily share these patterns with others, and they often aren’t aware of them themselves.
When narcissists feel most insecure, they tend to need their ‘fix’ from other people. They can act obsessive, clingy, and overly dramatic. At the same time, they often get quickly overwhelmed and only feel they can rely on themselves to get certain things done.
This competing dynamic can explain why narcissists exhibit such hot-and-cold behavior in their relationships. At one moment, they may present as overly clingy and needy. But other times, they will seem completely withdrawn.
4 Reasons Why Narcissists May Not Like Being Alone
Narcissists often prefer being around people because they rely on the presence of others to feel powerful and in control. They also rely on external validation, and being with people quickly provides that.
#1 Desire for Attention and Validation From Others
Narcissism is defined by a continuous and incessant need for admiration. This is a fixed need- it is pervasive across the lifespan, and it actually tends to be most pronounced during stressful times.
Narcissists don’t necessarily distinguish positive, prosocial attention from negative attention. Most people generally want others to genuinely like them, but narcissists are far more interested in the transactional nature of relationships.
Did You Know That: Discard is a common tactic used by narcissists to maintain control over their partner.
They constantly scan to assess what they can “get” from other people. And even when they are seemingly generous, these gestures are often more about stoking their ego or gaining recognition.
The need for attention is incessant. They will often do whatever it takes to keep people close to them, even if it means threatening, smearing, or abusing them. They often feel safer with people hating them (but not being able to leave) than having nobody at all.
#2 Fear of Abandonment and Clinginess
Even if narcissists present as entitled and superior, they have a deep fear of abandonment. More than anything, the narcissist fears neglect. And so, they will attach to others in the hopes of avoiding trauma.
In many cases, even the closest whiff of neglect becomes reminiscent of the trauma that likely caused their narcissism. Many narcissists have histories of complex abandonment. Because their caregivers couldn’t provide them with adequate love, they never learned how to properly bond with others.
On a subconscious level, narcissists know they are more inferior than they like to present. But the idea of this seems so unfathomable that they try to distract it by spending time with people who will lift them up.
And so, they’ll cling to anything that gives them attention- just to avoid being alone with their own fears.
#3 Need for Constant Stimulation and Admiration
Narcissists get bored easily, and they’re often deeply unsatisfied no matter what they achieve. Instead of enjoying the good parts of life, the stakes only get higher.
Their confident behavior shouldn’t be substituted for genuine happiness. Narcissists are often saddled with jealousy, fears of vulnerability, and immense feelings of inadequacy.
They only measure their worth based on their external achievements. They rely on them for feeling whole, and the desire to have more becomes a fast-paced treadmill with no end in sight.
Did You Know That: Narcissists can react with extreme rage when exposed because their fragile egos can’t handle criticism.
#4 Fear of Confronting their Own Weaknesses
Being alone with yourself inherently requires some level of vulnerability. When you’re just with yourself, you’re stuck with your own feelings and thoughts.
Most people struggle with this from time to time. But a true narcissist often wants to avoid the discomfort altogether.
As mentioned, it can be due to a fear of abandonment. But it can also be due to having a fear of being inadequate, unloved, or even “normal.” Narcissists equate ‘being normal’ as catastrophic. If they aren’t special or entitled, they often feel completely hollow.
4 Reasons Why Narcissists May Like Being Alone
Although narcissists crave control and attention, they sometimes prefer being alone. Many narcissists struggle with other mental health issues, and being alone shields them from having to show this vulnerable side to others.
#1 Self-Importance and Independence
Many narcissists prefer being alone because they can focus on themselves without having to consider anyone else’s needs. They can focus on whatever is most important to them.
Cerebral narcissists, in particular, value intellect above anything else, and they look down on people who don’t seem as brilliant. As a result, they may spend most of their time alone reading, studying, or learning. They don’t bother connecting with others because relationships seem immature.
#2 Desire for Control and Power
Narcissists may prefer to be alone when they need to do something that requires their full control. For example, if they’re engaged in a work project, they may avoid chatting with coworkers because they don’t want to risk anyone distracting them.
This tendency often comes down to them also believing they’re far more competent and talented than others. They don’t even want to collaborate with another person, because they’re often so self-assured that they know what’s best.
#3 Enjoyment of Solitary Activities
Narcissists may enjoy doing certain activities alone. This can be because the activity itself is generally independent (running, writing, reading). However, they might also find other people annoying or distracting, so they opt to do things on their own.
Did You Know That: When a narcissist feels out of control, they may turn to destructive behaviors like addiction, gambling or overspending
#4 Get Reactions From Others
A narcissist may prefer to spend time alone because it generates attention from others. For example, if they’re upset with their partner, they might suddenly ignore them.
They can do this for many reasons, all of which have to do with gaining some kind of recognition.
Narcissists also sometimes prefer to be seen as mysterious and aloof. This can be true in the workplace, school, or even among friend groups.
Covert narcissists, in particular, tend to be shy and withdrawn. They know they struggle with relationships, so they just avoid interacting with others. But others often perceive them as shy, insecure, or misunderstood- rather than as narcissistic.
How Do Narcissists Cope With Being Alone?
Even if they sometimes prefer to be alone, many narcissists actually struggle with this. They don’t have strong relationships with themselves, so they tend to resort to maladaptive behaviors to cope with their distress.
Addictive Behaviors Behaviors
There is a high comorbidity between narcissism and compulsive behaviors, including substance abuse, disordered eating, gambling, and shopping. These behaviors are often a way to self-medicate the discomfort underlying narcissism (whether the narcissist is aware of it or not).
Narcissists very much struggle to sit with their own feelings. Sadness, shame, and fear all feel downright threatening.
They don’t want to deal with them. And so, these behaviors numb the pain and provide brief hits of pleasure. Over time, the pattern becomes addictive and stopping them is incredibly difficult.
Did You Know That: Narcissists use their children as pawns to control their exes.
Seeking Validation Online
Even if narcissists don’t socialize much in person, they may spend excessive amounts of time online. For example, some people will curate perfect lives on social media despite having very few friends or hobbies.
But they rely on likes, comments, and shares like someone relies on food or shelter. Without validation, they feel hollow.
Some narcissists will also become “trolls” online. This type of bullying often acts as a way to maintain power or control. The attention- even though it is negative- can be incentivizing enough to keep doing it.
Boosting Their Ego
Narcissists may try to use their alone time to engage in activities that reinforce their sense of superiority. For example, they might spend excessive time focused on their appearance (working out or doing their makeup).
They may spend their time trying to build their wealth (working side hustles, investing their money, or trying to find ways to save more income).
Looking For More Supply
In general, narcissists don’t like to be alone for too long. Even if they seem comfortable, that could be because they’re simply strategizing their next move.
They might be currently in the ‘boosting their ego’ stage because they’re about to start scanning for different supply. This explains why narcissists can quickly jump from relationship to relationship.
Do Narcissists Really Enjoy Being Alone, or Is It Just a Facade?
It can be some of both. Sometimes narcissists pretend that they prefer to be alone as a way to get attention (i.e. they want the other person to reach out to them and try to connect).
Other times, they prefer being alone if they know a particular social setting might not provide them with the supply they crave (i.e. it’s someone else’s wedding, and they won’t be at the center of attention)
Is It Possible for a Narcissist to Be Happy Without the Validation of Others?
Happiness is a complex term, and happiness is a fleeting state. Narcissists often want validation from others, but they may also get validated from other sources, like earning accruing wealth or creating art.
However, even those sources often come down to how much others validate them for those successes.
What Are Some Signs That a Narcissist Is Struggling With Being Alone?
They frequently reach out, even when you spend a lot of time together. They can’t or don’t respect your boundaries for space.
They have many shallow friendships and few (or no) deep relationships. They might also pretend they’re completely fine being alone- even though they’re checking everything people do online.
Did You Know That: When a narcissist mirrors another person, they make them feel understood and appreciated, which can make the victim feel a false sense of intimacy with the narcissist.
How Can Someone With Narcissistic Tendencies Learn to Enjoy Being Alone?
They should use that time to build a genuine relationship with themselves. Narcissists have a false self that attempts to shield them from more trauma.
Untangling yourself from this false self- even though it’s painful and incredibly vulnerable- is the only way to enjoy being alone.
Can Narcissists Have Meaningful Relationships or Are They Only Interested in Superficial Connections?
Narcissists who are consciously and actively working on their narcissism can form meaningful relationships.
To do so, they must be aware of their interpersonal triggers and take the right steps to build intimacy.
Is It Possible for a Narcissist to Change and Become More Comfortable With Being Alone?
Narcissism is often rooted in complex trauma. People can always change, but it requires hard work, intention, and introspection.
Many people benefit from working with a qualified mental health professional who specializes in personality disorders. The road to recovery can be arduous, but it’s possible to grow and heal.
How Do Narcissists Cope With Feelings of Loneliness?
Narcissists struggle with feeling lonely. Many of them will keep relationships on the back burner just to avoid the possibility of being alone.
They may reach out to random friends or family to feel connected. Sometimes they will even start a problem with someone just to get a reaction.
Is It Healthy for a Narcissist to Spend Extended Periods of Time Alone?
It depends. Spending time alone is certainly better than going out and hurting others. That said, loneliness triggers complex feelings for everyone, and a narcissist is even more sensitive to these effects.
Can Being Alone Help a Narcissist to Develop Greater Self-Awareness and Empathy?
It depends on how they use that time. If they spend time alone actively bettering themselves, and engaging in healthy stress management, they can decrease their narcissistic tendencies.
Before You Go,
Narcissistic behavior is often confusing, and it can change without warning. Even if you think you understand their pattern, they’ll likely switch it up and make you second-guess what you think you know.
Narcissists tend to balance spending time alone versus spending time with others. They’re more likely to socialize when they need attention and validation. But if they’re feeling insecure or bored- or if they struggle with some kind of compulsion- they might prefer to be by themselves.