What Is Malignant Narcissism And How Is It Different From NPD?

Malignant narcissism, while described somewhat differently by various authors, can be succinctly defined as “an extreme form of antisocial personality disorder that is manifested in a person who is pathologically grandiose, lacking in conscience and behavioral regulation, and with characteristic demonstrations of joyful cruelty and sadism“.With the exceptions of ‘healthy narcissism’, narcissism in adults is generally looked upon as a negative personality flaw. However, malignant narcissism is worth differentiating as it is cause for serious alarm when it is part of someone’s personality make- up.

Wikipedia defines malignant narcissism as “a psychological syndrome comprised as an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, and aggression and sadism. Often grandiose, and always ready to raise hostility levels, the malignant narcissist undermines organizations they are involved in, as well as dehumanizing the people they associate with”.Narcissism is “malignant” (i.e. dangerous or injurious) when it takes the already negative characteristics of narcissism to even greater excess. A malignant narcissist views himself (75% are male) as genuinely superior to other people and believes that others are insignificant, disposable, and that he is justified when he manipulates and exploits them. This belief system is a result of the malignant narcissist’s complete lack of empathy. It is also a defining characteristic of psychopaths and sociopaths; in much of the literature the terms malignant narcissist, psychopath or sociopath are used interchangeably. All three lack empathy and therefore cannot truly care about others and are unable to form a conscience with humane qualities. Many authors and researchers in the field consider psychopaths/sociopaths/malignant narcissists as individuals without any conscience. They are considered to be in a category called Antisocial Personality Disorder although malignant narcissism has not been an official diagnosis; it has been more of a theoretical category.

Interestingly, when first meeting someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ADP), most people would say that the ADP individual seemed charming, intelligent, and fun to be around.  The ADP individual is a skillful “shape shifter” who is able to portray many diverse social faces or ‘personas’. The term persona “meant the mask once worn by actors to indicate the role played… It is, as its name implies, only a mask… that feigns individuality, making others believe that one is individual, whereas one is simply acting a role” (Carl Jung). The ADP individual uses this skill to deceive and manipulate others in order to attain his own personal goals, often at the expense of others.


In 1964, Erich Fromm, a widely known social psychologist first coined the term “malignant narcissism”. He described it as a “severe mental sickness” which embodied “the quintessence of evil”. Fromm further described it as “the most severe pathology and the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity”. In 1971, Herbert Rosenfeld characterized malignant narcissism as “a disturbing form of narcissistic personality where grandiosity is built around aggression and the destructive aspects of the self become idealized“.

Otto Kernberg, a psychoanalyst and author, described how the ‘antisocial personality’ was basically narcissistic and without morality (or conscience); in other words, a psychopath. Malignant narcissism also has a sadistic component resulting in a sadistic psychopath. Kernberg went on to write that malignant narcissism was a syndrome characterized by the combination of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), features of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ADP), paranoia, and aggression.

How Is Malignant Narcissism Different from NPD?

Narcissism is a disorder of the personality (Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD).  The narcissist has a marked sense of entitlement, has a pronounced lack of empathy, and is exploitative of others. Many narcissists claim to have skills or possessions that others do not have, or to have the ‘right connections’ in high places.  It does not matter that these statements are not true. According to the DSM-IV, “narcissists expect to be catered to and are puzzled or furious when this does not happen… they expect to be given whatever they want or feel they need, no matter what it might mean to others… and they may react with distain, rage or defiant counterattack” if questioned or refused.

Malignant narcissism goes above and beyond Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). It has been likened to NPD on pathological s******s. Not only does it manifest all the typical narcissistic traits mentioned in the first paragraph but in addition it also manifests antisocial features, paranoid traits, and aggression. Otto Kernberg believed that malignant narcissism was in the middle of a spectrum of serious narcissistic behavior. He believed that the spectrum ranged from NPD at the low end, to malignant narcissism, to psychopathy at the high end of narcissistic severity.

How is a Malignant Narcissist Different from a Psychopath?

Psychopaths experience a very limited range of emotions; they do not experience the feelings of anguish, euphoria, remorse, or love that are a normal part of living a life. They have learned the difference between what their society considers “right” and “wrong” but do not have any remorse, or any second thoughts, even when they perform egregious acts upon others. Furthermore, psychopaths are unable to emotionally identify with others whereas narcissists have the capacity to identify with, and even admire, powerful people. However, all three levels of narcissistic behavior share the extreme self-absorption and insensitivity that often result in a trail of victims–emotional wreckage left in the narcissist’s wake (Kernberg 2004).

The malignant narcissist is like a mix of narcissism and psychopathy. However, narcissists need attention and compliments, which psychopaths do not need.  Psychopaths are irresponsible and blatant about it; they are highly impulsive, and usually have a history of conduct disorder or a criminal record, both of which are not typical of narcissism. They do not care if they are caught (as long as there are no consequences) and they don’t care what others think of them.  Narcissists are more manipulative and deceitful and will lie and deny if caught.

The malignant narcissist, similar to the psychopath, is willing to literally sacrifice others to achieve his goals. Psychopaths and malignant narcissists are dangerous to others; they are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals… they destroy lives without so much as a second thought.  They truly are the personification of evil.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malignant_narcissism
  2. http://www.wellsphere.com/mental-health-article/malignant-narcissism/1071755
  3. http://www.manipulative-people.com/malignant-narcissism/
  4. https://suite.io/tami-port/cnt2m4


  • Long before I knew it, The NPD person was throwing me under the bus to fool her husband about her affairs. When I discovered this and recalled many other stories that she claimed false affections from other men I confronted her. She came back with avenge nice. I caught her and she is furious! She has made an aggressive point to make people think that I am crazy and even creating fraudulent stories. Things that never ever happened.

  • I m being targeted by a malignant narcissist. He is totally a s****t. He has destroyed my entire life with lies and manipulations. Literally took all that I have. Created a story that I was mentally ill–and then managed to repeat this in so many different settings–and with so many different mediums (verbally, through others, false petitions filed etc) that he was able to make it seem like ti was true–a given–yep I’m nuts. He got it in wherever he could and then even convinced the psychologist we were ordered to see–that it was me who was nuts. He fools everyone–and I mean everyone. Those who know me know the truth–but he fools everyone else.

    Start calling someone nuts–get people to believe you–and pretty soon you are constantly on the defensive about everything and you start to look–NUTS! How do yoo fight this? He has totally convinced everyone that I am what he actually is!! He has lied to me constantly but because of bullying and initial physical abuse–nothing can ever be brought up to him about his behaviors. If that happens–then rages ensue. Now that I filed for divorce, I have become the target of his horrible abuse.

    He is a covert abuser. His abuse is done in plain sight. By lying about me and creating this narrative, I am always stressed, afraid, worried, and feeling the need ot justify myself. He wins no matter what–if you don’t respond, you are agreeing with what they say about you BUT if you try to defend yourself–you are seen as being paranoid or frantic or whatever. Once they inflict this on you–you are sunk no matter what.

    I feel like there is no way to fight back. He uses my children as covert methods of abuse also. He is neglectful. He feeds them awful things when eh knows that I am very healthful. He keeps the clothing that I send and I end up with no cloths for the kids. He writes emails that have covert messages or veiled threats in them. If you know him–you would know that no threat is ever idle. If he threatens you–he follows through on it.

    He is gearing up to set me up to get full custody. He invalidated my children’s word–but claiming that I am turning them against him and that is why they say they hate him and don’t want to be with him. He refuses to acknowledge the abuse he did against them and the real reasons why they hate him and are afraid of him. He invalidated them as he did me. Now nobody listens to what we have to say and assume that it is being done to hurt him—when he is the one who has done that.

    It is frustrating that people think that it must take two to make thing this bad when one is perpetrating all of this and the other is trying desperately to not be destroyed by it all. It is awful and it is frightening. I wonder how people survive this constant level of fear and stress. Using someone’s children against them–it is the worst form of abuse–they worst form. Taking children from a loving parent only to neglect and ignore them is tragic and heartless.

    The use/abuse of the children is by far the worst. The next worst is having someone perpetrate all this on you while they are giving the impression that they are the victim. Having your sanity constantly questioned can cause serious psychological issues itself. Knowing the narcissist is orchestrating all of this but it I so unbelievable–that people would be inclined to not believe you.

    Knowing that as time wears on–your physical health begins to suffer too. Praying for relief but knowing that the abuse will continue for as long as you have minor children. Then the damage will go forward for the rest of your life. Knowing that you made one mistake–marrying a malignant narcissist–and that that one mistake will destroy your entire life. It takes your breath away. Just takes it away.

    I am the target of extreme malignant narcissistic abuse. There is a huge component of s****t involved. There is a huge component of abuse by proxy involved. If anyone has any suggestions, please contact me at freedomfromn@gmail.com as I am staring into the abyss daily. 🙁

    • Wow! I tried surefire suicide finally, because there Was no other way out of this Diabolic nightmare. I lived anyway somehow, so, then I decided to absolutely surrender ALL that I am to God. I gave complete control to our Father. ..I went to a teen challenge in another state for a couple months as I became addicted to the medicine for my bad hip as it helped me handle the insane torture. I stayed seperate his final 3 years. He died last January, alone 🙁 I understand what you’re going through! and felt compelled to tell you!

      • I’m so glad you did not complete your goal and that Teen Challenge was a positive influence in your life I usually hear horror stories about Teen Challenge but it saved my cousins life. Bless you.

    • I know this was a couple years ago but I wanted to reply. He’s gaslighting you. This is one of their favorite ploys and it’s awful to go through. I am praying and thinking about you right now. I am still looking over my shoulder after finally getting a three year restraining order from someone I knew for a short time. It makes you feel nuts after awhile. It’s infuriating, frustrating and a powerless feeling seeing your tormentor being soothed and playing the victim. And playing it very very well. In fact they thrive in situations where most of us would be unnerved and shaky for fear of being caught in our lies. They can look people square in the eye and tell the most outrageous lies and be persuasive about it because they have no morality, shame, guilt, etc. In fact it;s the highlight of their day to destroy your image one person at a time.

      These sickos hang onto to you like pitbull’s to feed their own false ego. Read about Gaslighting or go to youtube on how to handle it. And get some close good friends who don’t gossip. You need an outlet but you need anonymity. And never try to fight with one. They win because they will think of revenge ideas that would never occur to you. Because you would feel like you were crossing some serious lines. They don’t have those lines so the sky’s the limit.

      How many times have you thought OMG I cannot believe this person did that?! I know I went into shock several times when he lashed back at me. It was so over the top and extreme punishment for nothing. Any slight they will crucify you aggressively and ruthlessly. They are as primal as a crocodile.

  • My Father has this disorder. I was the targeted or scapegoated child. No one ever came to my aid, even when it was apparent that I was experiencing physical, emotional, psychological abuse and neglect. The sadistic element of this disorder is the most disturbing he derived enjoyment from my being in physical pain. There was a prevailing attitude to please and serve the narcissist, as though others were under a spell. In order for a malignant narcissist to thrive there has to be a system of abuse with multiple parties each enabling abuse. The healing process is painful but worth it. Don’t have any misconceptions that your abuser or the enablers will change. This is a lonely journey which leads to individuation, empowerment, and freedom. You simply can never go home again. Then again, why would you want to?

    • Just want to say you are not alone, had it from parents as a child an again from relationships. Not sure if malignant narcissism or psychopaths. Glad you gained wisdom from your journey, be the author of your life.

    • Alicity my dad I a covert malignant narcissist. The only thing more shocking than his treatment of me as a child behind closed doors is how easily he’s fooled people into thinking he’s this nice man. A truly Jekyll and Hyde character. Could you email me to just maybe chat? I’m on adamboudewijn@outlook.com and yes that is the correct spelling. Thanks

      • I doubt he is a fullblown malignant narcissist. He is too successfull for that. The real, hardcore MN is dysfunctional, and rarely is really successfull in life. Trump cartainly is a narcissist, but I doubt he is a MN.

        I should know, because I have been diagnosed as a malignant narcissist – of the worst kind. My therapist said he had never seen anything like this.

        I’m a fullblown malignant narcissist with extreme NPD, AsPD, sadism, paranoia, aggression, passive-aggression and hatred. In additon I even have comorbid BDP and extreme HPD!

        If that wasn’t enough, I’ve also have severe Asperger and ADHD with several comorbities (like ODD, OCD, anxiety, Intermittent explosive disorder and tics)!

        On a near-daily basis I struggle with anxiety, depression, ED, extreme insomnia, anger and hatred.

        Life has been hell for me, but even much more for my long suffering wife and children.

        • This part sounds like me: “on a near-daily basis I struggle with anxiety, depression, ED, extreme insomnia, anger and hatred.”

          I also have ADHD, and manifested a lot of the spin-off disorders like ODD and CD. I had a drug abuse problem so a lot of my manipulation was to support my habit, but I would say that drug addiction is highly narcissistic by nature, even though the addict may have lost control of volition.

          I brought spiritual parameters into my recovery which was the missing piece to get genuinely better. I still fluctuate greatly mood-wise, but by ridding myself of drugs my need to manipulate others with dark purpose has ceased. I am still semi-dysfunctional by social standards, but if you have genuine ADHD you kind of have to set your own standards. A lot of manipulation can come from wanting to live up to what others expect us to be, so often we can manipulate events, perspective, and others to give the impression of meeting expectations. I can understand how you can end up with MN if you started out with a severe case of ADHD. As years go by, and the lies are uncovered, your situation has never essentially changed. Then you try to explain to others what ADHD is like as a reason for your behavior; they might listen and absorb some of what you tell them, but then they seem to almost instantly forget. It is very frustrating.

          Take a look at spirituality,. I’m not insisting you see things any particular way, but by making attempts through meditation to connect to the spirit (which is essentially leveraging your point of view above your ego) we are able to dispassionately, but still intimately disassemble many problems found within the ego. Be our own therapists.

          Often times it comes down to letting go of a lot of hurt. And then it’s also hard when you actually realize true freedom from ego, and it can be so intense that you almost long for your chains again. Every time you successfully manage to disassemble a problem in the ego by drawing into the spirit, you will replace some of the bad with good. Over time, this calculates as a big change in self perception and how we relate to the world around us, though the little gains along the way may be hard fought for.

          Anyway, it sounds like a bit of mumbo jumbo, but don’t resign yourself to a lifetime of chemical only remedies. I really think for a complete solution you have to examine all spheres, body (chems), soul (thought/emotion), and spirit (higher self/connection to God). If the spirit has been missing from your living experience for a long time, that is often the area that needs to be addressed most urgently and thoroughly.

          Anyway, I hate being the thumper dude so I’ll just leave it at that. If you’re at hate, hate if you want to hate, if it keeps you safe, if it makes you brave.


        • My ex husband is a diagnosed narcissist. Many narcissists are very successful. The top 5 narcissist careers are firefighter, lawyer, police, politician, and military. Narcissists are in love with themselves. Just by the way you write, you don’t sound like a narcissist. I could spot one fast. I lived with one for many years. Trump is the king of narcissists . Maybe you were misdiagnosed. Few psychiatrists have special training in narcissism.

  • But if psychopats or malignant narcissist do not feel emotions (at least not the way ordinary people do) then why do they seek for personal benefit so much? I mean if they are not gonna feel happines or pleasure, then what’s the point? Or is it just impulse to behave like that, aim personal benefit?

  • Enjoyed looking at this, very good stuff, thankyou . “It requires more courage to suffer than to die.” by Napoleon Bonaparte.

  • I, too have suffered from smear campaigns. The only way to beat them is by being yourself. Normal. It’s sick what they do. The humiliation can be unbearable. I’ve been attacked both on my physical appearance but my “mental” state myself and it’s no fun. Especially since he’s the one who’s an ugly, bald, troll. Consider that people can and will see what they truly are eventually.

  • It is shocking the level of abuse they will heap on you as a cover for their own shame and shortcomings. It is like they must make YOU pay for their problems. I can see it all so clearly now—from the very beginning. He isn’t anything special–he is a classic malignant narcissist to a T. He could not even be original in his seduction nor in his revenge. He did everything by the psychopath’s book. The smear campaign, the claiming victim status, denigrating all my best assets (like being smart, being a great mom, having a good profession etc). It is clear to me what he was jealous of because that is what he targeted. His biggest joy was taking the children from me. He also got the house and destroyed my reputation and my health. Not to mention took all the money.

    But if I had been knowledgeable about this kind of character, it never would have happened. He didn’t outsmart me in any way, only won because he followed no rules and had no boundaries. Really anyone can win in those circumstances. They don’t possess the capabilities to win anything straight up–it is always with trickery and deceit.

    Destroying my life was a joy to him and he ended up exactly where he wanted to be–with a replacement who is now his new soul mate. He is rapidly moving into his 3rd marriage. He won’t be able to keep this one either because eventually everyone tires of being squashed. She isn’t too bright so it may take her longer. But eventually these creatures cannot help destroying those around them. And he will end up a lonely old man with nobody to love him. The ydo end up getting what they deserve–at lease emotionally.

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