Narcissists often act in strange and unpredictable ways. They can be impulsive, erratic, and downright chaotic. They often show extreme forms of emotions, and people tend to take great lengths to avoid triggering these frantic responses.
But do narcissists cry? And do narcissists cry real tears, or do they manipulate others to get what they want? Here’s everything you need to know.
Do Narcissists Ever Cry?
First things first- some narcissists absolutely cry! This rule doesn’t apply to all narcissists, but most narcissists can and do cry over various situations.
We’ll go over each of the following situations in more detail, but as an overview, narcissists might cry when they:
- Lose a loved one
- Experience physical pain
- Feel abandoned or hurt
- Are extremely angry
- Watch or read something sad
No two narcissists are identical. Some of them cry incessantly (to the point where it probably feels obnoxious). Others only save their tears for the most extreme situations.
Do Narcissists Cry Easily?
Vulnerable or covert narcissists are more likely to cry than other types of narcissists. That’s because these individuals tend to present as more insecure.
While all narcissists have fragile egos, covert narcissists are often mistaken as empaths. They may seem overly compassionate and considerate of other people’s needs.
But these behaviors are insidious. A covert narcissist, for example, may become passive-aggressive by saying something like, It’s fine, I don’t need your help. Nobody is there for me, anyway, before bursting into tears.
While these tears feel natural to them, they will often come across as disingenuous and manipulative to everyone else. That’s because the narcissist expects you to soothe them at all costs.
Other narcissists don’t cry easily. For example, a malignant narcissist often presents as extremely entitled and even sociopathic. These are the narcissists who seemingly derive the most joy from hurting others. Therefore, they rarely show fluctuations in emotions beyond anger.
Do Narcissists Cry a Lot?
Yes, some narcissists cry all the time.
These narcissists use tears to weaponize others. They cry to make a scene, gain sympathy, or turn the attention back onto themselves.
If you ask a narcissist if they are crying on purpose, most of them will insist they aren’t.
But that’s because they might not even be aware of how much they rely on manipulation tactics to meet their incessant need for approval and validation.
What Does It Mean When a Narcissist Cries?
It’s important to consider why most of us cry to really understand how this behavior also impacts narcissists.
Crying is a normal biological response, and it’s an innate part of being human. After all, we are born crying! And during infancy, crying is our only real way to communicate distress. And as we grow up, we still cry as a response to physical or emotional pain.
There isn’t a specific rule for when it is or isn’t appropriate to cry. Similarly, some people cry more than others, and that’s okay. We all experience emotions differently, and we all process these feelings in ways that feel safe and reasonable.
But a narcissist crying can mean several different things. Here’s what their tears might mean.
They Hurt Themselves
Most of us cry when we seriously injure ourselves. This is usually an automatic response, meaning it’s involuntary and largely out of our control.
Even narcissists aren’t immune to tears when they’re in pain. This is especially true if they have a low tolerance for physical discomfort.
They Feel Cornered or Trapped
As you probably know, narcissists hate when they feel exposed. If you’ve said or done something to “reveal” their toxic behavior, they experience a profound sense of vulnerability. This moment is terrifying for them.
Many times, this sense of raw exposure triggers narcissistic rage. But the rage isn’t always expressed through explicit anger, shouting, or threats.
Sometimes anger comes in the form of crying. As mentioned, this may be more common in vulnerable or covert narcissists. Instead of shouting at someone, they might start sobbing. This immediately “softens” other people and forces them to pay closer attention.
They Have Empathy
It’s a misconception that narcissists completely lack empathy. They may experience certain types of empathy for specific situations. However, empathy tends to occur only when it relates to their needs and preferences.
For example, a narcissist might have immense love for their pet. Their dog might mean everything to them (much to your own frustration!).
So, if something happens to their dog, they experience intense sadness, loss, and grief. They feel undone in the same ways anyone might feel undone.
Or, as another example, they might cry after hearing a good friend is diagnosed with cancer. But they aren’t necessarily crying for their friend.
They might be crying because they worry that, if something happens to this friend, they will lose the valuable narcissistic supply they covet.
They Want Your Sympathy
If the narcissist feels betrayed, scared, or otherwise uncomfortable, they might use crying to gain your sympathy. It’s just like how a small child throws a tantrum to get your attention. Even narcissists know that negative responses are better than no responses.
And so, they will strategically use crying as a tool to gain comfort. They tend to cry the most around empathic people- that’s because they know they will get the validation they need.
They’re Depending on the Shock Value
Some narcissists rarely cry. So, when they do, it has a significant effect on others. The tears somehow feel more important and pressing.
If you’re involved with a narcissist who doesn’t cry, don’t dismiss the possibility. Even if they present as extremely aloof or stoic, they may sob when they feel especially threatened. This is most likely to happen if you set firm boundaries or try to leave the relationship.
In this moment, you may feel so stunned by their tears that you immediately rush to comfort them. Before you realize it, you’re right back in their drama.
Do Narcissists Cry to Manipulate?
Has the following situation ever happened? You and the narcissist are in an argument.
They have done something offensive or inappropriate, and you feel extremely hurt by it. You call them out on this behavior, hoping that doing so will hold them accountable.
The narcissist responds by sobbing. They acknowledge how much they messed up. They tell you how much they love you, how important you are to them, and how they’ll never hurt you again.
Then, they go on and on about how broken they are. They complain that you’re probably going to leave- just like everyone else. In between all these dramatic claims, they may also accuse you of being too impatient or insensitive.
Suddenly, it’s no longer about you or your feelings. You’re now comforting them and trying to make them feel better. What just happened?
Have you ever heard of the term crocodile tears? This term refers to insincere and dramatic displays of expression. And many narcissists are notorious for them!
In other words, they may appear to be genuinely sorry or sad about something, but it’s all for show. They don’t feel those emotions- they just want you to believe they do.
So, why do narcissists cry to manipulate other people? Because it can be very effective!
Think about it. Most of us feel uncomfortable, guilty, or sad when we see someone we care about crying. We often want to swoop in and help. We try to support the other person and give them compassion and patience.
And if you consider it from that angle, you’re simply refueling the narcissistic supply. They love that help and that compassion and patience. They love having your undivided attention on them. They love knowing that you’re feeling worried or even guilty.
Do Narcissists Cry When They Are Alone?
Sometimes. Narcissists don’t just cry to manipulate others.
Narcissists, like everyone else, can experience a full range of emotions. They are just as susceptible to sadness, disappointment, frustration, and fear as anyone else. The difference is in how they cope and react to such feelings.
As mentioned, narcissists often cry when they fear something bad happening to them. So while it looks like they might be genuinely sad or grieving, they’re really just preoccupied with their own worries about loss.
Do Narcissists Cry at Movies?
Yes, they certainly do!
Picture this scene. You’re at home watching a movie with the narcissist. Something bad happens to one of the characters- their mother dies, their dog gets run over, they receive a scary medical diagnosis. You look over and see the narcissist tearing up.
What’s going on here? They’d never be this emotional over something in real life!
Although it may seem odd, narcissists can and do cry over movies, books, and other fictional experiences. Usually, these tears happen because something in the scene triggered something within themselves.
For example, a narcissist might cry when the movie’s protagonist leaves her husband.
That’s because the narcissist fears (whether they realize it or not) being abandoned! In other words, they’re basically crying for themselves and not the actual character.
Do Narcissists Cry When Someone Dies?
Narcissists can certainly feel love, which means they can also experience grief. So, they are not immune to the intense emotions associated with death.
However, narcissists don’t always cry when someone dies because they feel sad. Instead, they can cry for a lot of different reasons, including:
Feeling betrayed: A narcissist might feel betrayed when someone dies. This is especially true if they deem the death as unjust, unfair, or somehow “personal.”
Wanting attention or more sympathy: Narcissists are smart enough to know that crying is socially appropriate when someone dies.
If they are attending a large funeral, they may be extremely weepy. This is usually to ensure that others notice them- after all, they don’t want their dead loved one to get more attention than them!
Grieving the loss of supply: If the narcissist loses someone who provides constant validation, approval, or attention, the death will hit them particularly hard.
Even if it appears they are grieving the loss appropriately, they are crying more for what they have lost rather than for the person who’s gone.
Feeling afraid: Coinciding with grieving the loss of supply, some narcissists cry when someone dies because they worry about life without that person.
Often, this means they fear that nobody will be able to “fill the shoes” of providing that valuable supply.
How Do Narcissists Deal With Death?
Do narcissists cry when someone dies? Or do they just act as if nothing happened? Do they genuinely feel upset when they lose a loved one?
Narcissists deal with death in different ways, and this depends on the type of narcissism and the relationship itself. That said, here are some common ways narcissists cope with loss.
Extreme anger: Narcissists naturally feel entitled to have the things and people they want.
And while most of us feel some sense of betrayal when we lose a loved one, narcissists often feel personally attacked. And so they may become combative or violent after a significant death occurs.
Substance use: Many narcissists struggle with substance use and rely on drugs or alcohol to cope with their uncomfortable feelings.
When someone dies, they may fall deeper into this hole. If you try to intervene, you will likely be met with resistance, defensiveness, or deceit.
Grandiose volunteering or donations: Because narcissists love being in the spotlight, they often take the lead in making significant donations or writing beautiful obituaries or Facebook posts about how much they cared for their loved ones.
Keep in mind these gestures are all about appearances. They want others to see how much they care and how much they’re willing to “make a difference” on behalf of their loss.
Badmouthing the person who died: It’s no secret that narcissists often have many enemies. They usually have no problem dismissing people or cutting them off completely.
So, when someone they dislike dies, they often try to convince others how “bad” they were.
They do this to try to prevent other people from grieving (because they feel jealous of all the time and attention the dead person gets!).
Do Narcissists Cry After a Breakup?
Yes, most of the time!
Breakups feel extremely vulnerable, as ending a relationship often ends a source of valuable narcissistic supply.
If you’re with a narcissist who rarely (or never cries), a breakup may be the catalyst for their suppressed tears. This resembles a last-ditch effort. They really want to pull on your heartstrings and make you feel guilty or afraid to leave them.
Narcissists might also cry after a breakup because they’re (for a moment) forced to face the harsh reality of being alone.
Of course, many of them cope with this fear by jumping into a new relationship, sleeping with someone else, or throwing themselves into some dramatic change.
After the breakup, you should anticipate hoovering. Even if the narcissist logically knows they can’t be with you, they emotionally refuse to accept this fact. And so, they will try every tactic they can to make you worried or jealous. They want you to rethink your decision.
You can expect teary voicemails or intense texts detailing how they’re crying themselves to sleep every night. If this makes you feel bad, know that your guilty reaction is their goal.
How Do Narcissists Respond When Someone Else Cries?
They might not show much sadness themselves, but do narcissists cry when someone else cries? And why do narcissists get angry when you cry?
Narcissists react in many different ways in response to someone crying. But one thing is for sure- they tend to switch up their method just as you think you have them pinned.
For example, they might appear incredibly attuned and compassionate the first time you cry. You feel safe letting your guard down. You believe you can trust them wholeheartedly.
But the next time you cry? They accuse you of being dramatic and overly sensitive. They blame you for not knowing how to deal with your emotions appropriately.
Or, sometimes, they will simply act as if nothing is happening. For example, you might be crying, and they’re just talking and talking- like everything is normal.
Finally, many narcissists use your crying as an opportunity to offer a fake apology. This can sound like,
I’m sorry this got you so worked up, or, Here we go again with the tears. I think I just won’t bring up this stuff in the future because it always upsets you.
As you can see, most fake apologies are just other forms of gaslighting or criticism.
In general, as you have probably noticed, narcissists cannot handle other people’s emotional expressions well. They don’t like providing comfort or validation (although they readily take it).