What happens when a narcissist runs out of supply sources? 

If you’re searching for information on narcissists, you’re probably already aware of the term “narcissistic supply.” If you need a refresher, narcissistic supply refers to the attention, admiration, and validation that narcissists obtain from others.

Narcissistic supply fuels the narcissist’s ego, and they rely on a constant repertoire of supply sources to maintain their self-esteem. This means they must always have people in their corner, willing to shower them with attention, praise, and favors.

People who provide the narcissist with supply are those willing to cater to the narcissist’s every demand while reminding the narcissist just how wonderful they are. Since supply is so important, you can imagine that narcissists aren’t fond when a source of supply leaves. 

Usually, a narcissist can replace supply sources easily. When one decides they’re done with the narcissist’s games, the narcissist can simply charm someone else, who will soon become a new source of supply. 

But, what happens when there is no one left to fool? The narcissist must step up their game, or they risk a total collapse of their self-esteem. 

10 reactions from the narcissist when they run out of supply 

Narcissists simply cannot survive without supply. Usually, they have multiple supply sources at once, so losing one source of supply isn’t devastating.

However, there are times when narcissists burn all of their bridges, and they find themselves without the supply they need. When this happens, you can expect some or all of the following reactions from the narcissist. 

1. Increased desperation and anxiety 

Narcissists are often shocked when they run out of supply. They believe themselves superior, and they cannot imagine a world in which others do not feel the same about them.

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So, when they’re out of supply, they experience a sense of desperation. They never thought they’d be in such a situation, so they’re desperate to resolve the issue. 

They’re also likely to experience panic and anxiety. They constantly need validation, and without supply available, they worry about how they’ll go on. 

2. Frantic search for new supply sources 

The narcissist must do something about their lack of supply, so they frantically go on the hunt for new supply sources. They might spend hours per day on social media, posting highlights to attract new supply.

They may even resort to reaching out to old acquaintances or contacting former partners, hoping they will have forgiven whatever the narcissist did in the past to cause the relationship to dissolve.

3. Increased anger and aggressive behavior 

Narcissists are used to constant supply, and they can become quite frustrated when their usual methods don’t get them the supply they need. This can result in outbursts of anger and aggression as the narcissist becomes increasingly agitated.

Their anger and aggression can manifest as verbal outbursts, physical attacks, or passive-aggressive behavior toward others. They are most likely to direct their anger toward those withholding supply. 

4. Episodes of depression

If the narcissist goes without supply for too long, they may develop depression. Their self-worth depends entirely on external validation, so their self-esteem is likely to take an extreme hit when they don’t have supply.

A lack of supply can cause the narcissist to spiral into a state of self-loathing and hopelessness. Ultimately, this can lead to a depressive episode. 

5. Self-isolating 

Narcissists can become quite ashamed when all their supply sources leave. Narcissists convince themselves and others that they are wonderful people with much to offer, but a lack of supply suggests otherwise.

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Embarrassed that they have driven everyone away, narcissists may retreat to protect their egos. They will disengage from social interactions, worrying that others will judge them for being worthless. They cannot show their faces in public during this time.

6. Manipulative behavior 

Manipulative behavior is one of the key traits of narcissism, but this behavior is likely to increase when the narcissist is without supply. As their desperation grows, they may intensify manipulation tactics to get their needs.

This behavior can include trying to guilt trip former supply sources for not catering to them, being overly dramatic to attract attention and sympathy, or turning up their love bombing toward potential new supply sources.

7. Fake apologies

Narcissists can’t truly apologize; doing so would mean admitting to wrongdoing, which destroys the narcissist’s fragile ego. However, when they need supply, narcissists may reach out to former sources and temporarily show some false humility.

Despite their lack of empathy and inability to take accountability, narcissists do learn about apologies from watching others’ behavior. To get old supply sources back, they will issue a false apology based on what they’ve learned, promising to change if the supply source gives them another chance. 

8. Paranoid behavior

Narcissists are likely to show paranoia when supply sources are cut off. Since they rely on external validation, losing supply sources can make them feel as if others are out to get them.

They will worry that others intentionally undermine them to make them look bad. This leads to hypervigilant behavior, isolating them even further from others. 

9. Devaluing former supply 

Ultimately, the loss of supply leaves a narcissist feeling rather angry. Fueled by their rage, the narcissist may reach out to former supply sources to devalue them.

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This can involve belittling and criticizing those who once played a significant role in the narcissist’s life. Devaluing others in this way can make the narcissist feel better, and it shifts the blame away from the narcissist and onto the former supply sources for having the nerve to detach from the narcissist. 

10. Temporary self-reflection

Everyone is always wondering if narcissists ever change, and the answer is usually no. However, in rare cases, such as when they have no supply and nowhere to turn, the narcissist may engage in self-reflection.

They may temporarily change their behavior, recognizing that they play some role in the loss of their supply sources. Unfortunately, the narcissist’s self-reflection is usually shallow and lacking genuine introspection.

Any changes the narcissist makes are likely temporary and motivated by the need to secure new supply. Their changes are unlikely to represent personal growth, and they will revert back to old ways once they have new victims under their wings. 

Final thoughts 

Losing supply is a tragic event in the life of a narcissist. It tends to trigger a cascade of negative emotions and behaviors because the narcissist is lost without sources of external validation. 

When they’re on the hunt for new supply, narcissists may even temporarily present as kind and apologetic, but don’t be fooled. The narcissists are desperate for new sources of supply, and they’ll do whatever they can to get them.

Narcissists have deep-seated insecurities and a fragile ego, so they must relentlessly pursue supply sources. Their entire survival depends upon it. 

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