Narcissistic rage is an episode of intense anger, aggression, and manipulative behavior.
Narcissistic rage occurs when a narcissist feels out of control or senses they’re losing power.
Their rage can occur quickly or gradually. Although it often feels unpredictable, some people can spot patterns within a narcissistic rage cycle.
A raging narcissist is nonsensical and only focused on protecting their own ego. They will do whatever it takes to reestablish a sense of safety for themselves, even if that comes at the expense of others.
This article will discuss what triggers narcissistic rage, common narcissistic rage examples, and how you should respond if you feel caught in the crossfire.
What is Narcissistic Rage?
Narcissistic rage happens when a narcissist faces a real or perceived threat to their self-image.
When their own behavior is confronted (or their false self is exposed), they have no defense.
Because they can’t easily control their emotions, they implode on themselves or explode on others.
Narcissistic rage comes in many forms, but angry outbursts are the most common reaction.
When a narcissist’s inflated sense of self-worth is attacked, they project their fear, shame, or guilt onto others. They often become indignant in their efforts to “be right” or “win” in a particular situation.
Consider reading: How to deal with Narcissistic Rage?
Signs of Narcissistic Rage
What does narcissistic rage look like? There isn’t a single image for it. Narcissistic rage comes in various forms, including any type of physical or verbal abuse.
The silent treatment is a typical sign of passive narcissistic rage. You can tell that something is wrong, but you may not know what, and the narcissist won’t give you the satisfaction of telling you the problem.
This kind of stonewalling is by design. The narcissist wants you to feel anxious and guilty, and they will seemingly enjoy you checking in on them to ensure they’re okay.
Here are some of the most common narcissistic rage signs:
Blaming You for Everything
It’s all your fault! You don’t love me. You never understand what I need. You’re the sick one here!
If the narcissist is directing all blame onto you, that’s a sign they’re in a narcissistic rage episode.
They can’t think rationally or consider their part in their dynamic. Instead, it’s easier for them to focus on why you’re causing issues (even if you haven’t done anything wrong).
Narcissists will sometimes disguise their rage by trying to be funny. This sets up a perfect stage for gaslighting.
If you get offended, they can gaslight you by saying that you don’t know how to take a joke or that you always take things too literally.
I’m not even sure I want to stay with you anymore.
I need to leave the house and spend some time thinking about whether this relationship is working for me.
I’m going to tell your mom who you really are.
Some narcissists will rage by threatening to leave you, hurt you, or otherwise cause problems.
This is a way to induce fear and maintain a sense of power. They want you to feel threatened, and they also want you to quickly apologize for whatever they think you did wrong.
Calling You Names or Criticizing You
It can seem like a narcissist has no filter when they’re in the middle of an angry outburst.
They’ll attack your moral character and emotionally hit you where it hurts the most.
If you’ve ever opened up about something vulnerable (like mental health issues), you can expect that sensitive topic to be the target of the narcissist’s rage.
Narcissists love to learn other people’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities to later exploit them.
Self-Harm or Substance Use
Some narcissists turn their narcissistic rage inward. If they struggle with addiction (as many narcissists do), this is when they’re most likely to engage in their habit.
It’s how they have learned to cope with their emotional dysfunction and unstable sense of self.
This poses significant problems for loved ones. They often feel responsible for preventing the narcissist from getting upset, and then they sometimes blame themselves when a relapse occurs.
Cutting Someone Off Completely
During a moment of explosive rage, a narcissist might decide to end a relationship altogether.
Sometimes they go back on their word later, but other times, this represents their final discard.
If you pay close attention, you’ll see that most people with pathological narcissism have a history of unstable relationships and estrangements.
Some narcissists react to losing control by becoming physically dangerous toward other people or objects.
For example, they might throw their phone across the room if they come home to their child crying. Or, they might push their spouse after having a bad phone call with their mother.
Physical aggression is always dangerous, and it generally escalates.
That means, even if they aren’t being physically aggressive toward you yet, there’s a good chance they could reach that point if provoked.
I’m fine. I don’t know what you’re talking about.
I’m not angry. I’m perfectly calm.
Many narcissists become passive-aggressive when experiencing narcissistic rage.
This is another way they maintain a sense of control in a situation. Instead of acknowledging their feelings or needs, they create situations where other people have to guess what’s going on.
Smearing Your Reputation
A narcissist might react to being angry by trying to ruin your reputation. This is a form of sophisticated bullying, and the narcissist’s main goal is to convince other people that you’re the bad person.
They’ll go to your friends, family members, or coworkers to lament about everything you’re doing wrong.
Sometimes they’ll even go online and try to tarnish your reputation virtually.
A narcissist might try to withhold affection, money, or other resources in a fit of rage.
This creates an especially problematic dynamic if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist who has full control over certain domains of your life.
Over time, this can lead to you feeling entirely dependent on the narcissist (which is always a serious red flag).
Dramatic Self-Deprecating Statements
Nothing I do is right!
I’m just worthless. Nobody loves me.
Many narcissists have a victim mindset, so they’ll use these statements as a way to seek empathy and validation from others.
If you rescue their feelings, it only reinforces narcissistic behavior.
Narc Rage Vs Normal Rage
Everyone experiences anger, but people with personality disorders often have extreme rage that affects their everyday life.
When they feel angry, it’s like they have no ability to control their mood or behavior. Like a toddler, they melt down without thinking about the consequences.
Normal rage usually has a specific, reasonable trigger. For example, someone might get angry finding out that their partner cheated on them or that they lost their job.
These are perfectly valid reasons to feel angry. In these cases, the frustration doesn’t escalate to verbal or physical aggression.
Someone with typical anger may use healthy coping skills to help them regulate.
They usually feel embarrassed by their actions, so they make more of an effort to work on their emotions.
But narcissistic rage transcends normal emotional responses. When a narcissist is angry, it’s like they feel blinded by their own needs and emotions.
They don’t consider other people. They don’t really even think of the consequences of their aggressive behavior- they need to attack.
What Makes a Narcissist Angry and Triggers a Rage?
A narcissist’s self-esteem never feels solid or secure. Even though they act confident, they experience low self-esteem that can be threatened by seemingly any trigger.
Anger acts as their primary defense mechanism- it’s how they simultaneously keep people close (because they feel scared) while also pushing them away.
Anything can trigger narcissistic rage, but some of the common triggers include:
- being told no
- being given a boundary
- someone not showing much interest in them
- losing something of value (relationship, job, status)
- someone else winning or being happy
- experiencing a narcissistic injury
- being given the silent treatment by someone else
- getting their behavior called out
How Long Does Narcissistic Rage Last?
Narcissistic rage can last anywhere from just a few minutes to several days.
In extreme cases, the rage can be indefinite (which often speaks to when narcissists suddenly cut off family members or other important people in their life).
In most cases, the rage dissipates after the narcissist gets what they want.
How Does a Narcissist Feel After a Rage?
It depends. Not all angry outbursts even register to the narcissist. Some narcissists will simply dismiss their reaction as entirely normal, and it won’t affect them whatsoever.
They might also be so used to being in a perpetual state of anger that they don’t even realize its true impact.
Other narcissists might feel some remorse or guilt.
These feelings usually have more to do with fearing specific consequences (you pulling away, them getting in trouble, their fragile self-esteem getting hurt) than actually feeling bad.
Why Are Narcissists So Angry?
People with narcissistic personality disorder lack a strong sense of self. They don’t have much of an ability to validate themselves, and they struggle to experience empathy toward others.
They also rely on narcissistic supply to provide them with validation and approval.
When things don’t go their way, their narcissistic traits emerge, which can manifest as extreme anger.
Does Everyone With Narcissistic Personalities Experience Rage?
Yes, although that rage can look different for everyone. Some narcissists are extremely direct with their anger and become volatile in their everyday life. Others are more covert.
They might not appear outwardly upset, but they’ll self-destruct or hurt others in indirect ways.
What Are Narcissistic Rage Eyes?
Narcissistic rage sometimes first shows up in a narcissist’s eyes. They can look lifeless and even demonic.
Some people describe a narcissist watching them as getting death-stared.
There’s this instant sense that you’re in immediate danger and that something bad will happen.
What Happens After Narcissistic Rage?
Many narcissists act like nothing happened after cooling down from their angry outbursts.
Some narcissists will even get angry or offended if you feel upset by their behavior. If they’re over it, they expect that you are as well.
Other narcissists justify their rage. They will blame others for why they got upset.
They will focus on how they were wronged and demand apologies or changed behaviors.
Can Anything Help Prevent Narcissistic Rage?
People often ask themselves this because they feel exhausted and overwhelmed.
Keep in mind that narcissistic rage isn’t your fault. You are not responsible for their anger, and you’re also not responsible for managing their every trigger.
You can’t present narcissistic rage, but you can focus on your own mental health and self-worth.
The more you pay attention to your own life, the less affected you will feel by the narcissist’s behavior.
How Should You Respond to Narcissistic Abuse?
Don’t give in just for the sake of avoiding a narcissistic meltdown. The best thing you can do to disarm a narcissist is either ignore the situation or remain calm in the face of their anger.
Remember that you’re allowed to have and maintain boundaries. Nobody has the inherent right to treat you disrespectfully.
Can a Mental Health Professional Help People With Narcissistic Rage?
If you personally experience narcissistic rage, it may be beneficial to seek professional help.
Self-reflection is the first step toward change. Untangling yourself from narcissistic vulnerability requires significant time, effort, and willingness.
However, learning how to cope with your emotions more constructively is possible.