Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which an individual loves themselves excessively without thinking about others. It is usually a lifelong condition, but whether a narcissist can change depends mainly on the causes and extent of narcissism and whether an individual is willing to change.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is notoriously difficult to manage as people with NPD do not consider it as a mental health disorder.
Narcissists are barriers to their own treatment and progress. If a narcissist realises, acknowledges, and is willing to change, they can definitely perform better.
Let’s explore more about “can a narcissist change?”
Identifying Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
NPD is a complex personality disorder in which an individual has an overinflated ego, a sense of being superior to others, limited empathy, and grandiose behaviour. The severity of symptoms may vary from mild to severe. However, people with milder symptoms can easily change.
There are several types of narcissistic personality disorder. Each type has its own concerns about changing narcissistic behaviour.
Covert narcissists are vulnerable individuals living with several insecurities. They usually show passive aggression towards their loved ones.
Malignant narcissists are abusive. They feel a sense of pleasure and satisfaction from hurting people around them. They may lie and manipulate others to fulfil their desires.
Communal narcissists have grandiose behaviour and an inflated sense of superiority. They try to use different means to achieve power and admiration. Moreover, they assume that they have excellent social skills in a communal environment and higher likability among people.
Can A Narcissist Change?
Around 6.2% of people (7.7% of males and 4.8% of females) all over the world have narcissism. You may be in a relationship with a narcissist, and they can be a partner, boss, parent, friend, or child. It’s natural to wonder, “Can a narcissist change?” Well, narcissistic personality disorders are generally insidious. It might be difficult for you to guess whether a narcissist is really willing to change themselves or just making a fake promise to try to lure you back in.
Here are a few tips to determine whether a narcissist can change:
1-Subtype of Narcissism:
Only 6.2% of people fulfil DSM criteria of NPD, while others may have narcissistic traits only. Not every person with a lack of empathy and manipulative behaviour has NPD. People with narcissistic traits can change easily compared to those with NPD.
If a person has full spectrum narcissistic personality disorder, they might be self-centred and the greatest challenge would be their refusal to change. Narcissists abuse their partners emotionally, financially, sexually, and physically to gain control over them. In such cases, narcissists are unlikely to change their behaviour.
2-Extent of Narcissism:
People with narcissistic traits are likely to have a willingness to change. They may change after psychotherapy as long as they have a sense of empathy.
In comparison, people with a severe degree of NPD become infuriated, start blaming you and your actions, and become defensive if you make them realize how their actions hurt you. In that case, it is unlikely for a narcissist to change.
3-Acknowledgement of Narcissism:
A few narcissists acknowledge their mistakes and recognize themselves as narcissists. They are usually willing to change. Stay cautious; most narcissists try to manipulate their partners to assure them they are changing. They do not really change. They just promise to change to get what they want.
However, if a narcissist takes responsibility for their negative behaviour and tries to improve themselves, they may change.
4-Willingness to Change:
If a narcissist acknowledges their abusive behaviour and demonstrates signs to initiate a change, they can really change.
But remember, the initiative must come from a narcissist. If you try to do it forcefully, they will never change. They may pretend to change themselves, but they will not unless they want to.
Signs A Narcissist Can Change:
Here are a few signs that demonstrate a narcissist is open to changing their abusive and manipulative behaviour:
1- They Takes Responsibility For Their Actions:
Commonly, a narcissist does not take accountability for their actions. They may lie, manipulate, or become infuriated to avoid ownership of negative behaviour. Therefore, if they takes accountability for their actions, it’s a good sign they are trying to change.
If they recognize their mistakes and tells you or others that they have made a mistake and feel a sense of guilt, then they are genuinely trying to change themselves.
2- They listens To Your Feedback Without Being Defensive:
Receiving negative feedback is challenging for narcissists. They overreact, become infuriated, and start an argument to defend themselves. Some of them become violent and abusive to take revenge.
If a person with narcissism listens to your feedback calmly without getting infuriated and defensive, this is again a good sign he’s trying to change himself.
3- They Improve Their Stress Management Skills
In stress, narcissists try to seek attention by showing narcissistic rage, crying, shouting, and practising self-harm activities.
If a person tries to improve emotional regulation skills and practices stress management strategies, it is a positive sign they are changing their narcissistic behaviour. It means they are trying to take control of uncomfortable emotions and becoming less reactive.
4- They Apologises For Their Negative Behaviour:
Narcissism comes with relapses and remissions. Factors like emotional stress, trauma, or sudden change in routine can trigger its symptoms. An individual who is practising to improve his negative behaviour can unintentionally slip into his narcissistic behaviour again.
However, if a narcissist is trying to change himself, they’ll authentically apologise for his “unintentional” negative behaviour. Remember that the apology must be authentic and genuine.
An authentic apology shows a person is guilty (I’m so sorry, I should not have shouted at you). In comparison, an apology with insecurity and passive aggression may consider you as a culprit. (I’m sorry, but you shouldn’t have annoyed me, which made me upset, and I shouted at you).
5- They Pay attention and Improve Themselves Consistently
Narcissists are self-absorbed. They feel like they are the centre of the world and never pay heed to others’ opinions. However, if a narcissist starts listening to you and other people, they are genuinely trying to change themselves.
Moreover, consistency is key to everything. Despite relapses and remissions, if a narcissist is consistent and shows all good signs, they can definitely change themselves.
Can Therapy Change Narcissists?
NPD is a complex mental health disorder where people do not see a problem in their personality and behaviour. It becomes quite challenging to manage NPD.
However, the following therapies can improve the symptoms of narcissism and help people with NPD rebuild their positive behaviour and learn strategies to manage their negative behaviour.
Can a narcissist change for the right Partner?
Change in the negative behaviour of a narcissist depends on the extent and acknowledgment of narcissism and their willingness to change their behaviour. If they are willing to change for the right partner, they can. Only that person can make a choice; no one else can.
Some narcissists realise that their narcissistic behaviour is a threat to their relationship, so they make genuine efforts to change themselves.
Can narcissists change for love?
No, love can not change a narcissist until they are willing to do it themselves.
A few people prioritise love over overinflated ego and grandiosity because narcissism is a threat to relationships. In this case, a narcissist can definitely change. Most narcissists do not realise and try to take control over their partner, which eventually hurts their partner emotionally.
To conclude, a narcissist can change if they are willing to. Narcissistic personality disorder is not an incurable mental health problem. However, you can not force someone with NPD to change or seek treatment until they choose to do so. If your loved one is genuinely trying to improve their narcissistic behaviour, support them throughout his journey. Help them seek therapeutic strategies to overcome negative behaviour.