The irony of narcissistic supply being a narcissist’s biggest weakness is humorous because they spend every waking moment of their lives chasing it. Their determination to perfect themselves would be inspiring if they weren’t abusive, but unfortunately, all it is is destructive.

In our article, What Are Narcissists’ Weaknesses, we unveiled a lot of interesting circumstances that lead to narcissistic supply being their biggest weakness. But since we wrote that article, another reason was brought to our attention, their age. 

There are three reasons why narcissists get worse as they get older. First, the way they accumulate narcissistic supply worsens. Second, as they get older, their superficial identity disintegrates. Third, they experience more narcissistic injuries as they age because they’re less independent.

What Happens to Narcissists When They Get Old?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of easily accessible research about this topic, however, the information I came across was very insightful and hopefully this article gives you a unique perspective of not only the spectrum of narcissism, but how interchangeable narcissistic personalities can be. 

As a Narcissist Gets Older, Their Ability to Accumulate Narcissistic Supply Gets Worse

A narcissist will get worse as he/she gets older because we live in a very ageist society, which affects the way they accumulate narcissistic supply.

Some of the hallmarks of narcissistic personalities are an obsession with appearances and social status, a grandiose sense of self-importance, an inflated sense of specialness/uniqueness, and a persistent need for validation, admiration and reassurance.

These characteristics are what drive a narcissist’s insecure need to stay in shape, broadcast their lives on social media, be validated, admired, and reassured by the people in their lives, have a significant amount of power and control over others and so on.

This is quite problematic for those with narcissistic personalities because as we get older, we see decreases in our level of authority, responsibility, and sex drive, we become less physically attractive, we lose our mobility, our memory starts to go and so on. 

A narcissistic grandfather forcing his family to take a picture

As a Narcissist Gets Older, Their Superficial Identity Begins to Disintegrate 

For a narcissist, this is a terrifying position to be in because all of the trivial things they’ve accumulated over the years to support their superficial identity start to disintegrate as they age.

The important thing to understand about narcissists is that they truly believe their own lies because their well-being is heavily dependent on it. They actually gaslight themselves as much as they gaslight their victims. 

Because of their emotional immaturity, narcissists are incapable of regulating their own emotions. Which is a problem because they have an insane amount of negative emotions suppressed within their psyche.  

These negative emotions create a numerous number of insecurities, vulnerabilities, and fears but the ones I want to point out is their fear of abandonment and fear of rejection. These fears drive them to swap out their fragile, terrified, vulnerable, and insecure identities for an identity that they feel is more likely to be accepted by society. 

If this “swap” were to happen with someone who had a mature perception of the world, you’d probably end up with an outstanding individual standing in front of you. They’d be able to realize that society values authenticity, honesty, and kindness much more than whatever is trending at any given point. 

Unfortunately, given a narcissist’s emotional immaturity, they’re unable to see past societal norms’s superficial exterior so they naturally gravitate towards insignificant things.

A narcissist choosing superficial aspects of life over emotional stability and maturity.

In all honesty, this immature/insecure quest to find one’s self goes really well for them for a majority of their lives. In fact, non-narcissistic people are some of the biggest enablers of narcissistic behavior patterns because we often buy into their falsified identity. 

But once they start to age and they can’t rely on their superficial exterior anymore, their fear of their own fears make them incapable of actually maintaining any types of relationship because many of the shallow ways that they measured their own self-worth have been rendered irrelevant by their age.

Narcissists Experience More Narcissistic Injuries as They Age Because They’re Less Independent

The third and final reason that narcissists get worse as they get older is because they’re more likely to experience narcissistic injuries. Which are essentially ego injuries but given how fragile a narcissist’s ego is, it has its own name. 

This has a very strong correlation with the disintegration of their identity. Once a narcissist begins to lose control over the narcissistic supply, they panic. While they’re in their “prime” they’ll use manipulative tactics like hoovering, baiting and intermittent reinforcement to regain control over the narcissistic supply. 

But as they get older, not only are these manipulative behaviors not always available, it actually becomes much harder for the narcissist to lie to themselves as well because their identity is slipping away right in front of their own eyes.

If you remember correctly, in the beginning of the article I mentioned that this article will give you a unique perspective on narcissism and how interchangeable narcissistic personalities can be.

Well, here’s where things get interesting… 

For those of you who either were or currently are in a relationship with an aging narcissist, have you ever read behavior patterns commonly associated with grandiose narcissism and felt like that used to be your partner but not anymore? 

What I mean is that at one point, your partner was the life of the party, but now he/she is the type of person that is sullen, spiteful, and despises social gatherings? 

There’s a reason for that! 

Research has revealed that grandiose narcissists can morph into covert narcissists if things don’t go their way for long enough, and vice versa.

What does this mean? 

As narcissists, who can be characterized as an individual with a grandiose sense of self, sense of specialness/uniqueness, extroverted, entitled and so on, get older and lose sight of their identity, they show many characteristics commonly associated with a covert narcissist. 

Characteristics of a covert narcissist

Another really interesting aspect to aging narcissism is that the entire process often triggers a narcissist’s fear of abandonment and/or shame. The reason being it’s very common for those with narcissistic personalities to have fewer, and fewer people in their lives as they get older, simply because of how abusive they are.

Under these circumstances, the likelihood of a narcissist being consumed with a fear of abandonment, rage, and self-pity, because they’re so self-centered that they can’t acknowledge their role in the situation, is very high.

A narcissistic grandmother being emotionally abusive

Let’s say that the narcissist’s family and friends have stuck around. If the narcissist were to be unable to take care of themselves and relied heavily on others, it could trigger their suppressed shame because they have to ask for help.

The concept being the center of attention because they’re inadequate to some degree instead of being the center of attention because they’re desirable is incredibly destabilizing for them.

It’s not unlikely for them to be furious when you ask to help them, belittle you for the way you help them, or even refuse help all together. 

Do Aging Narcissists Become Less Dangerous? 

As narcissists get older, they begin to lose control over many of their narcissistic traits, so they should be less dangerous right? 

WRONG!

By the time a narcissist reaches the age where they’re becoming less independent and/or their narcissistic traits are starting to be rendered useless, they’ve had decades of practice to be the most manipulative, vindictive, and antagonistic individuals on the planet. 

As horrible as they are, it is really important to remember how intelligent narcissists can be. 

By the time they’ve reached old age, they have crossed paths with hundreds of potential victims and people who saw right through their superficial front. So, they’ve developed new techniques to project their emotional instability onto others while ensuring that their abusive behavior remains hidden.

In fact, one of the biggest weapons an aging narcissist has is their mortality. It’s very, very common for aging narcissists to attempt to remain in control (and avoid abandonment) by guilting friends and family into sticking by their side until the very end by weaponizing their mortality, creating a pervasive environment of guilt. 

“It was one of the most confusing periods in my life. I was so angry at my narcissistic father for everything he had put our family through, but at the same time I felt so sorry for him because his health was declining by the day. It was just a really confusing time, and looking back, he did use his mortality to manipulate people into sticking by his side.” – Jacob

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

An aging narcissist is a very unique aspect of the narcissistic realm. As they begin to age, a lot of the superficial things they used to build their self-esteem begin to turn into their worst enemy. 

It is almost as if they are experiencing an out of body experience. They’re forced to watch as the wall of lies, control, power, and dominance over others comes crashing down. When the dust settles, all that is left is a fragile, insecure, terrified, and terribly alone human-being. 

However, you can’t let your guard down just because they’re in a much more vulnerable state. It can be really confusing to see someone who had so much power over you at one point become very vulnerable, but you need to ensure that you remember that their destructive nature hasn’t aged a bit.


All of the content that Unfilteredd creates is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for clinical care — please visit here for qualified organizations and here for qualified professionals that you can reach out to for help. This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

References:

Jauk, Emanuel et al. “The Relationship between Grandiose and Vulnerable (Hypersensitive) Narcissism.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 8 1600. 13 Sep. 2017, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01600

Ageism is a global challenge: UN