A narcissist’s emotional state is heavily dependent on the amount of narcissistic supply that they can get. When narcissists have a sufficient amount of narcissistic supply, they can use it to suppress their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions. This allows them to create a positive self-perception and maintain emotional stability.

When a narcissist loses their supply they become emotionally unstable and experience a high degree of emotional pain, distress, torment, and suffering.

This article is a thorough exploration of what happens when a narcissist loses their supply. Having this information will help you deepen your understanding of the correlation between the emotional state of a narcissist and the amount of narcissistic supply that they can get.

When Narcissists Lose Their Supply They Suffer Considerable Mental Anguish

Mental anguish is mental suffering which includes fright, feelings of distress, anxiety, depression, grief and/or psychosomatic physical symptoms. When a narcissist loses their supply it is very common for them to suffer considerable mental anguish.

This is because narcissists use narcissistic supply to keep their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions suppressed. It can be hard to imagine that someone with such a positive self-perception and grandiose public persona is struggling with painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions on a daily basis, but it is true.

A narcissist hiding behind a mask.

Deep down, narcissists feel unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak. Unfortunately, narcissists are incapable of managing these painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions through healthy forms of regulation because they have low emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

Low emotional intelligence is the inability to accurately perceive emotions (in both themselves and others) and to use that information to guide their thinking and actions.

A teacher talking about emotional intelligence.

As we mentioned before, low emotional intelligence prevents narcissists from being able to manage their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions with healthy forms of regulation. Instead, they use narcissistic supply to suppress their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

If you didn’t know already, narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists get from their surrounding environment. Narcissists use supply to create a positive self-perception and maintain emotional stability.

A simple example of this could be a narcissistic teenager using the narcissistic supply that he/she gets from being the most popular kid in school to construct a positive self-perception and to suppress his/her painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions (image below).

A narcissist developing a grandiose self-perception.

When narcissists lose their narcissistic supply, it triggers all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions, compromises their emotional stability, and causes them to experience a high degree of emotional pain, distress, torment, and suffering.

Take the popular narcissistic teenager that we just spoke about for example. When that teenager loses the narcissistic supply that he or she is getting for being the most popular kid in school, their positive self-perception will deteriorate and their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions will be triggered (image below).

A narcissist losing their narcissistic supply.

Now that you have a better understanding of why losing their supply causes narcissists so much mental anguish, let’s reinforce everything that you have just learned by exploring the origin of a narcissist’s dependence on supply.

The Emotional State of a Narcissist Is Dependent on the Amount of Narcissistic Supply That They Have

A narcissist’s dependence on narcissistic supply is believed to originate from a childhood upbringing that consists of emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers.

Now, we often associate words such as “abusive” or “unhealthy” with physical abuse, or more evident forms of emotional abuse such as invalidation, devaluation, degradation, or humiliation. But it is important to note that these terms have a very broad spectrum of possibilities when it comes to a narcissist’s childhood upbringing.

A narcissistic mother being abusive towards her daughter.

An abusive or unhealthy childhood upbringing doesn’t always mean that the child had primary caregivers who were slapping them, punching them, spanking them, screaming at them, neglecting them, or some other more evident form of abuse.

Sometimes children have an abusive or unhealthy childhood because the emotional availability, responsiveness, and consistency of their primary caregivers was unhealthy.

For example, a child might have an abusive or unhealthy upbringing if their primary caregivers pampered them too much, if they were overprotective, if they didn’t set healthy boundaries, and so on.

But the point is that when a child has an abusive or unhealthy upbringing with emotionally unavailable, unresponsive, and inconsistent primary caregivers, it prevents them from getting their thoughts, feelings, and emotions mirrored.

Suggested Reading:

Our article How Are Narcissists Made? has all of the different theories that mental health specialists have on how narcissists are made if you are interested in learning more about a narcissist’s origin story.

In this context, mirroring refers to a parent’s accurate reflection of their child’s expressed thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

When a child has a healthy parental mirror, they get the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they need to develop a realistic sense of self and have a healthy cognitive development. But because narcissists didn’t have a healthy parental mirror, they were left to figure out both their internal and external environment on their own.

A confused person.

This level of emotional neglect destroyed the narcissist’s self-esteem and caused them to develop an incredibly negative self-perception. One’s self-perception is their view of themselves or of any of the mental or physical attributes that constitute the self.

As you can imagine, the negative self-perception that narcissists developed is the root of all their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

And because of their inability to use healthy forms of regulation to manage their emotional state (i.e. low emotional intelligence) their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions pose a massive threat to their well-being.

This is the origin of a narcissist’s dependence on narcissistic supply because to prevent themselves from crumbling under the pressure of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions, narcissists learned to mirror society so they could create a falsified identity that could get them the validation, admiration, and reassurance that their primary caregivers could not, or would not, give them. 

In this context, mirroring refers to a manipulation tactic that narcissists use to absorb an extraordinary amount of information about someone’s or a group of people’s identity and use that information to create a falsified identity that others can identify with.

Suggested Reading:

Mirroring is one of the most powerful manipulation tactics that narcissists use. Our article How Do Narcissists Use Mirroring? has a lot of helpful information that can help you grasp a better understanding of it.

At a quick glance, this approach to getting validation, admiration, and reassurance seems like it would work. 

But unfortunately all it did was make the overwhelming amount of painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that narcissists have even more profound because they were not able to be their true authentic selves; only a version of themselves that they believe others would admire, validate, and reassure.

A sad narcissist.

To protect their emotional stability, narcissists compartmentalized all of the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they had with the help of the narcissistic supply that they were getting from their external environment. 

In psychology, compartmentalization is defined as a defense mechanism where someone suppresses their thoughts and emotions.

This condemned narcissists to a lifetime of a mindless pursuit of narcissistic supply to keep all of the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions suppressed and that is why the well-being of the emotional state of a narcissist is dependent on the amount of narcissistic supply they can get.

What Should You Take Away From This Article

A narcissist’s well-being is heavily dependent on the amount of narcissistic supply that they can get. When they lose their supply, all of their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions get triggered, they become emotionally unstable, and they experience a high degree of emotional pain, distress, torment, and suffering.

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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:

Goldberg, Arnold. “Psychotherapy of narcissistic injuries.” Archives of general psychiatry 28.5 (1973): 722-726.

Levin, Jerome David. Slings and arrows: Narcissistic injury and its treatment. Jason Aronson, Incorporated, 1995.