Have you ever wondered what narcissistic rage is?

If so, you’re definitely not alone. A member of our community asked us about this, so I did some research, and here’s what I found.

Ten Things That Cause Narcissistic Rage:

  • Criticism. 
  • Losing control. 
  • Being humiliated or experiencing shame. 
  • Their expectations are not being met. 
  • Losing the attention or admiration of others. 
  • Their boundaries getting crossed. 
  • Being held accountable for their actions. 
  • Not getting their way. 
  • Experiencing a setback or disappointment. 
  • Being exposed for their behaviors.

In this post, I will guide you through these ten triggers to help you understand what causes narcissistic rage.

If you have or currently are experiencing narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse for help.

1) Criticism

One reason narcissists might go into a rage is if they feel criticized.1

Think of it like a balloon popping when it gets too close to something sharp. 

Narcissists have a very high opinion of themselves and expect others to treat them as flawless. 

If someone points out a mistake they made or even implies they could improve in some area, it’s like telling them the balloon they’re holding is about to pop. 

A woman giving constructive criticism to a narcissist who is getting angry.

This criticism, no matter how small or constructive, feels like a huge threat to their self-image. 

Instead of listening and considering the feedback, they explode in anger. 

This rage is a way to defend themselves from feeling vulnerable or admitting they’re not perfect.

It’s like they’re saying, “How dare you suggest I’m not the best?” 

By reacting angrily, they try to scare others into never questioning them again.

Suggested Reading: 7 Ways Narcissists React to Criticism

2) Losing Control

Another reason narcissists might fly into a rage is when they feel their control over a situation or person is being threatened.2 

Imagine playing a video game where you’re the boss, controlling everything that happens. 

Suddenly, the game starts glitching, and you can’t control the characters like you used to. 

This loss of control can be really frustrating, right? 

For narcissists, being in control is everything. They like to dictate what others do, think, and even feel. 

When someone challenges their authority or makes a decision without consulting them, it’s like the game is no longer obeying their commands. 

This threat to their control can trigger a fierce rage. 

They might yell, insult, or use other aggressive behaviors to regain control. 

It’s their way of grabbing the controller back and making sure everyone knows they’re still in charge. 

This rage serves as a warning not to challenge their authority again.

Suggested Reading: 8 Ways Narcissists React When They Lose Control Over You

3) Being Humiliated or Experiencing Shame

When narcissists feel embarrassed or shamed in front of others, it can often trigger narcissistic rage.3 

Imagine being on stage in front of a crowd and suddenly tripping over your own feet. 

For most people, this might cause a moment of embarrassment, but they’d likely laugh it off. 

However, for a narcissist, such public exposure of imperfection is intolerable. 

Their self-esteem is heavily tied to maintaining an image of superiority and infallibility in the eyes of others. 

So, any event that threatens this image, whether it’s a mistake at work being pointed out, a joke at their expense, or any form of public correction, can feel like a spotlight on their flaws. 

A woman jokingly pointing out a flaw in the narcissist.

In response, they might lash out in anger at the person or thing they perceive as the source of their embarrassment and anyone in the vicinity. 

This rage acts as a smokescreen, attempting to deflect from their embarrassment and reassert their dominance.

Suggested Reading: What Happens When You Humiliate a Narcissist

4) Their Expectations Not Being Met

Narcissists often have very high and specific expectations for how they should be treated and how situations should unfold.

When reality falls short of these expectations, it can lead to narcissistic rage.4 

Imagine planning the perfect birthday party in your head, down to the last detail, but nobody remembers to sing “Happy Birthday” to you. 

For a narcissist, any situation where their expectations are not met—whether it’s not receiving the admiration they feel they deserve or someone disagreeing with their opinion—can be deeply unsettling, just like everyone forgetting to sing “Happy Birthday” on your birthday. 

This discrepancy between what they expect and what actually happens can make them feel disrespected, ignored, or undervalued. 

But instead of adjusting their expectations or reflecting on the situation, their immediate response is often narcissistic rage. 

This rage serves to express their dissatisfaction and attempt to coerce others into meeting their demands and validating their perceived superiority.

5) Losing the Attention or Admiration of Others 

Narcissists thrive on the constant flow of attention and admiration from those around them.5 

It’s like being the sun in their own solar system; they expect all the planets to revolve around them, basking in their glow. 

When they sense that someone else is stealing the spotlight, or if they feel neglected, overlooked, or underappreciated, it can trigger an intense rage.6 

Imagine throwing a party where everyone starts paying attention to another guest instead of you. 

For a narcissist, such a shift in attention is not just disappointing; it’s seen as a direct challenge to their self-worth. 

This perceived loss of attention is intolerable because their ego is heavily dependent on external validation. 

Their rage in these situations is a mechanism to re-center themselves as the focus of attention, demanding that others reaffirm their importance and superiority.

Suggested Reading: What Is Narcissistic Supply? (A Complete Guide)

If you need help with anything related to narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

6) Their Boundaries Getting Crossed

Despite their tendency to disrespect others’ boundaries, narcissists are extremely sensitive about their own. 

They often have strict rules about how they should be treated, spoken to, or referred to, which are rooted in their grandiose self-image. 

When they perceive that someone has crossed these boundaries, it can lead to a furious reaction.7 

For a narcissist, any perceived encroachment on their personal space, rules, or preferences is seen as a blatant disregard for their authority and an insult to their self-esteem. 

Their rage in response to boundary crossings serves multiple purposes: it punishes the transgressor, reinforces the narcissist’s sense of control, and reestablishes the importance of their rules and preferences. 

This reaction is less about the specific boundary crossed and more about the challenge to their authority and the respect they demand from others.

7) Being Held Accountable for Their Actions

One thing that can cause narcissistic rage is when narcissists are held accountable for something they’ve done wrong.

For a narcissist, admitting they did something wrong is really hard.8

They might react with anger or even try to deny it ever happened. 

This is because they like to see themselves as perfect or above others. 

When someone points out a mistake they made, it’s like showing them a mirror they don’t want to look into. 

They might get furious, not because they’re sorry for what they did, but because they can’t handle the idea of not being perfect. 

It’s like they’re saying, “How dare you think I can make a mistake!”

8) Not Getting Their Way

Another trigger for narcissistic rage is simply not getting their way.9 

Let’s say a narcissist wants something, like going to a specific restaurant, but everyone else wants to go somewhere else.

Instead of compromising, the narcissist might get really upset.

A narcissist getting upset when they are not getting their way.

This isn’t just being a little disappointed; it’s a full-on rageful reaction. 

To them, not getting what they want feels like a huge insult. 

It’s as if the world is supposed to revolve around their desires, and when it doesn’t, they can’t handle it. 

They might throw a tantrum or become really mean, all because they didn’t get their way. 

It’s their way of trying to control the situation and make sure everyone knows they’re the most important person in the room.

9) Experiencing a Setback or Disappointment

When narcissists face a setback or disappointment, it can lead to narcissistic rage.

Imagine someone working hard on a project at work, expecting to be praised, but instead, they receive feedback that it’s not up to standard.

For a narcissist, this kind of setback is not just a minor bump in the road; it feels like a personal attack

They might lash out in anger, blame others for their failure, or refuse to accept the reality of the situation.10 

This reaction comes from their inability to deal with anything that threatens their self-image of being perfect or superior. 

It’s like they’re in a bubble where they always have to be the best. 

When that bubble bursts, their anger is the immediate response, a way to defend against feeling any vulnerability or inadequacy.

10) Being Exposed for Their Behaviors

Another trigger for narcissistic rage is being exposed for their behaviors, especially if those behaviors are manipulative or harmful. 

If a narcissist has been lying or using others and someone calls them out on it, they might react with intense anger.11

This isn’t just about being caught; it’s about their carefully constructed image being threatened. 

For a narcissist, their public persona is like a mask they wear to gain admiration and control. 

When someone exposes the truth behind the mask, it’s as if their true self is being rejected. 

This exposure can lead to a violent outburst as they try to defend their ego and discredit the person who exposed them. 

It’s a way to divert attention from their actions and maintain their façade of perfection.

If you are ready to be more than a victim of narcissistic abuse, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.


Thank you so much for reading; I hope you found this article helpful.

Now, I’d love to hear from you.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of narcissistic rage, and how did it impact you?

What strategies have you found helpful in dealing with someone who exhibits these triggers for narcissistic rage?

Or perhaps you’re seeking advice on how to navigate a situation involving narcissistic behavior in your life.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Meaghan Rice. (2023. September, 27). Narcissistic Rage: Identifying & Protecting Yourself From It. Talkspace. https://www.talkspace.com/mental-health/conditions/articles/narcissistic-rage/ ↩︎
  2. Nakpangi Thomas. (2023. May, 15). Narcissistic Rage: Triggers, Causes, & How to Respond. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/narcissistic-rage/ ↩︎
  3. Arlin Cuncic. (2023. December, 6). What Is Narcissistic Rage? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-narcissistic-rage-5183744 ↩︎
  4. Zia Sherrell. (2023. August, 22). Understanding narcissistic rage: How to deal with it. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/narcissistic-rage ↩︎
  5. Anna Drescher. (2024. January, 23). Narcissistic Supply: The Fuel Behind Manipulative Relationships. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/narcissistic-supply.html ↩︎
  6. Sam Vaknin. (2008. November, 14). The Narcissist’s Reaction to Deficient Narcissistic Supply. HealthyPlace. https://www.healthyplace.com/personality-disorders/malignant-self-love/narcissists-reaction-to-deficient-narcissistic-supply ↩︎
  7. BetterHelp Editorial Team. (2024. February, 27). Causes Of Narcissistic Rage. BetterHelp. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/anger/causes-of-narcissistic-rage/ ↩︎
  8. Anna Drescher. (2024. January, 23). Why Can Narcissists Not Accept Blame? Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/narcissist-accountability.html ↩︎
  9. Bill Eddy. (2021. September, 26). 4 Tips for Saying No to a Narcissist. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/5-types-people-who-can-ruin-your-life/202109/4-tips-saying-no-narcissist ↩︎
  10. HandWiki. (2022, November 25). Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury. In Encyclopedia. https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/36527 ↩︎
  11. Krizan, Zlatan, and Omesh Johar. “Narcissistic rage revisited.” Journal of personality and social psychology 108.5 (2015): 784. ↩︎

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