The combination of the unpredictability and explosiveness of narcissistic rage manipulates victims of narcissistic abuse into feeling like they have to scrutinize everything they say and do on a daily basis if they want to stay either physically or emotionally safe. With that being said, understanding why narcissists go into a rage can help victims of abuse stay as safe as possible.

Narcissists go into a rage when they experience something that contradicts their falsified identity. Contradictions trigger their suppressed negative emotions which causes a lot of psychological tension that they attempt to regulate by projecting the negative emotions onto others through narcissistic rage.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) outlines nine personality traits associated with narcissistic personality disorder, the same personality traits that make up a narcissist’s falsified identity, so this article is going to guide you through how a contradiction, invalidation, or devaluation towards any one of them could cause narcissistic rage.

nine narcissistic personality traits

The Reasoning Behind a Narcissist’s Tendency to Go Into a Narcissistic Rage

In our article Why Do Narcissists Get Mad When They Can’t Control You we spoke about this much more thoroughly but narcissists are so emotionally inadequate that they’re incapable of managing their own negative emotions in a healthy way. Instead, they suppress them deep within their psyche and hide them behind a falsified identity. 

When this falsified identity gets contradicted they’re reminded that they are not the larger than life, superstar that they desperately wish they were, they’re an insecure and vulnerable person who feels unlovable, unwanted, rejectable, abandonable, inadequate, ugly, disgusting, and disposable on the inside, which makes them furious.

Unfortunately, their fragile sense of self allows any form of authenticity, like holding them accountable for their behavior, to jeopardize the stability of falsified identity. So, for those of you who can’t escape the narcissist in your life just yet, it is important to be aware of the things you should avoid doing or saying around the narcissist in your life.

Narcissists Go Into a Rage Because Their Grandiose Sense of Self-Importance Gets Challenged

Oscar, a narcissistic man, has decided to stop at the local coffee shop before work to grab a bit of caffeine and a bit to eat. As he pulls up to the drive thru line he notices that there’s an estimated fifteen minute waiting period. 

a narcissist waiting in line

He isn’t too flustered because now he gets to go into the store where his superficial charm and good looks might get him more validation, admiration, and reassurance from people he interacts with . As he walks through the door of the coffee shop he notices there’s a sizable line inside as well. 

Now he’s getting a bit frustrated. He walks straight up to the register and steps in front of the person who was next in line and begins to place his order. The manager of the shop sees this and politely asks Oscar to wait his turn like everyone else. Oscar’s grandiose sense of self-importance kicks in and he asks the manager, “don’t you know who I am?”.

The manager laughs and says, “yes, a kind customer like everyone else in here.” Being compared to those he thinks are beneath him contradicts Oscar’s grandiose sense of self-importance, throwing him into a narcissistic rage. He begins yelling at the manager, threatening to go over his head to corporate to get him fired, and storms out of the coffee shop.

A Narcissist Goes Into a Narcissistic Rage Because Their Preoccupation With Fantasies of Unlimited Success, Power, Brilliance, Beauty, or Ideal Love Gets Invalidated

Justine, a narcissistic woman, is sitting in the waiting room of a modeling agency getting ready to audition for a talent discovery program that the agency is holding in an attempt to uncover some new talent in the local area. Justine is ecstatic about the opportunity because she has wanted to be a movie star for as long as she can remember. 

Looking around the room she is feeling pretty confident because she was born to be a superstar, she has been modeling her whole life, and the other women are just amateurs with no chance of winning the contest. Eventually her name is called to go in front of the judges and perform. 

A narcissistic woman going into a narcissistic rage

She felt like she had a world class performance but the judges tell her that she won’t be advancing in the competition. After Justine asks for an explanation, the judges tell her that they don’t think that she has what it takes to be a star. Justine explodes into a narcissistic rage and spits at the judges because their comments invalidated her fantasy of unlimited success and beauty. 

A Narcissist Goes Into a Rage Because Their Sense of Specialness and Uniqueness Is Contradicted

Robert, a narcissistic man, has a huge presentation at work tomorrow so he has planned out his morning to the minute to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Morning comes around and Robert heads off to work.

He is practicing his presentation in the car when he notices that traffic has come to a stop on the highway because of a really bad accident. Without a second thought, Robert takes it upon himself to drive in the service lane to avoid all of the traffic which is illegal.

Robert is furious when a police officer pulls him over and tries to yell at him from his car to explain his situation. The officer tells Robert to settle down because he will be with him in a minute which contradicts Robert’s sense of specialness because the officer doesn’t seem to understand how important the day was for Robert.

Robert gets out of the car screaming about how his taxes pay the police officer’s salary and that the officer works for him. Robert is way out of line and the police officer detains him until he calms down. 

A Narcissist Goes Into a Narcissistic Rage Because Their Excessive Need for Admiration Isn’t Fulfilled

Karen, a narcissistic woman, won the high school women’s basketball state championship four years in a row when she was in high school. It’s been nearly two decades since her glory days but she still holds onto them like they were yesterday. 

She spends almost every single day either talking about the championships, looking at the film of the games, telling her kids about the championships, or flipping through her photobook of the championship games.

One day her husband gets upset with her because she has been pushing her children to play basketball even though they aren’t interested in the sport. He confronts Karen and tells her that she needs to let the past go for the sake of the children’s well-being.

Karen gets upset and tries explaining to her husband that she could have gone professional if her parents just pushed her harder so she wants to make sure that her children don’t suffer the same fate. 

a narcissistic mother living vicariously through her children

Her husband points out the fact that she won a state championship in the least populated state in the country and Karen explodes with rage. Her husband’s statement didn’t just contradict her need for excessive admiration but her entire identity as well.

A Narcissist Goes Into a Narcissistic Rage Because Their Sense of Entitlement Is Contradicted

Andrew, a narcissistic man, has promised his wife to watch their son over the weekend because his wife has a business trip that could get her a promotion. As the weekend gets closer and closer his wife continues to confirm with him that he is watching their son over the weekend and he continues to agree. 

Saturday comes and Andrew is nowhere to be found. His wife calls him but no answer. Fortunately, her boss is a close friend of hers and allows her to bring her son on the trip with her. When she gets home Sunday night she finds Andrew in the living room with his brothers playing video games. 

She is well aware of how narcissistic Andrew is so she doesn’t say a word about his blatant irresponsibility. She simply walks in the home, greets everyone, and takes her son upstairs to go to sleep but is followed up by Andrew. 

On some level Andrew knows that what he did was wrong and his wife’s silence is triggering his suppressed shame, he needs an argument so he can project all of his negative emotions onto her. He tried baiting her into an argument for an hour but his wife stays strong and continues to use the gray rock method. 

Her composure contradicts Andrew’s sense of entitlement to having what he wants exactly when he wants it and he goes off on a rage about how she doesn’t appreciate him enough, how he had a really tough week at work because of how ungrateful she is and ends it all by breaking the mirror in the bathroom. 

A Narcissist Goes Into a Rage Because Their Interpersonally Exploitative Behavior Is Exposed

Jasmine, a narcissistic woman, has agreed to go to couples therapy with her husband to work on their marriage. They have been married for three extremely toxic years. Jasmine has cheated on her husband multiple times, forces him to buy her whatever she wants, doesn’t allow him to be close with friends or family, and is a miserable human being when she doesn’t get what she wants. 

The only reason she has agreed to go to couples therapy was because her husband promised to take her out shopping after every session that she attends. A few sessions in their therapist asked to meet with them individually. 

a therapist talking to a narcissistic couple

During her individual session the therapist called her behavior manipulative. The therapist was very professional with their approach but the point of the conversation was to point out how manipulative and financially abusive Jasmine was being. 

Jasmine was furious. She felt like her husband had betrayed her. She denied everything, yelled at the therapist, and walked out of the session. Her therapist exposing her interpersonally exploitative behavior triggered her suppressed negative emotions and she was furious because of it. When her husband finally caught up to her she took off her wedding ring, threw it in his face and told him that she wanted a divorce. 

A Narcissist Goes Into a Narcissistic Rage Because Their Lack of Empathy Is Revealed

Ian, a narcissistic man, has a wife and two young boys. Ian grew up in a very tough environment. His father shamed and humiliated him for being weak and sensitive. His mother never tried to intervene or make sure that he was okay. So from a very young age he believed that to be strong you can’t express any emotions that could come off as weak. 

Sadly, he has carried these same beliefs into his relationship with his own children. His children really enjoy drawing and dancing but Ian sees it as weak and too feminine so he tries to force his children into baseball, football, basketball, and even some boxing. 

One night he tells his wife that he thinks they should send the children off to the boarding school to toughen up and get some discipline in their lives. He goes on to tell her that the children don’t connect with him because they hate authority. His wife corrects him by telling him that the reason they don’t connect is because he lacks empathy, compassion, and thoughtfulness during their interactions.

A mother protecting her children from a narcissistic father

Her statement reveals Ian’s lack of empathy with his children which triggers his sense of shame about his relationship with his own father and throws him into a narcissistic rage. He screams at her and tells her that it is her fault that the children are so weak then storms out of the house in a vulnerable, insecure, and twisted rage.

A Narcissist Goes Into a Rage Because Their Envy of Others or a Belief That Others Are Envious of Them Is Exposed

April, a narcissistic woman, has invited her boyfriend to her company’s award ceremony where she is expecting to win the employee of the year award. She has been working incredibly hard all year and she has brought in over 500k dollars for the company in the past year. 

Usually, this stat alone would win her the employee of the year award but what she doesn’t know is that one of her co-workers closed the biggest sale in company history and that the owners have kept it a secret so everyone could celebrate at the award ceremony together.

When she hears her co-workers name called instead of hers, she is a bit embarrassed. Then when she hears why her co-worker won the award she gets extremely jealous because the client she made a deal with used to be her client. 

Everyone is clapping and celebrating because they’ll be getting raises but April is just staring off into space with a look of rage on her face. Her boyfriend tries to comfort her but makes the mistake of telling her that she looks extremely jealous. 

This makes April furious and she storms out into the parking lot. Her boyfriend follows and April explodes into a rage about how everyone at the office is plotting against her because they are jealous of her ability and then screams at her boyfriend for not having her back.

A Narcissist Goes Into a Rage Because Their Demonstration of Arrogant and Haughty Behaviors or Attitudes Is Shamed

Ricky, a narcissistic man, is attending a soccer try out for a really good team in the town he just moved to. Ricky is a really good soccer player and normally wouldn’t “try out” but he is willing to look past the coach’s failure to see how great of a player he is. 

When he shows up to the try out he is acting extremely arrogant. He isn’t warming up properly, he isn’t trying his hardest in the training, he isn’t doing the correct amount of reps for the exercises, he is commanding other people around like he knows everything, and he is telling everyone about how much better his old team was. 

an arrogant narcissistic soccer player

However, on the last day of the try out, the team has an intersquad scrimmage and Ricky scores six goals. He played amazing! But unfortunately the coach had already decided not to have him on the team because of his attitude throughout the trial. He tells Ricky to come back and try out again when he isn’t as arrogant. 

Ricky is furious because nobody has ever called him out like that before. He kicks the ball at the coach, kicks the cones all over the soccer field, and storms out in a narcissistic rage. 

What Should You Take Away From This Article?

Narcissistic rage is a manifestation of a narcissist’s emotional inadequacies. It can manifest in an explosive manner like rage but it can also manifest in a passive aggressive form like the silent treatment. With that being said, narcissistic rage is always dangerous, regardless of the form, and should be treated as such.

In fact, we conducted a survey among 100 survivors of narcissistic abuse who experienced narcissistic rage and found that 96/100 of the participants who reported that they experienced psychological violence first went on to reveal that they experienced physical violence as the relationship progressed as well.

That information isn’t meant to scare anyone, only serve as a constant reminder that abuse of any kind shouldn’t be minimized, justified, rationalized, or normalized.

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References:

Narcissistic Rage.” Psychiatric Annals, 16(8), pp. 489–490.

Ornstein, Anna. “The fate of narcissistic rage in psychotherapy.” Psychoanalytic Inquiry 18.1 (1998): 55-70.