What is a narcissistic breakdown? A psychologist explains the signs – from the inside

  • A narcissistic breakdown occurs when a person with narcissistic personality disorder secretly experiences failure, humiliation, or another blow to their fragile self-esteem.
  • Depending on the type of narcissist, the breakup may look different and occur frequently.
  • Anyone can experience this meltdown, but it leads to the debilitating depression of the diagnosed narcissist.

People may use the word “narcissist” to describe a vindictive and self-serving person, but deep down true narcissists struggle with low self-esteem and shame.

When a narcissist’s deep-rooted and often hidden criticisms cause them to reach their breaking point, they suffer from something called a narcissistic meltdown. Craig MalkinD., psychologist and author of Rethinking Narcissism, told Insider.

For someone watching a narcissistic breakdown, it can feel like they are “walking on eggshells” with the person who is falling apart, according to Malkin. It can also appear that the narcissist is unable to work, pick fights, and abuse substances, Elinor Greenberg, a therapist who teaches other therapists how to diagnose personality disorders such as NPD, Books on Psychology Today.

Because narcissism is so widespread, everyone experiences this type of breakdown to some degree, such as when a job offer or date with someone they really fancy is turned down, Malkin said. But people with the most extreme form, Narcissistic personality disorderYou will experience anxiety, depression, and possibly suicide as part of the breakup.

The breakdown looks different depending on the file narcissistic typealthough it will feel the same no matter what type it is, according to two owners.

Breakdown is more pronounced in narcissistic introverts

Contrary to some portrayals in the media, not all narcissists emphasize their self-importance in obvious ways.

When it comes to covert narcissists, for example, Malkin said, they internalize their sense of exception until a particular person or situation is challenged by it. For this reason, this type of narcissist is called an “introvert.” At a party, Introverted narcissist He may be sitting in the corner alone, afraid that no one is giving them the attention they think they deserve.

When this type of narcissist breaks down, it feels like you’re “walking on eggshells” with them, according to Malkin. They may burst into tears or have a bad attitude that they are not trying to hide. But instead of explaining why they feel that way, Malkin said, they’ll turn you down.

“There is a feeling that the air is sucked out of the room and that you are failing if you do not pay attention at all times to their pain and suffering,” Malkin said.

During the breakup, the introverted narcissist may say that you hurt him through a certain act or words, but he won’t explain why you hurt him or how to work through it. Doing so requires real vulnerability, Malkin said, which is narcissists’ biggest fear.

Extroverted narcissists are less likely to break down because they tend to design their lives around enablers

Malkin said that in the case of great narcissists, people who come across as charming, successful, and likable leaders, breakups are less likely, but quite debilitating.

He refers to grandiose narcissists as “extroverted” narcissists because they show their exclusivity by taking charge and winning over others. Extroverted or grandiose narcissists will do anything in their power to hide their negative traits, or information that might make others hate them, Inside, I mentioned earlier.

As a result, they will take jobs as actors, politicians or other leadership positions where they are rarely questioned or despised, thus preventing chances of collapse, Malkin said.

However, if they do collapse, it can lead to anxiety and depression that prevents them from getting out of bed and working normally, according to Greenberg. She said the breakdown could also lead to a suicide attempt.

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