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Does Narcissism Worsen With Age?

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC

When we think of older people in our world, we tend to think of them as wiser, more experienced, having great value in where they have been in life that we have not.  Listening to their stories of life can be fascinating to say the least.  But what happens when narcissists grow older?  Does narcissism worsen with age?

As a general rule, narcissists will worsen with age as they have increasingly more difficulty keeping their mind sharp enough to manipulate people.  It becomes very difficult to keep fabricated stories straight and craft gaslighting techniques to keep people reeled in as a source of their narcissistic supply.  As a result, older narcissists get frustrated even more than their younger selves.  And this frustration manifests as intense anger, and of course blame shifting because their declining performance has to be someone else’s fault!

Additionally, several related issues must be considered.  As the narcissist ages, they are likely not as good looking, strong, or charming as they were in their younger years.  They are no longer as charming, and as a result, it is more difficult to be the life of the party.  They become frustrated because they now have to work so much harder to get what they felt was nearly automatic when they were younger.  Everything is now taking more effort at a time that their energy is probably the lowest.

How a Narcissist Worsens With Age

There are many ways that a narcissist worsens with age.  But really, most of those ways are already how they already were when younger.  There are two things that make it different. First, they are better at the tactics they choose to use because they have been practicing them for years.  And second, because as they age, they get bolder, less patient, and more argumentative as they find less and less satisfaction in life.

Let’s take a look at what some of those differences look like.

A Narcissist Worsens With Age Because They Are no Longer as Beautiful, Strong, and Successful

Probably the biggest striking difference between the younger narcissist and the older, more narcissistic narcissist is that they no longer have their good looks, fit body, and appearance of being on top of the world.  They are now on the downside of a possible successful career.  And even if they try to use their charm to draw new supply in, they don’t have the benefit of those first impression plusses.  The charm can fall flat more so  now than when they were younger.

A Narcissist Worsens With Age Because They are Beaten Down by all the Battles They Have Fought

A narcissist worsens with age because they are simply tired from all the battles they have fought, often of their own doing.  But they don’t recognize it as their own doing.  They only see everything that goes poorly for them as someone else’s fault.  They are merely the victim of everyone else’s stupidity.

As they age, their victim mentality will increase exponentially.  In fact, it will actually become one of their greatest narcissistic supply assets as they get advanced in age to the point that they become dependent on others for their daily life.

Older Narcissists Cannot Relate to People Their Own Age

There is a very good reason for this point.  Narcissists are incredibly emotionally stunted.   The average emotional maturity level for a narcissist is usually between 5 and 10 years old.

Because of this, narcissists can have difficulty getting along and relating to older people.  As they advance in years, others in their age range continue to mature through life.  But because they can’t, narcissists just begin to gravitate towards those who can relate to them, often much younger in years.  Seeing narcissists spend the majority of their time with people that are decades younger than them can get downright creepy.

A Narcissist Worsens With Age Because They are no Longer the Center of Attention

A narcissist worsens with age because they can actually go from being the center of attention to self isolation.  They do this out of fear that their mask will slip and people will see their true self.  This terrifies them after they have spent nearly their whole life hiding.  And they know that if their mask does begin to slip, they may have to start their whole life over again.  Which they now have no energy to do.

They have a fear of abandonment from the few people that have been willing to stick around.  They have already lost many people in their lives.  Losing the few they have left would be unbearable.

The one thing they are still very good at is mind games (assuming they are still in their right mind).  They will still manipulate, gaslight, deny, deflect, and dehumanize those around them.  And they will still remember which tactics worked the best from them.  Especially if they are less physically adept, they will now capitalize on their mental prowess and do what they can to keep it sharp.  They are likely nastier than they have ever been behind closed doors.  All while still putting on the Prince Charming mask that makes everyone in public gush about what an amazing person they are.

And finally (at least for my list here–I’m sure I could write a book about all of the different ways the narcissist behaves as he ages), the aging narcissist will guilt you into staying with him and taking care of all of his needs until his last breath.  After all, you owe him everything you are and have.

Can a Narcissist Get Better With Age?

Contrary to what most people’s experience has been, studies actually say that narcissists tend to mellow out with age.  WebMD quotes one of the most well-known studies, published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  But while this study claims that a large number of narcissists mellow out by the time they are in their 40’s, they later qualify that statement by indicating full-blown narcissists actually get worse.  And that is where experience finally lines up with the studies.

When people, especially younger and maybe not so experienced in life, show narcissistic traits earlier in life, it isn’t uncommon for them to realize the errors and unwise narcissistic behaviors and change them for more emotionally mature behavior.  This is not the same as someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder finally recognizing their behavior and changing into a more empathetic person.  In fact, there are virtually no cases reported online where a full-blown narcissist has admitted to their wrong and actually corrected it.

Narcissists will often apologize for bad behavior and swear to mend their ways.  But that is almost always a way for them to fool the other person into letting their guard down so the narcissist can once again use them for supply.  Very rarely does any of their behavior change for the better.

So, with that, I am calling foul on the chance that a narcissist can get better with age.  Unfortunately, a narcissist worsens with age as a general rule.


Narcissistic traits actually do tend to lessen over the years.  But Narcissistic Personality Disorder generally increases exponentially over the years.  For those that are in relationship with someone who has NPD and cannot easily walk away, the later years often become unbearable.

Do you have an older narcissist in your life?  Do you know someone else who is struggling with an elderly narcissist?  What have you done or what do you plan to do?  How have  you helped your friend(s)?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please feel free to comment below, but if you don’t feel comfortable commenting in the public arena, you can message me here.

Blessings and hugs,

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Hi! I am the founder of Navigating Religious Narcissism after being raised under a narcissistic mother and married to a narcissistic man for 31 years. It is my prayer that I can be as valuable on your journey to healing and peace as were so many who crossed my path of healing.

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