There are many ailments we can get that don’t heal on their own. And, if left untreated over a long period of time, they can get much worse!
Generally speaking, it is the same thing for untreated narcissistic personality disorder. When a narcissist continues to behave badly AND largely get away with it, they will continue to just slightly cross the line each time. Until they end up way past that original line.
Let’s take a look at how this plays out in real life.
Table of Contents
First, the Background of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
If you aren’t sure how your narcissist became a narcissist to begin with, first click on the red words to check out my article on that. Then, if you need to, check out my article to be sure you know in what cases a narcissist can heal.
To give you the short version of both articles above, in the first article, I establish that narcissism finds its roots in the first five or six years of a child’s life. If a child is severely neglected or abused, then they stand a good chance of learning how to recreate their life in a way that prevents them from getting hurt by anyone anymore. They exaggerate, lie, and manipulate to make things turn out the way they need to. But they also now need to be seen as magnificent by everyone to hide the deep shame they feel from being so unloved by their parents. So they will gaslight and control in any way they can to get people to see them how they want them to instead of how they really are.
As for whether a narcissist can heal, there is no medication you can give them to get them to cease narcissistic behaviors. But if they do not rank high on the narcissism spectrum and are willing to work hard to see themselves as they actually are and own it, then they do have a good chance of healing. Will a full-blown malignant narcissist heal? Not a chance.
And with that background, let’s move on to today’s issue.
How Untreated Narcissistic Personality Disorder Progresses
Just like most things in life, the more you practice a certain thing, the more you can do. The more you water and care for a plant, the more it will grow. And the more a disease is allowed to ravage the body unchecked, the more it will spread. The same is true with untreated Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The more it goes unchecked, the more severe the behavior gets. As the narcissist gets away with each little thing they do, the move the boundary line just a little bit further. Until it ends up all the way on the other side of the yard. And with that he has taken over your whole life.
(I use male pronouns for narcissists because I was married to one. I was also raised by a narcissistic mother. Adjust the pronouns as necessary to fit your own situation!)
You may not even give your narcissist latitude to go further over the line. But he will try to take it. And because most of us are graceful and forgiving, we will let them get away with it ultimately. And that is how they know they can continue to push the envelope until they have taken over complete control.
And actually, one of the biggest reasons that untreated narcissistic personality disorder gets worse with time is that the narcissist gets more hardened over time. He cares for people less and less with each abusive act. And he becomes more and more protective of himself. They get to the point that they are totally unable to even see other people’s problems and issues to help them out. Unless, of course, someone will see them doing something nice and they will get narcissistic supply for it.
When Spouses find Untreated Narcissistic Personality Disorder Unbearable
If you are the spouse of someone with untreated narcissistic personality disorder, you have probably spent a significant amount of time trying to make things work. And you may know something is not quite right, but you can’t quite figure it out. So you continue on, loving and caring for your spouse and thinking that at some point they will recognize your love for them and return it.
When you finally realize that just isn’t going to happen, you start to see things for what they really are. I was in counseling for nearly a year before I realized that my then husband was a narcissist. And he ended up being one of the few narcissists walking around with a formal diagnosis. (He thought I was getting tested for mental illness, so he gladly took the test as they recommended to make me not feel singled out.” It was actually the other way around.)
Once you realize your significant other is a narcissist and ranks too high on the spectrum to be willing to heal, your life first turns upside down. But then, it gets better than you ever could have imagined when you first realized you were dealing with a narcissist.
It takes an average of seven times for a woman to leave an abusive man. And it takes years of building courage to get there. Having an excellent therapist will help you get to that place much sooner. But it is still quite a journey. Most of the time, people don’t leave their narcissist until they can’t stand another minute of the gaslighting, manipulating, lying and other crap.
Unfortunately, when you have been married to your narcissist for some time (and especially if you have kids together), you can’t just say you’ve had enough and walk away. Well, you can say you’ve had enough. And you can walk away. But not for good. You will have to co-parent (or parallel parent if you are unable to co-parent) until the kids are all 18 at the very least. Then, if there is any relationship between the adult children and the narcissist, you may have to jointly attend birthday parties, grandchildren births and events, weddings, and other family celebrations.
But, even though you will still have some ties, it won’t be the same. He can’t control you completely anymore, or really much at all. By now, you have learned to set good healthy boundaries. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about or need a self-evaluation to make sure your boundaries are set up well, you need to read this book.
I recommend it regularly in my support groups. And people say it has helped them more than they could have ever imagined. I know this because it was life-changing for me. The name, appropriately, is Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It will help you take baby steps to total healing without feeling like you are overwhelmed and never going to get where you need to be. You will also learn how to set boundaries not only with your spouse, but literally every relationship you have. You can check into it more here:
When Others Find Untreated Narcissistic Personality Disorder Unbearable
For most relationships, you will find it much easier to walk away than it would be if it were your spouse. For a friend, fellow member of various groups you are involved with, and people you know casually, it is as easy as just not hanging out, answering the phone, or speaking them and telling them you are not willing to go further in whatever capacity of relationship you are in.
There are a few relationships that are not so easy, but also not as involved as a marriage. Neighbors, pastors or church leaders, or other people may have long-standing untreated narcissistic personality disorder. But you will find it easier to walk away from them than it would be your spouse. You can build fences or have a talk with most neighbors. You can find another church if you must (although I spent over 26 years in my church; it was not an easy place to leave) avoid an overbearing narcissist. And most casual relationships are easy to put an end to. People get busy and move on all the time. Whether or not you want to address your real reasons to your narcissist would depend on the level of narcissism. Often, for a casual relationship it just isn’t worth it.
There are a few relationships that will be difficult to walk away from when dealing with long-standing untreated narcissistic personality disorder. Bosses or managers of jobs that you can’t just quit, teachers or professors, or family members can be very difficult to set healthy boundaries with. If you are at year 25 of a job that offers a pension at 30 years, you are not going to let a narcissist get in your way. If it is a family member, you may be able to distance yourself as an adult, but not as a child. Especially if that narcissist is a parent.
I was raised in a home with a narcissistic mother. And my sisters and I practically counted down the days until we left home. We left and never looked back. And our mother is still scratching her head, wondering why we don’t go back very often and would never live there. And still trying to control, manipulate and twist everything she can get herself into.
If you are in any relationship with a narcissist, here are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe until you can cut ties:
- Stay out of their line of sight.
- Don’t find yourself alone with them. Strategically make sure you are with other people whenever the narcissist is around.
- Keep all communication short and in writing, email, or text.
- Stay busy with other things so you are spending very little time around the narcissist.
- For the times that you do need to relate to the narcissist, keep your distance.
Just know, if you are having to deal with a narcissist in the short term, you most likely won’t have to in the long term. Especially if you can make some positive life changes.
When Even the Narcissist Finds Untreated Narcissistic Personality Disorder Unbearable
The narcissist who lives with untreated narcissistic personality disorder may be the most frustrated, angry, defeated person of all. While they may show sunshine and rainbows to everyone they are trying to impress, the victims of the abuse see their anger and bitterness behind the scenes. But nobody except the narcissist will ever see the overwhelming feelings of defeat, depression, and often suicidal thoughts because they feel like their shame is imminently in danger of being exposed.
It is such a difficult thing for victims of narcissism to balance the sympathy and sorrow they feel for what happened to make their narcissist so hardened with their need for emotional, mental, and physical safety. But at the end of the day, if a loved one sets healthy boundaries that the narcissist isn’t willing to work with, the victim has no choice but to end the relationship. And after a lifetime of ended relationships, it can be devastating to the narcissist who just feels like they cannot change. Some narcissists will get to the point that they cannot live through another failed relationship. But they also feel that with a lifetime of narcissistic behavior, there is no way they could possibly expose the shame that they have now hidden for a lifetime.
I remember begging my ex to just give it up and work to save the marriage. I assured him I was willing to stay if he was willing to work, no matter how difficult. As long as we were both working. His response: he lowered his head and said he just couldn’t change. I have no idea what was in his head that made him think I would not walk that journey with him.
He ended up marrying his current wife six days after we got our divorce papers. And they have a very different life than he had with me. It has been two years of his new “marital bliss.” And I have no idea how long it will last. But I know he lied to her in order to get her to marry him. I know that he is gaslighting her (because she has told me about things he has done, while also telling me she is sure he would never do those things on purpose). And I know that eventually she will figure it all out. Especially because she talks about how sad she is for how “badly all of his kids treat him.” None of the kids have a good relationship with him.
Here are some closely related articles that you may find encouraging:
Untreated narcissistic personality disorder will harm both the narcissist and everyone around him over the course of many years. Check out this short 5-minute video that talks about the long term effects of narcissism in your life:
Do you think you may be in a relationship with a narcissist? If you think so, take this test with instant results to get a better idea of whether you are indeed involved with a narcissist and what healing you will need to pursue.
Have you been dealing with untreated narcissistic personality disorder from someone in your life? Were you able to safely extricate yourself? Or was it more complicated than that? Are you just at the beginning of realizing what is going on and trying to figure out next steps? Or are you nearing the end of your journey and beginning a new healthy life?
I would love to hear how things are going for you and what is on your mind right now. Feel free to share in the comments below or privately here.
Do you have a bunch of stuff on your mind and you need some help clarifying things? You may need a consultation to help you get things in order as you begin or continue your journey. I have helped hundreds of men and women figure out where they were and what next steps they needed to take, whether getting a divorce or still working things out in their current life.
Regardless of where you stand, know that I said a prayer for all of my readers today. And God sees you and knows what you need.
Hugs and love,