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What Happens to Narcissists in the End?

Reviewed by Karis A. Williams, MSMHC, LPC,   November 22, 2023

When narcissists are younger, they are seen as dynamic, personable, the best at what they do, and generally a good, productive member of society.  Except for the people they isolate to manipulate and gaslight.  But, as narcissists get older, they find that many people are now on to them.  They can no longer hide their true selves like they used to.  And many people want no part of what they now know of the narcissist.   So, what happens to narcissists in the end, when people realize what they really are?

What happens to narcissists in the end is that they realize they can no longer hold their mask on straight.  They realize that they have told so many lies and played so many games that they can no longer keep up with it.  They have tried to keep so many people isolated against each other that they can no longer remember who they isolated about what against whom.  Everything is convoluted.  And it all falls apart, along with a whole lot of fallout.

Let’s take a look at what that fallout looks like in various areas of the narcissist’s life, as well as what those around them experience.

In the End, Narcissists Become Bitter

Over the years, narcissists gain an enormous sense of entitlement because they are used to calling all the shots and running the show.  Nearly everyone walks on eggshells so as not to anger the narcissist.  And he takes full advantage, knowing that he will get his way.

For years, my ex would brag that if he kept at me long enough on anything, I would eventually give in, especially to be the “godly, submissive wife.”  He took advantage of the fact that I was trying to be the best wife I could be for him.  And the harder I tried, the more he demanded and forced me to give in.  All in the name of “godliness.”

When he finally turned me in to pastors and counselors because I was no longer “obeying” every demand, I finally realized what he was doing to me.  And I started to realize how much he controlled me and how little he loved me.

Over the next year or so, I healed emotionally and learned how to respond to his narcissism (which in a rare event, was actually officially diagnosed by our counselors).  But the more I healed and asserted my feelings and thoughts, and need for a safe home, the more angry, demanding, and controlling he got.  He would constantly tell me I was bitter and unforgiving, all total projections of his own behavior toward me.

He expected that when he asked forgiveness and I forgave him, that I would also “forget” all the past behavior, allowing him to once again control and manipulate me.  And when I told him I could forgive him for what he had done, but that didn’t mean I needed to allow him to keep doing it, he would then tell me that I needed to forgive him for as many times as he did things to me and then asked for forgiveness.  There was never any offer or willingness to try to change the things he was doing to me.  It was only about me allowing him to do whatever he wanted.

When I told him I could no longer go along with his behavior toward me, he begged me to pretend everything was fine and behave as though everything was good.  I was floored and speechless that he could ask such a thing rather than try to work toward a healthier marriage.  And when I refused, he went off the rails in bitterness.  Fortunately, in front of counselors and church leaders, who then realized the need to get our family to safety.

In the end, when my narcissist realized he no longer controlled me or our children as his puppet, he left us all and began a new life.  More on that below.

In the End, Narcissists Isolate Themselves

Especially as they get older, narcissists realize they can no longer keep up their charade.  So they end up going into their own prison of isolation.  Whether they consider it a prison or a refuge, I have no idea.  Probably a little bit of both.  It is a prison because they feel forced into isolation to keep more people from finding out what they have hidden their whole life.  But a haven because they don’t have to keep up the charade.  They can rest, let their hair down a bit.  And by this time, they are beyond exhausted, trying to keep everyone in the dark, please their sources of narcissistic supply enough to keep up the supply, and maintain a perceived reputation of the greatest person in the room.

The problem with this scenario is that narcissists don’t find rest and solace in their isolation.  They get inside their own heads.  They start to think of the one that slipped out of their grasp, the one that got away.  (For more on how a narcissist regrets losing you, click on this article.)

The more they start to focus on their failures, the less they are able to live in denial.  They can’t stop thinking about how they could have possibly made things turn out better.  And they are overwhelmed by their “mistakes.”  But they can’t take responsibility for how things turned out.  So they become increasingly bitter about where they have now ended up.  And they become increasingly angry at the people they perceive put them there.

The regret and bitterness becomes the overarching theme of their new life of isolation.

In the End, Narcissists are Just too Tired

Most of us are more tired as we age.  But for narcissists, it is a vastly more substantial “tired.”  They are tired of trying to keep their secrets.  They are tired of isolating and pitting others against each other.  They are tired of trying to shine above everyone else, especially as it becomes more difficult with older age.  And they are tired of trying to convince others that they are so amazing, especially when they do things that show those around them otherwise.

They don’t get enough sleep because of the worry of not being able to keep up with their narcissism.  Or that they are going to lose what narcissistic supply they still have.  The more tired they get, the more wrong decisions they make.  And this causes them to fall further into that downward spiral they are on.

They are tired of trying to read people to figure out how to get more narcissistic supply out of them.  And they are tired of trying to convince people that they are something entirely different than what they really are behind closed doors.

They fear all of the people who have seen their real self.  Those people have the power to destroy them.  And they fear that someday it will all come back to haunt them.  They are terrified of a day of reckoning and spend what little energy they have on trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.  Even though by now they have no control over those things.

Sometimes, in the End, Narcissists Start Over

Every time a narcissist realizes there is no way around being found out for what they have done to family, friends, coworkers, and community, they realize they only have two options:  confess and heal or cut their losses and start over.  Guess which option is almost exclusively chosen?  Yep.  They cut and run.

Depending on how soon a narcissist is found out for who they are and what they have done, they could start life over several times.  My lawyer was married to a narcissist but realized sooner than later and found her freedom quickly.  He moved on, likely several times as the next person found out as well.  In my case, I dated my ex for four years before being married to him for 31 years.  He didn’t start his life over until he was in his 50’s.  My guess is he thinks he can do that again and by that time his life will be at his end.

Honestly, I think he probably believes he can fool his current wife, church, neighbors (if he even knows them), and coworkers that he is amazing for the rest of his natural life.  I do know that in the two years since he retired from the military, he has already had two jobs.  And for first two years of our marital separation, he lived in 7 different homes.  He was never content to stay anywhere for long.

And that is really the only way narcissists can continue to obtain their narcissistic supply that they so desperately need.  They have to have a steady stream of people that take what they say and do at face value and never question the inconsistencies, lies, and craziness.

A family picture with the father figure in the rear right, sort of set back from the rest of the family, like he doesn't quite belong. This represents the title of the article, "What Happens to Narcissists in the End" and how narcissists will start over with a whole new life.

In the End, Narcissists Can go in and out of Narcissistic Collapse

When a narcissist gets to the end of their lifetime, they often feel that they have lost control of themselves and those around them.  People, especially if they have spent a good amount of time around them, now don’t really fall for their manipulation tactics, lies, and gaslighting.  And now the narcissist has no idea what to do to gain back their control.

Much of the charm and silver tongue they exhibited in earlier days is harder to achieve now.  They don’t think on their feet quite as well.  And they aren’t as careful as they used to be.  They can still fool people initially into thinking they are amazing and charming.  But holding on to that first impression often becomes incredibly difficult.

Their appearance becomes harder to maintain.  The weight gain, wrinkles, and other signs of getting older are harder to hide.  And because narcissists often have trouble making good decisions, they may not have the financial resources they need to live a good life in their later years.

When you combine all of these frustrating circumstances, life is difficult even for people without narcissistic tendencies.  But for narcissists, these things can make life unbearable.  They can fall into deep depression, making it impossible for them to work, eat, socialize, or even get out of the house.  They can be triggered by the smallest thing that unsuspecting people around them say or do.  And then they can fly into a narcissistic rage.

The best thing you can do when someone near you goes into a narcissistic rage is to move along.  Don’t poke the bear.  Do what you need to in order to be safe.  And then establish boundaries that allow you to stay safe.  If you aren’t sure what those boundaries look like, I wholeheartedly recommend the book, Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.  It literally changed my life in the best way.  I learned that nobody, not even a spouse, has a right to own me.  I am not property.  I am a person made in the image of God.

Anyway, this book may be one of the most important books you read on your road to healing from a narcissist and learning how to work through their struggles as they realize they no longer control you.  Check it out by clicking on it:

What Does Narcissistic Collapse Look Like?

Narcissistic Collapse is when a narcissist feels defeated and unable to continue in the way they have been going.  For an overt narcissist, it could look like giving up, moving far away from the life they can no longer navigate, or seeking revenge on those who “outed” them.  Often, the overt narcissist will show signs of depression, not being as willing to put themselves “out there” as visibly as they normally would.  They don’t really want to be the center of attention when they eyes on them are not seeing them in a positive light.

Interestingly enough, covert narcissists will often act out in anger and extremely vindictive behaviors.  They go over the edge because they feel like they’ve got nowhere else to go.  And they are beyond themselves, feeling like the whole world now knows about the shame that is buried deep within them.

Of course, these behaviors can cross over, depending on the circumstances that the narcissist faces and how they behave in the moment.  Because of their low to non-existent self-awareness, they generally don’t think about how they should behave before they act out.

On Rare Occasions, Narcissists Can Become Mild-mannered in the End

There is just one situation in which a narcissist can turn a corner and become mild-mannered and perhaps even kind in the end.  That is when the narcissist ranks fairly low on the narcissism spectrum.  Unfortunately, most narcissists gravitate higher on the spectrum instead of lower.  So, finding peace and healing later in life proves elusive for most narcissists.

Maybe if the abuse and trauma that made them narcissistic in the first place is somehow dealt with later in life, maybe they can find healing for their narcissism.  But there are virtually no cases reported where a full blown narcissist has recovered and changed their ways.

In most cases, narcissistic survivor forums say that healing is impossible and the only way out is to run the other way and never look back.  Even in Christian circles that speak of forgiveness and healing from God for nearly everything, they don’t hold out much hope.  Because the narcissist will not repent, it puts them in a very precarious position before God.

What most people actually observe happens to the narcissist in the end is a very bitter, vengeful person.  And that brings us to one more point.

Narcissists Can Be Vengeful Right to Their Death Bed

The narcissist is excellent at playing the victim.  Until people realize they are not the victim.  But as they age, narcissists actually feel like they are a victim.  They may not be able to get around well.  But because they have burned so many bridges, they don’t have the support network to get to where they need to.  They feel even more isolated and alone than they are because they don’t see the support and care that they need.  And, just like in the rest of their life, they have to blame others for where they find themselves now.

It isn’t their fault nobody wants to be near them.  It’s because all those people don’t understand or recognize their greatness.  They convince themselves that they are completely right and everyone else is wrong.  But now they don’t have the ability to go find new narcissistic supply.  So they stew in their anger and bitterness.  And they work themselves up into a vengeful frenzy.

If they still have the ability to have and use a phone, they will call and constantly hound those that will pick up the phone and try to have a reasonable conversation with them.  If someone visits them, they will hear about everything they have done wrong and how they continue to disappoint and fall short of the narcissist’s expectations.  At this point, the narcissist isn’t even trying to find new sources of supply.  They are just too tired.

A friend of mine who was with her father when he passed away said he was just as nasty with his words and behavior as he was throughout life.  There was literally no change in him on his death bed.  She said the whole experience affected her deeply in a very negative way.

Things don’t necessarily get better for the narcissist in the afterlife either.  Find our more about that here.


So, these are the major points in what happens to a narcissist in the end.  Life almost never gets easier for them.  And they tend to fade off into isolation and oblivion, as they realize they can no longer keep their narcissistic mask over the shame and hard heartedness that filled the majority of their life.

If you think you are in any danger in your relationship, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).  Or you can visit online at

How has your experience with a narcissist in the later years compared?  How did your overt or covert narcissist display narcissistic collapse?  How did you handle it?  I would love to hear how things were for you and how you worked through it.  Feel free to comment below or contact me here.

Blessings and hugs,

If you found this article valuable, I think you will also find the following articles valuable:

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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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