Can a Narcissist Change? Tips and Treatments Unveiled

Do you have a partner, family member, or friend who is always self-involved, arrogant, and lacks empathy? Are you struggling with their abusive and manipulative behavior? Well, there are many people with excessive narcissistic traits and even some might have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Their extreme narcissistic behavior can damage their self-esteem, relationships with others, and emotional health. Hence, you might be looking for, “Can a narcissist change?” The simple answer is Yes, narcissists can change when they are willing to put effort, dedication, and intention on their own. So, if you are trapped by some narcissist, there is hope. How? Read the article to understand narcissism, and get your answer to your questions: do narcissists change, how long it takes for them to change, and what helps them to change? Let’s start!

Glance At The Topic:

  • Narcissism defines personality qualities that may include needing constant admiration, lacking empathy for others, believing very superior to oneself, having over-confidence, etc.
  • The root causes of these narcissist traits or Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are trauma, genetics, upbringing, and certain environmental factors.
  • However, if narcissists decide to, they can change.
  • Some therapeutic strategies such as Mentalization-based therapy, Trauma-focused therapy, Skills development, behavioral work, etc. can help treat NPD.
  • With such treatment, support, and encouragement of their loved ones is also important for narcissists to improve, but only when they are willing to.

Understanding Narcissism

Before understanding can a narcissist change or not, first let’s have a basic understanding of “Narcissism”.

Well, narcissism defines personality qualities that may include needing constant admiration, lacking empathy for others, believing very superior to oneself, and thinking of other people as very inferior. These are the narcissist traits that come to one’s attention occasionally. However, sometimes people may struggle with Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) for too long period. NPD is a long-lasting pattern of self-obsession, lack of empathy for others, deep insecurity, and excessive attention and admiration that occurs throughout the life of an individual. This can cause problems in most areas of a person’s personal, professional, and social life. Hence, it is important to understand the root causes of narcissism if you want to know “Can a narcissist change”!

Do you know?

Nearly 6.2% of people worldwide have narcissism.



Root Causes of Narcissism

The following are the potential causes of Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD):

  • Trauma
  • Genetics
  • Upbringing
  • Environment

All these factors can contribute to narcissistic personality disorder. On the other hand, narcissistic traits usually can be caused due to the upbringing a person has. Narcissistic people might have been brought up by parents who already have narcissistic traits or undiagnosed NPD. Moreover, environmental factors like some people may have been the prime focus at home with some little restricted boundaries. This can make them arrogant or anxious and sometimes insecure due to the lack of inabilities to build up confidence with time. Besides this, trauma, lack of support, and negligence during childhood can develop certain narcissistic traits in a person later.

Can a Narcissist Change?

The simple answer is Yes, narcissists can change. However, it requires tremendous effort, dedication, and willingness from their side. Narcissism happens when individuals think they have more importance and are better than others in a certain manner. They want admiration and when it does not come, it becomes challenging for them to accept any of their flaws or imperfections, even if this is problematic for their well-being. Many people with narcissistic traits also respond angrily sometimes when someone doubts their abilities or compares them with others. All these factors can be a major obstacle to the change. Most importantly, the possible extent of change also depends on whether a person has narcissistic traits alone or is living with NPD. So, let’s distinguish between narcissistic traits and NPD.

Narcissistic Traits Vs. NPD

Sometimes people with narcissistic traits might also struggle with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). NPD is marked as a mental health disorder where a person needs constant attention and admiration, lacks empathy for others, and has extreme arrogance. So, if any of your loved ones are struggling with narcissism, you need to understand the narcissistic traits and NPD. The former is more common and does not surely point to the presence of NPD. The following table lists the difference between narcissistic traits and NPD:

Narcissistic Traits Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
Occasional self-importance or self-obsessed behavior but still can have some empathy for others. A constant pattern of self-importance, lack of empathy, and need for admiration.
Usually, causes no severe damage or disruption in everyday functioning. Causes extreme distress in professional, personal, and social life.
Behaviors emerge based on situations that are not always noticeable. Traits are continuous across different situations that can be seen or felt everywhere.
Person might change narcissistic traits through personal development and self-awareness. People might find change challenging and need permanent therapy.
Not necessarily associated with other preexisting mental health conditions. Linked with some mental health problems like anxiety or depression.


Whether it is narcissistic traits or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), recognizing the difference between both terms is the initial step toward change. Therefore, it is important to approach these characteristics with great compassion to learn and transform the narcissist behavior.

What Are The Signs That Someone is a Narcissist and Willing to Change?

As per research, the following are some signs that show a person is a narcissist:

  • Not sympathizing with other individuals
  • Acting overconfidence or arrogance
  • Showing excessive self-esteem
  • Asking for admiration and assurance
  • Taking unfair advantage of others

On the other hand, the following are the signs that show narcissistic people are willing to change:

  • Recognize their mistakes and feel guilty without becoming angry or manipulating you.
  • Calmly listen to your feedback without defending themselves.
  • Become less reactive and control their emotions instead of seeking attention by crying, shouting, etc.
  • Genuinely apologize for their bad or negative behavior.
  • Pay attention to your opinions and try constantly to change yourself.

Can a Narcissist Change and Get Better?

Wondering, “Can a narcissist ever change?” Absolutely, narcissists can change and get better, but it requires dedication and continuous effort. The reasons are traits and symptoms of NPD that can make a person very unwilling to take a step for transformation. The traits such as self-obsessiveness, arrogance, overconfidence, lack of empathy, unable to bear criticism, etc. can make it challenging for them to see and realize why they need a change. When it comes to people with narcissistic traits, sometimes it is possible to make them look and examine their behavior and realize their actions. Doing this can be enough to bring a change as the root cause is not any medical problem.

Helping individuals with NPD, on the other hand, can be more difficult because making them recognize their wrong acts and suggesting to change them can challenge their several personal beliefs like a sense of perfection. They might think they are perfect and do not find anything wrong in their acts and hence, need no change.

Can a Narcissist Change for Love or Relationships?

It can be tough for a person living with narcissist traits to change for love or relationships. Love needs mutual care, respect, and compassion and narcissistic people can find it challenging to fulfill all these standards unless they want to. Hence, it is important to consider whether the love you share with an individual with narcissistic traits or NPD is appropriately good and healthy for each partner. Keep in mind, that person should change for themselves to improve their life quality and not for others as it can lead to disappointment in the future.

So, if your partner is ready for the change, support them. Consulting mental health professionals is the right way to get constant and informed help. They can assist in setting healthy boundaries and developing some beneficial treatment options.

What Are The Treatment Options for a Person Living With NPD

Several therapeutic strategies can help treat NPD, depending on the symptoms and health needs of a person. They may include:

  • Mentalization-based therapy:

In this therapy, therapists focus on setting a firm self-image and helping others understand the perspectives of others. Maintaining the self-image helps people with NPD prevent anxiety and insecurity and understanding the perspectives of others can increase an individual’s empathy for others.

During this process, therapists use eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) technique to help the NPD people process any childhood or past trauma that is affecting their daily functioning and well-being. Childhood traumatic events can contribute to the development of narcissistic traits in a person. When those events are managed and healed, narcissists can change their current habits.

  • Skills development and behavioral work:

In this approach, dialectical behavior therapy is used to treat narcissists which helps enhance interpersonal skills, build responsibility, teach meditation and mindfulness practices, improve their ability to control their emotions, and lower isolation levels.

  • Intensive wraparound care:

Here the members of the care team aid in the treatment of several aspects of NPD. In this holistic approach, the team brings all the people living with NPD together, provides the required support, and makes sure all the needs are met to get effective treatment.

How Long Does it Take for a Narcissist to Change?

Research says that personality disorders such as Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), in general, decrease with age. As per a study, around 53% of the individuals living with NPD show a decline in signs and symptoms of this disorder after 2 years. This indicates that narcissistic traits can change after some time. However, this doesn’t mean narcissists will get better suddenly or will become much easier and safer to have a relationship with. So, it is important to keep in mind that people who do not meet NDP treatment criteria properly can still become prone to narcissism and engage in narcissistic behavior.

How to Help a Narcissist Change?

If someone you love is struggling with narcissistic traits or NPD and you are looking for, “how to change a narcissist”, you can follow these tips to support them:

  • Encourage examining one’s thoughts and feelings by writing down them to understand oneself more clearly.
  • Offer encouragement to let them keep going and increase the chance of successful change.
  • Acknowledge behavioral changes whether they are big or not.
  • Help them build empathy for others.
  • Listen, recognize, and appreciate their efforts.
  • Help them practice understanding and patience.
  • Set boundaries only for acceptable behavior.
  • Give positive feedback using a statement like “I feel”.
  • Encourage professional treatments.

Final Thoughts

This article answers the question ” Can a narcissist change” We learn, that narcissists can change only if they show dedication and some effort. To prevent narcissism, people with narcissistic traits and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can seek some effective support treatment. Moreover, you can also help them by encouraging them to keep going and increase the chance of successful change, helping them build empathy for others, acknowledging behavioral changes whether they are big or not, etc. So, if any of your friends, family members, or a partner genuinely want to improve their narcissistic behavior, support them. Help them go for therapeutic strategies to get rid of such negative behavior.

Discover Similar Topics: How To Deal With A Narcissistic: Tips According To The Therapist | Check For Common 15 Traits Of A Narcissist Female

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