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Malignant Narcissist: 48 Scary Traits, Causes & What Makes Them So Bad!

A malignant narcissist is one of the worst kinds. You want to stay away from them! Here are the signs and traits and how you can get away for good.

malignant narcissist

A malignant narcissist is an extremely dangerous individual who you need to avoid at all costs. The key is learning to read their traits and signs to identify them. 

The different types of narcissism

It’s important to know that there are several different types of narcissists, and they’re often called different things interchangeably. 

It’s not easy to pinpoint and identify someone as being narcissistic at the time. You’re often blinded by their spell. However, if you want to avoid being emotionally abused by a narcissist, it’s important to know the signs. [Read: Narcissistic relationship – 36 signs, how it feels, patterns, and how to end it]

There are more narcissists out there than you might realize, simply because diagnosing the personality disorder is extremely difficult. NPD, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is extremely complex. And as a result, many people go their entire lives without a proper diagnosis. 

One particular type of narcissist to avoid at all costs is the malignant narcissist. 

What is a malignant narcissist?

A malignant narcissist is someone with borderline sociopathic and even psychopathic tendencies. They display several different traits which combine to create the malignant narcissist. [Read: Dark triad personality – what it is and 25 signs and ways to deal with them]

This is someone who will twist, turn, abuse, mentally torture, and use aggression to get what they want. They’re also extremely paranoid and can use sadism in some cases. 

As with any type of mental health condition or personality disorder, there are various degrees of severity. You might meet a narcissist who simply has a very inflated sense of self but doesn’t particularly use their narcissism to hurt others. 

On the other hand, you may meet a narcissist who regularly uses gaslighting and other forms of psychological manipulation to confuse and emotionally abuse their partner or friends. 

The difficulty arises because there isn’t a huge amount of research into malignant narcissism, compared to narcissism as a general umbrella term. [Read: The 16 subtle signs of narcissistic abuse you should never ignore]

What most experts agree on however is that the malignant narcissist is the worst type. Let’s look at a few traits to make things clearer. 

Causes of malignant narcissism

You might wonder how a person ends up as a malignant narcissist. Well, there are several causes, and here they are. [Read: What causes narcissism? The facts and theories to read a narcissist]

1. Abuse or neglect

All human beings need love and affection from other people – especially their parents. It’s expected that mothers and fathers should provide that for their children.

But unfortunately, a lot of children in the world are victims of abuse and/or neglect from their parents. Because of all this abuse or neglect, malignant narcissists turn off their emotions for other people and only care about themselves. It was a way of coping with this trauma.

If abusive behavior was normalized in their childhood, chances are they project that onto the people they meet. [Read: Narcissistic abuse – 16 subtle signs a narcissist is abusing you]

2. Excessive parental pampering

On the other end of the spectrum, a malignant narcissist might have been pampered to the extreme as a child by their parents. The child could have anything they wanted, whenever they wanted.

This overindulgence creates a sense of entitlement in the child. They think they should be able to snap their fingers and people should come crawling to them. As a result, they think they are the center of the universe and the only person who really matters.

3. Overly authoritarian parenting

Sometimes, a malignant narcissist might have overly authoritarian parents. In fact, it might feel like they grew up in a military boot camp. [Read: Overprotective parents – 28 signs, psychological effects, and how to deal]

Because they never had any say in what happened in their lives, when they get to be adults, they want to control everything – even other people.

So, the child of the authoritarian parents becomes authoritarian themselves, and even worse. They feel like being a narcissist will give them the freedom they lacked as a child.

4. Unpredictable care

Even if a child’s parents aren’t abusive, authoritarian, or pampering, they might be unpredictable. Maybe the child never knows whether they are going to pamper them or be abusive in some way. [Read: Helicopter parents – 30 ways they ruin their children’s lives]

Perhaps sometimes they are neglected and don’t have much to eat. But then other times, they do and the parents give them attention, although in a negative way.

This unpredictability has a deep effect on a child. It creates fear and uncertainty. So as a result, the child could grow up to be a malignant narcissist.

Diagnosis of malignant narcissism

Believe it or not, malignant narcissism isn’t recognized as a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. [Read: Am I a narcissist? 24 narcissistic personality disorder causes and big signs]

But many psychologists and mental health experts have used this term to describe a specific set of personality tests.

According to Campbell’s Psychiatric Dictionary, malignant narcissism combines characteristics of the following:

1. Antisocial personality disorder *APD*

People with antisocial personality disorder have a mental health condition that causes patterns of manipulation and violation of other people. This condition overwhelms their personality. [Read: Asocial vs. antisocial – the similarities end with the name]

Someone who has APD will do things like disregarding the law, violating the rights of others, and manipulating and exploiting others. They might lie and place others at risk without feeling remorse. 

2. Narcissistic personality disorder *NPD*

Symptoms of NPD are a feeling of grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding.

They might also have big fantasies and are convinced that they deserve special treatment.

People with NPD often try to associate with others that they believe are unique or gifted in some way because it enhances their own self-esteem. They also have difficulty tolerating any criticism or defeat. [Read: 29 subtle signs to spot a narcissist and read NPD traits in a relationship]

3. Aggression and sadism

Aggression describes any behavior or action aimed at harming a person, animal, or damaging physical property. This can include physical violence, harsh language, or breaking things. 

A lot of people think that aggression and violence are the same things. And while it’s true that they coincide, they are two different things.

Sadism is when someone experiences pleasure and gratification *not always sexual* from inflicting pain on other people. [Read: Masochist vs. sadist – does pain *giving pain* make you feel pleasure?]

4. Paranoia

Paranoia is a thought process that causes a person to have irrational suspicion or distrust of other people. Someone who has it may feel like they’re being persecuted or someone is out to get them.

They also might feel like there is a threat of physical harm, even if they aren’t in danger. It’s believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of delusion. [Read: Narcissistic sociopath – how they think, 31 signs, and ways to deal with them]

Paranoid thinking typically includes beliefs of conspiracy concerning a specific threat. It’s different from phobias, however, which also involve irrational fears, but usually no blame.

The traits and signs of a malignant narcissist to recognize them

Malignant narcissism is a huge combination of various factors. NPD itself has a list of different traits, so any subtype will have those traits, along with a few others which set the type apart. 

As a malignant narcissist is still a narcissist, they obviously share a few traits with other kinds of narcissists as well. [Read: Psychopath vs. sociopath vs. narcissist – 27 subtle ways to tell the difference]

So, let’s split this into two sets of malignant narcissist traits, the common ones, and the scary signs that are unique to a malignant narcissist.

The general narcissistic traits of a malignant narcissist include: 

1. An inflated sense of self

2. An inability to handle any type of criticism

3. Extremely concerned with how they look to other people

4. A regular need for validation 

5. Zero empathy for other people, including their partner

6. Often take advantage of people close to them to make themselves look better or get the things they want from them

7. They assume they deserve the best of the best

8. Often only concern themselves with people who are attractive, successful, or of high social standing

9. They have to own the best of everything, e.g. the best car, the best phone, etc.

10. They expect to be treated as royalty

11. Never apologize if they hurt anyone, they don’t even notice much of the time

12. Blame other people when they do something wrong

13. Believe their opinion is right and everyone else is wrong

14. Regularly use manipulation tactics, such as gaslighting and isolating their partner from friends and family 

Want to know more about the signs of narcissism? Check out these 23 secret signs of narcissism that most people don’t see until it’s too late to know more about them!

The special traits and signs of a malignant narcissist

A malignant narcissist will have all of, or most of, these traits.

It’s important to remember that everyone is different and narcissism is a very difficult condition to pinpoint. So, a malignant narcissist might show a few of these traits, but not others. That doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. 

The following traits set malignant narcissism apart from other types and mainly come down to Antisocial Personality Disorder *APD* and sadism. [Read: Can a narcissist change? Why it’s hard and subtle signs they’ll change for you]

1. Not caring about the feelings of others

Most narcissists don’t really care about anyone else but themselves. With malignant narcissists, this is kicked into overdrive. 

They don’t care who they hurt, they have no intention of apologizing, and it doesn’t even register on their remorse meter.

2. Often use in-depth manipulation tactics

Narcissists are expert manipulators, but the malignant type goes a few notches beyond. 

They’ll use gaslighting, mental abuse, emotional abuse, and sometimes they may resort to physical abuse. [Read: How to handle a narcissist without falling apart and losing yourself]

3. The use of violence or aggression

Many malignant narcissists will become aggressive or even violent when pushed, but not all. As we’ve just mentioned, it’s more likely to be subtle forms of abuse, such as emotional or mental, which build up over time. 

However, many malignant narcissists use physical abuse to get what they want and then turn on the charm to switch to emotional abuse afterward. [Read: Being raised by narcissists and the 18 ways it affects your life forever]

4. Zero remorse and zero care for consequences

This is a key feature of Antisocial Personality Disorder, but it often shows in malignant narcissism too. While most narcissists don’t really care about others, they will have some care for consequences if it makes them look bad. Some narcissists also show a very small amount of remorse. 

However, malignant narcissism will not show any of this, whether they’re hurting someone, destroying something, or showing violence toward a thing, a person, or a pet. [Read: A relationship with a narcissist and what it means to love one]

5. Reckless behavior that is often impulsive

Malignant narcissists living with APD don’t have much of a conscience when it comes to destroying or hurting, and they don’t consider their personal safety either. 

This means they use a pattern of reckless behavior that is regularly impulsive. This behavior may also be illegal, but they will show little genuine remorse afterward. 

6. A desire to hurt or damage

In some cases, malignant narcissists will want to hurt things or people. This is at the extreme end of the scale, true, but it is a trait to look out for. [Read: 16 abusive relationship signs of a mad and devious lover]

If this is the case and you see this in someone you know, distance yourself as soon as possible for your own safety.

7. Enjoyment when someone is hurt

Malignant narcissists often use sadism. This is a trait that really sets the malignant type apart from the others in the NPD spectrum. 

They get a kick out of seeing someone upset or hurt, or they enjoy seeing the damage in something after they’ve caused it. [Read: 20 secrets to stop being selfish and ways to stop hurting and using others]

A severely malignant narcissist might also enjoy it when someone is in physical or emotional pain. They’ll get a real sense of pleasure from it and experience no desire to help or put things right.

8. May experience sexual pleasure from seeing others hurt

Apart from enjoying seeing others hurting, some malignant narcissists may also find it sexually arousing.

This isn’t all malignant narcissists, but it is a trait that has been recognized in some malignant narcissists who have particularly sadistic tendencies. 

9. Enjoy seeing other people humiliated

Some malignant narcissists aren’t actually physically violent, but instead, they enjoy seeing people embarrassed or humiliated. [Read: Not wishing someone happy birthday intentionally – a narcissistic power play?]

This is likely to be in a public situation, and the more that person seems upset or squirming, the more enjoyment they’ll get out of it.

10. Extremely controlling

A common trait of malignant narcissism is to be controlling. This can be emotional or physical, or sometimes a combination of both. 

A person in a relationship with someone like this will be subjected to extreme control and is likely to notice aggression if they try to move beyond the limits that the narcissist has put in place. [Read: Controlling people – 32 common traits, signs, and ways to deal with them]

Malignant narcissist vs. a psychopath

Many people wonder if malignant narcissists are dangerous. The answer is yes. 

Even if a particular person with this condition isn’t physically abusive, they’re likely to be extremely emotionally abusive and mentally abusive. [Read: The wolf in sheep’s clothing and the warning signs of a psychopath]

There is also the risk that their aggression could turn physical at some point. There is a debated link between malignant narcissism and the psychopath label. 

Honestly, malignant narcissists aren’t diagnosed sociopaths or psychopaths, but they do show certain traits which fit in with these conditions. [Read: The narcissistic friend – why they’re so evil and how to live with them]

For this reason, the mixture of it all creates a dangerous situation for anyone caught up in it.

Treatment of malignant narcissism

It is difficult to treat malignant narcissism. They are experts at manipulation and will use every tactic they can to control people around them.

The first step in treatment is acknowledging that there is a problem. The next step is getting the narcissist to want to seek treatment, which is not easy because they usually refuse to admit they have a problem. [Read: Relationship therapy – 25 clues to know if it’ll help your romance]

Some treatment methods are:

1. Therapy

Therapy, including both psychotherapy and group therapy, might be able to help the narcissist.

Psychotherapy can help them understand their disorder and how it affects people around them. It can also help them learn new coping skills and ways to deal with their symptoms. [Read: Reasons couple’s therapy isn’t working for you]

Group therapy can also be effective. This type of therapy can provide support and allow the narcissist to share their experiences with others who are dealing with similar issues. It can also help them learn new coping skills as well.

2. Medication

Medications are one of the most effective treatments for a malignant narcissist. This can help control some of the symptoms associated with the disorder. Some of these symptoms include anxiety, depression, and impulsivity.

How to deal with a malignant narcissist

Of course, the best thing you can do when dealing with a narcissist is to get away from them.

However, sometimes that is not possible if they are your parent, family member, boss, or someone else who is an integral part of your life. [Read: How to deal with difficult people without losing your cool and sanity]

If that’s the case and you feel like you can’t get away, then you can try these things.

1. Avoidance

Try to avoid them as much as possible. If you’re in the same house, lock yourself in a room that they’re not in. If you work with them, try to avoid any place that they go to as often as you can. 

It doesn’t matter how you avoid them, the important thing is that you do. That way, they will have fewer chances to make your life miserable. [Read: How to ignore people and avoid getting into a conversation with her]

2. Documentation

If you are being abused in any way, then you need to start documenting it. This is especially true if you are being physically abused *not that emotional and mental abuse aren’t just as bad*.

There are apps that will record the narcissist in their abusive episodes, both by video and audio. This will help you when you go to the authorities or an attorney. With documentation, the narcissist can’t gaslight you and make you look crazy.

3. Gray rocking

Gray rocking is a technique that is used to divert a toxic person’s behavior by acting as unresponsive as possible when you’re interacting with them.

Some examples include avoiding eye contact or not showing emotions. [Read: Gray rock method – what it is, 23 secrets, and how to use it on a narcissist]

The idea behind gray rocking is that toxic people feed off conflict, drama, attention, and your overall reaction. So, by making yourself and your interactions with them as neutral as possible, they’ll eventually lose interest.

Your lack of response will have them looking for someone else to attack if they won’t give up their negative behavior. 

4. Establishing boundaries

Most narcissists only abuse other people because they are allowed to. If someone has high self-esteem and firm personal boundaries, then they won’t be bothered as much by the narcissist in their life. [Read: How to set boundaries in a relationship – 19 rules for healthy love]

You see, narcissists like easy targets and weak victims. They don’t like someone who stands up for themselves and sets boundaries because then it’s too difficult for them to abuse that person.

So, that’s why it’s so important to establish boundaries with the narcissist. But you also have to follow it up with actions and stick to them. Otherwise, they will just keep abusing you.

5. Understanding narcissism

If you’re uneducated about what narcissism really is, then you won’t be armed with the skills and information that you need in order to deal with a narcissist. [Read: 70 red flag signs of narcissism and traits of a narcissist to read them like a book]

Many people are selfish occasionally. That’s perfectly normal. But a narcissist is selfish on a whole different level. So, when you understand what malignant narcissism really is, you can spot them and stay as far away as you can.

6. Looking after yourself

The type of personality that gets involved with narcissists in a romantic relationship tends to be givers. In fact, they over-give because they care more about other people than they do about themselves.

But you have to look after yourself too. Self-love is so important. And if you don’t have it, then you will let people walk all over you.

They will take advantage of you and leave you miserable. So, love yourself! [Read: Love yourself first – where people go wrong, 36 whys, and how to do this right]

How to seek help

If you’re struggling with dealing with a malignant narcissist, there are places you can turn to get help. Try these ideas.

1. Seek legal help

If you’re married and want to leave your narcissistic spouse, then you are going to need a lot of legal advice. Your spouse probably won’t want you to leave because they wouldn’t have easy prey at home.

An attorney can give you advice about finances, child custody, finding a safe place to live, and other important information you need in order to get away. [Read: Honest secrets to let go of the past, be happy and look to the future]

2. Seek mental health support

If you can afford it, going to individual therapy will help you cope and hopefully move on from the relationship. Therapy is useful for everyone, but when you have been dealing with a narcissist, it’s even more important.

3. Find peer support

You can even seek out support from groups or individuals who are dealing with narcissists or have in the past. Hearing other people’s experiences and supporting each other will help you cope with your situation.

Ending your relationship with a malignant narcissist

The single best way to deal with a malignant narcissist? Get away. [Read: How to break up with a narcissist and fly out of their gilded cage]

Seriously. There is going to be no joy in your life while dealing with a person like this. Plus, it’s a dangerous situation for you to be in. 

If you suspect someone in your life to be a malignant narcissist, you have to do what’s right for you. Now you know everything about malignant narcissists, so now you need to know how to deal with a narcissist and get away from them. 

But the truth is that there isn’t a whole lot you can do to deal with a malignant narcissist. The single best option is to get away and start your life over. If you need help with the abuse you’ve suffered, take it and focus on yourself from this point onwards. 

Here are some ways you can end your relationship.

1. Make a firm decision to leave

It’s never easy to break up with someone. And it’s even more difficult to break up with a malignant narcissist. They aren’t like normal people, so you can’t let them bait you into staying. [Read: 20 signs you should break up and throw in the towel]

So, have a long, hard, honest talk with yourself. Make a decision to leave. In fact, make a promise to yourself that you will, and keep that promise. Never go back or flip-flop about it.

2. Make copies of important documents

The narcissist might have control over important documents such as your social security card, passport, credit and debit cards, or even your driver’s license. 

So, you have to find them and make copies of them and cancel the cards right before you leave so they won’t drain your bank accounts. [Read: What should you do after a breakup to feel awesome?]

3. Make a plan

After that, make a plan to leave the situation and set yourself free before they notice what you’re up to. When you have all the important documents ready to go, then you can make a plan to actually get out.

Have your money ready and a place to leave. If you don’t have a car, then you’ll also need to arrange transportation. Have all of your bases covered before you take any action. [Read: How to set boundaries with a narcissist and weaken their hold over you]

4. Don’t tell them you are leaving

In normal relationships, a breakup is discussed and both people agree to the ending of the relationship *whether they want to or not*. But you can’t do this with a malignant narcissist.

If they know you are leaving, they will do all they can to prevent it. They will sabotage you at every turn. So, keep it to yourself. Leave when they are not home and don’t look back. [Read: What is vulnerable narcissism and what makes this one so dangerous]

5. Seek therapy

Many victims of malignant narcissism need therapy after the relationship ends. They need help to unpick the abuse and come to terms with it. 

You can’t even expose a malignant narcissist, all you can do is put yourself first and get out of the situation as quickly as possible. 

[Read: How to leave a narcissist and free yourself from their web of control]

Nobody deserves to deal with a malignant narcissist. Now that you know their traits and signs, no matter how well they conceal the issue and how much they try and blame you for everything they do – you’re not wrong, they are.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...