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What Happens to Narcissists As They Grow Old?

Narcissists are basically emotionally stunted children whose neediness can become all-consuming as they grow older. They have spent so much time relying on looks, fame, connections, or success in business, and old age strips all of these away.

Many people become happier as they grow older, especially after fifty, yet narcissists find the aging process a constant struggle, and one they continue to lose. After a life spent exerting power over others, this is something they just cannot control.

A narcissist’s ability to charm and impress also diminishes with age, and they become less attractive on every level. Narcissistic supply, or their excessive need for attention and admiration from others, becomes harder to come by. Many will have spouses who have already left them, and gone on to form new relationships. As their children have become adults, they often have stopped allowing themselves to be bullied, and may have pulled back or cut contact from the narcissist’s toxic influence. Their peers, older and wiser as well, will not put up with such a difficult personality. Having always refused to take responsibility, many narcissists find themselves alone, become even more bitter, and continue to blame others for their own disappointments.

Money is often an issue as well. Narcissists are known to spend lots of it to impress others with designer labels and fancy cars. Their poor impulse control commonly leads to expensive addictions and tremendous debt, which might not leave much for them to live on when they are old.

According to Julie L. Hall, author of “The Narcissist in Your Life: Recognizing the Patterns and Learning to Break Free,” narcissists become more extreme versions of their worst selves as they age, which includes becoming more desperate, deluded, paranoid, angry, abusive, and isolated. And, as their power continues to diminish, they become even more desperate to find scapegoats, which often exposes their bigotry, racism, and sexism, a defense mechanism to cover up their own discomfort of having lost so much power.

I was once involved with a family of narcissists. The father had cheated on his wife throughout their entire marriage, and after a terrible divorce, she died. As he grew older, and there was nothing but porn to satisfy his urges, he would spend almost every meal we had together talking about what a wonderful person she was. Decades later, he was haunted by his past, had trouble sleeping, and would mumble to himself about what had happened long into the night.

His adult children, both of whom are also narcissists, resented him, and only retained contact because he was generous with money. They knew that in order to collect their inheritance, which included several pieces of real estate, they had to retain the “idea of family.” As their father grew more incapable of taking care of himself, he became increasingly dependent on them for his basic needs. It got to the point where he refused to leave the house, and gave them complete access to his finances.

His minor credit card debt within months multiplied many times over, as the children used his money to finance their own lives and significant recreational activities. By the time he died, there was a deep dent in his estate. An attorney examining the financials declared it a clear case of elder abuse, though if he didn’t have the adult children, he would have been completely alone.

Had this occurred, he might have experienced a massive mental breakdown, called a “narcissistic collapse,” which may happen once the key source of a narcissist’s ego-stroking goes away, leaving a feeling of victimization and defeat. It is then that the narcissist can no longer manage the charade, their lies and false self are laid bare, and the monster beneath is exposed. At this point, the narcissist may lash out at others, unknowingly maintaining absolute isolation. It is indeed a sight to behold, and occurs frequently with old narcissists.

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35 Responses

  1. This describes my
    Sister, cousin, and various people in know
    To a T… it’s amazing how narcissists share these behaviors, right down to their physical movements and facial expressions… all the ones I know g trying
    Older dress like 14 year olds, chase the Unicorn, have stupid hair styles, some are meticulously clean while
    Others are filthy, but all want 100% attention and do stupid thoughtless things and LIE LIE LIE… so very sad. They’re pathetic people.

    1. My Ex Covert Narcissist did this too!
      He’s over 50, rides his skateboard around town (no working car … he has 4 “really cool” antique junkers but not one reliable vehicle), is totally estranged from Family and Friends, no job, no savings, no retirement, no health insurance, dresses in too large ragged jeans, old college T’s and flip flops.
      His only social outlet are other people’s little kids (he volunteers at an After School Daycare) as these Little Ones are the only ones left who are too naive to see through his foolishness. He’s supposed to supervise them but plays w/them to stroke his ego.
      He has a huge family w/many siblings, nices and nephews who have children (most he’s never met) yet lives in a room w/ strangers who want him gone.
      He’s constantly lies about being denied this or that support.
      You’re right… it’s pathetic.

    1. Hi Debra,

      Big question – but we are not therapists/psychologists, nor experts in diagnosis. There’s a LOT of stuff on the internet about this…you’ll get lost in content I’m sure! Quora is a good start…and good luck!


  2. If I am raised by narcissistic parents, am I then also I narcissist my self?

    I see myself as being very sensitiv to other peoples needs and emotions, so I wouldn’t see myself as a Narcissist, but I get worried when I read your posts.

    1. Hi Kristine,

      Being raised by narcissistic parents definitely does not destine you as a narcissist yourself. Keep in mind that we are not therapists – but there is so much information out there on this topic. I would look to the library and at books as well, not just online resources, and much good luck on this journey!


    2. I think that the fact you’re actually worried about this is proof you’re not a narcissist, because if you were you probably wouldn’t care at all 😉

    3. Look up echoist. It helped me understand the role of a child in a narcisist household and how my traits mirrored some narcissistic tendancies

  3. This describes exactly my ex husband whom I left 20 years ago after 19 years of marriage. His next relationship failed after 5 years and I believe he’s now a bitter older man of 71. He has spent most of his money on cruises and entertainment. My only regret is that I didn’t leave years sooner. I was deeply unhappy for a long time. I might have met someone else but, either way, I’m still very wary. Happily on my own and living the best life I can.

    1. Janet,

      So glad you are out and not part of what he has become anymore 🙂


  4. I’ve been married 27 years to a narcissistic, misogynistic, controlling person that is verbally & emotionally abusive. Everyone begs me to leave. I know I should but it frightens me since we have a home in the country and I can garden. Also, I can’t work even though I keep my nursing license current, because my spouse helped indirectly to get a judgement against me 17 years ago that’s on my record. Too much to explain.
    I took care of my mom in our home for 5 years and had to fight to do that! Then last year, I took care of my brother-in-law for 2.5 months until he died. My spouse felt obligated to help but mostly was in the way and angry at me constantly.
    My spouse is now so deaf that the TV volume is constantly blaring. They refuse to get a hearing aid. Refuse to close their bedroom door.! Oh, we’re just
    housemates now because I refused to keep sleeping with my spouse after 2008. I just view my spouse as a geriatric patient. But it is waring.

    1. Hi Matilda,

      It is wearing, and sounds awful, but the choice comes down to whether it’s more painful to stay or if it would be more painful to leave. It sounds like you certainly have your reasons…these things are way more complicated than “everyone who begs you to leave” probably realizes. Hope that whatever you decide to do brings you to some kind of acceptance, and most importantly, that you can stay safe.


    2. I am exactly in the same boat, married 30 years and stuck, he even told me am not going to live past 75 years, am almost 70 , he is 83 years old, is so horrible most of the time, my grandson even told him, he is 3 don’t be mean to Nana, I love Nana.

    3. keep close female friends. do things with them, excluding him. detach emotionally.

      I too live as housemates with my husband. I am seeking only compatibility and companionship. nothing more. we talk about things, but not ourselves. roommates.
      I inherited an IRA, which can be in my name only. I control it, not him. the person who left it to me emphasized that he could never control it. I make effort to have female friends, go out to lunch, plays, etc with them. I don’t let him join us. “girls only”.

      I never speak my heart to him. I never cry around him, as it makes him angry. he has no compassion whatsoever. I’d rather cry alone.

      I ask nothing of him. I simply cannot love him like I used to. now I love him from afar. otherwise I get hurt. and I’ve been hurt deeply so many times. the last time was hard to believe. I was weeping over the deaths of my best friend of 36 years, and my only sibling, my sister: ( they both died only a few months apart.) it made him blow up in anger, accusing me of “crying on purpose to manipulate me”. …”boo hoo”. that finally did it. I was done. And I told him so.

      we never talk about it. I did tell him how I felt, but he says he never got the email (tho I checked his laptop, and he DID get it, and deleted it.) there is no point in talking about what he will not recognize.

      I feel sorry for him in a way. he is so messed up. but I don’t let my sympathy be a path for further abuse. he has to suffer the consequence of his own behaviors.

      I live my life. I have friends and I have money of my own, inherited from my sister. I tell him I’m not cooking anymore. I tell him I will do what I want, tho I will not be abusive. I will not allow anger and resentment to control my life anymore. I see him for who he is. I feel sorry for his soul. but I do not want anger and resentment in my heart. so I forgive him, as forgiveness is making the decision that the one who hurt you doesn’t get to anymore.
      and forgiveness is freeing.

  5. It continues, maybe even worsens. At least with mine. I can no longer be a part of her life. She’s 86 and I’m 61.

    1. I have gone no contact with my mother as well. She is 80 and I am 59. I don’t speak to my brother or sister either. They are full of greed and used me along with my mother as the scapegoat. My mother calls but I never return her calls. Last time she spoke with my husband and asked him if everything was ok between the 2 of us. Why would she ask him that question? I’m really done with the emotional drain she’s put on my life. This is why I cant even speak to her.

    2. Hi Pam,

      We JUST did an interview with Marnie Grundman, who is an expert in what you describe here. SHe’s in Canada but her content applies to people EVERYWHERE. She is big on TikTok, as well as Instagram, and has a book out. I highly recommend you take a look at her information, and our interview with her is on our YouTube channel, so you can watch anytime.

      Hope this helps in some way,

  6. my mother just turned 83 I am 47. She is all overpowering. I do all for her, cook, clean, bills, shopping and she told me I don’t do anything for her. She is so demanding, cries if she doesn’t get what she wants.
    I am at my wits end, I have so much anxiety, I can only be there 2 hours.a day, but the work up to going and the calm down after being there is an entire day process. My therapist says I am only responsible to manage her, which I do, and she says it’s not enough. Her therapist says she should be in a home so I save myself. I do not know what to do anymore.

    1. Hi, ARVC. This sounds like so much to manage. As I’m sure your therapist has discussed with you, this is a boundaries issue for you, and that can be so hard when you’ve spent a lifetime under the thumb of a toxic parent.

      As Lisa said to Pam in the last comment, you might find the interview she did with Marnie Grundman helpful as a starting point. We’re also big fans of Dr. Karyl McBride, and she has a book called “Will I Ever be Good Enough?” that would also be a great resource for you.

      Hoping this helps…


  7. I have only recently began to look into NPD for my now 298 year old son. His father, who he disowned at age 17, was a maligned narcissist – I left him when our son was 2 years old. The required visits to his father’s house as “joint custody” has had a lasting effect on our son. In 2020 our son said he was diagnosed as being on the “autistic spectrum” which I took as truth – did some of my own investigation and felt in my heart that was a misdiagnosis. Do you see that happening often?

    My son in Jan 2021 – wrote me an email blaming me for his entire life and asked me to leave him alone completely. Note he has been with the most loving, kindest young lady since they were freshmen in college. She is a very successful CPA and they recently built a home outside Denver, of which I have never been invited. I’m writing you now, it’s 1 week away from Christmas and I’m sitting in a hotel room 20 minutes away from their home. I drove 10.5 hours and I’m wondering what I’m doing here, and at the same time know that for my healing to begin, I have to try to make contact with my son one more time and reach out to my future daughter – in – law. I’ve read everything I can to arm myself for the disappointment I’m probably going to receive later today when I knock on their front door. God give me the courage, the wisdom and the strength to lift my hand to the door and put a smile on my face – with loving eyes to some how reach his heart – a heart which once had my trust.

    1. Hi Judith,

      Much luck with this and your son. We don’t really know anything about diagnosis and mis-diagnosis, as this is not our field…but hope things go as well as possible during this visit…

    2. best of luck Judith, really hope you are received well, just had my NPD father to stay for 4 days and it’s been very difficult, but I’m coming to terms now with having much lower expectations

    3. Dear Judith,
      Your attempt at a visit has probably already happened and you were devastated which is such a stressful state that takes a while to get over. Thank God there are no Grandchildren, because those are the real weapons they use. We have a Narcissistic, mentally I’ll, drug addicted daughter. I will tell you her parents are NOT that way, however we were probably guilty of over praise and couple that with her unending desire to be bad (I suspect it was to get an adrenaline rush because of the depression). She has a brilliant mind and so talented….but what good has it done her? She can’t keep a job for long, has 3 beautiful children she is slowly destroying ( and cultivating the youngest, a boy, to take care of her in old age. She triangulates, he’s totally unexpected rages, uncaring, thinks nothing of ruining a celebration for other people. It’s bad. If it weren’t for the grandchildren we would have disassociated long ago. Thank God her ex is starting to see we are not the problem. Good luck, don’t expect anything as he won’t change and put your focus into other people.

  8. My 80 year old brother is experiencing this now, with alcohol induced dementia. He has one son and me I am 20 years younger than he is. He has been an alcoholic his whole life, he is horrible mean to us and others. I have pretty much distanced myself from him, he is blind with dementia now and I lived over 20 years with minimal contact him. I told him straight out I will not tolerate him belittling Me, he needs me more than I need him. I have tried to make sure he is cared out if respect for my parents. He is In a nursing home now, but maybe changed to geriatric psychiatric care, due to his verbally violent outbursts with staff. He was recently caught making out with another resident and was told the family didn’t want that kind of behavior because the ladies dementia had left her with the mentality of a five year old. He had always been a ladies man, having run thru more women than I can count his hole life. He became violent with staff when he was told they can only be in community open areas together. I haVe washed my hands of him. He has spent his entire life with this horrible temper and would just ghost family when he was mad or didn’t get his way.

    1. Hi Alice,

      Sounds like a very difficult person, and glad you are finding a way to create distance but still know he’s being taken care of (for your parents’ sake).


  9. I’m a 53 year old man that has lived with a narcissist for over 25 years. She had to always be in control of money and just life in general especially with our daughters. Now that the daughters moved out I took away total control of the money bills etc I’m seeing a pattern of her always running trying to find new relationships and blaming it on things that happened 20 years ago. She won’t go to counseling with me. Instead it’s everyone else that needs counseling. We are now divorced because she insisted but unfortunately still live together sleeping in separate bedrooms. The problem I’m face with I love her with all my heart and soul. I don’t know how move on. Was wondering if anyone had advice?

    1. Hi Robert,

      This is a tough one, as you’re still so attached. You might want to try contacting your local domestic violence center – they are well-trained in emotional abuse and usually offer free counseling services. Hope this helps, in some way!


  10. My 83 year old father is a narcissist. He has congestive heart failure and liver failure and claims he is ready to die but does everything to keep living. His emotional abuse lead my 42 year old brother to a fatal drug overdose and his not letting my mom get out of a chair for two years lead to her accepting death instead of fighting to live after a heart attack. I moved to another country to escape 24 years ago. But after mom passed 2 years ago, I was sucked back in since he has no one else. I pay all his bills and manage everything for him. However he has everyone believing he has mo one and his daughter is evil. The whole town thinks he’s this sweet old man until they get close to him. I spent 2 1/2 months with him last year. Nothing is ever enough. I don’t know how I’ll go on.

    1. Oh Angela,

      This sounds like such an ordeal. Hope you have some emotional support, but doesn’t sound like it. You might want to get in touch with your local domestic violence center – often they have free resources, and at the very least, someone to talk to about this. Hope you hang in there…and know that you are enough.


  11. I was with my ex partner for nearly 10 years and unsuspecting of anything sinister. I was very conscious that she had given up her whole life to care for elderly grandparents when she should have been enjoying her young life. I was happy in our relationship until her mother took a fall and she had to give up her life to mind her full time. Her mother was an alcoholic and during this time I found out that her parents lived in a loveless marriage and her father spent most of his time travelling probably to get away from her mother
    . She fell out with her brother also an alcoholic and didn’t speak to him for years when I had started seeing her. I could see through his manipulation straight away but she accepted him back with open arms after saying she would never speak to him again. I never liked him and I am a good judge of character although for her sake I put up with him. He ruined my relationship with her mother by saying that I was going to marry my ex. The mother hated me after that because ther was the possibility that I might take her away.
    Anyway since then I started to get wary of the whole scenario and when the mother died some months back, I suddenly began to be pushed away by my ex. Not answering my calls, not texting me like she used to. Ghosting me and then finally said I wasn’t there for her when her mother died even though I had done everything I could to help her during that time . She said that her friend and brother also felt the same.She also used things i had said in the past about relationships against me.It got so bad I just had to walk away as I have a good sense of self worth. It is an awful pity because I loved that woman and would have liked to spend rest of life with her. I had the impression that she loved me too but it now appears to me that I was worthless in her eyes. She had this vague notion that she did everything for me. Considering our lives were taken away from us years ago by her having to care for her mother and then her brother moved home after having 4 kids with a partner who I was told caused him to become a.manic depressive. He hasn’t worked for years and now my ex is considering applying for disability.
    I only recently realised that their family was dysfunctional all along. I just couldn’t believed after being so kind all along to my ex that I was just discarded without any sense of empathy. She had pretended to love my parents and did lots of work like preparing dinner etc for them and helping me to paint their house.
    She had a car accident and became very bitter to the point of obsession about the girl who crashed into her and took a claim, as did her dysfunctional brother and she has put all her health issues down to this accident.
    Anyway I probably only heard her side of the story. More recently she asked me to lend her some money after I had given her a substantial sum to help pay for her mothers funeral.Even after ghosting me and spending much more time with her friends,she often went away with them and anytime I asked her to go away with me,she rarely did, she asked me to come and live with her.
    I refused as I knew they were tied to the home place,her and her brother and as I have a good work ethic.,I couldn’t live in that type of environment. She often accused me of being well off and having come from a better more privileged background and tried to make me feel guilty about this. My parents worked hard to give me and my siblings a good education and to become totally independent of them. We all have professional jobs and according to my ex, she was never given those chances. Bitterness and negativity took hold of her more and more recently. She had a huge sense of entitlement and felt that everything that happened to her was someone elses fault. I have seen her discarding friends and totally ghosting them like she has done to me. There has been no closure to our relationship just total silence. I have tried a few times to contact her but it became pointless .
    It seems after all this time that I was in love with a covert narcissist who must have been emotionally abused in her formative years and carries this with her through life.

  12. My husband’s ex was a terrible narcissist. She put us through all kinds of hell for many years and the kids too. What a wasted life of screw up after screw up. She just killed herself at the age of 58.

  13. Interesting reading thank you!

    I’ve just ‘discarded’ a Nark after 9.5 years of both mental and physical abuse, culminating in threats on my daughter’s life. This Nark is 6″2 with the wing span of a jumbo jet and I am 4″11 with a bone disorder and 4 joint replacements who he has had no problem kicking repeadedly to the floor and taking more and more running kicks at!

    The Nark has a long history of abusing women and I guess I must be a massive empath as for all this time I just wanted to help him be the person I thought he was inside.

    There’s no such thing, they are what they are and the fairytale was all in my head.

    It’s been 3 weeks now and it’s heavy going, I’ve blocked all avenues with the exception of 2 step daughters who were quite literally dragged up by him, this incenses him as he truly believes that because he is incapable of real love that they should be too.

    In the last 3 weeks I’ve learned so much about Narks and trauma bonding that I’m amazed I’d not put 2+2 together before now!

    I took care of his children, grandchildren and even took in his stepson from former marriage but still, the more giving I was the more he hated me and mine.

    The words I’d use for these people are toxic and monsters, the worst thing being that they’re Teflon coated, this guy commits fraud, lies, cheats, takes drugs, excessive alcohol and steals without remorse but pops himself right up on his pedestal criticizing the smallest thing relating to myself or my daughter.

    It’s hard but having been repeatedly sucked back in by him over the years, I’m out and staying out!

    Love and luck to anyone else going through this, it’s the toughest thing I’ve had to do ever.

    1. Congratulations, Tess for getting and staying out! Hope your mental and physical health continues to improve – the world is so much better on the other side!


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