Can A Narcissist Change?

Can A Narcissist Change?


Can a leopard change its spots?  Once we discover the real person, the person behind the deceptive outward appearance, we often wonder if they will ever change, if they can change.

The subject of change is open to debate.  It is a question that has been asked time and time again.  It is a difficult question and one that there is no straight forward answer to but I will give you my opinion and please note, this is my own personal opinion.

I believe that generally, no, these people do not change.  They don’t want to change.  They want everyone around them to change.  Over time, the only thing that changes is their victims, as they move on from one poor soul to the next. Many professionals in the field of psychology will say that they cannot change, it is their personality, it is their nature and it is who they are.  Change would involve the person with NPD recognising that the problems lie within themselves, having a conscience, learning to empathise.

Empathy is described by the Cambridge English Dictionary as, ‘The ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.’ 

I don’t know about you but from my experience I feel that even if they can imagine what it would feel like to be in another’s shoes at a particular moment in time, they simply don’t care.  As long as the negative feelings are not felt by themselves, then the matter is not of their concern.

Our feelings are emotions that define our character and define who we are.  Emotions in someone with narcissistic personality disorder have not advanced and developed with age as one would expect to see in a normal healthy adult.  Their emotional maturity is somewhat limited.the-leopard-cannot-change



If you believe that you are the one person who is going to change them, think again.  You can’t save a narcissist from themselves.   You need to concentrate on saving yourself from the narcissist.


If  someone looks at themselves in the mirror and doesn’t like what they see, they may resort to cosmetic surgery.  They may go for a face lift or a nose job in order that they may get to like the reflection that they see staring back at them. Does a narcissist like what they see in the mirror?  Most of the time I would think that they do but I don’t believe that they take a very close look.  They live in denial.  They know that if they look too closely, they will see themselves for who they really are.  Rather than their delusional image of their superiority being shattered, they take a step back from the mirror,  not wanting to see what’s really there.  By having blind spots, they can carry on regardless, fooling themselves that when relationships don’t work out for them, it’s always someone else’s fault, never their own.

Are there exceptions?

Yes, I believe that there are.  Everyone in life has their difficult times and we learn to deal with life’s problems and move on.  What happens to a narcissist when their problems become so overwhelming that they wonder, ‘Could this be me?’   ‘Could I be the one that has a problem?’   When every relationship that they have in their lives bites the dust, some may have this wake up moment.  Change is an inside job.  They need to want to change and sadly the majority never feel the need to change.  The road ahead would be a very difficult journey, trying to change who they are, trying to change a lifetime’s beliefs and behaviours.  Can it be done?  If they have reached that point in their lives where they don’t like what they see in the mirror, where they realise that their strength will come from change and not control, then maybe, but don’t count on it.  I believe that for those who possess just a few of the traits of NPD, there is a possibility that their behaviour may be modified for a time.   Just how long that time will last remains to be seen.

I have studied NPD for a number of years and in the course of my work I have been in contact with people from around the world who have been diagnosed with this unflattering label. Some have tried to change when they have hit rock bottom but sadly they tend to slip back into their old ways. I have yet to hear of a malignant narcissist changing for the better over the long term.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has shown a limited amount of success.

‘As you get older you realize that some people are just shitty human beings and there’s nothing you can do to change them.  If they don’t want to change, you can’t do it for them.  Stop searching for the good in them that simply isn’t there.’


At the end of the day I believe that the likelihood of any significant change is negligible.  Try not to fall for their assurances that they have changed.  Assume that they are the same individual that they were in the past.  A narcissist can put on a very convincing act, an Oscar winning performance, in order to convince you that they are a different person now.  If you have managed to move on without this person being a part of your life, don’t go back to a long time ago and put yourself through all the pain and hurt once again.  Those days are likely to return.

Dr. Lynne Namka, says that people with severe narcissistic traits have limited emotional intelligence – and tons of psychological defenses – standing in the way of recovery, being unable to see the depth of their pathology as to know their shortcomings would send them into great shame which would trigger depression.


The narcissist is likely to remain a narcissist until their dying day.

Written by
Anne McCrea


Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse, Shattering the Illusion, now available on Amazon

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8 thoughts on “Can A Narcissist Change?

  1. I once read quite a good analogy that goes like this:
    “The narcissist looked at himself in the mirror and saw that he had a dirty face. Instead of lifting his hand to his face to wipe it clean, he leaned forward to clean the mirror. ”
    Such is their level of disconnection. They see you in their reflection and look to change you instead of themselves, when the problem is actually with them. It’s never their fault. Thiss analogy has helped me understand narcissists so much better.

  2. For years I thought it was me. I thought if I worked harder at it I could fix it. I thought if I tried to have a rational conversation it would resolve it but it did not . I will always feel responsible for not taking action sooner . In the end I cut ties with my sister .

  3. I feel that I have been more blessed than most, as I only dealt with my narcissistic xgf for a little over a year. It took me over 6 monrhs to realize what she is and the rest of the time to realize she will never change, short of truly giving herself to Christ (a claim she keeps telling me every time I took her back but saw so evidence for).

    I had never really experienced a narcissist up close and personal before in my 51 years, and hope never to have to again, God willing. Every time I would try to talk to her about her monstrous behavior, no matter that I sugar coated and put things as gently as I could, she would always turn the tables and accuse me of being cruel, judgemental, and even verbally abusive! Letting her read my texts to her brother and friends asking for prayers over her, she twisted everything to make it seem as though we were backstabbing and slandering her.

    Her constant lying and cheating over the past year finally took its toll on me, and I stripped away every bit of sugar coating and told her the hard truth of things. I ignore all of her pleas of reconcilliation and keep her at good distance from me now. If she ever does truly change for the better, God will show me, not her. In the meantime, I have moved on with my life and won’t ever hold my breath!

  4. Interesting article. My moment of clarity came during a discard, when he told me about dating a new prospect. “I’m trying to be the guy I’d like to date.” That’s when the penny dropped. 2 months of no contact, keeping strong

  5. My Ex Narcissist Sociopath Abuser Alcoholic Husband has not changed.. I’m out 15 months out of a 9 year Nightmare!! He’s still doing what he did to me to other women.. He’s still getting in trouble with the law!! I’m Happy He’s still a miserable idiot!❤

  6. He would continually blame me for doing things i never did. Believing he was always right and then making me feel crazy…. you can never change a narcissistic.

  7. Wonderful article! I have a family filled with narcissists and am sad to say that I cannot continue a relationship with them. I cannot allow them to influence my children (neither of my sisters have any) and have them cause harm to them as they have done to me. I love them, but they are sooo toxic and don’t have any idea how their behavior affects others. Of course, I’m always wrong about their intentions. I’ve had to call them down for giving unsolicited advise to my kids…they have no clue how they hurt them. I have prayed in my heart that perhaps change is possible, but I’m seeing evidence that you are correct. Thank you for the confirmation that what I’ve always thought was true, but may never be.

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