The Narcissist is Like a Cult Leader

Written by Angela Atkinson

“Cult recruiting methods based on dosing victims with the brain chemicals released during capture bonding would make cults even more of a problem than they are now.” ~ Keith Henson

Have you ever considered how much a narcissist seems to have in common with a cult leader? It’s true: toxic narcissists can be likened to cult leaders, and maybe in more ways than you think.

For example:

  1. Like every cult leader, the narcissist insists on absolutely blind acceptance and obedience of their rules and preferences from all of their followers, which of course include their spouse or partner, kids, friends – even certain co-workers or colleagues and neighbors. They must all adore the narcissist and treat them like they’re more important than everyone else.
  2. When these often-unwilling followers dare to break the rules or to in any way defy the wishes of their leader, both the narcissist and the cult leader issue swift and direct punishment.

Narcissists Live in Their Own Little World

  1. The narcissist has created some kind of an alternate reality, their “own little world,” if you will, and that is the reality that these “followers” are required to accept without question.
  2. Complete and unconditional trust and faith in both the narcissist and the cult leader are demanded.
  3. This world is of course wrought with the narcissist’s (and/or cult leader’s) made up and delusional ideas and facts. History is debatable in this world, and everyone knows they’re going to hell if they disobey their “leader.”

Narcissists Control With Mind Games, Pettiness and Psychological Warfare

  1. Like cult leaders, narcissists control their flock with blatant mind games and psychological abuse, forcing them to exist in constant and ever-churning uncertainty, instability, ambiguity – using gaslighting as a constant and crazymaking way of keeping them in a state of confusion.
  2. This allows the narcissist to retain complete control. Like the cult leader, the narcissist decides what is considered right or wrong, what is considered acceptable and/or unacceptable – and what will be allowed, or not.
  3. Every rule and consequence is set by the narcissist, and they are all subject to change at the narcissist’s whim.

Both the narcissist and the cult leader:

  1. Micro-manage everything
  2. Serve up severe punishments when the rules are broken
  3. Consistently criticize, belittle and invalidate followers/family members
  4. Have no respect for followers/family members and treat them as objects or possessions rather than people
  5. Seem to not recognize boundaries or privacy rights
  6. Ignore their needs, complaints, wishes and emotions
  7. See their family or followers as extensions of him or her self and require that they get permission to go out with friends, spend money or in any way make a choice of their own – often even with adult children who are financially independent
  8. Isolate and force family/followers to become dependent on them in many ways
  9. Patronize and invalidate them, always speaking to them in a condescending way that makes them feel worthless (and in some cases, this is alternated with blatant idealizing and exaggeration of various “members” am the family/followers)
  10. Carry unrealistic expectations of everyone, but require they have no expectations of the leader
  11. Claim to be perfect; honest, trustworthy, exceptional, gifted, clever, all-powerful, and all-knowing
  12. Lie regularly, telling more lies to cover them up
  13. Expect followers/family members to go along with the lies and in fact pretend they are true
  14. Require followers/family members to help cover up the lies without question or prompting
  15. Limit influence on them from “outside” sources and only allow certain information or selected influences for them
  16. Constantly search for new sources of narcissistic supply/cult members – and with no regard for who they are, just as long as they are willing to do as they’re required to do as part of this “elite” group
  17. Display different personalities when at home (or among the cult members) and when out in recruiting mode
  18. Display and enforce an over-inflated sense of entitlement, requiring special benefits, privileges and services above and even from the members
  19. Consider themselves above and outside of even their own rules, but also the law of the land
  20. Feel threatened and offended by an authority outside of themselves
  21. Play the victim if their rage attacks don’t do the trick to get them what they want

Read more: How to Deal with a Narcissist


  • Angela Atkinson

    Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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