When the Narcissist Threatens Suicide: Will they really follow through?

Written by Angela Atkinson

Leaving a narcissist is never easy and it almost always comes with repercussions. There are a lot of typical behaviors demonstrated by a narcissist after you end a toxic relationship with them. For example, they’ll nearly always try, at one point or another, to hoover you back in as in to get you to reconnect, either to get back into the relationship or to get a little narcissistic supply from you. They will also likely run a smear campaign against you, among other miserable manipulation tactics

But many survivors don’t expect the narcissist to threaten suicide if they won’t come back or do what they want. This is one of the most egregious ways a narcissist can emotionally blackmail you. That could be why the biggest question I hear from survivors who have had a narcissist threaten suicide is, “would they really do it, or are they just manipulating me?”. 

Do narcissists commit suicide?

The short answer is yes, but probably not. Let me explain. There is a long-lasting debate on whether NPD is associated with suicide or not. It’s important to remember that narcissistic personality disorder is not a mental health issue but a personality disorder. It is an enduring pattern of maladaptive behavior and traits that can coexist with other mental health issues such as depression, bipolar, or substance abuse. 

I’ve had a few clients over the years who were dealing with the confusing emotions about a narcissist who had taken their own lives. That said, it’s a relatively rare occurrence. For the most part, narcissists are afraid of death. On some level, the more grandiose types seem to believe they are immortal, especially in their youth. Most cannot imagine the possibility of their own death.

In at least a couple of the cases I dealt with my clients on, it seemed that the narcissist had committed suicide almost to spite or hurt their partners. In contrast, it appeared the narcissist had done it in one case because he’d come to the end of the road with his lies and manipulation and would be held legally accountable otherwise. In all cases, it was clear that they never once concerned themselves with how this would affect their partners long-term.

Are narcissists more likely than others to commit suicide?

Research tells us that people who suffer from narcissism are no more likely to commit suicide than anyone else. But, unfortunately, while they’re less likely to have a failed attempt, they’re more likely to succeed if and when they try.

“While there was no bivariate relationship of NPD on suicide attempt, in the logistic regression patients with NPD were 2.4 times less likely to make a suicide attempt, compared with non-NPD patients and controlling for possible confounding variables,” study authors said, adding that, while the topic is understudied, “The modest body of existing research suggests that NPD is protective against non-fatal suicide attempts, but is associated with high lethality attempts.”

 And, according to one research paper, when a narcissist has collapsed or is dealing with depression, their risk of suicide can be increased.

“Another study found that depressed older adults with narcissistic personalities were at increased suicide risk (Heisel et al., 2007). It has been observed that patients with NPD can be at elevated suicide risk not only during periods when they are depressed but also during periods when they are not suffering from depression (Ronningstam & Maltsberger 1998).”

Are some narcissists at a higher risk for suicide than others?

Among the narcissistic personality disorder-affected study subjects, the researchers noted that those who attempted or succeeded in suicide were “more likely to be male, to have a substance use disorder, and to have high aggression and hostility scores…The lower impulsivity of NPD patients and less severe personality pathology relative to other personality disorders may contribute to this effect.”

So, men who have NPD along with a drug or alcohol addiction who are also aggressive and hostile toward the people in their lives are MORE likely to commit suicide than other narcissists. 

What causes narcissists to commit suicide?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder that causes people to have an inflated sense of their importance and a deep need for admiration and validation. This means that narcissists can become highly vulnerable to painful feelings of shame, humiliation, and defeat when criticized or rejected. This shame, along with the underdeveloped self-esteem that narcissists possess, can lead them to suicidal threats and even suicide attempts when they are let down or even when they are being humiliated in front of others.

There are many other causes of suicide, and some of them are related to mental health problems like depression or bipolar disorder. However, there are also other psychological factors involved in this phenomenon, such as low self-esteem, history of suicide attempts, and family history of suicide.

What do you do if a narcissist threatens suicide?

Sometimes, narcissists make threats of suicide as a scare tactic. It’s a way for them to further manipulate the people around them. In this situation, it’s essential not to take the threats lightly, but it’s also crucial not to be intimidated by them. For the sake of your well-being and safety, it is best to stay calm and disengaged when your narcissist threatens suicide. Either way, remember that even if they attempt to kill themselves, they are still actively trying to manipulate you. 

Stay Calm and Assess the Situation

You have a few options when dealing with a narcissist’s suicide threat. First, if it’s clear that the person intends to take their own life and can follow through, consider contacting the police immediately.

First, take a deep breath and ask yourself how capable the narcissist is of killing themselves do they have the means and ability to take such a significant action? Remember that narcissists are excellent at making threats but not at following through. That said, remember too that it’s entirely possible that the narcissist might actually attempt suicide and that if they succeed, you might end up (unfairly) blaming yourself.

Contact the Authorities

My suggestion is to go ahead and contact the police and let them know what the narcissist is saying. Then, they can go over and do a wellness check on the narcissist. While this might feel extreme, it can not only prevent suicide but also remove any responsibility you may feel you have. You can also, if appropriate, tell the narcissist you’re sending the authorities but please consider this carefully as it may cause them to expedite any efforts toward suicide. 

Give the Narcissist Resources and Information

You can offer the narcissist the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.*

Say something like, “I’m sorry you’re struggling, but I am not sure I’m qualified to help you. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-8255. They’re available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and their services are free. If your life is in imminent danger, call 911 or go directly to an emergency room.”

Bear in mind that narcissists are good at manipulating others, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll listen to reason from someone else either but you should also remember that they are no longer your responsibility and that their behavior is NOT your fault no matter how much they try to make you take responsibility for it. 

Other options include encouraging them to seek psychiatric help or getting them to agree to stay with a family member or friend until they feel better. If you know them well, you could even contact the narcissist’s friend or family member and let them take it from there. 

In any case, please do NOT risk your safety (mental or physical) by going back to the narcissist to prevent their suicide. This can not only endanger you, but it might be nearly impossible to get away from them again especially once they know that this kind of exploitative emotional blackmail has been an effective way to manipulate YOU. 

Narcissists and Suicide: Resources & Information

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Author

  • 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 QueenBeeing.com 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 QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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