How Can I Stop My Spouse From Having Narcissistic Rage?

Updated June 14, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Robin Brock

To stop someone, such as your spouse, from experiencing narcissistic rage, it is important to understand what narcissistic rage is. Narcissistic rage is a reaction that a narcissist has when they feel like they are being attacked. This response happens when a narcissist feels their self-esteem or self-worth is questioned or compromised—examples of narcissistic rage range from explosive and outrageous outbursts to passive-aggressive acts. Episodes of narcissistic rage are not fun to be around. Examples of narcissistic rage comprise highly volatile outbursts that can be physical or verbal, much the opposite of a passive-aggressive rage, which can be described as the “silent treatment.”

Narcissistic injury, also called narcissistic scarring, was first noted by psychologist Sigmund Freud in the 1920s. Freud saw that a narcissistic injury occurred when a narcissist experiences a situation that counter-argues their beliefs about themselves. This wound or attack that threatens their firmly held set of beliefs would then elicit a violent outburst of anger. Freud called this outburst narcissistic rage.

What Causes Narcissistic Rage?

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The cause of narcissistic rage has been linked to a combination of prior experiences. Most psychologists feel that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is linked to unmet needs in a child’s early developmental stages. It is also connected to an environment where no validation and highly sensitive temperament were noted.

This is likely since rage is a primitive and emotionally immature child-like expression of unmet needs. The lack of validation combined with unfulfilled emotional needs in childhood leads to relationship styles that are controlled and driven by triggered and fragmented reality. NPD, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is considered a cognitive disorder because it continually reminds people of past unresolved conflicts that are subconsciously present.

What Distinguishes Narcissistic Rage From Normal Anger?

The majority of people have several levels of emotions before they reach “rage mode.” For the average person, rage does not occur often. However, for narcissists, outrageous outbursts and rage are a regular occurrence. They typically do not go through the seven layers of emotions and quickly jump from stress to rage on the drop of a dime.

Psychologist Adam Blatner defined the seven layers of anger. They are:

  • Stress: Feeling angry but not demonstrating it.
  • Anxiety: This is anger that is shown through subtle clues. One may start to act differently at the first sign of an anxious situation.
  • Agitation: Substantial displeasure is shown or exhibited without blame.
  • Irritation: More displeasure is shown than agitation to a given response.
  • Frustration: Anger with harsh words or a scowl, grimacing face.
  • Anger: Anger is demonstrated by talking loudly or screaming and with notable expressions.
  • Rage: Rage is losing one’s temper quickly and demonstrating aggression. It can also be defined as shutting others out and failing to listen to practical advice or words.

Again, a narcissist does not go through the seven steps, as outlined above. This is because the foundation of narcissism is having an inflated opinion of oneself, which causes them to have uncontrollable outbursts and rages.

Think of two toddlers who are each playing with a toy. A third child comes up and takes both toys away from the toddlers who had them first. One of the toddlers gets frustrated but gets up and picks out another toy to play with and is once again content. The other toddler gets extremely mad, cries and screams, and throws a tantrum.

The first toddler would be the average person; they get annoyed when things don’t go their way, but they get over it and move on. The second toddler describes a narcissist who doesn’t get upset but starts demonstrating discontent with outrageous behaviors and rages. The second toddler is not easily consoled unless they immediately get their toy back; they got their way, and the rage dissipates.

Narcissists tend to overcompensate concerning their emotional responses. They let everyone know they are not happy with a situation. The action is not to look like a bad person but rather to protect themselves from self-perceived shame and pain. Ironically, rage is shameful and painful for all who witness narcissistic behavior.

What Should I Know About NPD Rage?


When your partner has a narcissism-type rage, it can be upsetting and scary. A spouse with NPD often seems to scream at the slightest inconveniences, has an attitude about everything, and acts like the world is against them.

The truth is, for them, they feel as though they are personally attacked and go into defense -mode. Rage is often a protection mechanism against past pain, rejection, trauma, or abandonment.

The reaction to these feelings is to yell, mumble profanities, scream, break things, physically threaten or actually harm others, and anything else the helps them to feel in control of the situation. While the rest of the world perceives their behavior as being out of control, these actions feel as if they control what takes place for someone who has NPD.

It is not uncommon for those with narcissism to self-harm, either. Those with a narcissistic personality disorder often cut themselves; burn or scald parts of their body; bang their head or other body parts against the wall, or stab themselves. While these actions seem intense and scary, most of the time, narcissistic self-harm is done in a controlled manner; they don’t want to die; they want to stop hurting.

How one can stop hurting by hurting themselves may be hard to understand, but there is a difference between being hurt by someone else and being hurt at your own hand. Again, it comes down to control.

Narcissistic rage is often viewed as a two-layer problem:

  1. Constant anger is directed towards someone
  2. Rage towards themselves

This two-layer problem is a combination of attacking those who the narcissist feels are trying to control them and then attacking themselves for having such an outrageous response.

What Are The Two Types Of Narcissistic Rage?

Narcissistic Rage Can Be Overwhelming To Navigate
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There are two types of narcissistic rage: explosive and passive-aggressive. Fiery narcissistic rage is the anger, abuse, and screaming that was mentioned above. Passive-aggressive narcissistic rage involves sulking, having a sad demeanor, and giving the target of their wrath the silent treatment. Some would call silent treatment a form of bullying since it is done in a way that is meant to make people feel sorry for them. The narcissist then gains control of the situation and gets what they want.

How Can I Stop My Spouse When They Have Rage?

A narcissist can become so enraged that they teeter on the edge of being homicidal. This is especially true if they seek revenge; you never want to get on the wrong side of a narcissist.

While narcissistic rage is typically short-lived, it can result in devastating problems for the person they are mad at and project their anger.

Rage is very frightening for people and the fear they face when someone is projecting narcissistic rage at them in real; they feel powerless, scared, and even confused about why the person is so angry with them. The truth is, it has less to do with the person that a narcissist is projecting their anger on and more to do with the narcissist feeling a loss of power and control. They scream and yell to try to regain their strength. It’s a vicious cycle.

There Are A Few Different Ways To Deal With Narcissistic Rage

  • Estrangement and poor relationships are the heavy prices many narcissists pay for their behavior.  Counseling is an excellent place to start for both a person with narcissism and their partner. A mental health professional can use different techniques to form a treatment plan that works best for the narcissist and their behaviors. For the one who takes the brunt of narcissist abuse, a therapist can help deal with narcissistic rage and manage the emotional and mental toll that they may have accumulated through the years.
  • Work on your communication skills with your partner. Learning how to communicate with a narcissist properly can help protect you from harm.
  • Maintain an open relationship with your narcissistic partner; lying never helps any situation.
  • Set rules and boundaries with your narcissistic partner. If they know what you will not tolerate and what the consequences will be if you are treated poorly, there will be no surprises.
  • Follow through on what you mutually agreed on if your narcissist partner rages. If you do not do what you say you will, your narcissistic partner will have all the control. If you say you will leave if your partner screams at you again, then you need to go if it happens immediately.
  • Know that sometimes ending the relationship may be the best way to protect yourself and your mental health. When narcissists no longer have power over us, we can thrive.

While people with narcissism do not typically change independently, they can have fewer outbursts with therapy, but they cannot be cured. If you are in a dedicated and committed relationship with NPD, you need to understand that they will not get better. If, however, you do not want to live your life in fear, it is acceptable to leave; you should never be afraid for your life, especially from someone who supposedly loves you.

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