Do people with narcissism cry? Narcissists are often labeled as “the bad guy,” but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have emotions.
It can be easy to think that narcissists don’t show emotion or feelings. After all, why would they display behaviors related to remorse, sadness, or empathy?
In truth, narcissism doesn’t imply a lack of feeling. Narcissistic traits are most often self-serving rather than altruistic, but the person can still feel emotions.
People with narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic traits may laugh and cry like everyone else, though they may have different reasons for doing so.
For instance, people who lack empathy (a narcissistic trait) wouldn’t feel sad when they see another person upset, but they might get upset from feeling embarrassed or victimized.
The term “narcissism” can be used to describe both a personality trait and a personality disorder.
Many people express some narcissistic tendencies, but very few people meet the diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
NPD is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) as showing:
- behavioral patterns of grandiosity
- a need for admiration
- a lack of empathy
Grandiosity is an excessive sense of self-importance. Someone living with narcissism can believe they are physically stronger, smarter, or more influential than those around them.
Narcissist traits can be considered NPD when behaviors and thoughts cause significant impairment in your sense of identity, self-direction, or in your ability to relate to others.
Dr. John F. Tholen, a retired clinical psychologist and author from Seal Beach, California, explains that some level of self-concern and self-esteem is important for our emotional well-being. However, when that self-interest interferes with our ability to form loving relationships or prevents us from appreciating our faults and weaknesses, it has become narcissism.
Someone with traits of narcissism or NPD can cry, but the reasons may not be the same as for someone without narcissism.
Dr. Thomas G. Plante, a licensed psychologist and professor of psychology from Santa Clara, California, says, “Certainly narcissists can care about others and their feelings […] but they do so in service of their own needs and desires, as a rule.”
This means someone living with narcissistic traits may cry from regret or remorse, but not with empathy at its source.
They may feel embarrassed, for example, about being criticized for their part in a distressing situation. They may feel sadness or regret that whatever happened paints them in a negative light.
Not all assumptions about narcissism are true or as straightforward as you may think. Below, we bust some myths about narcissism.
Do narcissists care about your feelings?
“Narcissism exists on a spectrum. It is possible that someone on the lower level of the narcissism spectrum could care about hurting someone else’s feelings,” says Dana Colthart, a licensed clinical social worker from Edgewater, New Jersey.
NPD is defined in the DSM-5 as impaired empathy, which means living with severe narcissism suggests you are much less likely to care about the feelings of others.
That said, there might be small levels of empathy even for those meeting the diagnostic criteria for NPD, and some experts suggest that the ability for empathy can be built to some degree, even if it’s difficult to do.
Do narcissists know they’re hurting your feelings?
Someone living with narcissism can be aware they are causing you distress — but knowing and caring are two different things.
Diane Kim, a licensed mental health counselor from Kirkland, Washington, says, “their own need to protect themselves tends to override considering others’ feelings.”
Can narcissists feel love?
“[People with NPD] are generally capable of love, but it is in their own best interests, as a rule, and may not have the mutuality that most people would desire in a relationship,” Plante states.
This may mean that someone with NPD can only love you for what you do to enhance their sense of self-importance.
What are the types of narcissists?
Overt narcissism is sometimes called grandiose narcissism. It’s the form of narcissism most people are familiar with, involving arrogant, exploitative, selfish behaviors.
Covert narcissism, also known as vulnerable narcissism, involves taking on a victim role and using behaviors to compensate for low self-esteem or low confidence.
Experiencing a relationship with someone who lives with NPD can be challenging.
While people with narcissism aren’t devoid of emotions, their motivations may be self-focused. They can know they’re hurting your feelings, but as long as it elevates their status, they may not care.
Someone living with narcissism does cry. They can feel regret, remorse, and sadness. These emotions, however, don’t often have roots in empathy.