Can Narcissists Change?


25863412 - saber-toothed tiger isolated on whiteA frequent question in my counseling practice and from website subscribers is “Do narcissists and borderlines get better with age?” Another common question is, “What happens when they get old and are no longer attractive?” These are understandable questions.

People don’t grow out of personality disorders. If that was going to happen, it would’ve happened at the developmentally appropriate time — during childhood and adolescence. As for getting better with age, that depends upon how one defines better.

First, narcissists, borderlines, histrionics and psychopaths don’t get better without psychological treatment. Second, therapy doesn’t cure a personality disorder. The best you can hope for is that the disordered individual will take some accountability for their destructive and pathological behavior and manage the worst of it. Even then, therapy doesn’t guarantee that.

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  1. mick
    October 5, 2017 at 8:29 am

    My understanding is that the majority of people who fall into the personality disorder category don’t typically end up in therapy. My ex-wife did all she could to avoid it when our relationship started to crumble and i was still desperate to save it due to my own co-dependency issues. For me the stigma of therapy had been removed due to my exposure to alcoholism and recovery. The ex wanted no part of it, in fact, I had no idea who she was until after we were married and even then certain details were questionable. I simply couldnt tell if she was being honest about herself or manufacturing details and issues to manipulate me. She has since made sure I don’t see my children. While she is happy playing house with a new man and his child,

    • shrink4men
      October 5, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      That’s correct. The high functioning ones (better able to appear normal in public or when grooming victims) are often able to avoid or evade therapy. I’m sorry about the kids. That’s awful. Have you tried court, or did the courts enable her?

      There are more articles about these issues on the main website (this is the original blog) at http://www.shrink4men.com.

      • Mick
        October 5, 2017 at 3:37 pm

        Seeing the writing on the wall and knowing my own nature and still being quite vulnerable to her baiting i chose not to fight or participate in her attempts to get me into a forum that is notoriously partial towards women in a system that treats men and fathers as disposable and whose only real value lies in their financial ability. Family court system in Australia is severely broken and the government routinely replaces men as provider and father.

  2. Stephen
    October 4, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    My marriage lasted 32 1/2 years, but the crumbling of it started almost immediately, weeks after wee were married. Affection changed to tolerance, to distance, to separation in the same house, to outright hostility and blaming me for EVERYTHING over the course of time. Our daughter, who lives near my ex, tells me the ex has had one date since the divorce was final in 2013, and remains very “anti-men.”

    • shrink4men
      October 5, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      How are you and your daughter doing?

  3. mick
    October 4, 2017 at 3:23 am

    So would i be correct in concluding that people with these disorders just continue the same dance exhibiting the same behaviors no matter how many times they change partners? These days a successful marriage seems to be defined by the amount of time a couple manages to stay in that marriage/relationship. Do people with personality disorders exhibit less symptoms with a compatible personality disordered person or is the dynamic worsened. I am thinking that my ex partner was with her previous partner more than twice as long as we were together but i am thinking that is because he was an active alcoholic, who left the majority of responsibility of raising their children up to her rarely if ever offering a dissenting view or ever challenge her by saying no. Whereas I seemed to be always at odds because i was quick to voice my opinion or express myself when i disagreed.

    • mick
      October 5, 2017 at 11:40 am

      I havent been a relationship or dated since my divorce 7 years ago. Does that mean i have a personality disorder? Is dating or being in a relationship some kind of measure for mental health I am not aware of? On the other hand my ex wasted no time had a man waiting in the wings organized by her facebook friends. On the other hand i was so broken that I determined i needed time to heal and re-examine myself and my priorities. being single is also a valid lifestyle choice, especially after having had 2 attempts at marriage and children and family life.

      Clearly after some time one would have to ask the question “am I cut out for marriage or a similar commitment”? I don’t believe everyone is meant to be married, just like not everyone is meant to have children or attend university or be artists. Personality disordered or not finding fault with a person because they dont date or choose to be single is nonsense Stephen! I was pretty anti-women for a while after my experience. But that makes me a victim and I’m not! i had some responsibility in the relationship, I was there, i was involved and i chose those things freely, something in me and about me was attracted to and attracted by that type of personality. The only hope I have is working on myself.

  4. Michael Cohn Ph.D.
    October 3, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    You might want to also mention that the majority of mental health practitioners refuse to treat people with personality disorders, particularly borderlines, because as you (sort of) note, they don’t get better, and also because of the very real danger they pose to people trying to treat them in terms of false accusations, etc.

    • shrink4men
      October 5, 2017 at 3:27 am

      You’re correct and it’s been mentioned in other Shrink4Men articles.

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