Does a Narcissist Suffer Emotional Distress Because of the NPD?

There is plenty of talk about the cruel nature of a narcissist. My David (Narcissist #2) tried to get me deported when he was done with me, and then arrested, and then to commit suicide, and then he threatened to kill me himself, and then arrested again, and then he asked his army buddies to beat me up! Lucky for me, neither the police nor his buddies would comply with his violent requests. Narcissists are total bastards when they are in the Devalue & Discard Phases, which leaves the victims wondering if the narcissist has any understanding of how evil his (or her) treatment of others is.

The question is: Does a narcissist comprehend that he is different from other people and that this difference is a lack and not a blessing?

In other words, does a narcissist understand that he is damaged and sick? Does he know how messed up he is? (or she)

There are two main camps about this issue, but I am adding a third.


Camp Aleph:

  • The narcissist knows he is a defective human being.
  • This causes him psychological pain.
  • He overcompensates by behaving as if he were superior to everyone else.

Camp Aleph: quote from “the sociopath next door” by Dr. Martha Stout. On page 127, she writes:

As a counterpoint to sociopathy, the condition of narcissism is particularly interesting and instructive. Narcissism is, in a metaphorical sense, one half of what sociopathy is. Even clinical narcissists are able to feel most emotions as strongly as anyone else does, from guilt and sadness to desperate love and passion. The half that is missing is the crucial ability to understand what other people are feeling. Narcissism is a failure not of conscience but of empathy, which is the capacity to perceive emotions in others and so react to them appropriately. The poor narcissist cannot see past his own nose, emotionally speaking, and as with the Pillsbury Doughboy, any input from the outside will spring back as if nothing has happened. Unlike sociopaths, narcissists are often in psychological pain, and may sometimes seek psychotherapy. When a narcissist looks for help, one of the underlying issues is usually that, unbeknownst to him, he is alienating his relationships on account of his lack of empathy with others, and is feeling confused, abandoned, and lonely. He misses the people he loves, and is ill-equipped to get them back. Sociopaths, in contrast, do not care about other people, and so do not miss them when they are alienated or gone, except as one might regret the absence of a useful appliance that one had somehow lost.”


Camp Bet: The narcissist is oblivious to his sickness and he enjoys the freedom to abuse others that comes from a lack of empathy (i.e. their suffering at his hands does not affect him).

Camp Bet: I refer you to the DSM-5: Antisocial Personality Disorder. © 2012 American Psychiatric Association. All Rights Reserved.

• Lack of concern for feelings, needs, or suffering of others.
• Lack of remorse after hurting or mistreating another.
• Incapacity for mutually intimate relationships, as exploitation is a primary means of relating to others.
• Use of dominance or intimidation to control others.
Callousness: Lack of concern for feelings or problems of others; lack of guilt or remorse about the negative or harmful effects of one’s actions on others; aggression; sadism.

Damn! The DSM-5 even uses the word “sadism” to describe a narcissist.

sadism noun ˈsā-ˌdi-zəm
: enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain; especially : sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone

If you were to poll 100 victims who managed to survive a relationship with a narcissist, I wager 98% of them would state that, in their opinion:

  1. The narcissist is evil.
  2. The narcissist enjoys hurting others.
  3. The narcissist can never be cured or rehabilitated.


Camp Gimmel: Something in the middle. Some narcissists understand they are sick and some do not understand at all.

Narcissist #1, Driftwood, would sooner die than admit that he was sick and lonely. He refused to take his medication and he refused psychotherapy.

Narcissist #2, David, lives most every minute of his life in psychological pain, and he does feel alienated, abandoned, and confused.

Narcissist #3, my female roommate, she felt alienated and alone, but blamed the rest of the world for not recognizing her specialness.

My David used to refer to himself as: “The World’s Most Unattainable Man”. I told him time and time again that I did not understand what he meant by that and I asked him to explain. But he never would. That particular narcissist knew that there was some sort of wall between him and normal human beings. David understood that he did not feel emotional attachments like normal people do, and certainly not like I do, someone who feels supra-normal emotional attachments (i.e. psychic connections).

David did clearly feel emotional suffering because his disease (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)  kept him from forming emotional bonds with other human beings. David understood that he was damaged and he felt lonely and afraid. Therefore, I am placing myself in Camp Gimmel. Some narcissists are aware that they do not form emotional bonds like normal people do and it causes them emotional pain, while other narcissists are totally oblivious, complete bastards who enjoy inflicting pain on others.



  1. Some psychiatrists take the position that Narcissists do suffer emotional pain because of their disease.
  2. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, takes the position that they do not suffer.
  3. A Narcissist will not comply with psychiatrist treatment if he or she is unwilling to admit that anything is wrong with them.
  4. A Narcissist who seeks treatment must, therefore, have some degree of discomfort.
  5. Every human being (and every human brain) is unique.

Maybe some narcissists suffer and some narcissists don’t suffer?

The debate continues…

“Does a Narcissist Suffer Emotional Distress Because of the NPD?” is copyright © 2014 by Poorkitteh. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

18 thoughts on “Does a Narcissist Suffer Emotional Distress Because of the NPD?

  1. lifegoeson14 says:

    Reblogged this on learning lifes lessons everyday and commented:
    I beleive that they do suffer with emotional pain and realise that they are different .mine definatly is scared of having feelings and lives in a constant state of fear, paranoia ,anxiety ,depression and thinks that noone can be trusted .i would hate to live in his mind and i beleive he wants to be happy and wants to be loved and wanted but just has so much trouble dealing with real feelings and would rather put walls up .i actually beleive i have made him face some of his fears and maybe just maybe he can change only time will tell i want to beleive it is not impossible although it is very rare ….

  2. Interesting and thought-provoking post!
    I think the point which you made that people’s opinions of what narcissists feel or don’t feel often stems from their own feelings is very pertinent. We tend to be subjective in our views of others, and being objective can be a challenge when perceiving others, especially when it is very personal, we are in pain and we see them as being the cause of our pain.

    I think we try to simplify NPD because we are trying to clear our internal confusion, figure things out in a way which solves our cognitive dissonance, heals our pain, and so we want things to be black or white. For our own sake.

    The gulf between the honeymoon phase of a relationship with a narcissist and the subsequent hellish phases can be too much to deal with for the logical mind. The narcissist who was once a hero becomes a villain, and our minds have to deal with our own issues about how we once perceived them and how we now perceive them. It’s so complicated that we often opt for a more simplistic version so that we don’t get hopelessly lost in confusion.

    I also think it is important to remember that narcissists also think they are victims of narcissists (and don’t think they are the narcissist) and weigh in on the issue. They tend to be very black or white in their thinking – if they are the victim that means they are all good therefore the person they perceive as being their victimiser must be all bad, ‘evil’. So if a narcissist is discussing NPD, their view of it is going to be that all narcissists are sociopaths (NPD and ASPD will be the same thing to them), and they aren’t going to consider the grey areas. Camp Gimmel will not be something they see as viable at all.

    The fact that you have suffered at the hands of narcissists and yet are still able to show great empathy and objectivity towards those who have hurt you, says a lot about you and who you are. I admire your approach and your desire to understand. You show a great deal of what is now known as ‘personal intelligence’. A term coined by a psychologist (I’m adding a link to one of their articles, feel free to edit this comment and remove the link, etc) –

    This post touches on many of my own internal and external discussions about the matter. Excellent debatign skills!

    Thank you very much for sharing!

    • Rivka says:

      1. True. After a narcissist hurt me, I thought of him as pure evil – but that reactive pain passed.
      2. True. One of the hallmarks of NPD is black-or-white thinking. They probably couldn’t even follow this debate?

      To me, one reason the debate is important is because the only acceptable way to deal with a narcissist is 100% NO CONTACT (or controlled and limited contact if you share children).
      If they are oblivious to their disease, then I agree that No Contact is the healthiest and safest solution.
      But if they are “higher functioning”, then what?

      • They could follow this debate, in fact it would be of interest to them because they are always interested in hot topics, only the way they would do it would be different from how you and I do it. Narcissists are very keen to absorb information, in some ways they are better listeners than non-narcissists because they are motivated by a need to know what the prevailing societal thought is on a subject which pertains to their agenda – making themselves the perfect person and creating the ideal persona.

        Narcissists will absorb what you say if it is useful to them, then they will make it theirs. They are consummate plagiarists. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or experienced this, it can be quite subtle and easy to miss because we’re not looking for it, we don’t look for it because most people don’t do this… but narcissists do. If you say something which they consider to be clever, intelligent, important, they make it their own, and they will think it came from their own mind, so don’t bother confronting them about plagiarism as they will accuse you of what they are doing. Because in their version of reality, they’re the good guy and others are the bad guys.

        I’m not really sure what you mean by a ‘higher functioning’ narcissist. Do you mean a narcissist who is more like a sociopath? As in more aware of their behaviour? Like Sam Vaknin? A cerebral and overt narcissist as opposed to a covert narcissist?

        No Contact is the healthiest tactic for us when dealing with all narcissists, if NC is possible. Otherwise the next best thing, at least in my experience, is detachment – as in don’t bring your emotions to the dynamic when interacting with a narcissist. Which can be difficult as they often try to bait us into reacting emotionally, they need that from us because it serves a purpose for them.

    • Rivka says:

      Thanks for the interesting link. I never heard of Personal Intelligence before. I think I can use it in a post, and btw, I’m a double Scorpio with Cancer moon (:

  3. It would make sense that not all narcissists are alike and that there are many camps.

    • Rivka says:

      It’s probably rude of me to put you on the spot, but what do YOU think? Are they oblivious to their evil behavior or do they suffer because of their lack of emotional bonding? Or is there another point of view? We are just speculating here, not solving World Hunger (unfortunately).

      • I think they know they are hurting people, at least the ones I know and it gives them a sense of power,
        as if they are a a puppetmaster controlling a puppet. They become addicted to this power they become addicted this power and that combined with a refusal to see their personal shortcomings or accept responsibility leads to sociopathic behavior. That’s what I think, it was hard to accept because we are always looking at them like poor little wounded puppies when in fact the malignant narcissists I know would be the type that mutilates puppies. And THAT is what I think.

        • Rivka says:

          I agree with you. I definitely saw first hand the exact personality traits you just described so well. Yet, sometimes I think I see a glimmer of humanity in their eyes. Maybe it is projection or wishful thinking on my part. I don’t know. Thank you so much for sharing your two cents. I like what you have to say and I think you are wise.