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Narcissist as Adrenaline Junkie

Uploaded 9/3/2010, approx. 4 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Narcissistic supply, admiration, julation, and in general attention is exciting. When narcissistic supply is available, the narcissist feels elated, omnipotent, omniscient, handsome, sexy, adventurous, invisible and irresistible.

When, on the other hand, narcissistic supply is missing or deficient, the narcissist first enters a manic phase of trying to replenish his supply. If he fails, the narcissist shrivels, is deflated, withdraws, and is reduced to a zombie-like state of numbness.

Some people and all narcissists are addicted to excitement, to the adrenaline rush, to the danger that inevitably and invariably accompanies reckless behaviors. They are the adrenaline junkies. All narcissists are adrenaline junkies, but not all adrenaline junkies are narcissists.

Narcissistic supply is the narcissist's particular sort of thrill, his drug of choice.

Deficient narcissistic supply is the same as absence of excitement and thrills in non-narcissistic adrenaline junkies.


Originally in early childhood, narcissistic supply was meant to hurt the narcissist, regulate his volatile sense of self-worth and self-esteem.

But narcissistic supply, regardless of its psychodynamic functions, also simply feels good. The narcissist grows addicted to the gratifying effects of narcissistic supply. He reacts with anxiety when constant, reliable provision is absent or threatened.

Narcissistic supply is pleasurable.

Thus, narcissistic supply always comes with excitement on the one hand and with anxiety on the other hand.

Excitement, because it's pleasurable, anxiety, lest it be withdrawn. Narcissist is afraid that he won't be able to secure narcissistic supply in the future and is therefore constantly anxious.

When unable to secure normal narcissistic supply, adulation, recognition, fame, celebrity, notoriety, infamy, affirmation or mere attention, the narcissist resorts to abnormal narcissistic supply. He tries to obtain his drug, the thrills, the good feeling that comes with narcissistic supply by behaving recklessly, by succumbing to substance abuse or by living dangerously.

Such narcissists faced with a chronic state of deficient narcissistic supply become criminals or race car drivers or gamblers or soldiers or investigative journalists or police officers. They defy authority. They avoid safety routine in boredom. No safe sex, no financial prudence, no stable marriage or career. They become peripatetic, they change jobs or lovers or vocations or avocations or residences or friendships, anything to generate excitement in their lives.

But sometimes even these extreme and demonstrative steps are not enough. When confronted with a boring routine existence with a chronic and permanent inability to secure narcissistic supply and with a pronounced lack of excitement, these narcissists compensate by inventing thrills where they are known.

So they become paranoid, full of delusional persecutory notions and ideas of reference and conspiracies. They develop phobias, fear of flying, fear of heights, fear of enclosed open spaces of cats or spiders. Fear is a good substitute to the excitement they saw crave and that constantly lose them.

Anxiety leads to the frenetic search for narcissistic supply. Obtaining the supply causes a general or transient sense of well-being, relief and release as the anxiety is abated and alleviated.

This cycle is addictive.

Anxiety, heightened anxiety, manic search for narcissistic supply, finding narcissistic supply, reduced anxiety, anxiety, relief, sense of well-being.

But what generates anxiety in the first place? Are people born adrenaline junkies or do they become ones?

No one knows for sure. It may be genetically determined. We may discover one day that adrenaline junkies conditioned by defective genes develop special neural and biochemical paths and unusual sensitivity to adrenaline. Or it may indeed be the said outcome of abuse and trauma during the formative years as is the current thinking.

The brain is plastic, easily influenced by recurrent bouts of capricious and malicious treatment.

Bear this in mind, we can also say that the prognosis for this particular behavior in narcissism, reckless behavior, adrenaline seeking, thrill seeking, prognosis is pretty good.

Since the brain is plastic, these processes are reversible.

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Old-age Narcissist

Narcissists age without grace, unable to accept their fallibility and mortality. They suffer from mental progeria, aging prematurely and finding themselves in a time warp. The longer they live, the more average they become, and the wider the gulf between their pretensions and accomplishments. Few narcissists save for rainy days, and those who succeed in their vocation end up bitterly alone, having squandered the love of family, offspring, and mates.


Narcissist: Drama Queen in Pathological Narcissistic Space

Narcissists have a deep-seated need for excitement and drama to alleviate their boredom and melancholy. They create an imaginary environment called the pathological narcissistic space, where they seek admiration, adoration, approval, applause, or attention. Narcissistic supply substitutes for having a real vocation or avocation and actual achievements. The narcissist's two mechanisms of establishing a morphological narcissistic space and the urge to move continuously are completely incompatible, leading to the narcissistic condition.


Raging Narcissist: Merely Pissed-off?

Narcissistic rage is a phenomenon that occurs when a narcissist is frustrated in their pursuit of narcissistic supply, causing narcissistic injury. The narcissist then projects a bad object onto the source of their frustration and rages against a perceived evil entity that has injured and frustrated them. Narcissistic rage is not the same as normal anger and has two forms: explosive and pernicious or passive-aggressive. People with personality disorders are in a constant state of anger, which is effectively suppressed most of the time, and they are afraid to show that they are angry to meaningful others because they are afraid to lose them.


Narcissist's Routines

Narcissists have a series of routines that are developed through rote learning and repetitive patterns of experience. These routines are used to reduce anxiety and transform the world into a manageable and controllable one. The narcissist is a creature of habit and finds change unsettling. The narcissist's routines are often broken down when they are breached or can no longer be defended, leading to a narcissistic injury.


Narcissist's Pathological Space: His Kingdom

The pathological narcissistic space is a geographical area, group of people, or an abstract field of knowledge in which the narcissistic pathology reaches its full expression and effectiveness. It is a territorially expanded false self that is achieved via sources of narcissistic supply. The existence of the pathological narcissistic space is independent of the existence of sources of narcissistic supply. The pathological narcissistic space constantly consumes and drains narcissistic supply, and it generates negative narcissistic accumulation.


Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

Narcissists go through cycles of mania and depression, which are caused by external events or circumstances known as triggers. The cycles are different from manic depressive cycles in bipolar disorder, which are endogenous. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply and seeks admiration, adoration, approval, attention, and so on. The narcissist goes through ups and downs, including a depressive phase, a hibernation phase, and a manic phase, which are all part of the process of obtaining and securing narcissistic supply.


Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury

Narcissistic injury is any threat to the narcissist's grandiose self-perception, and the narcissist actively solicits narcissistic supply to regulate and sustain their ego. The narcissist is caught between their habit and frustration, leading to disproportionate reactions to perceived insults. Narcissistic rage has two forms: explosive and passive-aggressive. The narcissist's aggression is directed outside and inside themselves, and they often become vindictive and harass those they perceive as sources of their frustration.


Zombie Narcissist: Deficient Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists are constantly seeking praise, adoration, admiration, approval, applause, attention, and other forms of narcissistic supply. When they fail to obtain sufficient supply, they react much like a drug addict would. They become dysphoric, depressed, and may resort to alternative addictions. In extreme cases of deprivation, they may even entertain suicidal thoughts. Narcissists also have a sense of magical thinking, believing that they will always prevail and that good things will always happen to them, rendering them fearless and cloaked in divine and cosmic immunity.


Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissists are anxious for social approval and seek narcissistic supply compulsively, which creates attendant anxiety. They require external feedback to regulate their sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem, making them irritable. Narcissists are terrified of being embarrassed or criticized in public, and they fail to function well in various settings. It is easy to mistake the presenting symptoms of certain anxiety disorders with pathological narcissism, but the narcissist is egosyntonic, while the anxious patient is distressed and looking for help.


Depressive Narcissist

Pathological narcissism is often considered a form of depressive illness, with the life of a typical narcissist punctuated with recurrent bouts of dysphoria, sadness, hopelessness, anhedonia, loss of the ability to feel pleasure, and clinical forms of depression. Narcissists react with depression not only to life crises but to fluctuations in narcissistic supply and to the internal dynamics that these fluctuations generate. There are several types of dysphoria and depression in pathological narcissism, including loss-induced dysphoria, deficiency-induced dysphoria, self-worth dysregulation dysphoria, grandiosity gap dysphoria, and self-punishing dysphoria. Many narcissists end up delusional, schizoid, or paranoid to avoid agonizing and knowing depression.

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