Narcissists are more likely to be AGGRESSIVE: People with an overblown sense of self-importance have ‘thin skins’ and tend to lash out more often, study finds

  • Aggression and violence is more common in narcissists, researchers have found
  • Their ‘thin skins’ can cause them to ‘lash out if they feel ignored or disrespected’
  • Analysis also showed narcissism was linked to bullying, both online and offline
  • Researchers analysed data in 437 independent studies from around the world 

Narcissists are more likely to be aggressive and violent because their ‘thin skins’ cause them to lash out if they feel disrespected, a study has found.

They are also more likely to be ‘cold, deliberate and proactive’ in their aggression, researchers say, and ‘not particularly picky when it comes to how they attack others’.

The analysis showed narcissism was linked to bullying, both online and offline. 

‘That’s a highly important finding now that we live in an online world,’ said Sophie Kjaervik, a graduate student at Ohio State University who led the study. 

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Researchers at Ohio State University found that narcissists are more likely to be aggressive and violent because their ‘thin skins’ cause them to lash out if they feel disrespected (stock)


Narcissism is characterised by grandiosity, pride, egotism and a lack of empathy. 

Symptoms include an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism and a sense of entitlement.

Extreme narcissism can cross over into a mental illness called narcissistic personality disorder, found more commonly in men. 

The cause is unknown but likely involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors. 

Researchers analysed data from 437 independent studies from around the world and found the link between narcissism and aggression was similar regardless of gender, age or country of residence. 

‘It is a pretty straightforward message: Narcissism is a significant risk factor for aggressive and violent behaviour across the board,’ said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study.

Narcissism is characterised by an overblown sense of self-importance, he added, with entitlement the key component. 

Narcissism also has two peripheral components: grandiose (those with high self-esteem) and vulnerable (those with low self-esteem). The study found all of these components were linked to aggression. 

‘The link we found between narcissism and aggression was significant – it was not trivial in size,’ Kjaervik said. ‘The findings have important real-world implications.’ 

To have an impact, narcissism does not have to be at levels so high as to be pathological, researchers found, with narcissism within what is considered a normal range also linked to aggression. 

Meanwhile, the study discovered the link between narcissism and violence was nearly as strong as its link with less serious forms of aggression.

The analysis is consistent with research suggesting that narcissism might be a risk factor for extremely violent acts such as mass shootings, Bushman said. 

Narcissists were more likely than others to be aggressive whether they were provoked or not, the study found, but the risk for aggression was significantly higher when they felt provoked, such as being ignored or insulted.

‘Our results suggest provocation is a key moderator of the link between narcissism and aggression,’ Bushman said.

‘Those who are high in narcissism have thin skins, and they will lash out if they feel ignored or disrespected.’

The study has been published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.


Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) falls on a spectrum: you can score high, low or anywhere in between on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.

Unlike being pregnant, you can be just a little bit narcissistic.

There are nine official criteria – but you only need to meet five to clinically qualify as a narcissist. These are:

An exaggerated sense of self-importance. People with NPD often wildly exaggerate their achievements and talents.

A sense of entitlement. They insist on having the best of everything, expect special favours and are indignant if anyone dares to question why.

A need for constant, excessive admiration. Narcissists expect to be recognised as superior, often without any achievements of qualifications to warrant it. They can’t handle criticism and become angry when they don’t get the attention they think they deserve.

Preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance and the perfect mate. They’re often depressed or moody because they fall short of perfection. This can lead to problems with drugs or alcohol.

A belief that they are superior, special and unique and should only associate with equally special people. They belittle people they consider inferior.

Interpersonal exploitative behaviour. They take advantage of others to get what they want.

A lack of empathy. They are incapable and unwilling to recognise the needs and feelings of others.

Envious of others or believe others are envious of them. They’re constantly measuring themselves against others to see if they come out on top.

Arrogant and haughty behaviour. Narcissists come across as conceited, boastful and pretentious.

The hidden truth. Secretly, narcissists feel insecure, shameful, vulnerable and often humiliated. This can mean suicidal thoughts or behaviour. It most certainly means they have relationship difficulties with everyone.

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