Narcissism in the Runaway Husband

Exploring clinical Narcissistic Personality Disorder and narcissistic traits in the Runaway Husband.

The topic of narcissism is a trend in the growing community of abuse awareness and survivors. As more people speak up about the treatment they have experienced from an abuser, the more light gets shined on the abuser’s abnormal patterns. Classic traits that are disused is; lack of empathy, lack of self awareness, lack of guilt, and an “all about me” attitude.

If you have experienced Sudden Wife Abandonment, you may be thinking that your spouse fits this description. After hearing many stories, I can say that some do, and some don’t. This doesn’t make the trauma any more or less worse. When a loving spouse walks away from a seemingly happy marriage- the tables turn and their personality often takes a sharp turn downward.

After abandonment, some wives realize that their husband had always been an abuser, with covert, hidden abuse tactics that have been used to control them throughout the marriage. But often women cite that their husband was compassionate and empathetic prior to the abandonment– and that the personality flipped after this event. This is where I would draw the line between “clinical narcissism,” a pervasive lifelong personality disorder, and having “narcissistic traits,” where someone meets many -but not the full– criteria.

Now let’s dive into the clinical criteria. Below is a clip from the 5th edition (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5), from the American Psychiatric Association.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), otherwise known as clinical narcissism, is a personality disorder from the “Cluster-B” category. Cluster-B personality disorders consist of “dramatic, emotional, or erratic” behaviors. NPD is present in approximately 5.1-10.1% of the clinical population*, and is slightly more common among men than women (Torgersen, 2012).

DSM-5 Criteria Summary for Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
4. Requests excessive admiration
5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e. unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations)
6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own needs)
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and need of others
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.

*Additional notes: Only a qualified professional can interpret and diagnose disorders in an individual. This is meant for a reference to all who have suffered and are looking for help or support. When assessing the presence of a disorder in an individual, multiple factors are looked at extensively, many of which are not listed here.

Clinical NPD vs Narcissistic Traits in Runaway Husbands

A defining difference between NPD and “traits” is when the behaviors began and how deeply rooted it is. NPD is lifelong, and can impact many areas of life, and who’s symptoms cannot be explained by another mental illness Traits of narcissism are found among a variety of different disorders that may also impact empathy, self-esteem, a need for admiration, and periods of arrogance.

In recovery from trauma and abuse, it is not relevant if the abuser meets criteria for a personality disorder. A trauma is not measured by what the abuser was going through, but by what the victim has experienced.

Overlapping Symptoms with Other Factors

Major Depression
(More Here)
A type of depression that causes depressive episodes that can last days or years. Depression can suppress emotions, and in men it can appear as extreme irritability, selfishness and inability to love.
(More Here)
A pattern of extreme dependence on others for their own self-esteem, validation, worth and identity. Narcissistic people, by default, display patterns of codependency- but not all codependents have NPD.
Childhood Trauma/ Avoidant Attachment
(More Here)
Enmeshment within families is visible when there are poor boundaries, and family members view others as extensions of themselves. Children in these families may develop a “need to flee” fear response to conflict, and grow up to be conflict avoidant, passive & detached adults.
Addiction Addiction can override feelings of love, by associating other stimulating behaviors with a stronger, short-lived chemical high. The addict brain may do anything possible to keep this high, and will often display NPD symptoms for the duration.
Types of addictions: Spending, gambling, sex, alcohol, drug, video gaming, technology etc.
Bipolar Disorder This is a disorder where there are periods of mania- a hormone-rushed state- followed by depressive episodes. Both manic and depressive episodes can cause similar symptoms to NPD (i.e., inflated ego & emotional numbness).
Avoidant Personality Disorder A personality disorder, from the “Cluster-C” group, that includes anxious and fearful behaviors. People with this disorder may be extremely sensitive to criticism, fear of rejection, and due to this, friendships are limited and they may be emotionally dependent on the few they are comfortable with. 21.5-24.6% of clinical population* (Torgersen, 2012).


  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
  • Torgerson, S. (2012). Epidemiology. In T.A. Widiger (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of personality disorders (pp. 1862205). New York: Oxford University Press
  • *Clinical Populations are found from people actively seeking psychological treatment, such as therapy, psychiatry, and in-patient settings. The numbers are lower when compared to the total population.

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