What Is Narcissistic Discard?

depressed man sitting in dark room

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What Is Narcissism?

Narcissism is characterized by beliefs of grandiosity and a constant need for attention and admiration.

“A narcissistic personality is someone who needs to feel better than other people. They want to be the most important person in the room, or at least accepted by the most important people in the room,” says Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of “Understanding Bipolar Disorder.”

While people often use the term “narcissist” casually to refer to people who are selfish and self-absorbed, narcissistic personality disorder is in fact a mental health condition. A 2012 study notes that this condition can make it difficult for people to maintain interpersonal relationships with family, colleagues, and other members of their community.

What Is Narcissistic Discard?

Narcissistic discard is when a person with narcissistic tendencies ends their relationship with you. It can often feel like you’ve been used and discarded.

It can be helpful to understand narcissistic discard in the context of a narcissistic relationship. These are the stages of narcissistic relationships, according to Dr. Daramus:

  • Appreciation: Narcissistic relationships often start off at a fervent pitch. The person will seem like someone special, and they’ll make you feel unique. Whether romantic, professional, or otherwise, the relationship will move fast.
  • Depreciation: Eventually, the person with narcissistic tendencies will start picking you apart and finding faults with you. They’ll set you against others by telling you why another person is better than you; meanwhile, they’ll be praising you to make someone else feel small. They’ll gaslight you, by distorting your sense of reality and blaming you for the distress it causes you.
  • Repetition: You’ll find yourself feeling confused, anxious, depressed, and scrambling to be good enough. If you try to pull away, they'll react with hurt and rage, but then the cycle of appreciation and depreciation will start again.
  • Discard: They will use you for personal gain and when you’re no longer of use to them, they will discard you. 

Reasons for Narcissistic Discard

According to a 2017 study, people with narcissistic personality disorder often have trouble maintaining long-term relationships. They tend to use people to prop up their sense of self, often due to a deficiency of parental affection in childhood. They think of others as objects to discard when they’re no longer useful.

Dr. Daramus lists some reasons why a person with narcissistic tendencies might discard you:

  • You were too difficult for them to control
  • You were easily manipulated by them, causing them to look down upon you
  • You no longer fuel their ego, so they’ve moved on to someone else who can supply what they need
  • You may not be able to help them any further with their life goals, so they’ve found someone who can
  • They feel that they can “level up” and move on to someone “better,” in some dysfunctional way

Mental Health Impact of Narcissistic Discard

Below, Dr. Daramus unpacks the impact of being discarded on your mental health, as well as on your partner who has narcissistic tendencies.

Impact on Your Mental Health

People with narcissistic tendencies make you emotionally dependent on them. They try to define you rather than letting you define yourself.

Aimee Daramus, PsyD

Being discarded by a narcissistic personality is traumatic. Your brain’s trauma response is activated because you’ve lost the person defining your identity and your worth.

— Aimee Daramus, PsyD

Additionally, people with narcissistic tendencies try to make others financially or professionally dependent on them as well, so you may also experience financial losses or professional setbacks.

While the entire process can be traumatic, you may be better off in the long run. Remaining in the relationship can cost you your identity and self-worth, as you’ll have to focus your life around satisfying them.

Impact on the Person With Narcissistic Tendencies

People with narcissistic tendencies typically don’t let go of their source of attention and admiration unless they’ve secured a new one. If they lose something important to their self-image by discarding you, they’ll feel the loss and come back.

However, even if they move on to a new source of attention, they may not want to lose control of you. They may not want to see you move on and become unavailable or they may still want to use you to manipulate other people.

Coping With Narcissistic Discard

Dr. Daramus suggests some strategies that can help you cope with being discarded by a narcissist:

  • Try to remember who you were and what you wanted before this relationship. Instead of subverting your needs, start paying attention to them and expressing them.
  • Learn or re-learn how healthy relationships develop, which is often more slowly and with less fire and drama than narcissistic relationships.
  • Surround yourself with genuinely supportive people. Relationships with people who have narcissistic tendencies can leave you feeling isolated and questioning your reality. Spending time with people who genuinely care about your well-being can help you incorporate healthier perspectives and regain your sense of equilibrium.
  • Consider learning emotional regulation techniques to help you manage the pain of the separation.
  • Reflect on the factors that attracted you to a relationship with this person in the first place. You may be surprised to find that they resemble a figure in your childhood, such as a parent, who was unavailable to you.

A Word From Verywell

Being in a relationship—either romantic, professional, or otherwise—with someone who has narcissistic tendencies can cause you to subvert your reality and your needs. Being discarded by them can be traumatic because you’ve lost the person who defines your identity and self-worth

While it can be a devastating loss, there are steps you can take to cope and heal. In the long run, you may be better off with healthier, mutually supportive relationships.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Library of Medicine. Narcissistic personality disorder. Medline Plus.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Narcissistic personality disorder.

  3. Roark SV. Narcissistic personality disorder: effect on relationships. Ala Nurse. 2012;39(4):12-13.

  4. Wurst SN, Gerlach TM, Dufner M, et al. Narcissism and romantic relationships: The differential impact of narcissistic admiration and rivalry. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2017;112(2):280-306. doi:10.1037/pspp0000113

  5. Gildersleeve M. Demystifying paradoxical characteristics of narcissistic personality disorder. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(4):403-404. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.108236

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.