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What Is Narcissistic Supply?

Marjorie McAtee
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Narcissistic supply is a term psychologists often use to refer to the notice that people with narcissistic personality disorder typically crave. People who suffer from narcissism generally have no inherent sense of self-worth, and so they rely on the attention of others to feel good about themselves. Many experts liken the narcissist's need for notice from others to a form of addiction. Many people who suffer from narcissism prefer their narcissistic supply to be derived from positive forms of notice, such as validation, love, or admiration, although negative forms of notice can also form such a person's narcissistic supply. Experts typically identify two main types of narcissistic supply: primary, which generally constitutes more publicly-oriented forms of notice, and secondary, which usually constitutes notice gained in the course of interpersonal relationships.

The notice a narcissist manages to receive, either publicly in the form of infamy or fame, or privately in the context of an interpersonal relationship, is typically said to constitute his narcissistic supply. The narcissist will generally go far out of his way to elicit the reactions of others. The narcissist will generally seek out a person or group capable of and willing to providing him a high level of attention. Psychologists usually refer to this group or person as the source of narcissistic supply.

Once the narcissist has found someone who can supply him with large amounts of attention, he will generally attempt to call that attention to himself in some way. While most people like to receive some amount of notice from others, the typical narcissist will seek as much notice as he can possibly get. Unlike a person with a healthy personality, the narcissist is believed to thrive just as well on condemnation, hatred, fear, anger, and confrontation as on more positive forms of attention. Those with healthy personalities, on the other hand, usually prefer to receive only positive forms of attention. In addition, those with healthy personalities will typically begin to feel somewhat uncomfortable if they begin to receive excessive amounts of approval.

The more others notice and pay attention to him, experts believe, the better the narcissist feels about himself. It does not usually matter if he is receiving praise or condemnation, as long as he is being noticed. The narcissistic person will usually attempt to generate the notice of others by presenting himself as far more talented, knowledgeable, witty, wealthy, smart, or important than he actually is.

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Marjorie McAtee
By Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Sep 11, 2013

I think the internet is becoming a valuable supply for narcissists. I've noticed that many forum participants online portray extremely high-self esteem, or actually arrogance. Sometimes I wonder if they're narcissists.

By donasmrs — On Sep 10, 2013

@SarahGen-- I'm not an expert, and I urge you to speak with a professional about this.

But I don't think that there is any general rule about what a narcissist will seek and what will make up his or her supply of attention.

The way I see it, any type of attention that encourages self-esteem and ego in a narcissist will be welcomed and this can change from person to person. Some people find hatred and anger to be satisfactory while others prefer attention in the form of admiration and love.

But like I said, the best person to answer your question is a psychiatrist.

By SarahGen — On Sep 10, 2013
Not all narcissists desire both positive and negative attention as part of their narcissistic supply, right?

I've been suspecting for a while now that my daughter might be a narcissist. She has most of the characteristics of one. But I don't think that she desires a lot of negative attention. I've noticed that she changes friends very frequently.

She meets people, gets very close to them and then all of the sudden, will stop liking them. It doesn't take her long to meet other people, but none of her friendships last.

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.
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