Narcissistic supply
Narcissistic supply is a concept in some psychoanalytic theories which describes a type of admiration, interpersonal support or sustenance drawn by an individual from his or her environment (especially from carers, codependents and others).

Fenichel, Simmel, and "narcissistic need"

The term "narcissistic supply" was used by psychoanalyst Otto Fenichel
Otto Fenichel
Otto Fenichel was a psychoanalyst of the so-called "second generation".Otto Fenichel started studying medicine in 1915 in Vienna. Already as a very young man, when still in school, he was attracted by the circle of psychoanalysts around Freud...

 in 1938 in describing the way in which a narcissistic
Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait...

 individual "requires a 'narcissistic supply' from the environment in the same way as the infant requires an external supply of food". Building on Freud's concept of "narcissistic satisfaction" and on psychoanalyst Karl Abraham's
Karl Abraham
-Further reading:* Freud, S. . Mourning and Melancholia. Standard Edition, 14, 305-307.* May-Tolzmann, U. . The Discovery of the Bad Mother: Abraham’s contribution to the theory of Depression...

 work in "Short Study of the Development of the Libido", Fenichel highlighted the "narcissistic need" in early development. He noted that "it has been stated repeatedly that small children need some kind of narcissistic supplies for maintaining their equilibrium".

Along with Abraham and psychoanalyst Sándor Radó, Fenichel saw "loss of essential narcissistic supplies" as a key factor in an individual's predisposition to depression: "after disappointments of this type the child asks for subsequent compensating external narcissistic supplies throughout his life". Fenichel considered impulse neuroses (including addictions) similarly as products of "the conflicts around getting the 'supplies'". Additionally, he noted that for "'love addicts' [...] necessary narcissistic supplies may be striven for in different ways". One way is to influence their object "by every magical means [...] to behave so as to admit of the identification that the subject needs as a narcissistic supply".

Psychoanalyst Ernst Simmel (1920) considered that the gambling
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

 neurosis 'derived from attempts to obtain, through the mechanism of reverting to earlier infantile ways of conduct, the "narcissistic supplies" - i.e. food, love, comfort and attention - which were believed by the gambler to have been denied him'. Fenichel in turn highlighted 'the intensity', for the gambler, 'of the conflicts around getting the "supplies"...necessary reassurances regarding anxiety or guilt feelings'.

Personality disorders

The term narcissistic supply was employed by psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg as part of his description of what he called the malignant narcissist
Malignant Narcissism
Malignant narcissism has been described as "an extreme form of antisocial personality disorder that is manifest in a person who is pathologically grandiose, lacking in conscience and behavioral regulation, and with characteristic demonstrations of joyful cruelty and sadism".Malignant narcissism is...

. Kernberg referred to the coldness in a such narcissist's relationships as the "tendency to disregard others except in temporary idealization of narcissistic supply" and he suggested that this was a feature which distinguished pathological from normal narcissism. Psychoanalyst and self-psychologist
Self psychology
Self Psychology is a school of psychoanalytic theory and therapy created by Heinz Kohut and developed in the United States at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. Self psychology explains psychopathology as being the result of disrupted or unmet developmental needs...

 Heinz Kohut
Heinz Kohut
Heinz Kohut was an Austrian-born American psychoanalyst best known for his development of Self psychology, an influential school of thought within psychodynamic/psychoanalytic theory which helped transform the modern practice of analytic and dynamic treatment approaches.-Early life:Kohut was born...

 spoke of how, in "a person with a narcissistic personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder in which the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity...

...some kind of a fragmentation...occurs when there are no narcissistic supplies, no narcissistic sustenance or praise or approval".

Narcissistic suppliers

Those who are providers of narcissistic supply may find themselves being treated as if they are a part of the narcissist. "In the mind of a narcissist, there is no boundary
Personal boundaries
Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him- or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits.'Personal boundaries define...

 between self and other."

See also

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