The Narcissistic Love Bombing Cycle


Narcissism, a term rooted in the Greek myth of Narcissus, is a personality disorder marked by an exaggerated sense of self-worth, an intense need for unwarranted attention and adulation, coupled with a conspicuous absence of empathy towards others. 

Love bombing, on the other hand, is a manipulative tactic often used by narcissists where they bombard their target with excessive affection, compliments, and grand gestures early in a relationship to win over their trust and affection. 

The narcissistic love bombing cycle typically involves three stages: idealization, devaluation, and discard. During the idealization phase, the narcissist showers their target with love and attention, only to shift to devaluation where they begin to criticize and belittle the person.

Ultimately, in the discard phase, the narcissist abruptly ends the relationship leaving the victim feeling confused and devastated. Understanding this cycle is crucial for recognizing and protecting oneself from such toxic relationships. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Therapists in Colorado

Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Shannon Matlock, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021

Get Matched to the Right Provider

Complete this questionnaire to discover service providers that match your requirements! No need to provide contact information.

Get Matched

Phase 1: Idealization

The initial phase of the narcissistic love bombing cycle is the 'Idealization' stage, where the target is placed on a pedestal. 

The narcissist showers their target with praise, affection, and attention that can feel incredibly flattering and intense. 

The narcissist may present themselves as the perfect partner, mirroring the target's desires and dreams to create a deep bond. 

They may go out of their way to show their devotion, making grand gestures of love and commitment. This stage is characterized by an overwhelming sense of being valued and loved.

The tactics used by the narcissist in this phase are often very manipulative. They can include excessive compliments, lavish gifts, and extravagant promises about the future. 

These actions are not genuine expressions of love, but rather strategic moves designed to make the target feel special and dependent on the narcissist's affections.

This phase serves to hook the target emotionally, making it difficult for them to recognize the narcissist's true intentions or to extricate themselves from the relationship once the more damaging behaviors begin. 

Phase 2: Devaluation

Following the intense adoration of the idealization phase, the narcissist enters the 'Devaluation' stage. This is when the narcissist's behavior drastically changes, often leaving their partner feeling confused and distressed. 

The narcissist begins to devalue their target, criticizing them for the very things they once admired. They may become cold, distant, and unresponsive, or they might switch between being kind and being cruel.

This erratic behavior is intended to destabilize the target and make them question their worth and sanity.

The tactics used in this phase are particularly damaging. Narcissists commonly employ gaslighting, a form of psychological manipulation in which they deny or distort reality to make their target doubt their perceptions and memories. 

They may also engage in projection, accusing their target of the very behaviors or motivations that they are guilty of. 

These tactics serve to further confuse and control the target, keeping them hooked in the relationship despite the growing emotional abuse. 

The devaluation phase can be a deeply traumatic experience, as the target struggles to reconcile the narcissist's current behavior with the loving persona they presented in the idealization phase. 

Phase 3: Discard

The final stage in the narcissistic love bombing cycle is 'Discard'. Once the narcissist feels they have sufficiently manipulated and controlled their target, they may decide to abruptly discard them. 

This can be as sudden and shocking as the initial idealization, leaving the target feeling abandoned and betrayed. The narcissist may end the relationship without explanation or empathy, moving on to their next target with seemingly little regard for the emotional devastation they leave behind.

In some cases, the narcissist may not physically leave, but rather emotionally withdraw, treating the target as if they are worthless or invisible.

The emotional impact of the discard phase on the target is profound. They may feel a deep sense of loss, confusion, and betrayal, compounded by the mental and emotional manipulation they've endured. 

They often blame themselves, questioning what they did wrong and why they weren't enough for the narcissist. The abrupt end of the intense relationship can lead to feelings of emptiness and despair.

It's important to remember that the problem lies not with the target, but with the narcissist's inability to form healthy relationships. In this painful phase, seeking professional help is crucial for healing and recovery. 

The Effects of the Narcissistic Love Bombing Cycle

The effects of the narcissistic love bombing cycle can be deeply damaging and long-lasting. Victims often experience severe emotional and psychological trauma, including feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt, anxiety, and depression. 

The constant manipulation can lead to a state of confusion and cognitive dissonance, making it difficult for them to trust their perceptions and experiences.

Long-term consequences can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex PTSD, and a heightened vulnerability to future abusive relationships. 

Additionally, the victim may struggle with self-esteem and self-worth issues, as they've been conditioned to believe that they are not deserving of respect or kindness. 

The recovery process can be lengthy and requires professional help, but with time and support, victims can reclaim their lives and heal from the manipulative tactics of the narcissist. 

How to Identify and Protect Yourself from the Narcissistic Love Bombing Cycle

Identifying the narcissistic love bombing cycle can be challenging, but there are several red flags to watch out for. 

These include excessive flattery and attention early in a relationship, too-good-to-be-true promises, manipulation of your emotions, and rapid shifts between idealization and devaluation.

If you suspect you're being love-bombed, it's crucial to establish boundaries, trust your instincts, and maintain a strong support network.

Don't be afraid to slow things down in the relationship, and always prioritize your well-being. It's also important to remember that if your partner's behavior is making you uncomfortable or causing you distress, it's not your responsibility to fix it.

If you find yourself in this situation, seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in narcissistic abuse can provide you with the tools and support needed to navigate this difficult situation safely and effectively. 

Get Matched to the Right Provider

Complete this questionnaire to discover service providers that match your requirements! No need to provide contact information.

Get Matched


The narcissistic love bombing cycle, consisting of the idealization, devaluation, and discard phases, is a manipulative tactic used to control and exploit others. 

This cycle is characterized by extreme highs and lows, with the narcissist initially showering their target with attention and adoration, only to gradually devalue them through criticism and gaslighting, and ultimately discard them without remorse. 

The emotional and psychological effects of this cycle can be deeply traumatic, leading to long-term consequences like PTSD and self-esteem issues.

If you or someone you know is dealing with a narcissist, it's crucial to seek professional help. With time, support, and appropriate interventions, it is possible to break free from this destructive cycle. 

Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

Related Posts



No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment
Already Registered? Login Here
May 25th, 2024

overcomers counseling logo

Explore local counseling and psychiatry services to find the tailored support you require. Embark on a journey towards resilience and become an Overcomer with the right professional assistance by your side!

Contact Us

5585 Erindale Dr. Ste 204
Colorado Springs, CO 80918 mailing
(719) 345-2424 office
(719) 888-5022 text
(855) 719-2549 fax

Business Hours (Provider's hours may vary)

 Sunday   Closed
 Monday   8:00am - 5:00pm
 Tuesday   8:00am - 5:00pm
 Wednesday    8:00am - 5:00pm
 Thursday   8:00am - 5:00pm
 Friday   8:00am - 5:00pm
 Saturday  Closed