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17+ Signs of narcissistic abuse Find out now!

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

The signs of narcissistic abuse can start so slyly that it can be incredibly hard to be sure if that is what you are going through. Your entire reality has been manipulated, warped, and distorted when you are the victim. You are a victim; a narcissist has abused you.

Slowly in this relationship, they have broken you.

You have been manipulated, violated, demeaned, lied to, gaslighted, devalued, and called crazy.

Your entire sense of self is gone, and you are left wondering who you are.


Through all of this, you have no cool battle scars to help tell your story. Your wounds and broken pieces are only visible to you and your fractured memories.

If this is your first time dealing with narcissist abuse, you probably don’t realize that you are exhibiting many signs of serious emotional abuse.

Becoming aware of your current reality is one of the first steps back towards the light. This article outlines the common signs that a narcissist has abused you in your life.

Table of Contents


Narcissistic abuse may include emotional, physical, verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse committed by someone with narcissistic personality traits.

Narcissistic abuse is a very specific and poorly understood type of abuse characterized by deception.

Narcissists intentionally construct a false persona to lure in their targets, using love-bombing to encourage them to quickly become vulnerable and trust them completely.

These targets then suffer agonizing cognitive dissonance when the narcissist’s true persona reveals itself and they are faced with the reality that the “amazing person” – someone who seemed “just like them” due to the narcissist’s mirroring – never even existed.

“What [the survivor] becomes acutely aware of is that her grieving is caused by a unique feature of the psychopath. This unique feature is the unbelievable contradictions, opposites, and dichotomies that mark this man as the disordered person he is.” 

Women Who Love Psychopaths, Sandra L. Brown (2009).



1. They provoke you and then blame you for reacting.

This is the text book sign of narcissistic abuse – gaslighting.

Gaslighting is one of the most dangerous and insidious forms of emotional abuse. 

Gaslighters love to provoke others. They take inventory of the things that upset you, and then do more of those things.

You will likely react calmly the first three or four times, thinking you resolved the issue.

But then they do it again. And again. And again.

You think: “How in the world could someone be this dense?”.

Eventually you react less calmly.

This is when the gas-lighter jumps on you and accuses you of being hysterical, crazy, sensitive, negative, paranoid, bipolar, or mentally ill.

They tell you to calm down and make you feel ashamed of your (normal) reaction to their unacceptable behavior.

They use your reaction to show others how unstable you are. They make you feel ashamed for your own reaction.

Read an in-depth post about gaslighting here.

2. You experience constant overwhelming self doubt.

Victims of narcissistic abuse experience a constant overwhelming feeling of self doubt. Feeling uncertain about things and constantly seeking validation about if doing the right thing is common. 

Actually, this is learned reactive adaptation that victims develop to cope with how the narcissistic abuser is constantly blaming, finger pointing, and accusing them of things they did not do. 

Victims are forced to accept responsibility for things they didn’t do or say. This is how the narcissist humiliates and induces shame in their victims.


3. You have nonexistent Boundaries.

When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you find it hard to speak up, say what you truly think, and stand your ground on what is important to you.

When you do these things, you are rejected, criticized, punished, or even abandoned. 

To minimize this, don’t speak up, don’t say what you think, and let your boundaries fall away.

It becomes more important to keep the peace with the narcissist than to express our opinions and feelings.

Read an in-depth post about the importance of boundaries here.

4. You have a constant sense of mistrust.

Victims of narcissistic abuse have been conditioned to believe that everyone around them is a threat and they cannot be trusted.

You even lack trust in yourself.

Victims experience anxiety and hypervigilance about the intention of others.

This is a sign of narcissistic abuse and gaslighting. They have convinced you that this mistrust is valid.

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5. You dissociation From Emotions and Experiences

Victims of narcissistic abuse feel emotionally and even physically detached from their emotions and experiences, disrupting self perceptions and memory formation.

Narcissist abusers use intimidation; emotional, physical, and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion, control  and dissociation is as automatic coping mechanism against the overwhelming stresses of this abuse.

Your brain finds ways to emotionally block out the impact of your pain so you do not have to deal with the full terror of your circumstances.

Dr. Van der Kolk (2015) writes in his book, The Body Keeps the Score,

“Dissociation is the essence of trauma. The overwhelming experience is split off and fragmented, so that the emotions, sounds, images, thoughts and physical sensations take on a life of their own.”

Symptoms of dissociation resulting from trauma may include depersonalization (disconnecting your body awareness from your physical self), psychological numbing, disengaged from life and passions, or complete memory loss regarding the events of the abuse.

Other symptoms sometimes found along with dissociation in victims of traumatic abuse include anxiety, PTSD, low self-esteem, somatization, depression, chronic pain, interpersonal dysfunction, substance abuse, self-mutilation and suicidal ideation or actions. 

Often these symptoms lead the victim to believe that the resulting symptoms as the source of the problem.


6. You live life walking on eggshells. 

A common sign of narcissistic abuse or trauma is for you to constantly try to avoid anything that may trigger a trauma memory. 

You find yourself constantly watching what you say or do around this person so you don’t trigger and outburst or punishment.

In turn, when the abuser does have an outburst, you feel as though you caused it to happen and it is your fault. 

You become perpetually anxious about ‘provoking’ your abuser in any way and may avoid confrontation or setting boundaries.

You may also extend your people-pleasing behavior outside of the abusive relationship, losing your ability to be spontaneous or assertive while navigating the outside world, especially with people who resemble or are associated with your abuser and the abuse.

Abused By A Narcissist

7. You isolate yourself. 

It is common for narcissists to slowly push away the friends and family of their victim. Victims will also begin to isolate themselves on purpose because they feel ashamed about their situation. 

It is common in our society for have misconceptions and blame the victim for the emotional and psychological abuse.

They fear no one will understand or believe them, so instead of reaching out for help, they decide to withdraw from others to avoid judgment and retaliation from their abuser.

8. You have unexplainable physical symptoms.

When victims have been in their situation for extended periods of time, the mental and psychological abuse can begin to exhibit physical symptoms.

These symptoms seem to be completely unrelated and can range in complexity from person to person.  

Some physical symptoms that my develop can include: insomnia, nightmares, eating difficulties and nightmares, irritability, hyper-vigilance, easily startled, flashbacks, hopelessness, psychosomatic illnesses, self-harming, and thoughts of suicide. 

It is common for anxiety and depression, and even greater issues like fibromyalgia, adrenal issues, PTSD and agoraphobia start to develop. 

9. You protect your abuser.

Victims from an intense trauma bond between victim and abuser because the victim is ‘trained’ to rely on the abuser for survival (Carnes, 2015).

Victims may protect their abusers from legal consequences, portray a happy image of the relationship on social media or overcompensate by ‘sharing the blame’ of the abuse.

10. You set aside your needs to please your abuser. 

How many of your dreams and goal have you set aside because your boyfriend, husband, wife, or parent did not agree with them?

You feel as if you are living just to fulfill the needs and goals of that other person. You once felt like the narcissist’s entire life revolved around you; now your entire life revolves around them.

You may have placed your goals, hobbies, friendships and personal safety on the back burner just to ensure that your abuser feels content in the relationship.

11. You develop self-harming tendencies or suicidal ideation.

Victims of emotional abuse experience depression and anxiety along with feelings of hopelessness in their situation. They feel like no matter what they do they will never be able to escape and there is nothing they can do to change their situation.

This sort of learned helplessness can cause them to engage in self harming behaviors as a way to cope with the pain they are feeling.  

Victims of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide multiple times.

Abusers can essentially murder without ever being held responsible for it. .

Abused By A Narcissist

12. You are in a constant state of confusion.

Narcissists are masters at changing expectations and rules halfway through something. This in turn keeps you guessing how to please them. Keeping their victim in constant confusion is key for their tactic to work for them.

When the expectations and rules change daily, it can start to wear their victims down and you no longer know what is right and what is wrong. 

It’s confusing to logically KNOW that you aren’t responsible for someone else’s behavior, thinking and feeling but to be REPRIMANDED for the other persons actions as if you could control them.

It’s crazy-making and a narcissist purposefully causes this confusion. They know that a divided and conquered mind is their most vulnerable and susceptible target who won’t be able to identify that their confusion is caused by an abusive technique called ‘gaslighting’.

Gaslighting typically happens very gradually in a relationship; in fact, the abusive partner’s actions may seem harmless at first. Over time, however, these abusive patterns continue, and a victim can become confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed and lose all sense of what is happening.

The victim then starts relying on the abusive partner more and more to define reality, which creates a very difficult situation to escape.

13. You have complex PTSD symptoms.

As a result of chronic emotional abuse, many victims struggle with complex PTSD symptoms. PTSD is extremely complex, so for the sake of this artice I’m going to keep things short and sweet.

PTSD is similar to a severe anxiety attack that runs throughout your entire body.

The rapid heart beat, the intrusive and spinning thoughts and fears – just like the abuse is CURRENTLY HAPPENING SEQUENTIALLY ALL OVER AGAIN.

This is called RE-LIVING.  It’s as if the traumatic abuse event is occurring in the present tense. All the emotions of fear, shame, shrinking, wincing, looking over your shoulder & walking on eggshells waiting to be attacked ruthlessly AGAIN.   

14. You feel addicted and manic.

Trauma Bond is a term that you will hear repeatedly on this journey because it has a major impact on our recovery. This trauma bond that we develop makes us addicted to someone who treats us terribly. 

It just doesn’t make logical sense, hence why you really need to look at these resources above that I have provided you with.

When we first became attached to the narcissist, we had the deep and powerful inner belief that this relationship was ‘the one’ – it felt so real and so true to us. It felt astoundingly ‘right’. We thought we had hit the jackpot.

Over time the cracks started appearing, yet we still experienced the glorious times (even if they became less and less) of this ‘delightful person’ who we wanted to believe was the partner of our dreams. Trauma bond has already formed and we are blind to the truth about our narcissist partner.


15. You blame yourself.

Victims of narcissistic abuse begin to compare themselves and their relationships to other people in healthy, happy relationships.

They start to wonder why their abuser appears to treat strangers with more respect. This can send them down the trapdoor of wondering, “why me?” and stuck in an abyss of self-blame.

The abuser is the person who should be blamed – you are in no way responsible for being abused.

16. You feel like you are the crazy one.

If you don’t think that having a crazy person constantly blaming you for being “crazy” will make you crazy, a few minutes with a narcissist that will convince you otherwise.

17. You are always trying to avoid a crisis.

Constantly living in a war zone where all forms of power and control are used against you  the threat of abuse is always present.

Your everyday life becomes an ongoing traumatic event.

Other Common Signs of Narcissistic Abuse Include:

  • You find yourself isolated from friends and family and support to appease or please them.
  • You find yourself more and more emotionally dependent on them for validation.
  • You seem to be expected to do all the chores and housework/cooking
  • They want to be served
  • They are hypocrites
  • They won’t apologize or accept accountability. For those variants that can, it is very infrequent and you have a hard time accepting it because it does not feel sincere (because it isn’t).
  • Their actions don’t match their words
  • The same problems come up over and over. It goes in circles. Nothing is ever resolved or forgiven
  • They act differently around others than with you. Like two different people.
  • They treat you like a child.
  • At the beginning of the relationship, you were never apart, and you felt they were your “soul mate”
  • You are constantly drained and exhausted
What is trauma bonding?

More Signs of Narcissistic Abuse …

You might be undergoing narcissistic abuse if:

  • You feel as if you’re always being tested
  • You never know for sure where you stand with your partner
  • Accusations of your failures come from out of nowhere, with little discernible correlation to your recollection of events
  • You’re hearing complaints about your flaws which sound strangely like your partner’s flaws
  • You feel as if you’d better watch your behavior in all interactions with this partner
  • You feel an ever-present whiff of power in this person’s presence
  • You feel a little bit bad all the time, as if your gut is trying to warn you

Now what?

In addition to all these symptoms, the aftermath of narcissistic abuse can include depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, a pervasive sense of toxic shame, emotional flashbacks that regress the victim to the abusive incidents, and overwhelming feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.

When we are in the midst of an ongoing abuse cycle, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what we are experiencing because abusers can twist and turn reality to suit their own needs, engage in intense love-bombing after abusive incidents, and convince their victims that they are the ones who are abusers.

If you are currently in an abusive relationship of any kind, know that you are not alone, even if you feel like you are. There are millions of survivors all over the world who have experienced what you have.  

This psychological torment is not exclusive to gender, culture, social class, or religion. The first step is becoming aware of the reality of your situation and validating it – even if your abuser attempts to gaslight you into believing otherwise.

If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about therapy, please see below:

For more information on mental health, please see:

If You Need A Crisis Hotline Or Want To Learn More About Therapy, Please See Below:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
  • NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – 1-800-950-6264

For More Information On Mental Health, Please See:

  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) SAMHSA Facebook, SAMHSA Twitter, SAMHSA LinkedIn, SAMHSA Youtube
  • Mental Health America, MHA Twitter, MHA Facebook, MHA Instagram, MHA Pinterest, MHA Youtube
  • WebMD, WebMD Facebook, WebMD Twitter, WebMD Instagram, WebMD Pinterest
  • NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NIMH Instagram, NIMH Facebook, NIMH Twitter, NIMH YouTube
  • APA (American Psychiatric Association), APA Twitter, APA Facebook, APA LinkedIN, APA Instagram

16 thoughts on “17+ Signs of narcissistic abuse Find out now!”

  1. I’m away from mine 4 weeks now and he is still trying everything there is to pull me back in . I was with him for 8 years I was very lucky to escape with my life . I don’t know were to go for help I’ve no family friends I’m so alone and broken . I’ve 2 children who I’m trying so hard to be strong for but I’m in so m6ch pain and confused as to how and why I even aloud this to happen to me I’m so ashamed of myself how am I going to heal or even just make it through the day even the hour .. Please help me

    1. I am so sorry you are going through this. I know exactly what you mean when you say you are ashamed you let this happen. That shame is something I still struggle with today. Healing is a long process and we are all a work in progress. Keep looking forward, not backwards. We are not going that way.

    2. Babee, begin to read and empower yourself. The more you learn the more empowered you will become. I to had to rebuild myself. I read every article, defined every word, and read up on every tactic on how to shut a narc down and so much more. Now he gets mad because he sees he can’t contend with me. We are not living together we are separated yet he has no privileges or access to anything. He has no keys to my home. He cannot just pop up he has to call and ask permission first. Boundaries have been set and I have made it clear (Because he has grown a little and I do mean A LITTLE) that if changes do not continue he will be going through the rest of his life without me. He will no longer be able to cash in on the advantages of being married to me and doing this to others close to me. It is wartime honey and there is a lioness inside … she is just sleeping and dormant …. it is time for her to arise and roar like the Lord created her to do!!!

  2. 29 years he is in control of everything… alienated my family and children as he has told everyone I’m crazy . My life is over … embarrassment, humiliation , belittlement. How do I escape ? Please help I’m so done . I have nothing I’m in a prison . My bedroom is behind a locked door so he can’t force his self on me…. I have on friends my parents have passed. I don’t know what to do ? I’m done!

    1. This is exactly what am passing through now. I have no say, I can’t go out, if I try to defend myself he will say I talk too much. If I tried to correct him he will say am too fast. He said negative things about me to his family. He curses and uses abusive words on me often time. We don’t resolve issues because he will always say “it’s past, I don’t dig out old things”. He always makes me feel I worth nothing which he even says it at times. I’m reading this articles with tears rolling down my cheek. Honestly I don’t know what to do, if I want to quit he will beg me to forgive him and so on. Please I need a help

  3. As I read the 17 signs of the abuser, my heart hurt because of how true they all are for me. I have been married to a narcissist for 26 years and she has completely broken me. I was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. Thank you for the validation that I’m not alone.

  4. OMG that‘s all so true. i am with him for 5 years now and tomorrow is the day. i am MOVING OUT!
    i‘m afraid to go but i‘m also afraid to stay.
    life will be better. i feel it.
    you all can do it! you are strong! you can achieve everything you want!

  5. I’ve gotten out of a narsisistic 9 year relationship.been sent to jail 4 times for no reason..and kept returning to where I lived for 29vyears. .and she would find me tell me someone else called the cops etc.i lived in the garage for 3.5 years.( non insulated or heated )& I’m in canada.its a miracle I survived.alm9st died in 2014.ans was fine with my own death but IT(SHE) said she wanted me to survive ….stupid me being brainwashed all those years didn’t see it coming.so I not only survived I became a medical miracle.insteaad of a few operations that were going to be required,leaving me with half my face removed.i pulled a miracle out of my ass.wirh 26 emergency flaps.and imnediate 6 hour operation.i woke up to survive.to watch my then spouse ruin everything I’ve ever accomplished in my life.she manipulated me with crack cocaine till I told her I needed rehab.then I was given more money to feed my addiction .and I was called the narsisit.fir those years in the garage 27 days into my own recovery.( I told no one) I had a premonition of the garage years to come after a good night’s sleep.i went in that morning to use bathemroom but mainly to tell my spouse if what I dreamt.si I thought more abuse from her she thought I was up all night doing crack.yet she hadn’t given me a dime or come out to see how I was in mid November in the RV.so I asked if she could call me in.and denied so on my way to work she called my boss and told her false opinions to my boss.well my 35$ an hour job was done that day.andvi survived to watch my truck get repossessed.lost everything .started going to jail all because as she tried her bs I would leave and say ” anger management” on my way out the door and ended up in jail four times.although I’ve taken the course 7 times.one good thing I’ve done between visits to jail was put myself in rehab without her consent.and through the program.we were thought about human behaviors ei narsisistic.tyrant.victim and so on.interesting what you can learn in a sober frame of mind.but when she picked me up she brought me a treat.” for graduating” and so on .the forth time I was sent to jail I was coming out of my mental health appointment and 2 officers where waiting for me.ivsaid common I was in a meeting how can I be two places at once.but the law is no more about justice.i asked the officer I was in the car with in French as I noticed his accent.wtf is going on .in french.well.he paused the recording withing the vehicle and set me straight that’s it’s always been her calling.lposing her shit and they are forced to seperate us.so being I have no friends at this point and no family back to jail I go.well.i never went back.i left everything I owned behind reset my life from homeless to where I am today tough times.but well worth it being away from the mindf##k I was put into.life is getting better day by day.i have a sence of hope.ive accumulated a good life although in now on disability.and money is scarce.life is way BETTER THAB EVER.AND I THANK GOD FOR THE PREMONITION AND TOUCHING ME PERSONALLY IN THE JAIL CHAPEL.AMEN.

  6. Long story short. We had an off and on thing for 5 years. I always let him come back. I felt so weak for so many years. Had anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide…I lost myself completely. He knew exactly what to say and the gaslighting was unreal. I could see it for myself but I was still wrong and when he couldn’t talk his way out of it I was at fault and he would withdraw all attention and contact. Last year he hit me up again and I was wary of his intentions. He called me another girls name and I knew he was still the same. I hated myself for falling for it yet again. I cut him off completely and moved out of town. I figured I was in the clear so I unblocked him. He waited 9 months and text me a couple of weeks ago trying to reminisce and hinting at sex. I was blown away. I told him exactly what I thought and told him not to contact me again. The memories are stuck with me and it’s still a battle mentally but healing does happen a little at a time. Don’t give up if you’re in a situation like mine. Little by little you’ll feel whole again. Just don’t make the mistake of allowing them to contact you like I did. It isn’t worth the progress you’ve made.

  7. I didn’t know what was going on in the beginning.My gut was warning me however I ignored it.One day his true colors shined.I was floored! At that moment something happened in my own mind.I was just terrified when he totally changed into the creature I know he is now.Out of all of the traits a narcissist has,he has almost ALL of them.That’s when I started to get what was tormenting me.He could literally be the poster child for this illness and it still blows me away even after 5 years! I have left several times only to return to this terrible way to live.No income or family so no choices.I’m trying to stay strong and keep in my own mind that this shit is his…not mine.Most days I’m OK but there are days when I wish I could die quickly.The pain is so much that I want to give up.The only reason I find to still be on this earth are my 4 daughters and my grandbabies.We are far apart but my love for them is stronger than he is!!!I just had to release some of that gnawing feeling that everyone doesn’t know him like this.Only me.They wouldn’t believe me so I don’t say anything to anyone.I’m trying to keep my head about all of this and I have built almost a hatred for him.He’s a horrible individual.

  8. Wow, I had no idea that people with narcissistic tendencies tend to humiliate their victims mentally. It does make sense that you should receive mental health after getting exposed to them because it could affect how you view life as a whole. I’ll probably keep this in mind if ever I encounter someone similar in the future.

  9. I lived all of that for 27 years. I lived the cycle of it for all that time and always had a reason (excuse) for why I couldn’t leave. It really came down to fear and doubt that I would be able to make it on my own. Fear and doubt that he put in to my mind destroyed my self-confidence and instilled constant self doubt. I’ve been out for 2 1/2 years now, but had to move out of state once my divorce was final because I knew I could never begin to heal or live a normal life. From the time I left there were all kinds of threats. Continuous threats that he would kill himself. Threats that he would kill me. My adult children had to have him committed at one point, but that didn’t help.
    I tried to leave many times and always went back.

    I always told myself that if I ever called the police that I would never go back. This particular night I finally got the courage to call the police when the badgering would not stop and something finally clicked in me and I knew that this would be the night I left for good. He was prepared to turn this all on me, but for the first time ever someone recognized what had been occurring. It was a young police officer who responded to the call. I was a mess. He told me I could file for a PFA. I was confused and didn’t understand how since there was not physical abuse. He said that it was obvious that I had been living with mental abuse for a long time and that it was just as bad or worse than physical abuse. He told me it was ok that I was crying and felt that everything was out of control. He called my son and waited while I packed a suitcase and made sure my husband kept his distance.

    I never filed a PFA, which many criticized me for, but I knew that with all that I went through that a piece of paper would only fuel the fire with him and I would not be safe.
    I am living a peaceful life now, checking off a list of things that he said I could never do or would not let me do. I don’t have to constantly watch over my shoulder or worry about someone questioning everything that I do or don’t do.
    I’ve done a lot of healing and gaining self confidence that I didn’t know I could have. There are things that still trigger me and take me back to those horrible feelings. They are not as frequent, but they are there. I have not been successful in finding a counselor that can help. I don’t think any of them have understood the trauma and how to counsel someone after living with it for so long.

    For anyone currently living this, you can get out. You will survive. I am surviving and finding peace, which is something that I never thought was possible. I will fight and get through the things that still trigger me.

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