* 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 starts so slyly that it can be incredibly hard to be sure if that is what you are going through. When you are the victim your entire reality has been manipulated, warped, and distorted. You are a victim, you have been abused by a narcissist.
Slowly in this relationship they have broken you.
You have been manipulated, violated, demeaned, lied to, gaslighted, devalued, and called crazy.
Your entire sence of self is gone, and you are left wondering who you even 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 even realize that you are exhibiting many of these 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 you’ve been abused by a narcissist in your life.
Table of Contents
- WHAT IS NARCISSISTIC ABUSE?
- 17+ SIGNS OF NARCISSISTIC ABUSE
- 1. They provoke you and then blame you for reacting.
- 2. You experience constant overwhelming self doubt.
- 3. You have nonexistent Boundaries.
- 4. You have a constant sense of mistrust.
- 5. You dissociation From Emotions and Experiences
- 6. You live life walking on eggshells.
- 7. You isolate yourself.
- 8. You have unexplainable physical symptoms.
- 9. You protect your abuser.
- 10. You set aside your needs to please your abuser.
- 11. You develop self harming tendencies or suicidal ideation.
- 12. You are in a constant state of confusion.
- 13. You have complex PTSD symptoms.
- 14. You feel addicted and manic.
- 15. You blame yourself.
- 16. You feel like you are the crazy one.
- 17. You are always trying to avoid a crisis.
- Other Common Signs of Narcissistic Abuse Include:
- More Signs of Narcissitic Abuse…
- Now what?
- Continue Reading About Narcissistic Personality Disorder
WHAT IS NARCISSISTIC ABUSE?
Narcissistic abuse may include emotional, physical, verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse, committed by someone who displays 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 become vulnerable quickly and to 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).
17+ SIGNS OF NARCISSISTIC ABUSE
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.
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 you 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.
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 narcissitic abuse and gaslighting. They have convinced you that this mistrust is valid.
5. You dissociation From Emotions and Experiences
Victims of narcissistic abuse feel emotionally and even physically detached from their emotions and experiences which disrupts self perceptions and memory formation.
Narcissist abusers use intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion, control and dissociation is an automatic coping mechanism against 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 as a result.
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.
7. You isolate yourself.
It is common for narcissists to slowly push away the friends and family of their victim. Victims also will begin to isolate themselves on purpose because they feel ashamed about the situation they are in.
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 as a way 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 form an intense trauma bond between victim and abuser because the victim is ‘trained’ to rely on the abuser for his or her 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 commit murder without ever being held responsible for it. .
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 a constant state of 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 they can 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, victims many 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.
Continue Reading About PTSD…
- What are the symptoms of PTSD when healing from narcissistic abuse?
- Self Help For PTSD/CPTSD- Steps to Start Your Recovery
- What is it like to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
- PTSD And Insomnia: 20 Tips That Can Help You Get A Good Night’s Rest
- Understanding Why PTSD Victims Isolate Themselves And How To Help
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 is what makes us addicted to someone who treats us so 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 complete strangers with more respect. This can send them down the trapdoor of wondering, “why me?” and stuck in an abyss of self-blame.
The truth is, 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
More Signs of Narcissitic 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
In addition to all these symptoms the aftermath of narcissistic abuse can also include depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, a pervasive sense of toxic shame, emotional flashbacks that regress the victim back 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 are able to 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 form of psychological torment is not exclusive to any 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.