What is Narcissistic Abuse & How to spot it

Some victims’ experiences are invalidated because their abuser was not diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD); however, anyone can be a narcissistic abuser, with or without a diagnosis.

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

What is Narcissistic abuse?

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).

Individuals with Cluster B personality disorders exploit others due to a lack of emotional empathy, an inability to feel remorse, and a pathological ability and desire to deceive and manipulate.

This desire is not limited to narcissistic supply sources/romantic targets. If the abuse victim attempts to “go public” and reveal her experience and suffering, the narcissist will use the same fake persona he used to effectively con her to con everyone else.

He will tell them that he is the actual victim, and the facts of his story don’t make sense “because she is just ‘crazy’ and ‘delusional.’”

Narcissists are con artists of the highest order, which is why their insidious abuse often goes undetected for decades.

It is only through the narcissist’s deception via his “false self” that he can abuse so prolifically.

Creating an amazing “fake person” to conceal someone who actually has no empathy, conscience, or remorse and lives to manipulate, control, and deceive is the cruelest thing that narcissists do, and the defining feature of narcissistic abuse.

* 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 a woman in that same role.

How do the victim of Narcissists’ feel?

Narcissistic Victim Syndrome is a set of symptoms that some partners experience due to ongoing abuse from Narcissistic partners.  

According to NarcissisticVictimSyndrome.com, some of the symptoms one may experience who is suffering from Narcissistic Victim Syndrome may include:

  • Fog
  • pacing
  • confusion,
  • ‘loss of self’
  • panic attacks
  • angry outbursts
  • insomnia
  • weight gain or weight loss
  • obsessive thoughts
  • rapid heart rate
  • muscle aches
  • throwing up
  • getting sick
  • desiring death
  • possibly suicidal
  • no interest in previous interests or even loved ones
  • blaming self
  • second guessing self
  • may seem desperate and trying to reach for help
  • fear of Narcissist annihilating them

Abuse endured by partners of a narcissist is often incredibly traumatic and greatly impacts one’s sense of self-worth and confidence.

What are the signs of Narcissistic abuse?

You are being covertly manipulated.

Since it is covert you are not meant to notice that you are being made to do something you otherwise would not have against your own self-interests. Since you are in this pickle that means you were not familiar with the tactics and how to identify and resist them.

Therefore the easiest way to tell is to ask yourself if these symptoms of narcissists abuse apply to you.

  • Your mood depends entirely on the state of the relationship, and you are experiencing extreme highs and lows.
  • Your joy at finding love has turned into the fear of losing it. Your feelings have moved from happiness and euphoria to anxiety, sadness, and depression
  • You’re unhappy in the relationship and uncertain about it much of the time, yet you dread losing it because of you’re blissfully happy with it every now and then
  • You feel like you’re responsible for ruining the best thing that ever happened to you, but you’re not sure how
  • Your relationship feels very complex, although you don’t know why. When talking to others about it, you might find yourself saying, “It’s hard to explain. It is really complicated”
  • You continually obsess about the relationship, analyzing every detail repeatedly in a desperate attempt to “figure it out”. You talk about all the time to anyone that will listen. It doesn’t do any good.
  • You never feel sure of where you stand with your partner, which leaves you in a perpetual state of uncertainty and anxiety
  • You frequently ask your partner if something is wrong. It feels as if something is wrong but you don’t know what it is
  • You are frequently on the defensive. You feel misunderstood and have the need to explain and defend yourself.
  • You seem to have developed a problem with trust, jealousy, insecurity, and overreaction during this relationship which your partner has pointed out to you on many occasions.
  • You feel ongoing anger or resentment for someone
  • You have become a detective. You scour the web and social media for information about your partner. You feel a need to check their web history, texts or emails. When they are not home you feel the need to verify their whereabouts.
  • You feel you don’t truly know how to make your partner happy. You try hard but nothing seems to work, at least not for long. You used to make them very happy and you are not sure what has changed.
  • Expressing negative thoughts and emotions feels restricted or even forbidden, so you try to keep all those things to yourself. You feel frustrated about not being able to talk about the things that are bothering you.
  • You don’t feel good about yourself like you did before the relationship. You feel less confident, less secure, less intelligent, less sane, less trusting, less attractive or in some way “less than” you were before.
  • You always feel you are falling short of your partner’s expectations. You feel inadequate.
  • You often feel guilty and find yourself apologizing a lot. You continually try to repair the damage you believe you have caused. You blame yourself for your partner pulling away from you. You can’t understand why you keep sabotaging the relationship.
  • You carefully control your words, actions, and emotions around your partner to keep them from withdrawing their affection again
  • At times you erupt like an emotional volcano filled with anger, frustration, and even hostility. You have never acted this way before and vow it will stop, but no matter how hard you try, it keeps happening.
  • You do things you are not really comfortable with or that go against your morals, values, limits or boundaries to make your partner happy and keep the relationship intact.
  • You feel your partner needs to dominate the relationship
  • You feel your partner does not understand your needs in the relationship.
  • You find yourself trying to explain basic human emotions and concepts to and adult. You feel the need to make them understand.
  • You feel your giving nature is being exploited or that you are being taken advantage of
  • You feel taken for granted
  • You feel you need them far more than they need you
  • You feel trapped with no clear way out.
  • You find yourself checking with your partner and unable to trust yourself or your judgment when making decisions.
  • You feel they have more control over your emotions and feelings than you do
  • You feel something bad will happen if you don’t do what they want
  • No matter how much you do for them they make you feel like you haven’t done enough.
  • They intimidate you with their mood or anger.
  • You feel you can’t do anything to change them
  • Even when you do please them it doesn’t last long
  • You feel you are working way harder at the relationship than they are.

Other Common symptoms and things to look for:

  • 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 Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome?

“It’s not an official diagnosis, but it’s a bit like Stockholm syndrome,” says Elinor Greenberg, PhD, a licensed psychologist and author of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and Safety. You may also hear the term Narcissistic Victim Syndrome.

Do I have PTSD from Narcissistic abuse?

Experiencing narcissistic abuse causes a huge trauma. It is like someone going to war. Yes you showered that person with love and in turn hell is beating you black and blue.

So of course you may get PTSD. And unless you realize the depth of their evil, it will always confuse you why you felt so hurt.

PTSD is mostly connected to a very specific traumatizing event, Narcissistic leaves complex scars.

Complex- PTSD would be more <<fitting>>.

However there’s a definition for PTSD from NPD abuse.

Narcissistic abuse and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

As you can see is complex-post traumatic stress disorder.

It means that you’re practically are scarred to the point of developing a stress-disorder, in other words reacting intensively and negatively to specific stimulus or events that remind you of the abuse.

Your personality changing to compensate for it.

Slowly you’re also adopt behavior that projects the trauma everywhere.

Treatment becomes complicated because its accompanied by various others disorders and the PTSD or Complex PTSD affects them to an even more mentally damaging point.

You exhibit traits that are making you relive the scars. Other times you project the behavior of the one who caused them everywhere.

In more severe cases it can make the person being stuck to the experience forever and never move on.

And in the worst cases, it’s a permanent damage that never heals, the person just lose his chance at happiness.

It can get that bad.

Can you heal from Narcissistic abuse?

Yes, yes you can.

My own steps were permanent removal from the situation by going No Contact, and therapy.

Healing also comes through understanding this wasn’t your problem, though it impacted you, but the abuser’s problem. (You still have to deal with the damage, though. And with consuming anger for a while, but that passes.)

YES. But it requires much more than an online support group where you continue to soak in your pain.

You must start by making the decision that you will be your #1 priority.

When you are in a crash on a plane, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first. Or anyone you want to help (kids, etc) will be lost. This is no different.

You need the knowledge, yes, about narcissism. But you need to get someone that is familiar with this walk to help you navigate. A Coach, if you will. They need to help you establish boundaries.

You then need to do the Self Work necessary. Notice I did not say anything about the narcissist.

You need to navigate the legal waters with proper help. You need to look at yourself, narc-free, and examine everything.

What are your strengths?

What brings you joy?

What would you like to try?

What do you have skills for, and where do you see a gap that you want to learn?

Taking all of this into account, what are your goals and priorities?

Then, you definitely need a community – but not just a support group where people are living in pain. You need a community of others that have or are going through the same experiences, but have the same growth mindset.

This is to hold each other accountable. No excuses. YOU remain your priority.

At a certain point, you are so far along and invested in that process – and in yourself, that you refuse to look back.

Your future, that you are crafting, is too bright. THIS is the moment of true healing. When you realize that you can craft your own moments of joy. And remain narc-free.

What are the 9 traits of a Narcissist?

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