Narcissistic Abuse 101: What Is It & Why Don't People Know — SpunkyDiva Diaries (2022)

In our October 16th post entitled "What The Heck Is A ‘Narcissist’?" we defined what a narcissist is and covered eight key characteristics of their narcissistic personality. I even shared specific, real life examples from my own relationship.

This post is going to pick up where we left off and dive deeper into what “narcissistic abuse” is in a relationship. While most people have heard the word “narcissist,” it still amazes me how few have heard the term “narcissistic abuse.” I think you’d be surprised at how many people this affects in the United States alone!

According to PsychCentral®, Narcissistic abuse affects over 158 million people in the United States. It defines narcissistic abuse as “a form of emotional and psychological abuse, primarily inflicted by people who have either narcissistic personality disorder (NPD, characterized by a lack of empathy), or antisocial personality disorder (ASPD, also known as sociopaths or psychopaths), and is associated with the absence of conscience.” The numbers are actually even more staggering in the article, but what’s crazy is that narcissistic abuse negatively affects more people than depression (approximately 80.8 million people). Yet, the public awareness about it is virtually non-existent and as invisible as the wounds of those abused.

So why hasn’t narcissistic abuse received the public attention, education and funding that it so deserves? Well, that’s easy…for one it’s INVISIBLE to the naked eye! Unlike physical abuse, it doesn’t leave any visible marks, bruises or lead to broken bones. It’s also the reason why so many people don’t even realize that they are actually being abused—and that it has an actual name (“Narcissistic Abuse”)—until the abuse has done its damage. Another possible reason is since it’s invisible it’s hard to prove what you can’t see. The emotional damage caused by narcissistic abuse is also cumulative – it happens in small, innocent-looking instances over a long period of time. The lack of public awareness and education blinds us from seeing pieces of our self-esteem and identity slowing being destroyed by a narcissist. This very reason sparked an awareness campaign recently by the hashtag #IfMyWoundsWereVisible.

Narcissistic abuse is covert and usually disguised by lots of charm, charisma, love and care. It’s not a single act of cruelty. It’s a treacherous, gradual and intentional erosion of a person’s self-worth. It’s both emotional and psychological abuse focused on undermining a person’s identity for the sole purpose of obtaining control for personal gain. It can involve patterns and cycles of dominance, manipulation, intimidation, emotional bullying, withholding, dishonesty, extreme selfishness, guilt mongering, rejection, abandonment, silent treatment, stonewalling, gaslighting, financial abuse, jealously, and possessiveness – just to name a few. Narcissistic abuse can even happen WITHOUT the use of anger, yelling, or name calling. HOW can that be, you ask?

Lundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He Do That?, provides an unsettling description of how abuse can be inflicted. His example shows it can cause great psychological harm, without the use of anger, yelling, or name calling: ‘'He (or she) can assault his partner psychologically without even raising his voice. He tends to stay calm in arguments, using his own evenness as a weapon to push her over the edge. He often has a superior or contemptuous grin on his face, smug and self-assured. He uses a repertoire of aggressive conversational tactics at low volume, including sarcasm, derision—such as openly laughing at her—mimicking her voice, and cruel cutting remarks. Like Mr. Right, he tends to take things she has said and twist them beyond recognition to make her appear absurd, perhaps, especially in front of other people. He gets to his partner through a slow but steady stream of low level assaults…

Another factor in the public awareness crusade is the fact that it’s challenging enough to describe what narcissistic abuse is, much less get people who’ve never experienced it to pay attention and care about it. Like I did at one time, many feel that they are too smart and too strong to ever be a victim of narcissistic abuse, or be impacted by it in any way. One commonly held misconception is the belief that only weak-minded, fragile, co-dependent types are vulnerable to being abused.

Why should YOU care about narcissistic abuse even if you’ve never experienced it? The damage it causes is not just limited to the individual victim. Whether you know it or now, its effects impact ALL of us! I'm positive you know someone in your family, friends or professional network who is directly affected by this form of abuse. Please don't look the other way or stick your head in the sand because you think or feel it's not your problem. It's ALL of our problem! Sometimes a victim just needs to vent. Sometimes they need help - a place to stay, knowing local resources to go to, a good referral to a professional (therapist, lawyer, etc.), or just affirmation and encouragement. You could be their lifeline of "hope" that they can survive.

There is a strong link between psychological and emotional stress and its relationship to increased risk of illness and disease. The prolonged, chronic stress of narcissistic abuse gradually wears our bodies over time. It wreaks havoc on our bodies’ stress response systems, physiology and overall well-being. Some common illnesses associated with the chronic stress are (but not limited to): heart attack, adrenal fatigue, weight gain or loss, hair loss, insomnia, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, PTSD, autoimmune disorders, digestive problems, asthma, migraines, epilepsy, cancer, arthritis, slower wound healing, Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and increased dependency on alcohol or other substances.

Again, how does this affect you and impact society? Well, many victims of narcissistic abuse end up missing work, have to go on disability or even laid off from their jobs because of missing a lot of work due to their physical, mental and emotional challenges. Some victims are forced to turn to taxpayer funded government and state programs for assistance. The financial costs of narcissistic abuse places on society would be spent more wisely and effectively if it went towards public awareness and education.

As a survivor of narcissistic abuse, I will say this: I NEVER thought in my entire life I would ever be in this type of relationship. I was in denial that it was “abuse” for about half of the 8 years I was in it. I would NEVER have survived had it not been for my amazing support network of close friends. They may not have understand the specifics of narcissistic abuse, but they understood that I was in a toxic, unhealthy, abusive marriage. They saw the roller coaster I was on for 8 years and what it was doing to me. My support network, yoga, journaling and God saved my life!

While I’m still in my healing and recovery journey, my poor body is one big mess of health challenges. I will forever be affected by my experience, but I refuse to be defined by it which is why I’m such a passionate advocate on this subject. It is also the impetus for why I created “SpunkyDiva Diaries” because I wanted an online platform where women could feel comfortable sharing their real life stories. I'm committed to education and bringing awareness to Narcissistic Abuse. I wanted to create a virtual sisterhood where we can affirm, support, encourage and inspire one another…in life, in business and as great warrior divas who’ve survived the impossible.

There may be a lot of “new” vocabulary terms you are unfamiliar with in upcoming posts. Some will warrant their own blog post, but don’t worry I’ll try to add a glossary of terms when needed so you don’t get lost or caught up in the “narc lingo”!

My next blog post in this series will dive even deeper on how to spot narcissistic abuse and review some key signs that will help you identify if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist.

FAQs

What does a victim of narcissistic abuse look like? ›

Flashbacks – recurring instances in which the individual feels like they're reliving a traumatic experience. Avoiding people, places or situations associated with the narcissistic individual. Feeling isolated, alone, or detached from others. Feeling extremely alert or vigilant all the time.

What narcissistic abuse does to a person? ›

Victims of narcissistic abuse have been reported to experience symptoms similar to PTSD, known informally as narcissistic abuse syndrome. Symptoms include intrusive, invasive, or unwanted thoughts, flashbacks, avoidance, feelings of loneliness, isolation, and feeling extremely alert.

What does a collapsed narcissist do? ›

Narcissistic collapse happens when someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can no longer uphold their grandiose, confident image. When this occurs, they feel profoundly threatened. As a result, they tend to become enraged, resulting in impulsive behavior, intense lashing out, or hurting other people.

What is the hallmark of a narcissist? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

What is the emotional age of a narcissist? ›

According to Thomaes & Brummelman, the development of narcissism begins at around the ages of 7 or 8. This is the time when children begin to evaluate themselves according to how they perceive others.

What makes a narcissist panic? ›

A narcissist trains themselves to become so confident in their self-importance that it can be difficult for other people to challenge them. However, when you learn to challenge their view of the world in the right way, this is what makes them panic.

What happens to a narcissist in the end? ›

At the end of a relationship, narcissists may become combative, passive-aggressive, hostile, and even more controlling. People with NPD often fail to understand other people's needs and values. They are hyper focused on their egos, but do not account for how their actions affect others.

What is narcissistic rage examples? ›

Examples of narcissistic rage range from intense outbursts and sudden fits of anger, to passive-aggressive acts such as simmering resentment, icy silence, deliberate neglect, or cutting sarcasm.

What does a narcissist breakdown look like? ›

For the person on the receiving end, someone experiencing a narcissistic collapse may look out of control, extremely angry, and vindictive. In some cases, it may look like someone withdrawing altogether and giving them the silent treatment.

What happens to narcissists in old age? ›

According to Julie L. Hall, author of “The Narcissist in Your Life: Recognizing the Patterns and Learning to Break Free,” narcissists become more extreme versions of their worst selves as they age, which includes becoming more desperate, deluded, paranoid, angry, abusive, and isolated.

How do you tell if you are a victim of a narcissist? ›

With that in mind, here are 12 signs that might suggest you've experienced narcissistic abuse.
  1. They seem so perfect — at first. ...
  2. People doubt the abuse took place. ...
  3. They've started a smear campaign. ...
  4. You feel isolated. ...
  5. You freeze up. ...
  6. You have trouble making decisions. ...
  7. You always feel like you've done something wrong.

Can a narcissist be a good person? ›

The kind narcissist sees themselves as a good person. Often, they appear steady and good-natured. They are popular and well thought of. The trouble arises once more is asked of them than they want to give.

What do all narcissists have in common? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding.

Can you tell a narcissist by their eyes? ›

They concluded that taken together, their data shows that narcissists reveal their personality through distinctive eyebrows, which facilitates the identification of narcissistic personality. We say the eyes are the windows to the soul—apparently so are the eyebrows.

Do narcissist love their children? ›

"Narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths do not have a sense of empathy," she told Business Insider. "They do not and will not develop a sense of empathy, so they can never really love anyone." This doesn't change when they have children.

What kind of childhood trauma causes narcissism? ›

Narcissism tends to emerge as a psychological defence in response to excessive levels of parental criticism, abuse or neglect in early life. Narcissistic personalities tend to be formed by emotional injury as a result of overwhelming shame, loss or deprivation during childhood.

What scares the narcissist the most? ›

Although narcissists act superior, entitled and boastful, underneath their larger-than-life facade lies their greatest fear: That they are ordinary. For narcissists, attention is like oxygen. Narcissists believe only special people get attention.

How do you scare a narcissist away? ›

17 Ways to Make a Narcissist Really Afraid of You
  1. Don't give them your attention. These attention-seekers will do anything to be noticed. ...
  2. Starve them of empathy. ...
  3. Ignore them. ...
  4. Set and enforce boundaries. ...
  5. Say no. ...
  6. Challenge them. ...
  7. Implement consequences. ...
  8. Block, delete, bye!
13 Jul 2022

What makes a narcissist happy? ›

For a narcissist to be happy, you'll always have to accept their version of events as the truth. Otherwise, you'll be on the receiving end of their narcissistic rage. Even if you do everything they ask, a narcissist will still try and undermine you at every opportunity.

What are narcissist weaknesses? ›

A very obvious weakness of the narcissist is their inability to self-reflect and self-analyze. In fact, they're incapable of looking within to understand themselves. They usually use a number of defense mechanisms when it comes to accepting their many insecurities.

What should you not say to a narcissist? ›

8 Things You Should Never Say to a Narcissist
  • Don't say, "It's not about you." ...
  • Don't say, "You're not listening." ...
  • Don't say, "Ina Garten did not get her lasagna recipe from you." ...
  • Don't say, "Do you think it might be your fault?" ...
  • Don't say, "You're being a bully." ...
  • Don't say, "Stop playing the victim."
15 Dec 2017

What happens when you hurt a narcissist ego? ›

When offended, a typical person might experience hurt feelings or feel insulted or angry. However, the offended person might ultimately talk it through with the individual who committed the transgression, with a willingness to repair the relationship and move on. This can take time.

How can you tell if a narcissist is lying? ›

8 Ways To SPOT a LYING Narcissist - YouTube

What irritates a narcissist the most? ›

Narcissists love attention, validation, and power. So what drives a narcissist crazy? Simply put, anything that jeopardizes their basic needs for superiority can quickly irritate them. If you want to know how to infuriate a narcissist, you can look no further than giving them nothing.

What are flying monkeys in narcissism? ›

Flying monkeys are people who actively participate in a narcissist's smear campaign. The goal of the campaign is to destroy the target's reputation. Flying monkeys carry out much of the narcissist's dirty work, allowing the narc to keep their hands clean.

What phrases to use with a narcissist? ›

Other Phrases to Say to a Narcissist Can Be:
  • “You have a right to hold your opinion and so do I but I don't agree with you.”
  • “Let's agree to disagree.”
  • “Let's work on this together.”
  • “Give me your advice. ...
  • “I hear what you are talking about.”
  • “I am sorry you feel this way.”
  • “I want to tell you how I feel about this.”
13 Jun 2022

How long does narcissistic rage last? ›

In a survey we conducted among 400 survivors of narcissistic abuse, we found that the average duration of a single narcissistic rage episode is three hours. We also found that the average duration of narcissistic rage from a narcissist who was experiencing multiple episodes is five-and-a-half days.

Why are narcissists so mean? ›

"Narcissists are primed to be abusive because they're so hypersensitive, and they don't have empathy, and they don't have object constancy," Greenberg said. "So they are primed to take offence and be abusive and not really understand... It's a lot of work for the non-narcissistic mate."

What is narcissistic triangulation? ›

People with narcissistic personality disorder or narcissistic tendencies might also use triangulation, usually to maintain control over situations by manipulating others. With narcissistic triangulation, one-on-one conversations or disagreements might quickly become two-against-one situations.

Do narcissists have a shorter lifespan? ›

As a basic rule of thumb of common sense, patients with symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder tend to have shorter life expectancy as compared to normal people.

How do narcissists treat their siblings? ›

Your sibling may constantly demand your attention and admiration and react with outrage if you do not respond as they desire, instilling a deep belief that you are responsible for their emotional well-being. In some cases, the narcissist may even use physical or sexual violence against you.

What happens when a narcissist gets dementia? ›

In the early stage of Alzheimer's, a narcissist will hide any problems they are having. As the disease progresses, however, and they can no longer hide it, they withdraw from family and friends. As they get worse, they are at risk for suicide, and for narcissists, this is more than an idle threat.

Can you get PTSD from narcissistic abuse? ›

The emotional/psychological manipulation and abuse that are characteristic of Narcissistic Abuse can lead to the development of PTSD among survivors of this type of trauma (sometimes specified as post traumatic relationship syndrome).

What are the long term effects of narcissistic abuse? ›

Some examples of long-term effects include mood and anxiety disorders, physical ailments such as headaches, stomachaches, or body aches, the inability to get a good night's sleep or having nightmares, and a lowered sense of self-worth.

How do you prove narcissistic abuse? ›

There are several things you can do to prove narcissistic abuse. You need to record every interaction, tell other people about the abuse, and have people witness it if possible. You can also use the narcissist's history against them and even trigger their narcissistic behavior to show other people.

How do you tell if you are a victim of a narcissist? ›

With that in mind, here are 12 signs that might suggest you've experienced narcissistic abuse.
  1. They seem so perfect — at first. ...
  2. People doubt the abuse took place. ...
  3. They've started a smear campaign. ...
  4. You feel isolated. ...
  5. You freeze up. ...
  6. You have trouble making decisions. ...
  7. You always feel like you've done something wrong.

Can you get PTSD from narcissistic abuse? ›

The emotional/psychological manipulation and abuse that are characteristic of Narcissistic Abuse can lead to the development of PTSD among survivors of this type of trauma (sometimes specified as post traumatic relationship syndrome).

What are the long term effects of narcissistic abuse? ›

Some examples of long-term effects include mood and anxiety disorders, physical ailments such as headaches, stomachaches, or body aches, the inability to get a good night's sleep or having nightmares, and a lowered sense of self-worth.

How does a narc react when you no longer care? ›

Since narcissists require almost constant admiration, validation and even blind obedience in some cases – when you don't give them attention, they'll often become quite brittle – reacting in a variety of negative ways including rage, petulance, insults, and may even try to undermine you in other sectors of your life ( ...

Do narcissists feel the trauma bond? ›

Narcissists do feel the trauma bond, but not in the same way that the people that they abuse feel it. A trauma bond makes narcissists feel remarkably well because the dynamics of a trauma bonded relationship is designed to help them regulate the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they've suppressed.

How does a narcissist traumatize you? ›

Through ongoing gaslighting and demeaning of the partner, the narcissist undermines the individual's self-worth and self-confidence, creating extreme emotional abuse that is constant and devastating.

How do narcissists treat their children? ›

A narcissistic parent will often abuse the normal parental role of guiding their children and being the primary decision maker in the child's life, becoming overly possessive and controlling. This possessiveness and excessive control disempowers the child; the parent sees the child simply as an extension of themselves.

What does narcissistic PTSD look like? ›

Nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts. Hyper-awareness, vigilance, anger, and irritability. Misplaced sense of blame, low self-worth. Avoidance of certain situations or people or a sense of detachment.

What abuse does to the brain? ›

Researchers focus on the changes that take place in the brain as a result of abuse as well. Sadly, adults who experienced severe abuse as children show critically impaired neural connections in the brain. Parts of the brain associated with the regulation of attention, emotion, and other cognitive processes suffer.

What emotional abuse does to the brain? ›

Emotional abuse is linked to thinning of certain areas of the brain that help you manage emotions and be self-aware — especially the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe. Epigenetic changes and depression. Research from 2018 has connected childhood abuse to epigenetic brain changes that may cause depression.

Do narcissists get worse with age? ›

Unlike fine wine or cheese, narcissists don't get better with age. They don't mellow, become wise, or develop late-onset self-awareness. Their personalities intensify, and without their ability to control others, they become bitter, defensive, and bossy.

How do you get the power back from a narcissist? ›

Disconnect from the narcissist's emotional energy. Be vague and don't argue back: “That's interesting.” “I understand how you feel.” Sometimes no response is very powerful and will upset them. Insist on calm, respectful tone and words. Leave if they become angry.

What do narcissists say in an argument? ›

It's not my fault, it's because of you/money/stress/work.” “If you wouldn't have done this, I wouldn't have done that.” “You knew what you were getting into; this is just the way that I am.”

What are things narcissists do? ›

Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration. Others often describe people with NPD as cocky, manipulative, selfish, patronizing, and demanding.

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Greg O'Connell

Last Updated: 11/13/2022

Views: 6384

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (42 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Greg O'Connell

Birthday: 1992-01-10

Address: Suite 517 2436 Jefferey Pass, Shanitaside, UT 27519

Phone: +2614651609714

Job: Education Developer

Hobby: Cooking, Gambling, Pottery, Shooting, Baseball, Singing, Snowboarding

Introduction: My name is Greg O'Connell, I am a delightful, colorful, talented, kind, lively, modern, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.