Updated: May 17, 2020
Narcissistic Abuse – Healing and Recovery
Are you in a relationship with a person who thinks they are far superior to you and to everyone around them? Or maybe your parent ran your life, expecting nothing less than excellence from you and being envious of your achievements – so much so that they found a way to make your triumphs all about them. Perhaps you are married to someone who is “difficult” – they demand all your attention, have an inflated ego, and are frequently critical of you because things are always “your fault.” If you have a difficult, selfish, and unemotionally available loved one and feel like you have less self-confidence, have less independence, or have given up your family, friends, hobbies, or a career for this person, you may be dealing with narcissistic abuse.
Signs of a Narcissist
Everyone has some narcissistic qualities – they can help make you a stronger person, give you a healthy dose of confidence, and allow you to set boundaries for how others treat you. Some people, however, take these traits to an extreme. If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, they will expect constant admiration from you, they’ll seek to control you, they will separate you from your support system, and they’ll tolerate nothing less than lowering your self-esteem in order to boost theirs. This controlling person may have narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). A mental health professional is the only one who can make a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, however there are signs of a narcissist that you can look for, which will give you a good idea of whether your loved one has NPD.
Putting you down or criticizing you to make themselves feel good or superior
Isolating you from others, such as your friends and family
Getting angry if you disagree with them
An exaggerated sense of self-importance. These people inflate their accomplishments, making a simple success into a monumental achievement when they tell people about it
Believing they are superior to everyone else, despite the fact they have no special talent or haven’t accomplished anything noteworthy
Lacking empathy for others, intolerance of other people’s needs and feelings
Expecting admiration and accolades that are out of proportion to their accomplishment (example: they got a standard cost of living raise, but expect you to treat them as if they got a huge promotion)
Thinking they are too special to associate with people they feel are “beneath” them
Being envious of others or believing that other people are jealous of them
Manipulating others to get what they want. They have unreasonable expectations that they should be given special treatment or that others should go to great lengths to fulfill their needs and wishes
Taking advantage of others and exploiting people for their own gain
Telling you everything is your fault (example: they say things like, “if you would only be smarter/prettier/stop pushing my buttons/do things the “right” way/dress better, etc., I wouldn’t act this way.”)
Are only willing to work on the relationship when you are walking out the door. Once you give in and stay, they revert to their old behavior
Preoccupation with finding the “ideal” love, or with beauty, power, or success
Narcissistic parents make their children feel emotionally abandoned, keep their children from learning to trust, and cause them to worry about making any type of mistake, no matter how trivial. In a relationship, the narcissist will break down their partner’s self-esteem over time, will frequently withhold their love until the partner does what they want them to, and often bullies the partner into giving things up so they get their way and there is less conflict. Narcissistic abuse can happen in a variety of forms. One person might give you the silent treatment, while another might subject their partner to emotional blackmail, or to physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse. Generally narcissistic abuse consists of unloving actions such as manipulation, criticizing, belittling, withholding love or emotional support, jealousy, ordering you around, or lying to you. It is the gradual dismantling of your self-esteem by the abuser.
In truth, the narcissist does not like themselves, so they abuse you in order to feel better. The person with NPD lacks empathy and compassion for others. Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional and, sometimes, physical abuse. As with anything, individuals who have NPD display traits that can range from mild to extreme and genuinely malicious. People with NPD don’t realize or don’t care how hurtful their behavior is because they are hyper-focused on trying to get their own needs met – they are only concerned with themselves.
Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Most narcissists won’t go into therapy – after all, they don’t think there is anything wrong with them. Therefore, narcissistic abuse recovery is most often for the benefit of the partner, child, or loved one who is being abused. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, it’s important to seek professional help and support to rebuild your confidence and restore your self-esteem. Keep in mind that you are better than you think you are – the NPD person’s constant badgering has broken down your self-confidence and made you feel unworthy, but you aren’t – you are a victim of abuse. Find a mental health professional who is specially trained in trauma recovery to aid in healing from narcissistic abuse. If you are unable to leave the relationship, a therapist can help you learn to communicate effectively and set boundaries so the narcissist can no longer take advantage of you.
Don't Give Up
You can find other resources and CoDA is a great program to check out if you have not tried the twelve-step program. Many codependents have histories of trauma from Narcissists. There are resources locally as well, contact Kimberly for more information to find those closest to you.