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Narcissistic Abuse: Signs You Have Experienced One and How to Get Help

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a complicated mental health condition that is typically characterised by:

  • Low empathy
  • Inflated or grandiose sense of self
  • Extreme need for attention and admiration

Individuals with narcissistic tendencies or NPD sometimes exhibit patterns of controlling and manipulative behavior that involves both emotional manipulation and verbal abuse. 

Below are some signs that indicate you have experienced narcissistic abuse.

You Feel Isolated

Often, narcissistic abuse can be so subtle that it’s hard for other people to see it.

This can leave you feeling more alone and prone to further manipulation.

The abuser can pull you back with apologies, even kindness, or by acting as if the abuse never happened.

This tactic is called hoovering

Hoovering is more effective when you lack support.

This tactic often works when you lack support.

You Freeze Up

People have different responses to trauma and abuse.

You might attempt to escape the situation (flight) or confront the abusive person (fight).

If both methods won’t work, you might end up freezing instead.

The freeze response is typical among those who feel helpless.

This response often involves dissociation since distancing yourself from the abuser emotionally can help minimise the intensity of the abuse and numb some of the distress and pain you experience.

If you believe there is no way out of the relationship, you can end up staying in it rather than seeking support.

You Have Difficulty Making Decisions

A pattern of criticism and devaluation can leave you with little self-confidence and self-esteem.

Narcissistic abuse often involves implications that you can’t do anything right and you constantly make bad decisions. 

A narcissistic partner might tell you you are are ignorant or stupid outright though the insult will be delivered with a falsely affectionate tone.

Over time, you can start absorbing the insults and attaching them to your self-perception and you can end up second-guessing yourself all the time as a result.

These gaslighting tactics can make you doubt your ability to make sound decisions.

You Have Unexplained Physical Symptoms

Abuse might trigger nervous feelings and anxiety that might manifest physically.

Some of the physical symptoms you might notice include:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle aches and pains

You Feel Unsettled and Restless

Narcissistic abuse can be unpredictable at times.

Often, you can’t predict if the abuser will criticise you or surprise you with a gift.

If you have no idea what someone will do or say at any given moment, you can develop a lot of tension as you are constantly preparing yourself to face any conflict.

Worries about constant streams of criticism and how you can best handle abusive behavior will also leave you on edge constantly.

You might feel it would be unsafe to let your guard down.

As a result, you won’t know how to relax anymore.

You Don’t Recognise Yourself Anymore

When abused, many people end up adjusting their self-identity to accommodate the abuser.

For instance, a narcissistic partner can tell you, “If you go out with your friends, that means you don’t love me and you would rather spend time with them.”

To prove you love your partner, you stop going out with your friends.

In essence, you end up spending all your time doing what the abuser wants to show that you really care.

These changes can lead to loss of your sense of self.

This loss can leave you feeling empty and lost.

You can also have a hard time enjoying life and you lose sight of your sense of purpose.

If you have gone through narcissistic abuse, you will also have difficulty setting healthy boundaries in your relationship with others.

You Have Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety can develop if you have gone through narcissistic abuse.

You might also experience feeling worthless or hopeless and you can lose interest in things that used to bring you happiness and joy.

How You Can Help Yourself

Narcissistic abuse can have a significant tool on your physical and emotional health.

If you notice that you are exhibiting signs of narcissistic abuse, therapy can help.

Therapy can provide a safe place where you can:

  • Learn coping strategies that can help you manage your mental health symptoms
  • Learn how to set healthy boundaries in your relationships
  • Explore new ways to rebuild your sense of self

Over to You

Lastly, a therapist specialising in abuse recovery can also validate your experience and help you understand that you are not at fault. They can also provide support so you can recover fully.

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