What is Narcissistic Abuse?

narcissistic abuse

Narcissism seems to be a bit of a buzzword these days. The name gets thrown around to label family members, bosses, and political figures. Some are deserving and some maybe not. How do you know? And what about narcissistic abuse? Can someone who is not a narcissist still be narcissistically abusive?

You may have been reading an article lately and come across the term narcissistic abuse. As you continue reading, the story or description seems very familiar. Almost like someone is writing about your life. You wonder if it is possible that you have experienced narcissistic abuse but then question if that could really be true. It feels so far fetched and dramatic to think you have experienced trauma or abuse. You wonder, is this real? Has this really been my experience?

Narcissistic abuse is not talked about enough and is more common than you think. For many people, they have a gut feeling they have experienced this type of relationship but will often excuse it away. It is painful to accept. People tend to minimize their experiences as a way to cope with what they have endured. You may have said to yourself, “it wasn’t that bad” or “some people have it worse.”   Excusing away or minimizing your experience makes you vulnerable to being in this type of relationship again. Recognizing and accepting that you have experienced narcissistic abuse is the first step towards healing. So how do you know?

What is a narcissist?

Narcissism can be viewed on a spectrum. On one end is someone who may be self-centered. In the middle of the spectrum is someone who portrays many characteristics of someone who is narcissistic. On the opposite end is a diagnosable personality disorder.

From the DSM- Diagnostic Criteria: (Need to show only five from this list)

  1. Grandiose sense of self-importance
  2. Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Believes they are special and unique
  4. Requires excessive admiration (or attention in any form)
  5. Sense of entitlement
  6. Takes advantage of others for their own gain
  7. Lack empathy (sometimes they are able to mimic empathy and it seems real but it truly is not)
  8. Jealous of others or thinks people are jealous of them
  9. Arrogant behaviors

They are not always the life of the party, out-going, charismatic type that you may think of. Sometimes it is much more covert. They play the victim and you may notice in subtle ways that everything revolves around them.

What is narcissistic abuse?

Narcissistic abuse is a form of verbal and emotional abuse that takes place within a relationship with someone who is self-absorbed and self-centered. Anyone on the narcissistic spectrum can be narcissistically abusive. They do not necessarily have to be diagnosed or be able to be diagnosed as a narcissist. This type of abuse is incredibly damaging because it challenges your sense of reality and ultimately attacks your sense of who you are.

Signs of Narcissistic abuse

Have you experienced any of these in your relationship?

Your partner or parent…

  • Withholds love and attention as a way to punish you or to get their way.
  • Threatens you either with physical or psychological intimidation.
  • Ignores you by giving you the silent treatment.
  • Blames you, telling you that everything is your fault.
  • Minimizes your feelings.
  • Isolates you from friends and family.
  • Denies your reality, telling you “that never happened,” or “I didn’t say that.” You begin to wonder if they are right and you are crazy.
  • Their needs and wants always come first.
  • Is often angry, belittling, controlling, insensitive, and/or critical.

These behaviors may be overt and easy to identify, but are often subtle manipulations. Sometimes they happen gradually and many people do not even notice this is what they are experiencing. What they do know is the relationship feels like a lot of work and they may be feeling anxious or depressed.

Have you ever been told these phrases?

  • “I’m just joking” or “I’m just teasing” when something mean is said to you.
  • “You’re being dramatic.”
  • “You’re overreacting.”
  • “Stop blowing things out of proportion.”
  • “You’re too sensitive.”
  • “Why do you have to argue about everything?”
  • “That never happened.”
  • “I didn’t say that.”

Being repeatedly told these phrases is a sign of emotional and verbal abuse. They are used as a way to deflect from the truth and gain power in a relationship.

Narcissistic abuse is destructive and incredibly hurtful. You should never be treated this way! It can be a hard reality to accept that you have experienced narcissistic abuse. This can be an isolating and confusing experience. But please know that you are not alone. If you think you have experienced narcissistic abuse, it is important to understand more about this type of relationship, how to get out, ways to avoid it in the future, and steps to heal. If any of this sounds familiar, please seek support. Always remember, healing is possible!

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