The following articles explain complex post-traumatic stress disorder and the other after-effects that are common after being in a relationship with a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath.
Psychiatrists agree that narcissists thrive by negatively impacting their significant others’ self-perception and self-esteem to improve their own; individuals who meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) put down others for pleasure and fulfillment. By deflecting their insecurities and attributing them to others, their inferiority develops into increased confidence and arrogance. Unfortunately, the obsession and denial of a narcissist’s flaws leaves no room for tolerating other individuals’, and thus results in narcissistic abuse.
Narcissistic abuse occurs in a relationship with at least one individual who meets the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and/or Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD).
Narcissists and those with APD emotionally manipulate their partner through language intended to create a sense of control over him or her. NPD and APD individuals who engage in narcissistic abuse often make their partner feel worthless and abandoned by other people in order to create a sense of dependency. Narcissists want to be idealized, and use language to make their partner obsess over their own imperfections, doubt their own ability to make decisions, go above and beyond to gain approval from the narcissist, and give in to whatever needs or wants the narcissist may have.
Extreme Affection: This approach is generally implemented at the beginning of the relationship and involves grand gestures of love and adoration in bursts.
Strategic Grooming: As the relationship progresses, narcissists progressively isolate their partner by emphasizing a unique and powerful connection that his or her partner lacks in other relationships
Lying: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Narcissists are often pathological liars, both consciously and subconsciously. They will go to any extent to isolate their partners from their family and friends by lying and manipulating them so that they begin to mistrust everyone except for the NPD or ADP individual.
Hoovering: A relationship with a man or woman who meets the criteria for NPD or APD is exhausting and suffocating. Narcissists absorb all of their partner’s time while often controlling every aspect of their lives, up to when they eat and sleep.
Victims of Narcissistic Abuse
Like victims of any type of abuse (emotional, physical, verbal, etc.), men and women who have been in these types of relationship are subject to intensive counseling. Rather than recognizing the emotional abuse and consequential damage, patients are completely focused on their own flaws and weaknesses that have been exaggerated by the narcissist. Victims are self-critical and blame themselves for the narcissist’s behavior. Rather than focusing on their own healing, they seek help for how to improve in order to help their narcissist partner. Denial of the abuse and self-blame for the behavior dominates the mindset of the patient and the conversation between patient and therapist.
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a psychological injury that results from prolonged exposure to social or interpersonal trauma, dis-empowerment, captivity or entrapment, with lack or loss of a viable escape route for the victim.
Although similar, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) differs slightly from the more commonly understood & diagnosed condition Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in causes and symptoms.
C-PTSD results more from chronic repetitive stress from which there is little chance of escape. PTSD can result from single events, or short term exposure to extreme stress or trauma. People who suffer from C-PTSD may feel un-centered and shaky, as if they are likely to have an embarrassing emotional breakdown or burst into tears at any moment. They may feel unloved – or that nothing they can accomplish is ever going to be “good enough” for others.
People who suffer from C-PTSD may feel compelled to get away from others and be by themselves, so that no-one will witness what may come next. They may feel afraid to form close friendships to prevent possible loss should another catastrophe strike.
People who suffer from C-PTSD may feel that everything is just about to go “out the window” and that they will not be able to handle even the simplest task. They may be too distracted by what is going on at home to focus on being successful at school or in the workplace.
How it can manifest in the victim(s) over time:
Rage turned inward: Eating disorders. Depression. Substance Abuse / Alcoholism. Truancy. Dropping out. Promiscuity. Co-dependence. Doormat syndrome (choosing poor partners, trying to please someone who can never be pleased, trying to resolve the primal relationship)
Rage turned outward: Theft. Destruction of property. Violence. Becoming a control freak.
Other: Learned hyper vigilance. Clouded perception or blinders about others (especially romantic partners) Seeks positions of power and / or control: choosing occupations or recreational outlets which may put oneself in physical danger. Or choosing to become a “fixer” – Therapist, Mediator, etc.
Avoidance – Avoidance is the practice of withdrawing from relationships with other people as a defensive measure to reduce the risk of rejection, accountability, criticism or exposure.
Blaming – Blaming is the practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.
Catastrophizing – Catastrophizing is the habit of automatically assuming a “worst case scenario” and inappropriately characterizing minor or moderate problems or issues as catastrophic events.
“Control-Me” Syndrome – “Control-Me” Syndrome describes a tendency that some people have to foster relationships with people who have a controlling narcissistic, antisocial or “acting-out” nature.
Denial– Denial is believing or imagining that some factual reality, circumstance, feeling or memory does not exist or did not happen.
Dependency – Dependency is an inappropriate and chronic reliance by an adult individual on another individual for their health, subsistence, decision making or personal and emotional well-being.
Depression (Non-PD) – Depression is when you feel sadder than your circumstances dictate, for longer than your circumstances last – but still can’t seem to break out of it.
Dissociation – Victims tend to ‘dissociate’ or detach from their emotions, body or surroundings. Symptoms of dissociation resulting from trauma may include depersonalization, (disconnecting your body awareness from your physical self) psychological numbing, disengaged from life and passions, or amnesia regarding the events of the abuse.
Escape To Fantasy – Escape to Fantasy is sometimes practiced by people who present a facade to friends, partners and family members. Their true identity and feelings are commonly expressed privately in an alternate fantasy world.
Fear of Abandonment – Fear of abandonment and irrational jealousy is a phobia, sometimes exhibited by people with personality disorders, that they are in imminent danger of being rejected, discarded or replaced at the whim of a person who is close to them.
Hyper Vigilance – Hyper Vigilance is the practice of maintaining an unhealthy level of interest in the behaviors, comments, thoughts and interests of others.
Identity Disturbance – Identity disturbance is a psychological term used to describe a distorted or inconsistent self-view.
Learned Helplessness – Learned helplessness is when a person begins to believe that they have no control over a situation, even when they do.
Low Self-Esteem – Low Self-Esteem is a common name for a negatively-distorted self-view which is inconsistent with reality. People who have low self-esteem often see themselves as unworthy of being successful in personal and professional settings and in social relationships. They may view their successes and their strengths in a negative light and believe that others see them in the same way.
As a result, they may develop an avoidance strategy to protect themselves from criticism.
Panic Attacks – Panic Attacks are short intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as shaking, sweats, chills and hyperventilating.
Perfectionism – Perfectionism is the practice of holding oneself or others to an unrealistic, unsustainable or unattainable standard of organization, order or accomplishment in one particular area of living, while sometimes neglecting common standards of organization, order or accomplishment in others.
Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia – Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia is the use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.
Self-Loathing – Self-Loathing is an extreme self-hatred of one’s own self, actions or one’s ethnic or demographic background.
Tunnel Vision – Tunnel Vision is the habit or tendency to only see or focus on a single priority while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.
Post Traumatic Stress After Narcissistic Abuse
It is like someone who has a physical issue and goes to one doctor after another and when the doctors don’t find anything wrong they suggest it is all in the patient’s head. There is an extreme invalidation in a situation like this, and it happens all the time.
The reason victims of narcissistic abuse are so overly sensitive, reactive, and wanting to hide away from society, is due to the complex PTSD. Abusive behavior is one thing, but the PTSD is quite another.
You can tell someone who doesn’t understand “I am suffering from PTSD as a result of a narcissistic relationship,” and most people will roll their eyes and think you are being overly dramatic.
I’ve had clients break into tears when they talked to me, because I was the first person who really understood what they were going through. They had been to doctors, psychologists, family and friends and nobody “gets it.”
First of all, the narcissist is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and can look very good to most people. They can be good looking, charming, charismatic, successful and put on a great show, but underneath the calm exterior is an ego maniac who goes through great lengths to control and dominate his closest relationships through sinister practices like gas lighting, pathological lying, undermining, downplaying and many other emotionally destructive methods.
We live in a society where appearances are everything. People put more weight on how things look on the outside then how they really feel on the inside and how they really are.
If we see a shiny sports car driving down the road we don’t think to look under the hood. A narcissist is that shiny red sports car, with a very poor engine that runs on stolen gasoline. All people see is the tanned, good looking guy driving down the boulevard in his shiny red car. They don’t see him out at night siphoning the neighbors gas tanks so he can be out in the day impressing the neighbors.
Imagine that you are the prime target for the siphoning that is happening at night and you were very confused because each morning your gas tank was near empty, even though you filled it again last night. You might tell the other neighbors about it and they blow you of and say something invalidating, like “maybe you only remember that you filled it but you really didn’t.” Because the neighbors can’t wrap their mind around it.
Finally one day you decide to fill your tank and camp out in your car all night and sure enough, here comes Mr. wonderful in his shiny red car, pulls up next to yours, gets out the hose and begins to siphon your tank. You are now witnessing it and know what is happening.
“Oh that explains everything” you say to yourself. But when you tell your neighbors that it is Mr. Wonderful, they invalidate you even further. “He could never do anything like that! He is Mr. Wonderful. He drives a shiny red car.”
You confront Mr. Wonderful and tell him you saw him siphon your gas tank and he denies it was him. He says “Lady, you must have me mixed up with another guy in a red car.” Mr. Wonderful is so convincing that you begin to question what you saw. This dynamic begins to break down your trust in yourself and also your trust in others, who still need to see Mr. Wonderful as….well, wonderful.
Complex Post Traumatic Stress is the result of an extended period of trauma, or repeating trauma over a period of time. Where regular PTSD is the result of one specific traumatic event, complex PTSD is typical of domestic violence victims, concentration camp victims, war victims and so on. This is a serious disorder and has pretty profound effects on the victims.
Many victims of narcissistic abuse don’t realize they are being traumatized until it is too late. It is much like the story of the frog who when put in a pot of boiling water will immediately jump out, but when put in cool water and the heat is slowly turned up he will cook to death.
A narcissistic relationship begins in cool water and the heat is slowly turned up to the point where the majority of victims don’t really grasp how confusing and disturbing the behavior is. My clients describe the early warning signs as confusing, causing them to question and doubt themselves. They don’t see the behavior as necessarily abusive, but awkward, strange, disturbing, disrespectful and confusing.
It might be that the new relationship starts out like a dream come true and a few months down the road the victim begins to suspect some unusual behavior between her new partner and another woman he is in contact with. It may even be an ex wife or girlfriend. When she questions him about this unusual behavior he redirects the attention to her suspicions and jealousy. The new girlfriend says to herself “well I am feeling suspicious and jealous, so maybe he is right. I will try to be less suspicious and jealous.”
She tries to curb her own suspicions and the self doubt that keeps plaguing her and is successful at keeping her feelings at bay for a few more months. But the behavior of her boyfriend and the ex girlfriend seems to be more “in her face.” She ends up grabbing his phone in the middle of the night and goes through the text messages between her boyfriend and his ex and finds a string of flirtatious, suggestive messages ending with “I love you” or “I miss you.” She I so disturbed by this, because she gave him the benefit of the doubt and took responsibility for her feelings of suspicion and jealousy only to have her suspicions confirmed in these text messages. But now she has to tell him she looked at his phone, which is completely against her normal mode of functioning. She doesn’t see herself as the type to be suspicious and break into another persons privacy, but this was driving her crazy.
She is so upset she can’t sleep and finally wakes him up and asks him outright if he is having an affair with this woman. He immediately calls her crazy and reminds her how jealous and suspicious she is and how he just won’t tolerate this kind of behavior in her. She asks how long it has been since he talked to her and he lies, telling her several months. She calls him on his bluff and tells him she looked at his phone and they just talked yesterday and he told the ex girlfriend he missed her.
Suddenly another redirect happens and he says “I can’t believe you went into my phone. You’re crazy. I don’t have any privacy with you. You are so damn suspicious, always reading into things, when there is nothing going on. I can’t trust you anymore. I’m finished with you!”
He grabs his belongings and leaves the house in a huff and she is left feeling lost, guilty, embarrassed, deeply confused and both emotionally and physically abandoned. She figures he will cool down and she will hear from him the next day, but the next day comes and goes and she doesn’t hear from him.
She starts to feel more guilty and finally picks up the phone and apologize to him on his voice mail, because he didn’t answer the phone. She still doesn’t hear from him. She sits in the silence feeling that she has sabotaged the relationship and had she just kept her suspicions to herself and kept her mouth shut he would still be here. The self blame begins to escalate.
Then she begins to stalk him on Facebook to see what he is up to and her heart drops when she sees smiling photos of he and his ex girlfriend at a beach party. He didn’t even look back.
She catches wind that he is telling people that she is really insecure, needy and jealous and he couldn’t deal with it. She begins to believe her insecurity is the reason they broke up. Well, it wasn’t even officially a break up. He just walked out the door in a huff and never came back.
Some of you may think I am telling your story… but don’t worry. I’m not blowing your cover. I have heard similar stories so often, it is common for this type of crazy making abuse.
Most people who go through this crazy making dynamic feel powerless. They have lost their sense of power and in some way have given their power away to the narcissist. This powerlessness lends itself to the trauma as it can seem impossible to reclaim one’s sense of power and control in their own life.
Narcissists need to control your reactions and responses, and even your sense of reality. They decide what you are going to think and believe and you slowly give away your own grasp on reality. You begin living in the narcissistic reality, which is very warped. You begin to believe what the narcissists believes, including that the problems in the relationship are all your fault.
In the scenario I gave you earlier, the narcissist is maintaining an intimate relationship with his ex girlfriend and keeping it a secret from his current girlfriend. He needs to keep it a secret because if she actually knew he was still seeing his ex, she wouldn’t be interested in being with him. So he convinces her that there is nothing going on, (pathological lying,) while focusing on her insecurity, jealousy and suspicious nature as the source of the problems.
The real reason she is feeling insecure is that her boyfriend has another girlfriend and she is being gaslighted and kept in the dark about it. When she begins to “intuit and feel” that something is wrong and confront him about it, he spins the story and focus’s on her behavior instead of his own. If he can focus on everything that is wrong with her, it takes the attention off what is really happening and what he doesn’t want her to know about.
Narcissists don’t believe you have the right to the truth. Narcissists operate in the dark and therefore they need to keep you in the dark too. If you actually had the truth you could make an empowered decision, but instead there is a ton of deception. Narcissists gain a sense of power and control by deceiving others.
When we are deceived and manipulated to the point where we turn against ourselves, we are traumatizing ourselves, unknowingly. We turn against ourselves because we don’t trust ourselves and what we are intuiting and feeling. We agree with the narcissist that the problem must be our own insecurity and jealousy, rather than aligning with our intuitive, knowing part, which, by the way, is also the feminine aspect of our nature. Whether you are a man or a woman, involved with a narcissist, this is a case of the masculine qualities of intellect, squashing the feminine qualities of intuition. Because intuition is an inner knowing and there are no facts to back it up, it is easy for the logical, rational, masculine energy to invalidate your intuitive knowing.
You can feel and sense that something is wrong but can find no facts to back up what you are feeling. This is why so many people involved with narcissist start fact finding. This is what leads a woman who has never invaded anyone’s privacy in her life, suddenly pop out of bed at 3am and looks at her husband’s phone. She feels that something is wrong but doesn’t know what. She has these intuitive hits but her husband keeps denying what she is feeling. She begins to feel like she is going crazy, and he confirms this for her. This kind of dynamic lays the groundwork for complex post traumatic stress.
When the relationship finally ends, for the majority of victims of narcissistic abuse, the trauma escalates into high gear. The narcissist is no longer attached to keeping the relationship and so no longer tries to hide anything. It is like the lid coming of Pandora’s Box. Suddenly the truth, that the victim and her captor has been suppressing comes flooding forth. Suddenly she learns she was actually right about her husband. He really was having an affair and living a double life, all the while convincing her that she was the one going crazy.
This means the narcissist was fully aware of what he was doing, which means he didn’t really care about her or believe she had any rights. Now that she knows the truth, he just cuts off from her, moves in with the other woman and won’t talk about anything with her. He continues to suggest she is crazy, because by now she is so angry at him for misleading her, lying, cheating, taking years of her life and callously discarding her in the end.
She doesn’t feel she has the right to have her feelings about how he treated her either. If she has feelings about his cruel, uncaring and deceptive behavior, he uses her feelings as evidence that she is an emotional basket case.
Meanwhile he has picked up with the other woman, without skipping a beat. Life just goes on for the narcissist. He continues to go to the same job, go out with the same friends and do the same social things he has always done, only now the new woman is at his side, and he seems very happy about it, in his facebook photos.
The narcissist may tell your social group of twenty years that you have emotional problems and although he tried to work it out, it just didn’t work. He tells them you are in counseling for your little problem and he wishes you the best. The social group accepts the new woman into your place with open arms and you are quickly forgotten. If you see one of your old friends on the street, she gives you that “look” of pity that says “I know about your little problem, but I’m not going to bring it up.”
You try and tell your family about what is happening and because of your PTSD you are hyperfocused on the narcissist and his new woman. Your family tell you “honey, maybe you are over reacting. You have been very sensitive lately. In fact you have always been a little too sensitive. Maybe that is why he left.”
You find yourself being invalidated by your family, friends and even the family therapist you went to.
You may have the experience of not being believed.
Sometimes the worst trauma is after the relationship ends. Before the ending you may have been blissfully ignorant, or at the very least, in denial and numb to the truth.
Now that the truth has hit you in the face, the trauma is awakened in full force. You may be asking yourself questions like “How could he do this to me?” “How can he be so uncaring?” “Did he really never love me?” “Does he really love her?” “Why does he treat me like I don’t exist?” “Maybe he is right about me. Maybe it is all my fault. After all, I am the one who is struggling, hurting, falling apart, emotionally fragile, lost and alone, and he is the one who just kept going as if nothing ever happened. Perhaps this is proof that I am the one with the problem.
We all get caught up in who is the ONE with the problem. The answer to that question is “you both have a problem. He is a heartless, uncaring narcissist and he brought his narcissism into your relationship. You are an empathic, codependent who ignored your own wants, needs, desires and inner knowing in order to gain his love, approval and acceptance and keep your fears of abandonment at bay.
Okay, now this isn’t the case with everyone, but it is the case more often than not. An empathic codependent will take on the disowned emotions of the narcissist and believe they are hers. She takes on the projection of the narcissist and believe they are hers. The narcissist cuts off from her, dumping his disowned crap onto her and leaving her to believe it is her crap.
Our desire to make a relationship work, to stay committed and play the role of the good wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, son or daughter, causes one to try harder, when the narcissist doesn’t really try at all. The narcissist may even make it look like he is trying, but not really.
In the end you go through so much pain, heartbreak, confusion, gaslighting, frustration, anger and fear that your nervous system goes on overload. The nervous system on overload results in the PTSD symptoms like fear, panic, nervousness, anxiety, agoraphobia, isolation, obsessive thinking, insomnia, and inability to function or cope in normal situations like work and social functions.
The longing for or craving the narcissist is a symptom that is more like the Stockholm Syndrome, then love.
Most people believe that when they crave the narcissist, it is because they are so “in love” with that person and just want to be with them. But this is a trick of the mind.
The Stockholm Syndrome originated with a bank robbery hostage situation in Stockholm Sweden, where a group of men held a group of hostages. The threat of death loomed over their head for hours. Instead of despising their captures, several women fell in love with their captors and even defended them in court.
So let’s get a clear picture. From what I read, some of the hostages had explosives strapped to them and their capture held the detonator. The captors held the lives of these women in their hand and the only control these women felt they had was to bond with their captors. They had a belief that if they could bond with and get in the good graces of the man who held the detonator, they would be spared. They were trying to appeal to the humanity in these men. This need to get into the good graces and gain positive favor with the captors, equaled survival!
The one thing I probably hear more than anything else among those who crave the narcissist is “I want him to see that I’m a good person; that I’m not all those horrible things he thinks I am.”
If you have been devalued by a narcissist, it probably felt a lot like you were being destroyed, torn apart, ripped down to shreds, because this is how the narcissist devalues. It is done with such emotional intensity that those cruel words go directly to the subconscious and makes a lasting impact. You could also say that this experience activates core shame in the one being devalued. The resulting belief is “I’m not good enough for the narcissist, therefore I am unworthy.”
Suddenly you are living from this place of emotional devastation, deep shame and despair.
Although you learn through research that the narcissist is only projecting his disowned dark emotions onto you, emotionally you can’t rectify it. By the time you have learned this information, the deep subconscious impact has already been made. This is where the cognitive dissonance comes in. You know on a mental level he or she is a narcissist and that person is projecting, none of it is true. But on an emotional level you feel completely worthless. On the one hand you hate his guts and on the other you would do anything to get him back.
Our cognitive dissonance drives us even more crazy. “How can I be completely devastated by someone and want to still be with him?”
This is the fallout most people experience in or after a relationship with a narcissist. The emotions are so charged up and one is so hypersensitive because of the PTSD that their whole world revolves around seeking relief from the insanity they are feeling.
One often believes that the very thing that caused the insanity can cure it so there is a draw to bring the narcissist back in, just to get a moment of relief. This drive to have contact with the narcissistcan be so strong that it over-rides the reasoning part of the brain. It is like the addict in his quest for the next fix.
So, you see, most of the symptoms you are experiencing as a result of narcissistic abuse are complex PTSD symptoms. They are very complex indeed and it can take some time to unravel the mess.
Some people find relief with different methods to treat PTSD, but there are few highly effective methods out there that bring immediate relief.
In my experience, talking it out and using hypnotherapy have the greatest effect, but it takes about three months of hard work. Hard work means, working on a very deep emotional level. It is a bit like cult deprogramming. You have to continue to hear the truth over and over from different angles and directions and you have to find ways to relax your body. You also need to do physical exercise to release some of the fight or flight anxiety in the body. Running, biking, jumping on a trampoline or any activity that revs up your heart beat will help to discharge that energy; especially if you are right in the middle of a panic attack.
Eating healthy is important too. Lots of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. You are healing trauma and dis-ease in the body. You need to give your body the proper nutrients to heal. Fresh fruits and vegetables also will help increase your energy. You have gone through an experience of energy vampirism.
Most people are energetically depleted after narcissistic abuse. You need to work to get your energy back. Feed your body well, exercise, get out in nature, and take salt water baths.
Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself! You are worthy! You do matter! You are enough! And maybe the greatest gift that will come of all this is a much stronger belief in yourself and your worth and value in this world. Because inevitably, it is in finding your worth and value that you truly heal.
Signs That You’ve Been Abused by a Narcissist
You Doubt Yourself
Victims of narcissistic abuse often appear uncertain of themselves, constantly seeking clarification that they haven’t made a mistake or misheard something. This reactive adaptation to narcissistic abuse is because the narcissist is ALWAYS finger pointing and shifting blame to YOU for ALL of the ups & downs both in the relationship AND in the narcissist’s personal psyche. Because this relationship has NON EXISTENT boundaries, you will find YOURSELF constantly PUT UPON and FORCED to accept responsibility for things you didn’t do or say. This borrowed humiliation and shame is exactly what the narcissist intends for the victim to take from the narcissist. Their own unfelt core of shame.
Just refer to the above explanation of self doubt and boundary transgression if you want to understand the CONFUSION that is part and parcel of narcissistic abuse. Daily boundary transgression and criss crossing of responsibility starts to wear on even the clearest minded of targets. Suddenly you wake up and realize that all the realities and borders between yourself and others is not only BLURRED but MISSING. It’s confusing to KNOW that you aren’t responsible for someone else’s behavior, thinking and feeling but to be CONSTANTLY SCOLDED for behaving, thinking and feeling as if you ARE. It’s crazy-making and a narcissist purposefully causes this confusion. They know that a divided and conquered mind is their most vulnerable and susceptible target who won’t be able to identify that their confusion is caused by an abusive technique called ‘gas lighting’. Gas lighting is a technique of psychological abuse used by narcissists to instill confusion and anxiety in their target to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgement. With gas lighting, the target initially notices that something happens that is odd, but they don’t believe it. The target attempts to fight the manipulation, but are confused further by being called names or told that they’re: ‘Just too sensitive’, “Crazy’, ‘Imagining things’, or the narcissist flat out DENIES ever saying anything hurtful. Gradually, the target learns not to trust their own perceptions and begins doubting themselves. Broken and unable to trust themselves, they isolate further. The target now doubts everything about themselves; their thoughts and opinions, their ideas and ideals. They become dependent on the narcissist for their reality. For it is in your CONFUSION and acceptance of responsibility that belongs to the narcissist, that a narcissist is able to successfully CONTROL YOU and USE YOU as a scapegoat for their problems.
Every minute of every hour of every day of every year, a Narcissist, who has a DSM classifiable personality DISORDER (ie: not playing with a full deck) is PROJECTING their disorder onto those around them. If you don’t think that having a crazy person constantly blaming you for being “crazy” will make you crazy, I’d like to introduce you to a narcissist that will convince you otherwise. This disorder isn’t a relationship gone wrong. This disorder isn’t kid stuff. It’s MALEVOLENT. It’s a transference of malevolence and MENTAL DISORDER from the person who has it to the person who DOESN’T. Frankly, before a narcissist, I’ve not once in my life, FELT CRAZY. Neither have I ever been told by a psychologist and I’ve seen lots of them – that I had anything WRONG with MY own MENTAL HEALTH. Personally, I always had it “together”. I was resilient, mentally tough, and withstood many events in my life that would make others crumble. Yet, when I unwittingly dated someone with this serious mental health malady, I wanted to slam an entire set of broken porcelain down his throat sideways and every obtuse moron that believes the garbage that comes out of this mouth. No, it’s not that I suddenly became a person interested in physical violence, I suddenly became a person who was witnessing a DSM category all wrapped up into a physical being – who turned his mental health problems ON me. I became a target of a person with a problem. They say, “Hurt people, HURT people”. I say, “Narcissistic People DESTROY PEOPLE”.
Emerging Cluster of Symptoms That Have No Other Exexplanation
All I could muster to the narcissist in my dear john letter when I broke up with him that wonderful New Year’s Eve, was “I DON’T KNOW what’s WRONG!! But I just don’t feel like myself. Something feels EXTREMELY TOXIC and I don’t know why”….. . This should be the alert when a victim of narcissistic abuse presents themselves to therapists. The inexplicable “complaint”. My first visit to my therapist were those words exactly. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but it’s SERIOUS!” I felt it. I did – I felt BEWILDERED inside, but I could not articulate what it was. (another red flag for someone usually able to articulate every feeling and explanation about myself in-depth). How was it that after 43 years of explaining, analyzing and discussing my own deficiencies quite well, I could NOT for the life of me explain to my therapist what was so “wrong” with me that it was palpable. His answer, set me free, it really did. “YOU HAVE BEEN IN A DOMESTICALLY VIOLENT RELATIONSHIP WITH A NARCISSIST”. My therapist has some background with this person. He’d WITNESSED the narcissist calling me, berating me during sessions. I held the phone away during one session, so that my therapist could hear the narcissist on the other end questioning me about cheating, “Accusing me of having an affair with the therapist”. Grilling me about what the therapist looked like and would speak to me like. He even accused the therapist of wanting me sexually and that was the reason the therapist spoke so lowly of the narcissist. (of course it couldn’t just be that the narcissist had a bad reputation and the community was on to him). Sufferers report that their spark has gone out and, even years later, find they just cannot get motivated about anything. Unaware that we’ve been living in a war zone with a tyrannical narcissist, we can’t quite grasp the words to articulate the abuse, yet at the same time, we VERY MUCH FEEL IT. We present ourselves to the mental health community, incapable of speaking about an abuse we yet know nothing about.
Until that word, “NARCISSISTIC ABUSE” is given to us, we have NO IDEA that is what’s causing our pain. That’s why it’s SO IMPORTANT to get the word out there, what narcissists look like, their modus operandi, the words and phrases they use, so that when a victim of their abuse begins looking for answers, they quickly will be able to identify that they are involved with a narcissist. In Narcissistic Victim Syndrome you are looking for a cluster of symptoms to emerge many are the symptoms of trauma (avoidance, loss of interest, feeling detached, sense of limited future, sleeping or eating difficulties and nightmares, irritability, hyper-vigilance, easily startled, flashbacks, hopelessness, psychosomatic illnesses, self-harming, thoughts of suicide, etc.). Some victims develop Stockholm Syndrome and want to support, defend, and love the abuser despite what they have gone through.
Victims tend to ‘dissociate’ or detach from their emotions, body or surroundings. Living in a war zone where all forms of power and control are used against you (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion, control, etc.), the threat of abuse is always present. Dissociation is an automatic coping mechanism against overwhelming stress. Symptoms of dissociation resulting from trauma may include depersonalization, (disconnecting your body awareness from your physical self) psychological numbing, disengaged from life and passions, or amnesia regarding the events of the abuse. It has been hypothesized that dissociation may provide a temporarily effective defense mechanism in cases of severe trauma; however, in the long-tern, dissociation is associated with decreased psychological functioning and adjustment. Other symptoms sometimes found along with dissociation in victims of traumatic abuse (often referred to as “sequelae to abuse”) include anxiety, PTSD, low self-esteem, somatization, depression, chronic pain, interpersonal dysfunction, substance abuse, self-mutilation and suicidal ideation or actions. These symptoms may lead the victim to erroneously present the symptoms as the source of the problem.
Physical Numbness – (toes, fingertips, lips) is common, as is emotional numbness (especially inability to feel joy).
Avoidance – of places, sounds, tastes, and songs that remind them of their abuser or the abuse. Intense feelings of anxiety even in anticipation of having to revisit the memories.
Memory Loss – Almost all targets report impaired memory. Partially due to conscious avoidance as well as from the damage done to the hippocampus, and area of the brain linked to learning and memory.
Need for Solitude/Tendency to Isolate – We’re EXHAUSTED after narcissistic abuse. Feelings of withdrawal and isolation are common; we just want to be in our won head for a while, find our own answers; thus, solitude is sought.
Lack of Joy and Hope – Inability to feel joy (anhedonia) and deadening of loving feelings towards others are commonly reported. One fears never being able to feel love or trust again. The target becomes very gloomy and senses a foreshortened future sometimes with justification. May targets ultimately have severe psychiatric injury, severely impaired health and/or stress related illnesses.
Sleeplessness – Melatonin became my new best friend after narcissistic abuse. The nightmares and night terrors can be overwhelming that good restorative sleep becomes impossible. Napping became my new favorite passion. Sleep becomes almost impossible, despite the constant fatigue; such sleep as is obtained tends to be unsatisfying, unrefreshing and non-restorative. On waking, the person often feels more tired than when they went to bed. Depressive feelings arrive very early in the morning, making falling back to sleep an impossibility. Feelings of vulnerability and loneliness may be heightened overnight.
Anxiousness, Guilt & Disturbing Thoughts – Targets have an extremely short fuse and are easily irritated. The person frequently experiences obsessive visions of violence happening to the narcissist hoping for an accident for, or murdering the narcissist; the resultant feelings of guilt further limit progress in healing.
Fight or Flight Response – With your system on alert for ever-present danger in the environment it’s easy to react sensitively to sudden changes – causing the startle response.
Awareness of Symptoms – It’s very harrowing to realize that you are different from who you were before the narcissist; FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT. When you are very aware that PTSD has replaced the narcissist, it emotionally drains the target of any hope for being PERMANENTLY NARCISSISTIC FREE. We don’t want to be constantly reminded and away of the person we escaped. We want to live freely, however symptoms, are a constant reminder that we DON’T.
Most people who experience narcissistic abuse have difficulty getting anybody to understand what they are going through. People understand physical abuse. They understand verbal abuse. They understand very controlling behavior, but they don’t understand the subtle, crazy making, type of slow destruction that results in complex post traumatic stress disorder.
First and second song written by me