10 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
Fact checked

Abuse comes in many forms and most of the time it is not very apparent. Narcissistic abuse is a type of abuse that is very obscure and has different components in it such as verbal, emotional, psychological, and financial components. Narcissistic abuse can be difficult to spot and it is crucial to be aware of the different types of narcissistic abuse and the findings of each type.

Narcissistic abuse is a type of emotional abuse also referred to as ‘psychological abuse’ that is inflicted by a narcissist on its victim. A narcissist is a person who possesses an extreme sense of self-importance, grandiosity, and lacks empathy. 

Narcissistic individuals prioritize themselves and keep others secondary. Narcissists believe that they deserve superior treatment and demand excessive praise and appreciation and when they do not get the attention up to their expectations they emotionally and psychologically abuse their victim. 

A narcissist knows many tactics to emotionally and psychologically drain a person by verbal manipulation since narcissists are the maestro of gaslighting and experts at lying. Narcissistic effortlessly and excessively lie about frequent things and they do it so often that the victim finds it hard to figure out the truth. 

Narcissists humiliate their victims making them feel inferior and dumb. They casually pass degrading remarks and sometimes they pass such comments wrapped in sweetness to be taken as a joke when their intention is simply to hurt the victim. Backhanded comments are another way that narcissist manipulate their victims. 

Narcissistic Abuse cycle

All these tactics and manipulation make the victim enter a state of emotional burnout where they do not possess the energy to deal with further abuse and are seen walking on eggshells to prevent circumstances that might infuriate the narcissist. Victims of narcissist emotional abuse are anxious and depressed due to the constant trauma that they experience. 

Narcissistic individuals are very charming on the front and hence entering into a relationship is no problem for them. However, what is difficult for a narcissist is to maintain a relationship since they can’t stay in a relationship for too long due to their toxic traits and because they cannot keep the mask of being a good person all along with the relationship.

Narcissists expertly hide their flaws and do not let the world know who they are since their attitude is deceiving apparently. A narcissist partner is very charming and perfect at the beginning of the relationship; showering love, bringing expensive gifts, and making big promises for the future- a phase known as ‘love bombing’, which traps the victim into their charm.

However, in no time the victims learn about the true face of the narcissist abuser as they unveil themselves. Their love and praises for the partner are replaced by criticism and hate leaving the partner (victim) in an utter state of shock at the sudden change in their attitude. 

Narcissistic relationship abuse is very difficult to spot and most of the time the victims either remain in denial that they are being abused or find themselves deserving of all the abuse since the narcissistic individual manipulates them into thinking that every shortcoming in the relationship is their fault. 

Narcissists are always found to be blame-shifting on their partners for all the fights and misunderstandings; planting a seed of self-doubt that robs the victim of their confidence and crumbles their personality. 

Domestic abuse is also referred to as ‘domestic violence or ‘intimate partner violence and it is defined as a type of behavior of a person (abuser) to maintain control and power over their partner as is seen in narcissistic abuse. 

Victims of narcissistic domestic abuse may include a child, or relative, or any other household member. Narcissistic domestic abuse involves intense emotional and psychological abuse caused by subjecting the victim to constant manipulation to be controlled by the abuser.

During narcissistic domestic abuse, the narcissistic partner may make the victim feel embarrassed and make them a laughing stock in front of their friends and family. Narcissistic partners often put down their victim’s accomplishments, discarding them as if they mean nothing, whereas, they demand excessive praise and admiration when they achieve any milestone but fail to acknowledge the achievements of others. 

Narcissistic domestic abuse can also progress to violence depending on narcissists fluctuating mood and they may even hit, stab, shove, or push the victim causing them pain and physical hurt. 

Narcissists are experts at shifting the blame on others and whenever they behave aggressively they shift the blame on the victim for making them act this certain way. This leaves the victim doubting and instills self-doubt and loss of self-worth as they began second-guessing their choices. 

Narcissist partners are very controlling and to exert their power they usually ask their victims to cut off contact with their friends and family such that they are isolated and have no support group and are left to feel miserable without being able to share it with anyone. 

Usually, after a fight, narcissists give their victims silent treatment as a means to show that they are annoyed and angry at them. This behavior is referred to as ‘stonewalling’ and causes immense grief to the victim as their partner leaves them stranded. 

It is not surprising that the victims are often doubting if they are the narcissist or the victim due to being subjected to constant manipulation and blaming at the hand of their abuser. Victims are so depressed and upset with the fragile mental and physical state that they are living in due to the abuser’s behavior and they are called names so many times that they internalize the abuse, considering it as true.

So if you are having difficulty in understanding the dynamics of your relationship as to who is the abuser and victim, you can read through the following paragraphs to question yourself whether you are the victim or not.

Narcissistic Withdrawal and Treatment

Narcissists are not bothered at being called a narcissist. So if you are anxious and worried if you are a narcissist and want it to change, chances are that you are not a narcissist since a narcissist never desires to change because according to them, they have never been wrong. As narcissists lack empathy they don’t care what troubles they cause or how many people they have hurt as they maintain their power dynamics and keep everything in control. 

Narcissists are always found to be projecting which means that they are often shifting the blame on you. They project their toxic traits at you even though they are the ones possessing them. If you find a narcissist calling you greedy or selfish it is likely because they are the ones who possess these traits. 

When narcissists use the tactic of projection they achieve what they want- they dismiss all responsibility for their behavior and make you feel bad about yourself for being the cause of their attitude. Narcissists use gaslighting into making you believe that you are wrong, making you doubt yourself. 

Being a victim you feel that you are deserving of abuse that your narcissistic partner or parent inflicts upon you. Since there is no logical reason or explanation for the behavior of a narcissist you start thinking that you were the cause of infuriating them which made them hurl abuse at you. It is not wrong to give someone a margin for something wrong that they do but it is not acceptable to let someone abuse you thinking that you were the cause since abuse is not acceptable, regardless of the cause.

Do not react to abuse since it is a vicious cycle because once you react and show your anger to the abuser when they are shouting and yelling at you, they will take this incident against you on multiple occasions in the future, making you look at fault. So you are not a narcissist when you spoke up for yourself once in a while. Try to be self-aware and do not blame yourself for the shortcomings as this is the goal of the abuser and you should not let them succeed at it.

If you are still confused as to who is the abuser in your relation ask yourself these quick questions:

  • Has anyone else called you selfish, crazy, or too sensitive?
  • Do you find it difficult to remember events when you are in another company?
  • Do all the shortcomings happen between you and your abuser or does it happen in other relations that you are linked with?
  • Does others’ well-being matter to you?
  •  Do you have a hidden motive when you care about others?

A similar narcissistic response is seen in all narcissistic abuse relations as it follows the same cycle- idealize, devalue, and discard. Narcissists are programmed in the same way so it is seen that narcissists are using similar phrases as if they are all given a manual to read the comments from. 

During the initial, idealization phase narcissists excessively praise their partner and shower love generously and the partner might feel that the relationship is progressing too rapidly. Narcissistic individuals become so expressive about their feeling that one may question how they can develop such strong feelings in so little time. However, there are certain phrases narcissists used in this stage which should raise red flags. 

They are as follows:

  • “You are my soul mate!”
  • “I have never met anyone like you before!”
  • “We’ll be together forever.”
  • “You are so nice, kind, and beautiful.”
  • “No one understands me as you do.”

Once the narcissist has trapped their victim they let their true self show and shower criticism instead of praise and make the victim feel that it is their fault. During this devaluation phase, their partner might hear comments like:

  • “You are so insecure.”
  • “You are crazy. No wonder no one ever stayed with you.”
  • “What is wrong with you?”
  • “You are too sensitive.”
  • “Am I not important to you than your friends?”

They might excuse their behavior by making the following comments:

  • “Everyone abandons me, can you please stay and help me?”
  • “The reason I’m like this is because my parents were mean to me.”
  • “You can’t blame me. You know I have a problem.”
  • “Don’t you remember how amazing we were at the start?”

They will humiliate you by criticizing your choices and by restricting you from meeting your friends and family:

  • “You like that? Oh! That’s a terrible choice.”
  • “I don’t like your friends. You should not meet with them.”
  • “If you go and meet your family, I’ll be angry.”
  • “You look so stupid in this dress.”

During the last phase of the narcissistic abuse cycle- the discard phase, narcissists hurl the most toxic remarks to belittle the victim. They are as follows:

  • “No one will ever love you.”
  • “Everyone hates you.”
  • “You will stay alone for the rest of your life.”
  • “You will regret leaving me because you won’t find anyone better than me.”

Such remarks are typical of narcissistic abuse that haunts the victim long after they have broken free from the relationship of narcissistic abuse. 

A long-term relationship with a narcissist will indeed leave you shattered, transforming you into a different person such that you find it hard to recognize yourself. Often when individuals are dealing with narcissistic partners they become depressed and anxious individuals with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, individuals who have faced narcissistic abuse at the hands of their parents are more likely to evolve into narcissistic adults because this is how they have seen their parents behaving all their lives and they don’t know how to live otherwise.

Children who have lived with narcissistic parents have faced the suppression of their feeling so many times that they lose empathy and become insensitive about the pain of others. Since a child with narcissist parents has seen how the parents are always prioritizing themselves, they too inculcate this habit and consider themselves first before thinking of others. After being manipulated and gaslighted as a kid, these children grow into adults who use the same tactics and cause trauma to their victims. 

It is true when they say that narcissistic abuse is a lifelong trauma because survivors of narcissistic abuse take very long to adjust to their normal self and bounce back to who they were before the abusive relationship.

When someone is dating a victim of narcissistic abuse they need to be extra cautious of the words that they use and the tone in which they deliver their comment since the victims are very sensitive after enduring verbal and emotional abuse by their ex-narcissistic partners or narcissistic parents.

The victim often gets flashbacks of their traumatic episodes to which they may react physically and emotionally. They become emotionally distraught when they see something or someone that hints or resembles the abuser or reminds them of the past trauma. The victim can turn pale and hyperventilate, or sweat profusely, some may even start crying. It is at this time that they need affirmation and support from you and you should let them know that it is normal to take time to heal.  

Narcissistic sibling abuse is as damaging as abuse linked with a narcissistic partner or narcissistic parents. When any sibling is diagnosed with or has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) the other siblings become greatly affected even before the condition is diagnosed due to constant exposure to the negative traits of the narcissist individual (sibling). 

Living with a narcissistic sibling is quite overwhelming and emotionally and psychologically disturbing as it hinders the growth of the victim who deals with the narcissism of his or her sibling. 

Narcissist sibling has the potential to change the dynamics of the house such that they gain the most attention, affection, and love, and the other siblings remain neglected when their emotional needs are not met. Not just this, a narcissistic sibling always tries to put his or her other siblings down by baseless stories of blame out of jealousy. 

Moreover, the narcissistic sibling always creates an impression that they are more important than you, and are smarter at everything they do. A narcissistic individual always feels superior and feels entitled to everything better in terms of education, career, or spouse. Narcissistic individuals lack empathy and they hurt you by ignoring your talks about how your day went and constantly humiliating you even at your achievements.

A narcissist sibling is a pathological liar and makes up crazy stories against you so that they can damage your reputation in front of friends and family alike. Whenever the narcissistic sibling sees you getting the spotlight they abruptly bring up old stories against you to make you feel like a loser. This aspect of narcissistic sibling abuse has a great psychological effect and makes you lose your confidence. 

People growing with narcissistic sibling abuse need therapy once they realize that they were abused because this abuse has affected them in various aspects such as psychological, emotional, and behavioral, and therapy is needed to help them regain their confidence and to develop self-trust in themselves.