11 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
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Getting withdrawal episodes after discontinuing addictive drugs is common but experiencing withdrawal symptoms after leaving narcissistic abuse is quite real too. It is hard to fathom how trauma and abuse can become addictive but narcissistic abuse can be very addictive and according to survivors of narcissistic abuse, withdrawal from the narcissist (abuser) is ten times more intense than heroin withdrawal. 

Narcissist withdrawal is accompanied by a feeling of profound sadness and extreme rage. The sadness is because someone you loved so earnestly and that person also professed love to you, could change overnight into a stranger; that too of the rudest kind. At first, one stays in denial about how their love of life could abuse them so terribly, humiliating them for days on end, shattering their personality, and crumbling their self-confidence such that they find it hard to recognize themselves as they deal with narcissistic abuse.

However, once they muster the courage to leave the narcissist the withdrawal phase begins which can hit the victim quite hard. The rage and anger that the survivor feels present as depression. The victims feel anxious and stay in a low mood with detachment from their surroundings. They experience pain and grief and bouts of loneliness.

Withdrawing from the narcissist is very difficult since narcissistic abuse is quite addictive and the victims often find themselves going back to their ex, stalking them, as they crave their company. They have this longing for their abusive partner which is linked with severe emotional pain and even results in indulgence in self-destructive behavior. This state is because the victim becomes dependent on the abusive partner, a condition commonly referred to as trauma bonding

The grief that one feels after ending the relationship with their narcissistic partner is vital for recovery. It is better to bear temporary pain as part of the narcissistic withdrawal than to destroy your entire life at the hands of an abuser who has no empathy for you. Soon the clouds of despair and grief will lift and you will find the path to healing and recovery where you do not feel like walking on eggshells all the time, and you are away from the constant criticism and humiliation, experiencing freedom and feeling your original self again.

To diagnose and break free from an abusive partner that too a narcissist is quite tricky. The victim should know that they are being abused since this form of abuse is the hardest to spot on since the victim is always blaming themselves for the shortcomings that they have to endure in their relationship. 

Narcissistic Abuse cycle

The victims are so seamlessly manipulated and lied to countless times by their abuser that they lose track of the reality that appears distorted to them. Emotional and verbal manipulation is the craft that these narcissist abusers excel at. They are masters at gaslighting, making you doubt if what you knew was even true.

As with all forms of abuse, narcissistic abuse also has a constellation of findings that if present highlights that the individual is dealing with narcissistic abuse. These findings are as follows:

  • Experiencing confusion and self-doubt– Due to constant manipulation, negging, and gaslighting you have started having self-doubts and are in a state of confusion most of the time since you question the reality with your partner’s perception and nothing makes sense, making you go haywire.
  • Constantly walking on eggshells– You are always hyper-vigilant of your surroundings about what could go wrong that might infuriate your partner (abuser) that they may start throwing off verbal abuse which is emotionally and mentally draining for you so you try your maximum to keep the situation smooth. However, no amount of caution can save one from narcissistic abuse since it has no cause and only the abuser is the reason for it.
  • Building up of guilt– Your narcissist abuser may succeed in making you believe that all the troubles are your fault and you keep bottling up guilt inside you for being the reason for abuse and the behavior that your partner has towards you.
  • Developing a sense of mistrust– Since you have been lied to and gaslighted several times by your abuser who was once the person you trusted blindly so it develops a sense of mistrust for other individuals since you find it quite hard to trust someone else after the unfortunate circumstances that you have to deal with. 
  • Self-isolating oneself– It is a common practice in victims of narcissistic abuse to withdraw themselves from their friends and family. If you are dealing with narcissistic abuse you have been lately doing so; hiding in corners and not picking up calls from your friends because you feel unheard, since nobody can imagine what you are dealing with because your narcissistic partner is very charming on the front deceiving everyone with their false charisma. 
  • Difficulty in saying ‘No’ and sacrificing your needs for the abuser– To satisfy your abuser you may go to great lengths sacrificing your values and your goals only to find out that nothing that you do will ever be enough for them as they keep demanding more from you until you are completely drained and incapable of fulfilling their demands. 
  • Facing somatic symptoms due to psychological trauma– Narcissistic abuse takes a toll on the victim’s health affecting them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You may find yourself trapped in an eating disorder, either eating too much or not at all that leads to rapid weight gain or weight loss. The rise in cortisol which is a stress hormone impairs the immune system which further makes you prone to acquire infection, leaving you febrile. 

You might experience difficulty sleeping such that you may have frequent bouts of insomnia or extreme episodes of sleepiness accompanied with frequent nightmares that are flashbacks of the emotional and verbal abuse making you relive the original event.

  • Experiencing suicidal thoughts– Depression and anxiety are inevitable consequences of narcissistic abuse. With depression comes a sense of hopelessness and you may find nothing fascinating in life to live another day. This paves the way to suicidal ideations which are the most dangerous implication of narcissistic abuse and need prompt management.
  • You are often comparing yourself with others– Narcissist abusers are habitual of comparing their victims with a third party to make them feel bad about themselves. Chances are that you might have experienced this too and the abuser does this so subtly by planting the seed of self-doubt in your brain that you subconsciously start comparing yourself with others. 

Millions of people around the globe are dealing with narcissistic abuse and it is vital that you take help and give yourself the time to recover.  

If you want to know if you are a victim of narcissistic abuse syndrome here is a list of questions you can ask yourself. 

  • Do you feel anger, fear, or guilt?
  • Do you feel jumpy, startled, or are irritated easily?
  • Have you noticed physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, difficulty breathing, or sweating when you get flashbacks of past events?
  • Do you feel detached from people around you?
  • Do you feel that things are your fault?
  • Do you have difficulty remembering things?
  • Do you have difficulty concentrating on things?
  • Do you feel difficulty sleeping or experience nightmares when you do?
  • Do you struggle with addiction?
  • Do you experience flashbacks of past events in the form of disturbing thoughts, images, and dreams?
  • Do you tend to avoid people or situations that hint at you at past experiences? 
  • Have you lost interest in things you previously used to enjoy?
  • Do you live in fear of another person for an extended period of time?

It does not indicate a final diagnosis of narcissistic abuse syndrome but provides you with awareness about the condition you might be dealing with. 

Falling out of narcissist abuse can be tough but it is doable. There are plenty of steps that you can take to safeguard your rights and to stop narcissistic abuse. Following are some strategies that can help you end narcissistic abuse:

Look beyond the charismatic persona of a narcissist

 It is news to no one that a narcissist enjoys being the center of attention and life of the party. They are always in need of praises, and compliments about their excellence hence they often put a charismatic persona to attract onlookers. The sooner you realize how unreal they are the safer you will be. 

Once you accept them as who they really are, it becomes easy to dissociate from them when the time comes and you are ready to end the relationship.

  • Take a stand for yourself- speak up!
  • It might be every day that you are facing constant verbal abuse and emotional manipulation and you tend to withdraw from the site or ignore the remarks of your abuser.
  • However, this tactic cannot always work as you are bound to get flustered and agitated at the constant rebuke so instead do not repress your emotion, rather speak up and take a stand for yourself. 

Let your abuser know what they are doing is wrong and that they have no right to do so, not that this would change their attitude but at least, you will not feel guilty about the circumstances. 

Redefine your boundaries

Being in a narcissistic abuse means you have been used, devalued, humiliated and your abuser has invaded your personal boundaries by keeping a check on your activities, and by controlling who you can and cannot meet. This has robbed you of your freedom and self-worth.

It is high time that you redefine your boundaries and not let them intrude in your personal space because you are an individual with your personal choices that have value and should not be discarded at the command of someone who has no goodwill towards you.

  • Find your support group 
  • After dealing with narcissistic abuse you become an individual who has trust issues, a shattered personality, and crumbled confidence. At this stage, when you are at your lowest you need your support group that has your back and knows what you are dealing through so whenever need be they come to your defense against the narcissist abuser.  
  • Stop giving them the attention they don’t need
  • It comes as no surprise that your narcissistic partner is always looking out for praise and wants you to compliment them for any minor achievement since they thrive on attention, however, you should do the contrary and cut their supply of attention.
  • Once you stop showering them with the usual praises and affection, it might not change them for the better but at least you will not fuel their grandiosity and this can minimize the narcissistic abuse in the form of verbal and emotional manipulation that they hurl at you.  
  • Prepare yourself to move on 
  • As hurting it might be, the truth is that narcissistic do not change overnight or in months or years since they do not acknowledge being wrong in the first place. If you have tried everything to stop narcissistic abuse but you don’t see any improvement in their behavior then the best you can do is to not keep holding to futile hope that they will evolve into a better person rather you should part your ways and be ready to move on.
  • You should consult a trauma counselor and join therapy for your recovery and regain your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health so that you can start life afresh. 

If anyone from your friends or family comes to you sharing their story of narcissistic abuse, the primary and most important thing that you can do is to listen to them- lend them a listening ear because you don’t know for how long they have bottled the trauma, hiding their pain and grief from everyone enduring silently. 

You can help the victim by listening to them and being supportive throughout since they are looking for approval, support, acceptance, and love. They have been through such emotional and psychological trauma because of the narcissistic abuser that they have lost their individuality and self-worth. When a victim of narcissistic abuse comes to you, imagine the strength they would have mustered to speak this to you because for a long time the victims remain in denial about their abuse so when they finally open up, the best you can do is to take them to a professional who can help them in recovering from narcissistic abuse and never hint them or say in any way that they deserved the abuse. 

You can help the victim by connecting them with local domestic violence agencies, shelters, government agencies, and local police departments. 

After dealing with narcissistic abuse that has shattered you emotionally, physically, and psychologically you need to find a mental health professional who excels in trauma recovery. The therapist will help you build your life all over again without the negative influence of the narcissist abuser. Therapy helps you to change the way you deal with life and to mitigate your self-doubt and to improve your confidence. Therapy allows you to grieve over the loss of your narcissistic partner but it helps you to do so in a healthy way such that it becomes easier for you to move on. 

Therapy for narcissistic abuse involves counseling where you are told to not have any contact with your abuser since it aggravates the mental trauma and only makes the recovery phase more difficult. Therapy helps you build up your self-esteem which has been massively destroyed after being in a relationship with a narcissist. 

Narcissistic abuse counseling helps you focus on a certain area of your life like developing trust and increasing your sense of self-worth.

Mental Illnesses Due to Narcissistic Abuse

Whereas, therapy is more long-term and it aims to change the outlook of how you see yourself, your vision, your perception of the world. It improves your thought process as well as your behavior. The aim of therapy is to add joy to your life and to help you get connected with reality in the smoothest way possible.

There is no significant difference between therapy and counseling and these terms are often used interchangeably since they both aim to improve the condition of the survivor by offering them support and guidance on their path to recovery. 

Talking to a therapist can significantly improve recovery, making the path to healing smoother and easier. As you share your story of abuse and trauma at the hand of the narcissist partner with your therapist he or she may untangle the plethora of emotions that you are feeling. They will help you see the path to recovery. 

A narcissist abuse therapist guides you about the following things:

  • Providing strategies to cope with the sudden surge of emotions following narcissistic withdrawal
  • Helping you by easing the process of sharing about your abuse with others since many survivors are quite hesitant in sharing their traumatic life events.
  • Help the survivor in coming out of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as PTSD. 
  • Provide techniques to overcome suicidal thought and to reduce and ultimately stop self-harm

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