According to a podcast given by a renowned psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula, narcissism is the epidemic of our century. So whether you know it or not, you have encountered a narcissist.
The core of a narcissist is a lack of empathy, entitlement, grandiosity, and selfishness and therefore they use controlling behavior and patterns of manipulation to abuse others either verbally or emotionally and sometimes physically.
Common Tactics Used by Narcissists
The grandiosity of a narcissist makes them believe that they are superior to everyone else, so they believe that they deserve special treatment. Despite this, they have a distorted self-image, one that is built from shame and a lot of insecurities.
So to keep feeling like the most attractive, smartest, talented, wealthiest, strongest, and powerful, they need to manipulate, degrade and discard others.
The common tactics that are used by narcissists to abuse others include
- Gaslighting. This is when a narcissist causes one to doubt their own reality, perceptions, and memories using lies and twisting facts.
- Triangulation. This is when a narcissist uses people to force their beliefs and opinions on you.
- Scapegoating. This is when a narcissist single out a person to either blame them or treat them negatively.
- Hoovering. These are tactics used by an abusive person to pull you back into a relationship with them in an attempt to reconnect with you.
- Silent treatment. An abusive person may go silent on you in an attempt to manipulate you or isolate you.
- Passive aggression. This is when an individual indirectly expresses their negative feelings through sabotage, sarcasm, or blame-shifting rather than openly expressing them.
When you encounter such narcissistic abuse, you will be left feeling hurt, confused and damaged self-esteem. These effects vary in severity depending on the length of your relationship with a narcissist and how close you were to them.
Signs of Narcissistic Abuse
Here are seven common signs that one has suffered a narcissistic abuse
- It started out so well
Are you wondering what went wrong in your relationship? Did it start out so well that it seemed like a fairy tale? Then probably you were love-bombed.
Love bombing is a common manipulation tactic used by narcissists to woo you into getting into a relationship with them. Love bombing leaves you feeling so good because of the endorphins and dopamine produced when you feel worthy, loved valued, needed, and special.
You are showered with praises, administration, and gifts and if you are in a romantic relationship, the sex is so good. Sometimes it may feel too good to be true, but this stage of the relationship is the idealization phase.
The next stage that follows is the devaluation and the discard phase, your partner may be kind and loving in one minute and then abusive and unkind the next minute. You may find that your partner, friend, or family is very kind and loving to you in public but a monster in private
It is so sad when people doubt when you tell them of the manipulation and abuse you go through, this is because narcissists are very good at acting in public. Do not be surprised if others see you as nagging, a complainer, and an ungrateful person.
Sometimes you may blame yourself, thinking that you are the problem, most of the time you will be so confused probably because your reality has been questioned so many times. Because the love-bombing phase of the relationship was so good even bordering addictive, you find yourself working so hard to get back to that phase.
If you keep complaining about the narcissist in your life, they may start a smear campaign against you. All this is done to maintain their image of perfection before others. Don’t be surprised when they buy the narcissist story and this may leave you feeling isolated.
2. You Suddenly Have a Really Low Self Confidence
Do you wonder what happened to you? You used to be so confident, but now you struggle with fear? Maybe you have encountered narcissistic abuse.
A narcissist will call you dumb, stupid ignorant and with time you start believing their narrative and there goes your self-esteem.
Gaslighting is so dangerous that it makes you doubt your own reality and thus you doubt your decision making.
You may also question your self-worth and find it difficult to trust people. This is one of the major reasons why people who have suffered a narcissistic abuse present with depression and anxiety symptoms
3. You Develop Some Physical Symptoms of Abuse
Narcissistic abuse often leaves people feeling fearful, anxious, stressed, and worried. These physiological symptoms sometimes present as physical symptoms, this is known as somatization.
You may experience the following
- Difficulty sleeping
- Body aches and pain
- Muscle pains and aches
- Changes in appetite
- Weight gain or weight loss
You may also find yourself more irritable and angry. Victims of narcissistic abuse have also developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
4. You Develop People-Pleasing Habits
Because you have been devalued, you may find yourself looking for acceptance and approval from other people. You become so accommodating that people love and accept you. This stems from the need to satisfy and appease the abuser so that they do not get angry at you.
You get so used to the abuse that you are afraid to express your emotions because you fear being judged by other people. You also easily excuse other people’s behavior especially when they are mean to you because you struggle with self-doubt
5. You Develop Self Harming Tendencies and Suicidal Ideation
A common symptom of narcissistic abuse is self-blame, and feelings of worthlessness. Because of this, you may feel the need to punish yourself because you blame yourself for every negative thing in your life.
Often, victims of abuse find themselves ruminating a lot, this results in self-blame, negative self-talk, hypercriticism, and tendencies to punish themselves. To cope with these negative feelings, people attempt suicide and self-harm. Also, most victims of abuse develop addictions to drinking, smoking, and even food addictions as a way to self-soothe.
6. You Isolate From People
One tactic of abuse used by most narcissists is separating their victims from their families and loved ones. They do this through manipulation, blaming, and smear campaigns so that their victims may not have access to their support groups.
Eventually, the victim may isolate themselves from their family and loved ones because they fear their abuser.
Abuse also causes a person to feel confused and disoriented and this causes them to avoid social settings and interactions.
7. You Start to Self Sabotage
Do you wonder what happened to you? You used to be so full of life, your social life, career, and relationships were thriving. You feel like you have been reduced to a shell of yourself. Do not be too hard on yourself, you are probably a victim of abuse.
Narcissistic abuse results in self-devaluation and this causes one to sabotage their dreams, goals, career, and academic pursuits. You feel like you do not deserve success and having good things in life.
I Realize That I Am a Victim. Now What Next
Remember that you were put here to succeed and to thrive. Many people have healed from the abuse and are living fulfilling lives. You too can.
Here are some steps you can take to heal from narcissistic abuse
- Recognize and accept that you are a victim of narcissistic abuse. This is a big step because many victims of abuse struggle with self-doubt and confusion. This is the first and major step to healing
- Educate yourself. There are many resources out there that educate people on narcissism, this will play a huge role in helping you recognize the symptoms of abuse and what it has done to you. One resource that has been helpful to me is Dr. Ramani’s youtube channel.
- Find support. Do not isolate yourself, there are many communities of people who have suffered similar abuse.
- Seek therapy. Therapy is a great step toward recovery
- Break up with your narcissist. If you can physically distance yourself from the narcissist, avoid them, and do not reach out to them even if you are really tempted to. If physical distancing is not possible, techniques such as gray rocking work wonders. Gray rocking is becoming emotionally unavailable and unresponsive. This will cause the narcissist to lose interest in you.
- Include self-care in your routine. Develop healthy habits such as eating healthy and exercising, practicing journaling, yoga, and meditation. Start a hobby, adopt a pet, and in no time you will be back to your bubbly self.
We all have encountered a narcissist and anyone can suffer from narcissistic abuse. Do not be hard on yourself if you are a victim, if you are you have probably developed some habits as a way to cope with the abuse.
It is very possible to heal from narcissistic abuse even when you have been a victim for many years. What you have gone through is not easy and there is nothing unusual with you. I hope that reading this article will be one step toward recovery.