Nowadays considered as a disorder, anxiety has got its evolutionary roots back in the earliest beginnings of human evolution. Humans needed it to survive in the harsh and unpredictable environment they lived in.
Anxiety nowadays is considered to be an inexplicable feeling of unease, nervousness, and worry. It’s true that we have come too far to be affected by the same conditions which gave rise to the protective role of anxiety for our ancestors. So why and how does it occur now?
A lot of literature connects today’s anxiety disorders to some kind of psychological and emotional abuse during a person’s childhood. It has been found that early-life stress has a profound effect on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and that the same effect can occur in adults. (1)
This abuse is now discussed as a major factor contributing to anxiety disorders, major depression, and PTSD. In fact, it has been established that psychological abuse is more detrimental than physical aggression and that it leaves a deep scar on the victim’s mental health.
Children who have been victims of psychological abuse don’t necessarily develop anxiety in their lives, but such traumatic events in times where their brains are still developing contribute to supersensitivity in the neuroendocrine stress response systems.
This means that any additional stress from emotional or psychological abuse later in life bears a high possibility of triggering psychological disorders such as anxiety and major depression.
What Is Narcissistic Abuse?
Narcissistic abuse is one of the most harmful types of psychological abuse. It renders the victim unable to think and reason clearly due to the increased stress and the eventual adrenal fatigue.
This, in turn, triggers a number of possible outcomes, among which the most devastating effect could be an anxiety disorder, major depression, or both. This further increases your susceptibility to the narcissistic abuse and your inability to escape it.
That is why some victims tend to remain in the victim-abuser loop until the rest of their lives and are not even aware that their abuser feeds off them with every passing day.
The most common targets for a narcissist are people who are empathetic, compassionate and choose to see the best in others. This sensitive type of people will choose to trust and understand the narcissist.
And this is what they need to start weaving their web around their good-willing victims. In the process of their flawless manipulation, they will use whatever means necessary to make their victim feel smaller and more dependent on them.
They do it by constantly trying to lower their self-confidence and make their victims believe that they are going crazy. If they see themselves caught in the act, they will skillfully get out of the situation by convincing the other person that they are imagining the situation and are psychologically unstable.
While this is not the truth, you know what they say: a lie told a hundred times becomes truth. The more they make their victim question their morality, sanity, and ability to love unconditionally, the more they nail them to their cross and feed off them.
From the victim perspective, this lowered state and constant stress will eventually lead to adrenal fatigue and a constant fear that they may be doing something wrong. In certain cases, the victims start avoiding people, feel unable to function properly, feeling disconnected and are generally in a disabled state. (2)
This process is what will eventually lead the victim to a state of a shattered self-confidence and a completely destroyed mental state, where a lot of mental disorders have a space to start festering.
In this state, the victim is prone to develop extreme social anxiety, illnesses related to pervasive stress, a complete sense of disassociation from the self, and symptoms of major depression.
If you find yourself in such situation, it’s best that you talk to a psychologist and ask for help. While there are people who are able to recognize narcissistic abuse and get out of that relationship before it develops, some people are very much trapped in the cycle and find it impossible to get out.
It’s not that they don’t want to, but the psychological damage they have endured has left them unable to fight off the abuser and has made them shut themselves off from the rest of the world.
Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
The narcissistic abuse syndrome occurs when a person has been living with or spending a lot of their time with a narcissist.
People with a narcissistic abuse syndrome often question their own self-worth or sanity, always analyzing and overthinking about their flaws and failures. The truth is, these are simply ideas that were planted in their mind by their narcissistic parent or partner.
People victims of narcissistic abuse often have a hard time identifying with reality because their minds are confused from the constant abuse and emotional manipulation they’ve been or still are exposed to.
The narcissistic abuse symptoms may vary, however, in most cases they mimic those of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, a condition that affects people who’ve endured severe traumas in their early childhoods.
Narcissistic Abuse Symptoms Include:
- Intrusive, invasive, or unwanted thoughts
- Avoiding people or places associated with the narcissist
- Triggers, i.e., physical or emotional responses to situations that resemble past traumatic events/experiences
- Feeling isolated and detached from the world
- Feeling extremely alert, having a fight or flight response to everything
- Not feeling important or valued
Narcissistic Abuse Signs
Many victims of narcissistic abuse tend to approach a counselor in the hopes to improve themselves.
After undergoing a long and traumatic narcissistic abuse, these people tend to perceive themselves as a failure, they are ashamed of who they are and feel insecure, unworthy, incapable, or delusional. Hence, it’s no wonder if they turn to an expert for help.
They focus so much on fixing everything that’s “wrong” with them, they forget to mention the narcissist in their life, the abuser. Or even if they do, they only say nice things about them, praising them and admiring them.
This is so because the victim has absolute trust in their abuser; they think the narcissist can never hurt them. Even better yet, they are the only one that loves and appreciates them.
But how can you recognize narcissists even before they pick you on your radar?
Narcissists are usually charming people who want all the attention on themselves. They are the people that can make an entire room laugh with their dazzling sense of humor, and when they are good with their victim, it may feel like you are on Cloud 9. Unfortunately, it’s their cycle of torture.
They sugarcoat with love and affection, only to smash you on a wooden floor later on with their dismissive attitude and cold-hearted nature. They are conniving, selfish, self-oriented, critical, and bad at listening.
They never truly listen to other people, they just nod and wait for them to stop talking so they can regain the spotlight.
Now, narcissists usually create codependent relationships because they need someone they can emotionally abuse just so they feel good, much like a leech sucking for blood.
Many have been wondering why are narcissists so toxic and needy of a victim whom they can drain from worth and happiness, and although it’s not always clear why it is believed that their emotional clinginess and pumped-up ego stems either from their overprotective parents or childhood neglect.
Below are the signs that a victim is undergoing narcissistic abuse in their life:
12 Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse
1. The abuser seems so perfect (at first)
Narcissistic abuse can be hard to identify because it happens slowly after the victim is already hooked on the narcissist. Victims almost inevitably fall in love hard with the narcissist because the narcissist is everything they want in the beginning. Handsome, smart, funny, ambitious, and charming.
During the love-bombing phase, the narcissist makes their victim feel adored, special, and cared for. The narcissist compliments them, gives them love and affection, and pretends to want to spend the rest of their life with them. In the victim’s eyes, the narcissist is the perfect person, and they are grateful that someone like them is even interested in them.
The early stage of the relationship is very intense. The abuser seems too loving and caring to the victim that they don’t even think that their relationship might be a lie. Then, slowly, the expressions of love and compliments stop, and they are being replaced with insults, lies, and manipulation. The narcissist goes from love-bombing their victim to completely disregarding them, using silent treatment or gaslighting as manipulative tactics.
2. Other people can’t even believe the abuse happened
The abuse coming from a narcissist is very subtle. That’s because the narcissist is not “openly” abusing anyone. You see, the narcissist is someone who cares about their public image. Therefore, they will never let themselves lose control in public. Instead, they will abuse their victim behind closed doors.
The victim may also not know what is happening because the narcissist is leaving them confused and upset all the time. They may even feel guilty for their “mistakes” that are actually the narcissist’s fault. The narcissist will insult their partner in front of everyone, but they will disguise the insult as a joke. So, other people may also not realize they are abusive.
And when the victim of narcissistic abuse needs support and love from their friends and family the most, they may not believe that the abuse even took place. Instead, they may question the victim’s perception of things and start assuring them that they must be wrong and that the narcissist would never do that and hurt them intentionally.
This is highly harmful in many ways. It seems as it not only destroys the hope of the victim for the support and love from their loved ones, but it can also make the victim feel delusional and crazy, believing that they might be actually imagining things.
3. The Narcissist Has Started A Smear Campaign
A narcissist always needs to maintain their perfect image of themselves and their life to have people admire them. So, in order to do that, they need to make others look bad. When they break up with their partner, or when their partner breaks up with them, the narcissist is quick to start a smear campaign against them to destroy their name and reputation.
They do this to save face and make the other person the “guilty” one for the break-up. They may start telling others how they were unstable and hard to be with… anything that they can use against them to discredit them and ruin their character. Plus, the narcissist is deadly charming, and they can make people believe almost anything they tell them.
Moreover, the narcissist may even win over the friends and family of their partner and convince them that their friend or daughter is the crazy one. So, when the victim actually decides to speak up, no one will believe them.
4. The Victim Feels Isolated
When a victim feels alone, with no one supporting them and understanding what they are going through, that might make them even more vulnerable to continue being abused and manipulated by the narcissist. The narcissist will see the sadness and loneliness of their victim, and so, they will try to lure them in with kindness and false promises of a bright future.
This manipulation technique is called ‘hoovering’, and it only works when the victim is in a vulnerable state without support from anyone, not even their loved ones. Plus, if their friends and family tell the victim that they should go back with the narcissist, they may do so and even apologize to the narcissist so that they won’t end up alone and isolated.
That’s how dangerous the narcissistic tactics are.
5. The victim freezes up
Different people respond differently to trauma. Some people may start fighting with the abuser, while others tend to escape the situation altogether (fight or flight response). Some victims of narcissistic abuse, however, tend to freeze up when experiencing trauma.
This freezing response oftentimes happens when the victim is feeling helpless. It can be beneficial in some situations, but the victim is still unable to escape the abuse. It is only a momentary reaction that is usually followed by the victim keep working to keep their partner (the narcissist) happy and keep the relationship from falling apart.
6. The Victim Has Trouble Making Decisions
The victim is constantly being abused and criticized by the narcissist, and they start doubting their own decisions. As a result, they have shattered self-esteem, and therefore, they have trouble doing anything for themselves without consulting the narcissist.
The narcissist has succeeded in destroying their self-confidence by constantly implying that they are not good enough and criticizing the way they are doing things. So, the victim starts to feel as if they can’t do anything right. Then, the narcissist will insult them in a ‘loving’ way, leaving the victim with an unclear perception of things and confusion about what is right and what is wrong.
The narcissist gaslights them to the point of making them believe they imagine things. The narcissist may abuse them, and the victim may think that the event never happened, that it is all in their head.
7. The Victim Always Feels As If They Have Done Something Wrong
The narcissist is someone who never takes responsibility for their hurtful actions. In their world, it is always other people’s fault. The narcissist will always find a way to present themselves as the victim, while putting the blame on others. And they usually do this by getting so angry at the victim that they actually end up apologizing to them and admitting they were wrong in order to calm their anger.
For example, suppose the victim accuses the narcissist of cheating. In that case, the narcissist will quickly get angry and start accusing them and redirecting the blame on them by saying hurtful things in order to belittle their victim. The victim then may get scared that the narcissist will leave them and that they should be ‘lucky’ that they are with the narcissist in the first place.
The victim may even start feeling ‘grateful’ that the narcissist is so ‘forgiving’ and decides to remain with them. Finally, even after they decide to leave the narcissist, they may experience trouble believing in themselves and blaming themselves for anything that goes wrong.
8. The Victim Starts Experiencing Unexplained Physical Symptoms
Abuse may trigger anxiety, and the victim may even begin to experience physical symptoms following the narcissistic abuse they are going through.
The victim may experience fatigue, insomnia, appetite changes, nausea or upset stomach, muscle pains and aches, stomach pain, and other gastrointestinal troubles.
9. The Victim Starts Feeling Unsettled And Restless
Narcissists are so unpredictable. The victim never knows whether they will love them or criticize them and start a fight. So, the victim is constantly on edge, fearing what will happen during their next encounter with the narcissist.
The victim feels constant tension and fear of criticism. They are no longer able to relax. They no longer feel safe, and their guard is always up.
10. The Victim No Longer Recognizes Themselves
Many victims going through narcissistic abuse start behaving differently than they usually would. That happens because they don’t want to upset their partner, so they try to accommodate them by altering themselves, thus losing their identity.
So, when the narcissist complains to their partner that they don’t want them to go out with friends, the victim may stop going out in order to show them their love. Next, they give up their dreams, hobbies, friends, and family, all in the hopeless attempt to make the relationship with the narcissist work.
Sadly, the narcissist is never satisfied, and they keep pushing the boundaries. Their requests never stop, and the victim feels drained to the point of no longer recognizing themselves.
11. The Victim Starts Having Trouble Setting Boundaries
A person a narcissist has abused, usually has little to no respect for themselves, and thus they don’t have boundaries. When the victims of narcissists try to speak up and set boundaries with the narcissist, the narcissist either ignores them or gives them the silent treatment until they end up doing what the narcissist wants.
Many people who decided to leave the narcissist alone and not let them in their life again have found themselves reconciling with the narcissist after the narcissist successfully removing the barriers and destroying their newly-set boundaries.
Finally, people who have suffered narcissistic abuse may also have trouble setting boundaries with other people.
12. The Victim Has Symptoms Of Anxiety And Depression
Depression and anxiety are common symptoms of narcissistic abuse. The constant stress a victim feels is enough to put them in a state of worry, fear, and nervousness, leading to anxiety, and later – depression.
The victim never knows what to expect from the narcissist, so they are in a persistent state of fear, constantly feeling helpless. The victim is always asking themselves what went wrong. As a result, they are sad and miserable. Their anxiety and depression after narcissistic abuse also stem from their destroyed self-worth and constant blame of themselves for the failure of the relationship.
Note: If you think that you or someone you know and love is struggling with narcissistic abuse syndrome and undergoing a reiterating narcissistic abuse cycle, it’s important that you seek help from a narcissistic abuse therapist.
It’s not just about making an effort to get rid of the toxic claws of the narcissist, it’s also about seeking treatment to regain the control in YOUR life.
Narcissistic Abuse Cycle
The relationship cycle typical of narcissistic abuse follows a pattern, much like any other cycle of abuse.
Victims of emotionally abusive relationships experience a three-stage, vortex-like cycle of idealization, devaluing, and discarding. Yet, they keep coming back to their abuser because they think it’s them who did something wrong, not their toxic parent or partner.
Narcissists first show affection to hook their victim, and later on reveal their true face. They’ve been loving and caring for a few days, and then suddenly, start saying spiteful things or jokes about their partner in social occasions.
They know their victim is going to be hurt or embarrassed for sharing something so private about them, yet they do it anyways, making their victim insecure, ashamed, rejected.
Or they will suddenly detach from their victim, giving them the silent treatment. You really don’t know what you did? I have to tell you? Had you been a little more observant, you would’ve known.
Now the victim is confused. How come he/she was so gentle and loving yesterday? What happened? What did I do?
Naturally, they think it’s their fault and they try to search for ways to improve themselves. (3)
Narcissistic Abuse Examples
Narcissists expect others to behave in certain ways and they have a way of making people do what they want. That way is usually paved with low empathy, belittling, offensive remarks, and criticism when their victims fail to meet their standards.
Here’s What The Abuse Can Look Like Through Examples:
- Your narcissistic partner said your perfume, your hair or your new piece of clothing look stupid and ugly, so you’ve changed them.
- Your narcissistic parent told you how you are wasting your time reading books as a kid, so you gave up writing thinking you are not that good either way
- Your parent or partner control your time and keep you from seeing friends or participating in social activities by yourself.
If you’ve changed your looks and style, your hobbies, or if you’ve lost things you used to like as a result of their narcissistic abuse and manipulation, you might feel as if you no longer know yourself, hence the disconnection from reality, the panic, and the anxious thoughts that feel like they cripple your day to day functioning.
Anxiety and depression are a dangerous abyss if left untreated, but luckily they can be treated and reversed. (4)
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Toxic relationships are traumatic and leave victims with lingering symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and panic attacks, which take time and active effort to heal.
Your love for the narcissist can convince you t that everything is your fault – every manipulation, every maltreatment, every spiteful and toxic comment they casually threw at you that further deepened your emotional scars and convinced you of your lack of self-worth.
Breaking off the toxic whirlwind is never easy, but all it takes is deciding you want to get out of the tunnel and break free.
Your narcissistic abuse healing is not a one size fits all nor is it going to be as easy as drinking a pill. It’s journey.
Practice self-compassion. Praise yourself for having the courage to end the narcissistic abuse cycle, for having the courage to end the toxic relationship.
Try to rediscover yourself. Find out what you like doing, rediscover your hobbies and interests.
Don’t undermine the importance of positive reinforcement mantras.
Wake up every day and utter the words:
I am beautiful.
I am strong.
I am loved.
I am enough.
With my personality. With my lifestyle. With my job. With my fashion sense. With my music taste. With my cooking skills. With everything that makes me… ME.
I am enough. I am good. I am safe, and I always will be.
Because I am free from my past. Because I’ve moved on and I’ve left all my burdens behind.
…And most importantly, talk to a narcissistic abuse therapist whenever your emotional well-being gets blurred or distorted by unwanted thoughts.
Psychological abuse is more dangerous than physical abuse. It leaves terrible consequences on the mental health of the victim and it renders them unable to recognize it.
In the case of narcissistic abuse, the victim will be certain that they are the ones who are in the wrong, and they will blame themselves for the dark reality they are in. This, of course, is far from the truth.
If you are or have been a victim of narcissistic abuse, know that it has never been your fault and that you did your best to pull that disturbed soul out of its own darkness. The truth is, most narcissists prefer their darkness, and they want to pull you into it.
Spread the awareness!
Copyright © Curious Mind Magazine
Mary Wright is a professional writer with more than 10 years of incessant practice. Her topics of interest gravitate around the fields of the human mind and the interpersonal relationships of people.If you have a general question or comment please fill out the form and we will get back to you as soon as possible https://curiousmindmagazine.com/contact-us/ .