Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

A person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) displays patterns of deviant behaviour that can create carnage for those around them (spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, peers, etc). Narcissistic Victim Abuse is abuse that has been caused by someone with this personality disorder. The NPD is not often medically diagnosed, so that the narcissistic individual goes undetected in society (home, work-place, organizations, social settings) and the victim’s plight unrecognised.

A person with NPD has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for attention and admiration, and a strong sense of entitlement. They believe they are superior and have little regard for the feelings of others. As a child, a healthy self-esteem (true self) did not develop in the narcissist so they built up defences to create a ‘false self’ in public. This is akin to wearing a public mask. Wearing the mask is not only emotionally exhausting, it also means that the narcissist is constantly on guard at being found out. They become overly sensitive to narcissistic injury which is any perceived threat (real or imagined) to the narcissist’s self-esteem or self-worth. In order to maintain their illusion and protect their ‘false self’ they seek narcissistic supply from unsuspecting victims.

The narcissist views people as objects which can feed their needs (known as ‘sources of narcissistic supply’). The narcissist will use any tactic, without guilt, empathy or conscience, to make sure they get their narcissistic supply and their needs are met. Narcissistic supply comes from public attention such as fame, celebrity, notoriety, or infamy or private attention such as admiration, flattery, acclaim, fear, or even repulsion. Regular bearers of narcissistic supply include the spouse, children, friends, colleagues, partners and clients. Anything that acts as a status symbol that attracts attention and admiration for the narcissist is narcissistic supply, for example, a flashy car, expensive property, designer clothes, being a member of a church, cult, club, or a business.

With an inflated sense of their own superiority, power and control, the narcissist renders themselves susceptible to all sorts of obsessions, compulsions, and addictions, for example, addiction to: narcissistic supply, grandiosity, control, power, rage, perfectionism, attention, fame etc. The devastating impact of these addictions on their significant others can result in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome. Most victims present with no idea about what has happened to them.

Narcissistic abuse is insidious because the abuse is covert, cunning and indirect. Narcissists go to great pains to avoid being observed publicly as being abusive. The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde behaviour creates fear, distress, confusion, inner turmoil, and chaos for the victim. The constant ‘walking on eggshells’ and attempting to avoid further conflict can be crippling. To complicate matters a narcissist is rarely medically diagnosed and often goes undetected in society (home, work, organisations, and social settings).

For whatever the reason the victim entered the Dance of the Narcissist (a behaviour known as Co-Dependency) so that in the dance there was both: 1) a pleaser/fixer (victim) and; 2) a taker/controller (narcissist/addict).

Victims present when they feel like they can’t cope. They are unaware that they have been living or working in a war zone. No-one has mentioned Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or narcissistic abuse to them. Victims of this narcissistic abuse often display a set, or cluster, of symptoms due to this physical, mental, emotional or spiritual abuse. In Narcissistic Victim Syndrome you are looking for a cluster of symptoms to emerge, many are the symptoms of trauma (avoidance behaviour, loss of interest, feeling detached, sense of a limited future, sleeping or eating difficulties, irritability, hyper-vigilance, easily startled, flashbacks, hopelessness, psychosomatic illnesses, self-harming, thoughts of suicide etc). Narcissistic abuse victims express feelings of humiliation and shame, and apt to self-blame. They have learned to take responsibility for the narcissist’s behaviour because they are constantly told the problem is their fault. 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.

Victims are often victimized by more than one person. They often internalize that something is wrong with them, that they deserve this kind of abuse, and then resign themselves to their fate. Victims may not have reached their potential in their personal or professional lives because they always have to stand in the shadow of their aggressor, and not upstage them. They learn to live in the shadows without knowing why.

Victims of narcissistic abuse often appear uncertain of themselves, constantly seeking clarification that they haven’t made a mistake or misheard something. Confidence may be so low that they have trouble making simple decisions. They will not be aware that this is caused by an abusive technique called ‘gaslighting’. Gaslighting is a technique of psychological abuse used by narcissists to instil confusion and anxiety in their victim to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. With gaslighting, the victim initially notices that something happens that is odd, but they don’t believe it. This moves to defence as the victim fights against the manipulation. Confusion sets in after incessant comments such as: ‘You’re too sensitive’, ‘You’re crazy’, ‘You’re imagining things’ or ‘I never said that.’ Gradually, the victim cannot trust their own perceptions and doubt themselves. This often leads to depression. Broken and unable to trust themselves, they isolate themselves further. The victim now doubts everything about themselves, their thoughts and opinions, their ideas and ideals. They become co-dependent on the abuser for their reality.

Victims need validation and education about what has happened to them. They need information about the medical condition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and its toxicity in relationships. They need education about how they have contributed to their situation through co-dependence. They need therapy to deal with symptoms. They will need support to remove themselves from their narcissistic relationship, and to not repeat the cycle of abuse in their next relationship. One of their greatest challenges may come from not being believed by significant others, either because these others have not seen the private face of the narcissist or because they themselves are in the narcissist’s thrall.

For further information see  Christine Louis de Canonville’s article at http://narcissisticbehavior.net/narcissistic-victim-syndrome-what-the-heck-is-that/

 

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  1. Jeni Mawter says:

    Hello Kim,
    Am sorry to hear of your struggles and frustration and am learning that this is a Global struggle, with very few clinicians skilled up in the treatment of trauma from prolonged abuse. That said, I would recommend you look up the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and start with their web site saferelationshipsmagazine.com The people leading research and treatment for victims/survivors of Narcissistic Abuse who have not been able to heal with traditional therapies are: Dr Sandra L. Browne and Jennifer Young. They are leading the charge on what they describe as Relationships of “Inevitable Harm”. They specifically focus on the traits of the type of women who are targets, they explain how narcissistic abuse leads to both neurological and psychological damage to the brain. Another person they work with is Dr Rhonda Freeman who is a neuropsychologist interested in the Neuroscience of Pathological Love Relationship Dynamics in the Aftermath. This year their was a World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day Virtual Summit with some excellent speakers addressing treatment issues for survivors. Some authors/speakers worth researching include: Christine Louis de Canonville, Dr Judith Herman, Bree Bonchay, Bill Brennan, Richard Grannan, Lisa A Romano, H.G. Tudor, Heather Tuba, Kami Lingren, Lori Gill, Tina Fuller, and Steve Becker to name a few. Somewhere in your journey one or all of these people can help.
    Hugs, Jeni

  2. noemail@noemail.com'
    Kim says:

    It saddens me that there is so much extensive research and explanation of the narcissist with the advice to the survivors as an aside or footnote. I know that you need to understand the abuser but for once, can we please get some research on how to help the VICTIMS??? I suffered through a narcissistic relationship for 20 years and need to heal but everything I can find just keeps explaining the narcissist to me again. I get it but I am DONE with trying to understand HIM. I need to understand MYSELF and how to recover! Please shift the focus OFF of the ones that have held it already for so many years!

  3. julie@juliegermaine.fit'
    Julie Germaine says:

    Thank you for this article. I know that soon victims will be better understood thanks to people like you who are putting a spotlight on narcissists and helping survivors come to terms with what happened to them. I will share this to my social media http://www.facebook.com/juliegermainecom and instagram.com/julie.germaine in October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month!

  4. juliereneecampbell@yahoo.com'
    Julie Campbell says:

    Finally validation! I have worked at my currently employment for 28 years but in my current department 9, and I’m embarrassed to say it has taken me those 9 years to realize the type of coworker I work with. It has become a debilitating situation. I LOVE where I work and the type of work I do, but this person and this situation is enough to make me give up a wonderful job and career. We used to socialize even outside of work and all the while they were keeping what turned out to be a 4-year diary about my comings and goings, conversations with others, you name it, on the office computer! And when I took this to my boss, nothing was done about it, at least not to the degree I thought it should have been handled. I come to work every single day thinking of every possible situation I might find myself in with this person and think of how I am going to handle it in case it should come up, which then leads to feeling ill the rest of the day 🙁 I know that I am well-respected by other coworkers and people within other departments here, but this is truly something I’m not sure I can deal with anymore. I can’t even stand to hear the sound of this person’s voice daily! Help!

  5. orion@obgdoc.com'
    John G says:

    Recently I was abandoned by a woman with whom I had children and thought I had built a life. She now lives with the children, who are all grown but unpartnered and seem unlikely to make families of their own as their mother has gotten them all totally dependent on her. The children all believe what she raised them to believe: that I am an unloving and perverted sociopathic monster that none of them should ever have anything to do with ever again. It is like the last 30 years of my life no longer exist.

  6. 9be4dd6b@opayq.com'
    Charlotte Banks says:

    Just read a book that so closely describes my life with my ex it was hard to read. Her ex was a narcissistic sociopath who tried to murder her. I can’t believe she survived all the hell he put her through! If interested, I downloaded it from Amazon to my kindle: All Seemed Lost, But There Is Always Hope. Hard to read by inspiring!

  7. rnoe322@outlook.com'
    Noe says:

    I’m glad I’m no longer in a toxic relationship, esp., with a person that Border Personality Disorder (BPD). The truth will set you free! Just the recovery takes a while. Thanks for the blog!

  8. Jeni Mawter says:

    Really sorry, I don’t have anything specific on that other than to say I feel for the difficult position you are in. In the past I have googled daughter’s of Narcissistic Mother’s and found a lot of info, so that would be a good start. There’s also quite a few books on Amazon on this topic. Hugs to you. Jeni

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