” title=”Moving on from Narcissistic Abuse due to Narcissistic Personality Disorder”>
I am sharing an excellent article by Tim Field on Victims of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Sanctuary for the Abused
SANCTUARY FOR THE ABUSED: Articles, clickable links & resources for victims & survivors. Dealing with verbal, psychological & emotional abuse and personality disorders.
Narcissists & Psychopaths Cause PTSD for their Victims
by Tim Field Jan 2012
How do the PTSD symptoms resulting from a Narcissist or Psychopath’s abuse and bullying meet the criteria in DSM-IV?
A. The prolonged (chronic) negative stress resulting from dealing with a narcissist or psychopath has lead to threat of loss of job, career, health, livelihood, often also resulting in threat to marriage and family life. The family are the unseen victims.
A.1.One of the key symptoms of prolonged negative stress is reactive depression; this causes the balance of the mind to be disturbed, leading first to thoughts of, then attempts at, and ultimately, suicide.
A.2.The target of the narcissist or psychopath may be unaware that they are being exploited, and even when they do realize (there’s usually a moment of enlightenment as the person realizes that the criticisms and tactics of control, etc are invalid) – victims often cannot bring themselves to believe they are dealing with a disordered personality who lacks a conscience and does not share the same moral values as themselves.
Naivety is the great enemy. The target is bewildered, confused, frightened, angry – and after enlightenment, very angry.
B.1. The target experiences regular intrusive violent visualizations and replays of events and conversations; often, the endings of these replays are altered in favour of the target.
B.2. Sleeplessness, nightmares and replays are a common feature.
B.3. The events are constantly relived; night-time and sleep do not bring relief as it becomes impossible to switch the brain off. Such sleep as is achieved is non-restorative and people wake up as tired, and often more tired, than when they went to bed.
B.4. Fear, horror, chronic anxiety, and panic attacks are triggered by any reminder of the experience, e.g.receiving threatening letters or email from the narcissist or psychopath or their friends, their family or attorneys. Additionally postings on online boards or sites about the victim by the abuser (often to try to make the victim look like the abusive one!) can add to these triggers and health related issues tremendously.]
B.5. Panic attacks, palpitations, sweating, trembling, vomitting, binge eating or forgetting to eat, ditto.
Criteria B4 and B5 manifest themselves as immediate physical and mental paralysis in response to any reminder of the narcissist or prospect being forced to take action against the narcissist.
C. Physical numbness (toes, fingertips, lips) is common, as is emotional numbness (especially inability to feel joy). Sufferers report that their spark has gone out and, even years later, find they just cannot get motivated about anything.
C.1. The target tries harder and harder to avoid saying or doing anything which reminds them of the horror of the exploitation.
C.2. Almost all Victims report impaired memory; this may be partly due to suppressing horrific memories, and partly due to damage to the hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to learning and memory.
C.3. the person becomes obsessed with resolving the experience which takes over their life, eclipsing and excluding almost every other interest.
C.4. Feelings of withdrawal and isolation are common; the person just wants to be on their own and solitude is sought.
C.5. Emotional numbness, including inability to feel joy (anhedonia) and deadening of loving feelings towards others are commonly reported. One fears never being able to feel love again.
C.6. The target becomes very gloomy and senses a foreshortened career – usually with justification. Many targets ultimately have severe psychiatric injury, severely impaired health.
D.1. Sleep becomes almost impossible, despite the constant fatigue; such sleep as is obtained tends to be unsatisfying, unrefreshing and non-restorative. On waking, the person often feels more tired than when they went to bed. Depressive feelings are worst early in the morning. Feelings of vulnerability may be heightened overnight.
D.2. The person has an extremely short fuse and is often permanently irritated, especially by small insignificant events. The person frequently visualises a violent solution, e.g. arranging an accident for, or murdering the narcissist; the resultant feelings of guilt tend to hinder progress in recovery.
D.3. Concentration is impaired to the point of precluding preparation for legal action, study, work, or search for work.
D.4. The person is on constant alert because their fight or flight mechanism has become permanently activated.
D.5. The person has become hypersensitized and now unwittingly and inappropriately perceives almost any remark as critical.
E. Recovery from a narcissist experience is measured in years. Some people never fully recover. Long term and repeated damage by disordered persons become C-PTSD.
F. For many, social life ceases and work becomes impossible. Many develop autoimmune diseases such as lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic pain or adrenal fatigue and even become totally disabled.
THERAPY can and does help. But it takes a lot of time and work. The longer you wait to get help & treatment, the deeper the damage and the more difficult to heal or manage. Hang in there!
1) Are they aware of what they are doing?
Yes, every decision is made with the intention of gaining narcissistic supply.
2) Do they see what they are doing or saying is wrong?
No. Any behaviour is acceptable if it gets narcissistic supply.
3) Why don’t they care about how I feel?
Caring takes empathy and insights into the human condition and requires someone to look past themselves. Narcissists can only acknowledge their own needs. They cannot look past themselves.
4) How can they do this to me?
This is not about you. This is about the narcissist. Your needs, thoughts, feelings, wants, ambitions, dreams etc do not exist for a narcissist.
5) Can’t the narcissist see that what they are doing is wrong?
No. Any behaviour that brings narcissistic supply is acceptable behaviour.
6) How can they tell so many lies?
To a narcissist, reality is only about sourcing narcissistic supply. Telling lies creates their own reality.
7) How can the narcissist be so intolerant but expect me to tolerate their bad behaviour?
Narcissists experience a heightened sense of insult (and hurt) and will lash out with rage – thus the intolerance. They have an inflated sense of importance and superiority and expect to be treated different to others. Through devaluing, your needs are not important.
8) How can the narcissist treat me so badly when I gave them so much?
Narcissists expect and demand to be privileged. You (the non-narcissist) deserve no such privilege.
9) How can the narcissist flare up and turn on me so easily?
Narcissists are hyper-sensitive and perceive insults even when none are intended. This wounds their ‘false’ self. As the bearer of insults, you deserve to be punished, even annihilated if the perceived insult is bad enough.
10) Does a narcissist have morals?
Only when they’re linked with narcissistic supply.
11) How can someone say ‘I love you’ in one breath, then throw me away the next?
Narcissists are the Masters of Relationship Manipulation.
12) How come a narcissist cannot see that what they say or do is wrong?
Right and wrong do not matter to a narcissist. Right, or more likely, wrong only apply to others. In their own minds Narcissists never do wrong.
13) Why can’t a narcissist apologise?
See 12 above.
14) Why does a narcissist get away with such bad behaviour all the time?
Narcissists surround themselves with people who respond to (or feel good about) the narcissist’s tactics. These people gain the narcissist’s attention and thus feel special or privileged themselves. Feeling good outweighs recognition of inappropriate behaviour and thus the inappropriate behaviour gets ignored. By ignoring and not setting boundaries for the narcissist, people enable the narcissistic behaviour.
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/
No one broad definition covers all aspects of what constitutes emotional abuse, but generally speaking, the following types of behaviour occur with regularity in the emotionally abusive relationship:
• Attacks on personal character
• Blame and accusations
• Shame and judging
• Sarcasm and twisting what you say
• Rewriting history
• Playing the victim
• Manipulation, control and coercion
• Unpredictable explosions
• Criticism that is harsh and undeserved
• Escalating situations or refusing to discuss a situation by not speaking at all
If you feel you are in an emotionally abusive relationship seek help!
Readers of Kiss Kill (www.reallybluebooks.com) can contact Headspace: Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation at www.headspace.org.au or Mensline Australia on 1300 789978
+61 407 247 032
- “What Abuse Survivors Don’t Know: 10 Life-Changing Truths” Article by Shahida Arabi onmogul.com on
- Victims of Narcissistic Personality Disorder may suffer Post Traumatic Stress for a prolonged period of time: Narcissists & Psychopaths Cause PTSD for their Victims by Tim Field Jan 2012 on
- The Sibling Narcissist: Published April 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm by Betsy Wuebker and Becky Blanton on
- The Sibling Narcissist: Published April 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm by Betsy Wuebker and Becky Blanton on
- List of International Resources re: Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Victim Syndrome on