What is narcissistic abuse and why is it invisible abuse if it affects tens of millions of people? Even our courtrooms, therapists, law enforcement and people that are suppose to protect us and our children can enable our abusers unknowingly. It's crazy, it's unbelievable to most and it's a topic that is growing in popularity, so let's jump into it.
So the term narcissistic is being used, especially in mainstream media, to describe our instagram crazed, self obsessed culture that is being popularly nurtured. Many would describe a narcissist someone who is in love with themselves, excessively vain and post photos constantly on social media.
And I really think that creates a distraction from the general public understanding narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse.
I believe I first seen the term on Facebook and I related it to someone who was extremely selfish. I did not know it was a personality disorder or that abuse could be associated with it.
Narcissistic abuse affects tens of millions of people worldwide, yet horrifically, it can be hard to detect and even seem invisible to most people. That includes the victim themselves and the abusers family members. These are literally people they grew up with and they too can be fooled.
Our courtrooms, judges, therapists, law enforcement, people who are suppose to protect us and our children and even our loved ones can enable abusers. It's usually not done on purpose, but because of the lack of knowledge and being able to detect signs of abuse.
Healthy vs Unhealthy Narcissism
It’s important to understand that everyone is narcissistic to an extent. Healthy narcissism means you are able to get your needs met without damaging others to do so and you wouldn't want to damage anyone anyway. While unhealthy narcissism is when individuals operate in more in a “someone has to win” mentality, and will purposely undermine and diminish other people to get what they want. They don’t care who they hurt as long as they get their needs met.
What is Narc Abuse?
There are a lot of videos and articles about traits and symptoms, and these are very important because many victims will notice traits or symptoms before they understand the root of the problem. I will talk about those too, but just to be clear, they can resemble other types of abuse, so it's important to understand how narcissistic abuse is different.
Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional and psychological abuse where the perpetrator is a Narcissist. They have character traits consistent with Narcissistic Personality Disorders (NPD) and use the emotional and psychological abuse to gain control over their victims.
If you are wondering what would characterize someone as a narcissist, it can best be described as someone what an inflated sense of self importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, lack of empathy for others especially for the destruction they cause. They are full of envy, jealousy, hatred and will project those undesirable feelings and emotions onto other people.
A Narcissistic abuser is a master manipulator that will destroy other people’s lives without remorse. This can be a relationship between a parent and a child, a boss and a co-worker, a husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, really any type of relationship. Most of the horror stories I have heard have been by a parent or a romantic partner but it is definitely not exclusive to only these two.
These abusers are extremely insecure with their true self so they develop a fake persona from usually a very young age. They get very, very good at acting out this role, they could literally win an academy award and even fool their own family members. They know the body language, what to say, and what to do to get you to believe in this act, and most people do believe it because who put all of this time to not be themself? Well, a narcissist would.
But here's the part where they really become abusive. In order to regulate this false persona and their self importance, they need a constant supply of attention from other people, either good and bad.
Sometimes this comes from people they don't abuse that will show them they are well loved and liked, sexually satisfying, people who feel sorry for them, and people who admire them. Basically anything that can get a reaction and support that they are most important. To them, this means people believe them and this will feed their ego.
But the darker side comes from their victims and they normally have more than one at a time.
It's similar to a drug addict. A drug addict will do just about anything to get a hit when they have a craving and within a short time, sometimes instantly, they are looking for how they will get the next hit.
A narcissistic abuser is similar in they have cravings for attention and they will do anything to get "that next hit."
They will exploit, lie, cheat, and manipulate. Nothing is really off limits as long as they are getting their needs met. They will use emotional and psychological abuse their victims to gain control over their victims and if they feel any sense of abandonment, the abuse can get much worse.
Because they lack empathy, they could care less who they hurt and will only demonstrate remorse if it helps them with their agenda. They will do things most of us just don't understand and find a hard time believing. It could really shake someone's world if they found out things these people are capable of.
They can disguised themselves to the public as upstanding citizens, the good guy or good girl, they can give to charities and people in need or they can also be a straight up ass, it depends on the type of narcissist they are, which will discuss.
Regardless of who they are in public, behind closed doors things get a lot darker and evil.
Have you ever seen the news where neighbors or mothers are shocked to see evidence of the person they thought they knew? Some can see a video and still be in denial, it's can be just that hard to believe.
Something we must understand is they don't abuse everyone, because part of the abuse is making others believe in their fake persona and also that the victim is the real problem.
Why Can't We See The Abuse?
So, why can't we see the abuse if it's affecting millions upon millions of people worldwide? Sounds crazy right?
1. Most people believe the illusion the abuser creates. You have to remember, these people have been creating this false persona their whole life, so they are really, really good at it. It is really believable.
2. The abuse is not external like physical abuse. Although physical abuse can be part of narcissistic abuse, it's not always the case. Much of it is internal and can even cause brain trauma. It's really reprogramming someone's mind so the narcissists can gain control to abuse them and use them how you want. Literally like a puppet with invisible strings.
3. Victims can appear to be the unstable ones while their abusers look stable and can even play the victim. The outside world can think the victim is crazy, jealous, abusive and controlling. This is part of the illusion.
One example is once a victim has had weeks or months of abuse and reacts, the abuser is telling others, "Look, look, I told you they were like that. They are crazy." And that's all most people need to believe them.
4. Victims don't always know they are being abused. They may know something is wrong, but they can't put their finger on it. And when they do talk about it, people often think they are overthinking or being too sensitive (which is the same things their abuser says to them) so they can shut down, blame themselves and doubt their own reality. They often then turn to their abusers for answers and healing.
5. Our court system, judges, law enforcement, people who are suppose to protect our children, are not trained to see the signs or understand narcissistic abuse, so they often unintentionally enable the abusers. Victims can't even speak the truth in court because it can make them look crazy and get have their kids taken away. I've heard that last part many, many times. It's truly sad.
6. Therapist have a small amount of training in cluster b personalities. If they can’t identify it, they can’t treat it and narc abusers can also use therapy to further abuse their victims with a 3rd party (the therapist). Sick.
So, this should honestly be the biggest wake up call for people. Everything is not what it seems, even when you think you are seeing it correctly. And mental health needs to be taken more seriously, it needs to be a priority. People are suffering, our kids who are our future are suffering at large numbers. What the hell will the world look like when they grow up? And the worst part is, narcissistic abusers are getting away with it all.
7. A lot of the abuse can be so subtle that even healthy individuals would not pick up on it, let alone the victim that dearly loves their abuser. But when this is done over and over again on a daily, even hourly basis, it can cause great psychological damage.
We Need More Awareness
Awareness is extending. Recently I watched The Red Table Talk (one of my favorite shows) with Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Gammy, who aired an episode talking about the narcissism epidemic with Dr. Ramani, a clinical psychologist, and one of the things she said that really stood out to me was...
"The worst thing you can do to a narcissist is forgive them. They are going to take your forgiveness and turn it into a weapon." - Dr. Ramani #narcissist— Narc Abuse Survivor (@conqueredabuse) January 14, 2020
This really hit home because I can't tell you how many times I forgave my abuser. Over and over and over again... In my head, at the time, I was just trying to be a good person and help someone, who I thought, everyone else had given up on. And the abuse just got worse and worse and worse.
Many survivors, including myself, are bringing awareness around the topic and speaking our truth in hopes of reaching other victims and loved ones of the victims that know something is wrong, but they don't know what to do next.
Will You Help Spread Awareness?
We need your help in expanding awareness, education, and helping others identifying the signs of abuse. Please click the link below to see ways you can help spread awareness.
What does Narc Abuse Feel Like?
For romantic relationships, it probably started off with intense carisma, maybe even felt like a fairytale love story. You could be thinking that you finally have found the “one” and they understand you better than anyone. The chemistry was off the charts and you can be totally swept off your feet. The term soul mate fits nicely here.
The sex can many times be phenomenal. Many victims say it’s mind blowing and the best they've ever had.
My abuser had erectile dysfunction from his porn addiction and when we did have sex, it literally would last 1-2 minutes. I never felt sexual satisfied, but because of the intense feelings I had for him, I look forward to it. I thought within time, he would let go of porn and sex would be amazing.
Everything can feel so intense. Stages of the relationship will move so fast that you really don’t have time to think about much of what is going on. It feels so good, that you have allowed your boundaries to be overstepped or minimize red flags, because you don’t want to lose this person.
And then your fairytale turns into your worst nightmare. What just happened was called love bombing.
Typically, within a couple months you start to notice some problems, but by this time, they have been studying you very closely. They know things you love, things you hate, your passions, what inspires you, who loves you, who you love, your insecurities, things you love about yourself, your past relationships and any other information you've shared.
They've also learned exactly what you desired in a partner and mirrored that back to you so you would fall fast and hard for them. Once they are confident your heart belongs to them and you are under their spell, things take an evil turn.
It’s now time to play the narcissist’s game. And if you don’t play, they will try to destroy you and if you do play, they will try to destroy you. Everything they know about you will be used against you and you will feel like you are going insane.
Many victims mistake the intense feelings they had at the beginning of the relationship as love and they will try everything to get it back. They will hold onto the relationship as long as possible, sometimes for decades, trying to fix things, trying to make their soul-mate happy, and trying to help them so that once they return to the person they fell in love with, everything will be perfect.
Abusers start devaluing you little by little. They may drop little hints of criticism, and sometimes insults are disguised as compliments or they also can be very blunt. You began to lose your confidence and yourself.
You may slowly start putting everything in backseat to please the abuser and make things work. There are less and less intimate moments and nothing you do seems to make them happy, so you exhaust yourself trying to figure it all out. You just want the person you feel in love with back.
Your body and health may be shutting down. You may stop doing things you love and even can start to spend less time with your children because the focus in on fixing the relationship and then you will get everything else in order.
They have a hatred towards you and are on a mission to destroy who you are as they train and reprogram you so they have power and control over you. Anything you say or do will be used against you. They don’t want you to shine, in fact, they will steal it from you.
When you question or point anything out, even if in a loving way, they will overreact and sometimes go into a rage. You can be punished for simply not needing them or saying no. They can be extremely cruel and become more abusive over time.
While children are developing, they also are developing their idea of self, so they can be very vulnerable victims of this type of abuse. Their love for their parents can literally be used against them. Their parents will mold them to serve them and make them happy. The parent does not have a real concern for the well being and development of their child, although they can appear like it to others.
These children can often feel responsible for the welfare of their parents and they don’t develop a strong sense of self because of the abuse. In public, the parents can look like the mom or dad of the year, but at home, when they are alone and nobody is watching, they create hell on the child's life, sometimes in very subtle ways that nobody will pick up on, not even the child. They will sabotage any connections or sense of support the child has that they feel is a threat to them being in full control.
In school, this can show up as a kid that is talented but struggles on focusing. They may have anxiety, stress or attract bullies because of their low self esteem and confidence. They can even do well for short periods of time and then slip back into the struggle.
Doctors can be clueless to what’s going on and prescribe medicine which can make it worse. Even if teachers are able to spot that something is wrong, the root of the problem is not visible and most councilors, psychologists, doctors, etc. are not trained to recognize narcissistic abuse.
The Abuse Cycle
When they feel they are losing control, you may see the person you fell in love with or the good side of them. They may seem like they want to work on themselves. They could promise you to go to counseling or that they will never do it again. Once you are reeled back in, the abuse begins again.
Narcissistic abuse victims can go into a state of denial. They may know something is wrong but they can repress their feelings of injustice as a survival strategy. This allows them to focus all their attention of any kindness or love they receive.
The Narcissist Favorite Mind Game
Gaslighting is their favorite psychological mind game they play with their victims. Narcissistic abusers use gaslighting to weaken their victims and take control of them through emotional and psychological abuse which can leave a victim confused and questioning their own perception of reality. This can cause severe damage that is not always noticeable to anyone other than the abuser themselves and can quite literally ca n make the victim feel as if they are going crazy.
The only people that would really understand are those who have experienced it, so when you tell friends or family, or even your therapist, they may think you hyper-sensitive, emotional, overthinking or just need to let go. This can make you feel even more lonely because victims often stay.
Overts are the type of abusers we are used to knowing about. They don’t hide their abuse towards others. They are open and explicit and most people wouldn’t have a hard time pointing them out. They may always brag about their accomplishments, or how much better they are than others and almost look down on anyone who is not them.
Coverts on the other hand are very dangerous because their abuse usually goes unnoticed by everyone around them, including their family, the victim's family and even the victims themselves.
They are wolves in sheep's clothing or academy award winning actors. They have learned how to move their body, how to talk, and what to say and do to get you to believe them. They can often look like the victim or the healthy one in the relationship.
Covert narcs can appear to be the good guy, the one who really cares for people and wants to do the right thing, outwardly innocent, naive and insecure.
But behind closed doors, they are monsters. It's all really an act to get people to believe to give their ego a boost because they really believe they are this person. And this type of act will lure in victims as well.
It's the type of Mind Screw You Can't Understand
It’s really a type of mind screw that unless you have lived it and had direct experience, you really can’t understand it fully. You just can't because you might say, I would see that, I would leave, I would know what they are doing, but it's not always that easy to put all the pieces of the puzzle together so quickly and by the time most victims figure it out, they are in pretty bad shape, and this could be mentally, physically, spiritually, financially. This makes it really hard to get out of the abuse even if they want to. And honestly, victims can go back several times because of trauma bonding, which is an addiction to the abuse.
They have been reprogrammed not to trust themselves and most people around them don't see it. Victims can literally feel crazy and look crazy to others.
I don’t think I could relate to victims unless I had been through it myself. Most of it just seems too crazy or unrealistic.
And some think a therapist should be able to help. Well, many have a small amount of training in cluster b personalities. If they can’t identify it, they can’t treat it.
Narcissistic abusers will also use couples therapy or family therapy to further abuse their prey with the third party (therapist) and they can do this because of the lack of being able to identifying the abuse.
You have to understand, we are not dealing with healthy people when we are talking about narc abusers. The things they are willing to do seem so over the top that healthier people or people with empathy just don't understand, it really doesn't make sense to them. They don't understand how someone would put so much time and energy into the type of mind games they play. So again, if you have not been through it, it's really hard for you to see it.
I honestly don’t think I could relate or understand a victim without the direct experience I survived and most importantly the healing. The more I healed, the clearer I can could see things around me.
My brother would yell or get really angry when I would talk about what I was going through. He would yell, “This is f***g stupid” “I don’t know why you are telling me the same thing” “I don’t understand why you are staying and think anything is going to change”
That made me feel very shameful and that he just couldn't see that I was trying to be a good person and help someone that everyone else gave up on and I needed someone to listen.
He was frustrated with me and I can understand that. He loved me and just couldn't understand what was going on. I couldn't even understand what was going on.
But, this caused me to push him away. He was one of the only people I would confide in, but I didn't want to upset him or feel so shameful for staying in the relationship. And without having that connection to someone to talk to, I became lonelier and the abuse got worse. I even turned to my narc abuser for healing and answers and to try to fix the problem. What a horrible mistake, but I couldn't see it then.
Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome (NAS)
When you are suffering from Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome, also known as NAS, you may be confused and not even consider what they are doing to be abusive. I didn’t. When he would be enraged, I thought since I wasn’t physically assaulted that I could handle it and I had to help him work out what he was going through.
You may be feeling confusion, anxiety, panic attacks, doubt and loneliness. You know something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on it. When you talk to other people, they look confused and may think you are being too sensitive, overreacting or misunderstanding. It’s hard for them to understand that someone is capable of doing this and is doing it on purpose to drive you crazy.
Signs of abuse:
- Memory Loss
- Crushed self esteem
- Negative self talk
- Not Trusting Self
- Feeling crazy
- Hyper sensitive
- Unexplainable Emotions
- Anxiety & Panic Attacks
- Emotional Triggers
- Don’t feel like yourself
- Others think you are the problem
- Don’t recognize yourself
- Pushing friends and family away
You may have stopped speaking up for yourself and your boundaries are not respected, but you have started to accept it. They get angry at the smallest things, so you bite your tongue a lot.
If you do try to attempt to go out or reconnect with yourself, you may feel rushed to get back home to them or they can completely sabotage your time with others or yourself if it threatens their control. You may feel like you are slowly being ripped apart.
Codependents and wounded empaths are usually targets. They tend to give, give, give without getting anything back for long periods of time.
Traits Narcs Look For In Their Victims:
- Wounded Empaths
- Trouble Saying No
- Trouble Setting Boundaries
- History of Abuse
- Poor Support or Family Structure
- Savior or Rescuer
- Tongue Bitters
Why are they like this?
Most often, at a young age, they were separated from their true self and in order to fill their needs, they created a false self that will constantly need attention from other people to feel significant and real. This would prove that they exist because if they can affect other people, good or bad, that must mean they are important. It’s like an addict that can’t get enough, they constantly have to feed their alter ego so it feels real.
In order to regulate their sense of self worth, they need people to tell them they are great, superior, important, loved and so on. They need people to react to them and believe their false persona. And abusing others is a way to get a lot of their feelings met.
Narcissistic abusers are full of rage, envy, jealousy and have a hard time regulating their moods. They lack empathy and if they start feeling like you will abandon them, the abuse can get much worse.
They are emotional vampires that will continue to search for supply, which is a someone willing to give them their energy and emotions. Ways that they abuse their victims:
- Verbal Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Financial Abuse
- Religious Abuse
- Mind Games
- Compulsive Lying
- Not Respecting Boundaries
- Character Slander
- Silent Treatment
- Parent Alienation
Can They Change?
Good question. You are still looking for hope. Even though you have connected with most of this article, in a few weeks, days or even instantly, you will try to find just one good reason to hang onto hope. I get it, because I did this so many times. The love bombing, trauma bonding and thinking what if they are not really a narcissist keeped me in the relationship and just really need my help, keep me in the relationship for far too long.
The fact that you took the time to read all the way down here tells me, at the very least, you are in a toxic relationship. That alone should be enough to walk away... but, I can relate.
You are confused, you don't want to lose what you could have, you don't want someone else to have his love when he finally wakes up, and you want to the be the one woman that stands by his side and the reward will come when he changes. You life will be amazing, if only you can find a way for him to see it.
I'm sorry, but that's an illusion. The only time it may have been good is when you first met and when you feels he is losing you and needs to reel you back in.
I continued to be abused while I stayed to try and fix the relationship, except I was REALLY the only one trying. I was just waiting for him to love himself and love me so he could be the man I fell in love with and we could build this amazing life together.
But, the abuse got worse and worse as time went on. There is no happy ending when you stay in an abusive relationship, but there can be one when you break free from the abuse and start healing. You're life can be everything you want and more, but it's not going to be while you are in an abusive relationship.
There is no evidence they can change. Most narcissistic abusers will not get counseling or not go to counseling for the reason of healing, but instead to prove they want help so you will stay and to further victimize you with a unknowing third party (the therapist).
They may apologize and show remorse but it's only to reinstate their personally agenda. They don't want to lose what their narcissistic supply and privileges that the relationship offers, so, they will do what they think you will respond to.
An empty person will continue to get supply by any means necessary.
Those who do get help, can learn how to show empathy and control their anger, but the only thing they really change is their tactics. They will only get better at disguising their true self as they need someone to teach them how to do it, because they don't know how to look like a caring and loving human being naturally.
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