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What is Narcissistic Abuse?

By Jessica F. Black
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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Narcissistic abuse is primarily inflicted emotionally but can become physical, and both forms can cause long-term pain for the victim. The abuser often suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a disorder that allows the patient to feel omnipotent by creating a false self-worth that is ultimately superior to everyone else. Those closest to the abuser undergo the most extreme forms of mental and emotional torment. Relationships and family members suffer the most because it is the gradual change in personality that masks the underlying problems.

At first, a narcissistic spouse, family member, co-worker or friend appears conceited but later on, the superiority complex that causes the person to lash out far exceeds simple arrogance. The narcissistic abuse begins because the abuser needs to gain control over others, and in order to succeed, he or she must belittle the victims by making them feel emotionally and mentally incompetent. The narcissist might repeatedly tell the victims that they are worthless or humiliate them in public. He or she feels that by withdrawing his or her approval, the victim will fall further under his or her power in hopes of achieving acceptance.

The abuser uses methods of insult, embarrassment and punishment to destroy the victim's self-esteem, which eventually leads the victim to actually believe that he or she is worthless. The repeated narcissistic abuse can become brainwashing and exhaust the victim to the point of hopelessness. The narcissist can become violent and feel little remorse because he or she believes that this type of behavior is appropriate. The abuser feels that his or her actions are justified because these are actions of a superior being, no matter whether it is harmful or illegal.

The mental deterioration of the victim is a sign that he or she needs help. There is an extensive recovery process for narcissistic abuse that begins with self-education. The victim and abuser should seek guidance and treatment separately, because the process is different. The abused should become well informed on the disease that inflicts the abuser in order to understand that it is not his or her fault as the victim. There are numerous recovery groups for victims of narcissistic abuse, and individual therapy is available.

The sufferer of NPD should also seek counseling in order to better understand the disease and evaluate the severe underlying problem that stimulates the disorder. The variety of support and information available on narcissistic abuse is a good starting point because it assists the victim in regaining control over his or her own life. The support groups allow the abused to communicate with others who are undergoing similar trauma and can relieve the stress of feeling hopelessly alone.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1001906 — On Jul 22, 2019

Thank you for the advice. I'm going to learn from your experiences and stay away from that person. I pray for all who have been involved with a narcissist.

By anon991240 — On Jun 06, 2015

I have been married to such a person. This person has lied to so many people including their family. Funny their family truly does not know him at all. They believe each and every lie even though they see some indication of falsehood on some of the situations/lies.

But that is not my problem. I have been through a series of things that now has me unemployed. Separated 2 years and ongoing problems preventing divorce. Having to rely on ex for money, him forcing to move in, and the abuse again. Just need a friend to go for the occasional walk with me . (my dog died recently).

Trying to take one step at a time, but it is really damn hard.

Although I do yoga and mediation every morning, and exercise, the struggle to get my life on track and the abuser is draining me.

Have tried meeting people at meet up but so far the groups want to go to bars and drink. Not my thing. Any ideas?

By anon989068 — On Feb 17, 2015

The sooner you get out the better. I tried to leave in the first two years before he got that deep hold on me. He almost died when he swallowed a bottle of xanax. He was on life support a week. I thought, "Dang, this guy really loves me, can't live without me." So I stayed for four more years. The last two, the abuse was unbearable but I was so in love I now couldn't leave. Now I'm the one crying myself to sleep each night alone. He left me two months ago, on his terms after he broke me and my soul. I guess he figured he won. He actually told me "I" control the chess board now. Checkmate!

By anon958166 — On Jun 25, 2014

What does one do when one has apparently told 'too much' to his family members and now when/if one goes to visit him they are told to stick by his side when his family members are around?

By anon957046 — On Jun 18, 2014

I find it incredibly disturbing that despite the realization that this type of abuse is incredibly destructive to the many, many innocent people who get sucked in by these manipulative people, the entire mental health profession seems to be clueless about this.

Currently, victims and survivors are getting help understanding this and recovering from it from social media. And there are a number of reasons why this can further harm the people whose lives have been devastated by narcissists. Why isn't more being done to force the mental health profession to do what it needs to to help the victims and survivors of this type of abuse? Thank you, Michelle M., LSW, MSW

By Scrbblchick — On Feb 10, 2014

Narcissists are insidious. They worm their way into relationships and they don't let go willingly. That's their real evil. They don't want to let go. They can't just allow someone to get out of the relationship; they have to make it as excruciating as possible.

The way to stay out of this kind of abuse is to leave as soon as they start the very early preliminary verbal denigration and so forth. Don't think they will change; they won't. Don't think you can change them; you can't. Don't think your love is enough; it isn't. Don't give them even a second chance. "*Leave.* Leave now and don't come back, while you can. Change your phone number and email and delete your Facebook profile. Don't respond to any contact attempts. Wipe them out of your life. That's how you can survive.

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