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Recognizing the Signs of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

by | Dec 23, 2020 | RELATIONSHIPS, TRAUMA

A woman who has realized the effects of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

Do you feel worthless, guilty and continually walking on eggshells and doubting your ability to make decisions? These are some of the ravaging effects of narcissistic abuse syndrome that can leave you feeling trapped, helpless and depressed.

When you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, you naturally tend to focus more on your partner and why they behave the way they do and seldom consider the impact their actions have on you. However, narcissist abuse can have serious long-term effects on your emotional health, and you may suffer from narcissistic abuse syndrome.

Discover all about narcissism in men and women, and learn about signs and symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome.

What is Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome?

Narcissistic abuse syndrome is the severe effect of abuse from a person with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Narcissistic abuse, especially when a partner is emotionally abusive, can be very hard for the victim to identify because it’s subtle, and narcissists are masters of disguise: gaslighting, manipulating and controlling their victims for their gain.

A narcissistic person can cause you to be confused and disconnected from the emotional pain and effects of the abuse. Instead, you’re preoccupied with your perceived failures and trying to understand your abusive partner, which takes a toll on you, affecting your emotional health.

Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

You know you’re suffering from narcissistic abuse victim syndrome if you have the following symptoms:

1. Always Walking On Egg Shells 

As a human, you tend to avoid things that remind you of terrible things in the past. Therefore, to cope with the past effects of narcissistic abuse, you’re careful with how you talk and act around the abuser. You do this to avoid crossing paths, physical abuse, or domestic violence.

However, avoiding something or someone doesn’t make it go away. You remain to be the abuser’s emotional punching bag whenever they feel like it. Because you don’t want to provoke your abuser, you avoid confrontation and never set any boundaries, giving them even more space to continue with the vice.

You spend too much time wearing a mask and, in time, lose your personality, making it hard for you to be assertive while navigating the real world.

2. Sense of Mistrust

As a coping mechanism, you begin to mistrust others’ intentions, especially if you suffered narcissistic abuse from someone close. The abuser convinces you that your feelings and experiences are invalid and you, therefore, tend never to trust others and yourself.

3. Self-Isolation

Although abusers tend to isolate their victims, you tend to self-isolate because you feel ashamed for being abused. Victims believe that no one will understand them and self-isolate instead of seeking help to avoid the shame, judgment of their abusers.

When you self-isolate, you have no one to speak to because you think no one will understand you. This makes room for the abuser to lure you back in with kindness, fake apologies or even pretending the abuse never happened.

4. Loss of Self Worth

As a result of your abuser’s verbal abuse and insulting nicknames, you tend to lose your self-worth. Some narcissistic abuse cases involve a third party. The abuser tends to always compare you to the other party to destroy your self-worth. In turn, you’re ever in a competition to get your abuser’s approval over the other.

Often, victims of narcissistic abuse spend time thinking about and hearing their abuser’s voice in their heads, reminding them of all the insults. This lowers their self-esteem and sometimes results in self-sabotage. If you don’t get help soon, the abuser would even lead you to commit suicide.

5. Feeling Lonely

When there’s no communication with your narcissistic partner because they won’t listen to you or give you the silent treatment, it can leave you feeling isolated, causing you to be vulnerable to further emotional manipulation.

Your partner may act kind, apologize or pretend nothing happened to draw you back in, a tactic known as hoovering.

Hoovering is most effective when you have no support and no one to talk to, and you doubt your perceptions of the abuse or justify it. Even worse is when loved ones tell you you’re wrong and encourage you to forgive your abusive partner.

6. Freezing Up

People respond differently to abuse and trauma, sometimes by running from the situation (fight) or confronting their abusive partner (fight).

If neither of these methods works for you, or for some reason you feel you can’t use them, you might feel helpless and resort to the freezing response.

The freezing response often involves distancing yourself from the abuse in an attempt to minimize its intensity by numbing some of the pain and distress you’re experiencing.

7. Trouble Making Decisions

Constant criticism and devaluation rob you of your confidence and self-worth.

Narcissistic abuse entails frequent implications that you can’t do anything right and your decisions are always wrong. They may outright call you ignorant or stupid, disguising it in a falsely affectionate tone such as, “Sweetheart, you’re too dumb. How would you survive without me?”

Sadly, you start to absorb these insults and, over time, start to believe them, causing you to second-guess yourself, a technique known as gaslighting. This tactic makes you doubt your decision-making abilities and is so severe that it can even cause you to question your sanity.

8. Feeling Like You’ve Done Something Wrong

Narcissists have difficulty taking responsibility for their destructive behavior or negative actions, instead skillfully finding some way to heap the blame on you.

They’re masters of this deceit, often succeeding at making you feel guilty for their actions by:

  • Exploding with anger, leading you to believe your accusations must be wrong, so you end up apologizing and accepting you were wrong.
  • Insisting they said something you forgot.

The irony of it all is it leaves you feeling helpless and dependent and grateful they’re willing to put up with you and stay with you with all the mistakes you keep making, a belief you could carry with you even after leaving the relationship.

What is more, each time something goes wrong in other areas of your life, you may struggle to accept that you’re not the cause of the problem.

Get Help Now!

Narcissistic abuse , like domestic violence, is traumatic, often causing serious health issues to the victim. It can even take a severe toll on your mental health, especially when it takes too long to diagnose. It can substitute your happy days with seasons full of sadness and self-hate. However, you deserve to be happy; and to do so, you need help to get through the trauma from professionals.

At Modern Intimacy, we provide counseling and therapy services to help you get back to your feet. Book a consultation and begin your road to recovery today.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.



Author Bio

Dr. Kate Balestrieri is a Licensed Psychologist (CA, FL, IL + NY), Certified Sex Therapist, Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, and PACT III trained Couples Therapist. She is the Founder of Modern Intimacy. Follow her on TikTok and IG @drkatebalestrieri and the Modern Intimacy team on IG @themodernintimacy.



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1 Comment

  1. Andrea Conant

    I know I need help. I am disabled. I live on social security. My entire family does not speak to me. I have no friends here. I live day to day and wonder how I do it.
    I can’t drive – have no car.
    I can’t afford a psychologist. I am stuck. I will be 67 this year. I raised two daughters and he took them from me. I am broken.


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