Narcissists are people who are diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). As the name suggests, NPD is a personality disorder that makes people feel an exaggerated sense of self-importance. As a result, narcissists believe that they deserve constant admiration and special treatment. Moreover, they have a severe lack of empathy and are likely to hurt those around them without feeling any regret, remorse, or even guilt. Therefore, those who are in relationships with narcissists tend to experience abuse and manipulation. Taking this further, narcissists tear down the people in their life, point out their flaws, make them feel weak, and constantly remind them that they are not enough. By making their partners feel – and sometimes believe – that they are inferior, narcissists make themselves look superior.
What is Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome (Narcissistic Victim Syndrome)?
Those who have been subjected to narcissistic abuse for a long period of time may develop narcissistic abuse syndrome. This means that during or after the relationship, they may notice changes in their physical or psychological wellbeing. According to the psychological abuse advocate Jayme Chenoweth, this condition “often causes victims to feel defenseless and beaten down.” It is important to note that while NPD is recognized as a medical condition, Narcissistic Abuse/Victim Syndrome is not.
The below list contains some of the symptoms which you may experience if you are (or have been) a victim of narcissistic abuse.
1. You experience physical changes
There are numerous physical symptoms that you may experience as a result of narcissistic abuse. You may experience weight gain or loss, heart palpitations, muscle aches, nausea, insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, and even eating disorders. The reason for this is that even though the abuse may be emotional and mental, our bodies physically react to the abuse.
2. You cannot make decisions on your own
Victims of narcissistic abuse find it difficult to make their own decisions as they lack confidence and have self-doubt. As a result of the criticism and devaluation which they faced in their relationship, they feel as though they cannot be trusted to make important decisions without the help of someone else.
3. You isolate yourself
Many narcissists tend to isolate their partners from their friends and family. They do so because they know that they will become more vulnerable and liable to emotional manipulation. With time, the victim will withdraw even more because they will grow to feel ashamed and insecure. Moreover, bestselling author Shahida Arabi explains that they may “fear no one will understand or believe them, so instead of reaching out for help, they decide to withdraw from others as a way to avoid judgment and retaliation from their abuser.”
4. You experience dissociation
Feeling dissociated and detached from reality is a survival mechanism that many victims have. That is, dissociation allows the brain to prevent feeling excessive pain. In other words, you may feel emotionally and mentally numb.
It feels as though your entire life revolves around making sure that your partner feels happy and content. This means that you sacrifice and often forget your own physical and/or emotional needs and desires in order to please them.
6. You are constantly alert
Narcissists make their partners feel restless, anxious, and nervous as they never know when they will next be criticized, judged, or shouted at. Moreover, this results in their partners feeling as though they have to walk around on eggshells as they try not to accidentally say or do the “wrong” thing and anger them.
7. You engage in self-destructive behavior
Victims of narcissistic abuse are prone to negative self-talk, self-destructive behavior, and self-sabotaging tendencies. Shahida Arabi notes that “Due to the narcissist’s covert and overt put-downs, verbal abuse and hypercriticism, victims develop a tendency to punish themselves because they carry such toxic shame.”
Although it will certainly be difficult to recover from years of severe abuse, with the help of friends and family, you will be able to regain control of your life and find happiness again. Furthermore, many people find that speaking to a professional can help tremendously. In any case, you have all it takes to overcome this.