Narcissistic personality disorder has gained popular recognition in recent years. As more people are becoming aware of this disorder, they can pinpoint narcissistic abuse that has happened to them. It is important to understand that breaking free from this type of abuse is especially challenging since abusers with narcissistic personality traits tend to keep things focused on themselves, leaving the abused individual questioning whether or not their perspective is even valid.
If you have noticed that you feel like you are “walking on eggshells,” you have developed emotional and health problems (especially when around a certain person), you constantly try to please or defend your abuser, or you feel depressed and mistrusting, you may be in an abusive relationship. At times an abusive relationship may not “seem abusive” to you because there are no physical signs of abuse. However, mental and emotional abuse is real and can have long-lasting negative health effects on a person. You may also have low self-esteem or feel shame and self-destructing tendencies. Some other signs to look out for in a narcissistic individual include:
- Insulting, demeaning or embarrassing you with put-downs
- Controlling what you do, who you talk to or where you go
- Looking at you or acting in ways that scare you
- Pushing, slapping, choking, or hitting you
- Stopping you from seeing your friends or family members
- Controlling the money in the relationship
- Making all of the decisions without your input or consideration of your needs
- Telling you that you’re a bad parent or threatening to take away your children
- Preventing you from working or attending school
- Acting like the abuse is no big deal, denying the abuse or telling you it’s your own fault
- Destroying your property or threatening to kill your pets
- Intimidating you with guns, knives or other weapons
- Attempting to force you to drop criminal charges
- Threatening to commit suicide, or threatening to kill you
Often, “no contact” is suggested for victims to break free from the emotional trap they have been living in. However, this can be hard for victims. People who have been victimized may experience withdrawal symptoms from the relationship. Being addicted to the “feel-good” brain chemicals that keep victims in a relationship with their abuser is a hard pattern to break. If you have been through narcissistic abuse, it is important to remember that you have been a victim and that you have been through complex traumatic events. Both the mind and body are affected by this type of trauma, so you may find you have symptoms ranging from depression and anxiety to insomnia and gastrointestinal distress. Bessel van der Kolk, psychiatrist and leading trauma expert, suggests yoga and mindfulness as a way to start healing the brain from trauma. Journaling can also be helpful as victims work toward a more holistic healing process.
Finding a treatment that encompasses the whole person (body and mind) is key if you have suffered through narcissistic abuse. Some evidence-based treatments that address this include EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy), Somatic Experiencing Therapy, Trauma-Informed Counseling, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma-Sensitive, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and The Neurosequential Model. These therapies and others are offered at Health for Life Counseling Grand Rapids, also known as the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids. All of our clinicians have trauma training in addition to their formal education.
If you are in need of immediate assistance for a physically dangerous situation, please call 911. If you need someone to talk to based on what you have read in this post, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
To learn more about counseling visit our counseling page here.
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Or call 616-200-4433. We at Health for Life would be glad to help!