The following information is from Beyond Blue…
A person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) displays patterns of deviant behaviour that can create carnage for those around them (spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, peers, etc). Narcissistic Victim Abuse is abuse that has been caused by someone with this personality disorder. The NPD is not often medically diagnosed, so that the narcissistic individual goes undetected in society (home, work-place, organizations, social settings) and the victim’s plight unrecognised.
A person with NPD has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for attention and admiration, and a strong sense of entitlement. They believe they are superior and have little regard for the feelings of others. As a child, a healthy self-esteem (true self) did not develop in the narcissist so they built up defences to create a ‘false self’ in public. This is akin to wearing a public mask. Wearing the mask is not only emotionally exhausting, it also means that the narcissist is constantly on guard at being found out. They become overly sensitive to narcissistic injury which is any perceived threat (real or imagined) to the narcissist’s self-esteem or self-worth. In order to maintain their illusion and protect their ‘false self’ they seek narcissistic supply from unsuspecting victims.
The narcissist views people as objects which can feed their needs (known as ‘sources of narcissistic supply’). The narcissist will use any tactic, without guilt, empathy or conscience, to make sure they get their narcissistic supply and their needs are met. Narcissistic supply comes from public attention such as fame, celebrity, notoriety, or infamy or private attention such as admiration, flattery, acclaim, fear, or even repulsion. Regular bearers of narcissistic supply include the spouse, children, friends, colleagues, partners and clients. Anything that acts as a status symbol that attracts attention and admiration for the narcissist is narcissistic supply, for example, a flashy car, expensive property, designer clothes, being a member of a church, cult, club, or a business.
With an inflated sense of their own superiority, power and control, the narcissist renders themselves susceptible to all sorts of obsessions, compulsions, and addictions, for example, addiction to: narcissistic supply, grandiosity, control, power, rage, perfectionism, attention, fame etc. The devastating impact of these addictions on their significant others can result in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome. Most victims present with no idea about what has happened to them. Narcissistic abuse is insidious because the abuse is covert, cunning and indirect. Narcissists go to great pains to avoid being observed publicly as being abusive. The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde behaviour creates fear, distress, confusion, inner turmoil, and chaos for the victim. The constant ‘walking on eggshells’ and attempting to avoid further conflict can be crippling. To complicate matters a narcissist is rarely medically diagnosed and often goes undetected in society (home, work, organisations, and social settings).
For whatever the reason the victim entered the Dance of the Narcissist (a behaviour known as Co-Dependency) so that in the dance there was both: 1) a pleaser/fixer (victim) and; 2) a taker/controller (narcissist/addict).
Victims present when they feel like they can’t cope. They are unaware that they have been living or working in a war zone. No-one has mentioned Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or narcissistic abuse to them. Victims of this narcissistic abuse often display a set, or cluster, of symptoms due to this physical, mental, emotional or spiritual abuse. In Narcissistic Victim Syndrome you are looking for a cluster of symptoms to emerge, many are the symptoms of trauma (avoidance behaviour, loss of interest, feeling detached, sense of a limited future, sleeping or eating difficulties, irritability, hyper-vigilance, easily startled, flashbacks, hopelessness, psychosomatic illnesses, self-harming, thoughts of suicide etc). Narcissistic abuse victims express feelings of humiliation and shame, and apt to self-blame. They have learned to take responsibility for the narcissist’s behaviour because they are constantly told the problem is their fault. Some victims develop Stockholm Syndrome and want to support, defend, and love the abuser despite what they have gone through.
Victims tend to ‘dissociate’ or detach from their emotions, body, or surroundings. Living in a war zone where all forms of power and control are used against you (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion, control etc), the threat of abuse is always present. Dissociation is an automatic coping mechanism against overwhelming stress.
Victims are often victimized by more than one person. They often internalize that something is wrong with them, that they deserve this kind of abuse, and then resign themselves to their fate. Victims may not have reached their potential in their personal or professional lives because they always have to stand in the shadow of their aggressor, and not upstage them. They learn to live in the shadows without knowing why.
Victims of narcissistic abuse often appear uncertain of themselves, constantly seeking clarification that they haven’t made a mistake or misheard something. Confidence may be so low that they have trouble making simple decisions. They will not be aware that this is caused by an abusive technique called ‘gaslighting’. Gaslighting is a technique of psychological abuse used by narcissists to instil confusion and anxiety in their victim to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. With gaslighting, the victim initially notices that something happens that is odd, but they don’t believe it. This moves to defence as the victim fights against the manipulation. Confusion sets in after incessant comments such as: ‘You’re too sensitive’, ‘You’re crazy’, ‘You’re imagining things’ or ‘I never said that.’ Gradually, the victim cannot trust their own perceptions and doubt themselves. This often leads to depression. Broken and unable to trust themselves, they isolate themselves further. The victim now doubts everything about themselves, their thoughts and opinions, their ideas and ideals. They become co-dependent on the abuser for their reality.
Victims need validation and education about what has happened to them. They need information about the medical condition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and its toxicity in relationships. They need education about how they have contributed to their situation through co-dependence. They need therapy to deal with symptoms. They will need support to remove themselves from their narcissistic relationship, and to not repeat the cycle of abuse in their next relationship. One of their greatest challenges may come from not being believed by significant others, either because these others have not seen the private face of the narcissist or because they themselves are in the narcissist’s thrall.
1. Narcissistic behaviour is a form of abuse and bullying! YES, most bullies have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
2. NPD is often NOT medically diagnosed! ie the narcissistic individual goes undetected in society (in the home, work-place, social settings etc) and therefore, the victim’s plight is often unrecognised or misdiagnosed as being due to something else.
3. Characteristics of a Narcissist –
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without actual achievements)
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, and/or should associate with other special or high-status people
- Requires excessive amounts of admiration
- Has a very strong sense of entitlement, ie unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or instant compliance with his or her expectations
- Is exploitative of others, i, takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy, ie is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others and/or believes others are envious of him/her
- Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
4. Characteristics of a Narcissist Victim –
Now that you have begun to see some Red Flag behaviors that are common to narcissists, let’s look at some feelings and behaviors frequently reported by the victims.
- Feeling guilty for “making” the narcissist feel the way he does
- Chronically confused about their partner’s sudden changes in behaviour
- Frequently exhausted from never knowing what might happen next
- Feeling like they have to “walk on eggshells” to avoid “rocking the boat”
- Coming home to find Dr. Jekyll and suddenly discovering Mr. Hyde, and never knowing what caused the change
- Always apologizing for “never doing things right”
- Trying to keep a low profile to avoid being noticed
- Making up stories to their friends and family about how they got the latest bruises
- Blaming themselves for never doing things well enough
- Always feeling anxious when they walk in their own home (or workplace if the narcissist is at their place of work)
- Never completely trusting their partner
- Never feeling respected or equal in the relationship
- Always worrying about their performance in any role, including in the bedroom
- Often wondering if it’s OK if they phone or meet with friends or family
- Having to ask permission to do anything
- Not being allowed free access to their financial accounts
- Not being able to give their opinion for fear of being chastised
- Never being able to win any argument
- Always wondering what they did “wrong” Avoiding arguments at all costs
- Always attempting to “try harder” to make things better
- Chronically feeling empty
- May periodically have suicidal thoughts
- Wishing for “someday” when things will change, but someday never comes
- After breaking up with their narcissistic partner, all they want to do is run back to them
- Repeatedly making excuses for and forgiving their partner’s unacceptable behaviors, which continue to happen
- Often wondering how they got into this situation to begin with
- Always being told everything is their fault
- Oftentimes feel humiliated by their partner
- Constantly fearing abandonment by the partner, so “doing whatever it takes” to keep him
- Doing things they are uncomfortable with because they feel pressured to do so
- Compromising their values, needs, and beliefs because their partner wants them to
- Discovering that the narcissist has frequently lied or misled them Feeling like no one else could possibly love them
- Believing they are not as important as their partner
- Taking their partner’s advice, although their gut tells them not to
- Feeling like they’re living a lie – that the outside world sees them one way, while the inner reality is definitely something entirely different
- Feeling subservient or less-than their partner
- Rarely feeling like their needs are being met or even acknowledged
- Never doing anything unless their partner says it’s OK
- Their friends tell them they are being abused, but they just can’t see it
- Feeling like they are being parented – that they’re too immature or childish to be able to think on their own
- Often wishing they would have never gotten into this mess to begin with and now don’t know how to get out Frequently feeling numb or depressed
- They no longer know who they really are
- May end up looking like the “crazy one” in the relationship
These are just some of the behaviors and feelings many victims express. You will notice that the list of characteristics of the victim is FAR longer than the list for the abuser – meaning it is the victim who pays the ultimate price for this “disorder”.
If you find yourself recognising many of these, perhaps you are coming to realise that you are in a narcissistic relationship, and should get out of that relationship and/or seek help!