Betrayal
Trauma
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What Is Narcissistic Abuse And Why Is It So Damaging?

by | Abuse Literacy

Narcissistic abuse victims often feel confused, ashamed, and intensely hurt. The devastation that this insidious abuse causes in victims’ lives is as immense as it is elusive. So what is narcissistic abuse and why is it so damaging?

Identifying narcissistic abuse is notoriously difficult for victims and their support system because narcissistic abuse, by its nature, is often covert.

What Is Narcissistic Abuse?

Some victims’ experiences are invalidated because their abuser was not diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). However, anyone can be a narcissistic abuser, with or without a diagnosis.

Narcissistic abuse may include emotional, physical, verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse.

How Do I Know If My Abuser Is a Narcissist?

While not every abusive man is diagnosed with NPD, most abusers display narcissistic personality traits. These may include:

  • Self-centeredness
  • Grandiose self-perception
  • An inability to accept blame or criticism
  • A desire to be seen as special, high-status, and/or exceptionally “good”
  • A chronic habit of lying
  • Manipulation
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Habits of over-spending, pornography use, affairs (emotional and otherwise), substance abuse
  • A controlling personality that is cloaked in chivalry
  • Passive-aggressive communication
  • Seeks the “victim” role in confrontations

Why Does Narcissistic Abuse Hurt So Much?

Narcissistic abuse generally follows cycle, similar to the abuse cycle. It consists of three points:

  • Idealization or love-bombing
  • Devaluation
  • Discarding

Abusers love-bomb victims by giving victims whatever they want or need to feel prized and loved. This may include constant communication, gifts, intense commitments early on in the relationship, compliments, and sharing confidences that are intimate. This part of the cycle generally includes intense sexual contact.

Then abusers begin the process of devaluation. They subtly criticize, humiliate, and/or emotionally abandon the victim. When victims question the abuser, the abuser will gaslight them, or accuse them of being high-maintenance, say they’re imagining things, or “too clingy”. This is terribly confusing and heart-wrenching for a woman who has just been love-bombed.

The discard may include the abuser having an affair; abandoning the victim; physical violence; sexual acting-out; verbal and emotional abuse; and turning tables so that the victim feels like she was the abuser.

Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

First and foremost, in order to heal from narcissistic abuse, victims must find safety from the abuse. Some women are able to go no-contact with their abuser, which is the most effective way to begin healing from narcissistic abuse. Others are not able to go no-contact for various reasons. For those women, gray rock is a common technique that may protect them from some of the narcissistic abuse.

Boundaries are not requests, statements, or ultimatums. They are courageous actions that women take to separate themselves from abuse.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Narcissistic Abuse

When women begin the painful journey of healing from narcissistic abuse, it is essential that they find “safe” support people: individuals who understand how devastating narcissistic abuse is to the human spirit, who do not blame the victim, and who validate her in her feelings and decisions.

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily in every time zone. BTRG offers the validation, support, and compassion that victims need as they process trauma and seek healing. Join today and find the community that understands your pain and your strength.

Remember, you are not alone.

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32 Comments

  1. Jacki Lash Idler

    I need more experience, strength & hope in this area. I am married to this. Everything this couple had the courage & wisdom to share I could relate to & I am grateful. Thank you Ann for finding them as well & providing their assistance.

    Reply
  2. Ellen

    Should there be a link to a podcast in this article?

    Reply
  3. Nancy Carter

    This is my husband to a tee. He has abused me in every way, cheated and lied and tried to make me look crazy even pushing me to kill myself. Yet he says he LOVES me! Cheated like crazy, yet it is my fault he says. Extreme cheating and put downs in his childhood by mother. Making the connections finally. Father killed himself driving head on into 18 wheeler when he was 13. OM’s wife called my husband as child asking him to stop his Mother. Still, I am only faithful, true, loving woman in his life, yet he abuses and cheats on me? A very complex issue.

    Reply
    • Anne Blythe

      Yes, it’s so difficult to understand this type of emotional abuse – so many professionals don’t see the porn use or the infidelity as abuse issues – but they totally are. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        I just recently discovered that I have been living with a Narcissist and I would love to join a support group.

        Reply
    • K Casillas

      Nancy, when I was reading your response, I felt like you were telling my exact story.

      Reply
    • Staciemarie Williams-Cornish

      It worked for 15 plus years I have no family because I was adopted by much older people. Actually writing this just helped me understand that. He won’t by food or pay bills now whenever he does come it’s to do things nobody believes he’s doing from tainting my food to urinating in my laundry detergent. I had to stop taking my meds so that I didn’t have to sleep when he was around. I don’t know what he’s done or said or how long it’s been but I’ve actually been living in a state of fight or flight for at least 5 years. I have managed to document everything I also have a host of people still willing to make a sworn testimony. There’s plenty of medical evidence as well but for some reason I can’t get the appropriate individuals or agencies to follow thru and no lawyer will touch my case. I’ve researched filing on my own behalf but I know I only get one shot. I don’t ask for money just guidance. I’ve been victimized my entire life but I am no victim I am desperate to move past this and I have no problem doing what I’m asked. I don’t know how much longer I can live like this I just need help just a little. This is not a joke. I can’t even get the right words out if someone called. So please contact me via email I will send clips or highlights of the evidence. I don’t even need a person to take my word. I have myriads of irrefutable evidence more than 70% of that evidence is independently reproducible I’ve done almost everything. I’ll do anything as long ad it is clearly legal. I just want to live like a regular human being

      Reply
      • Anne Blythe

        Nancy, we don’t make calls here, so we can’t call you. I’m so sorry about your pain! We have the podcast so you can at least listen and know you are validated!! Know that you are loved!!

        Reply
      • Valerie

        Staciemarie Williams-Cornish

        Why can’t you move out of there? If it’s financial reasons find a shelter because that’s better than what you’re going through pleeeezzze. I’ve been there and yes I am too damaged to even pack my stuff, find a place, find a job and finish school, so I’m really not one to talk . . . My ex narc is hardly ever home which is awesome and when he is here I . . . stay away . . . yes I need to make a move also

        Reply
    • Sara

      Nancy please leave this monster as they NEVER EVER change. I’ve lost myself to one completely.

      Reply
  4. Gretchen

    I love how Anne described her ex as being very vulnerable at times. That was totally my ex. That’s why the narc rage and issues with them are so hard to understand because of the extreme mood changes. Nothing I have read has described the vulnerability act. Maybe that they act like they are always a victim and draw you in by making everyone else the enemy.

    Reply
    • Anne Blythe

      It’s so hard to spot when they act like that. They play on our compassion and kindness. I’m so glad you found it helpful!

      Reply
  5. Kunga Dzomkyi

    Can a Narc abused with C-PTSD get well? I wish you wrote about how does one recover? Who cares about the abuser. Those of us with this damage, it is living in hell because of C-PTSD so everything triggers and normal people can’t understand. So please ASK – CAN the victims recover?

    Reply
      • Sandra Carol Collins

        I just found out I’ve been living with a narcissist for 14 years. I broke it off with him 7 months ago. But he still he lives 5 seconds away from me with his brother.

        Reply
    • Sarah

      I’m just figuring all this out and suffering PTSD I dont know what the C means in front of it but I need help with this. 8 years of horror for me, 3months since disclosure. I have been watching your Podcasts Ann, your my shero the only sane person I have found anywhere in the world who gets me.

      Reply
  6. Sabrina

    I will never be the same person I used to be, and I will NEVER have compassion for the man that did it to me, whether you call him sick or not. They do not change. They cannot process empathy. They need to be locked up before they ruin more lives.

    Reply
  7. Lanelle Dardie

    I am currently separated and did not see that I was caught in an emotionally abusive gaslighting cycle with my husband! He recently got caught cheating and because of his ongoing gaslighting behaviors, I literally am struggling to believe that he really did it even though I saw him with the other woman!

    Reply
  8. Kelley

    My forever Superman and my kryptonite
    My darkest nightmares and my brighest light
    My “Oh My God” and the worst kind of devil
    My safety and tranquility to my unbalanced level
    My gods given solace to my absolute worst pain
    My biggest loss but my hearts biggest gain
    My one, my person to my biggest foe
    The greatest of heights to taking me to the very depths of low
    My worst nightmares and my wildest dreams
    My happily ever after to only What seems
    My worst backstabber and my greatest lover
    My dislikes in someone to a man I’ve loved like no other
    My biggest mistake and my absolute soulmate
    My complete brokenness  and my most amazing fate
    My body heat furnace and then to instantly cold and creul
    My loss of belief and The reason why I drool
    My incredible toxic love and my wildest desire
    My ultimate fears and the ignitor of my fire
    My tantric electric shivers and the one who has power over my soul
    My belief in being the love of my life and the mindfucking that took its toll
    My reason of so many smiles and laughter and the one who shattered my heart
    My teacher to learn faith to the one who destroyed my core and ripped me apart
    My completeness and contentness and to my empty, lost and only feeling numb
    My being so proud of you and my finding out I’ve been a fool and made to look incredibly dumb
    My one I would chose every day and the reason I lost all the others
    My unknowing he was denying our relationship to my words that can’t even describe my absolute best lover
     My every want in my future husband any my new actual reality if I even know you at all
    My hearing you deny we were ever together to broken promises told for our future that you were in for the Long haul
    My one who promised would never hurt me to the one who purposely and cruely got pleasure from abusing me the most
    My one who says I’m the most amazing woman he’s ever met and my total smearing of everything I am when he suddenly disappears and suddenly ghosts
    My instant euphoria when he holds my hand as we walk and my absolute emptiness when he continues to cheat and constant lying
    My reason and want to keep living  and the reason of my absolute losses where I feel like I’m dying
    My going insane with all the unknown of if there was any truth on your part
    That has made it impossible for me put back together the shattered pieces of my heart
    My all in… my 100% Faith, Trust, belief, hope and dreams come true you constantly spoke
    To my finding out nothing about us was real and a sick game to you.. all just for your crack to smoke
    My one who still gives me butterflies turn my one who physically makes me sick
    To my one who always pretended to be mine Prince Charming to the person who just abandon me and Now talks to me like the biggest dick
    From praising me and adoring me and making me feel like an absolute Queen
    To being the man that smears my name with lies and being cruelly mean
    My nievity in trusting I felt I found my perfect partner for life
    To finding out you denied even us being in a relationship let alone talking about being your wife
    To my every good in my being being used against me just to get your next fix
    To my learning I as a true empath and natural Giver to you being a sociopathic narcissist is a fatally toxic mix
    All the psychological, mental and emotional abuse has destroyed me in every possible way
    Back then to my getting the the love bombing and gaslighting just so you can continue to get your way
    To you actually accusing me and blaming me for you leaving me like this and tell me just to pray
    My begging you for over two years now just to let me go if you didn’t actually love me
    To my absolute love for you and you telling me once we start to heal from our demons that you will come back for and to me
    From being my absolute strength and safety to my ultimate weakness and absolute Danger
    So my person who tells me I know him better than anyone to finding out nothing was true and who he is is actually a stranger
    I don’t know up from down or left from right I feel looks like I’ve been your yo-yo
    I’ve lost everybody and everything and then you smile asTurn and walk away and go
    My craving for you just to give me a little more love and my finding out you’ve been cheating the whole time
    Already having the next ones lined up because you know I gave you all and I am left without even a dime
    To me being numb and Confused trying to figure out what the fuck happened and how I didn’t even see any of it
    To you trying to throw it in my face how good you’re doing and happy you are even though I know all that’s just bull shit
    The way you absolutely and intentionally truly destroy all the women you play
    Doesn’t even phase you one second to feel any guilt  or responsibility in any way
    From your hands being the most incredible touch that I crave to feel
    To having them around my neck choking me instantly dropping me to a kneel
    To standing above me with your hand still on my throat and you do that evil grin knowing you have the ultimate control
    Watching me as you make me beg for mercy taking the last little bit of my soul
    How it gets you totally excited so you pick me up and start kissing me with those amazing lips
    Which makes me give into anything you need knowing I’ll never be able to escape your horrific grips
    To my roller coaster of I’m everything to nothing, from the most amazing woman to being a crazy bitch
    You giving you take away to punish me and I instantly see the Jekyll and Hyde switch
    To me now constantly doubting not just the person you are, but in myself in every aspect of my being
    To my constant brain fog, confusion, and absolute turmoil and Trauma Bond to you makes it impossible for freeing
    Your addiction to the crack and everything and anything you did to get more
    Manipulating, using, lying, abusing completely destroyed the woman you used to adore
    You constantly needed, asked, or just took what I found out later you didn’t already steal
    Finding out all of that near the end killed me and is hurt me so badly that wound will never heal
    You are so very calculated, cunning, creul.. yet so very Charming, you are always five steps ahead in all your planned deceit
    You would literally leaving my bed in my house I’m go straight to hers without even missing a beat
    I literally I’m not knowing if you truly care about me and love me or if you actually hate me and just continue to torture me even more
    How you told me there would not be any other women and you would absolutely be walking back through my door
    Your constant abuse, the and taking, hot and cold, the loving and the hating,  grooming me and keeping me on the hook where I could never walk away
    You have done this for so long to everybody in your life, you are the most narcissistic predator in every single way
    My trauma bonding and peptide addiction to you that you purposely manipulated into of course our love would take
    Even though my mind knows now I’m still processing how everything on your end was absolutely just fake
    It keeps my head spinning each and every day, it keeps me in this internal Place worse than hell
    I will never understand why… why and how you could willingly and knowingly continue to keep me under your spell
    I’ve lost it all trying help you, love you, and fight through every battled you created from the way you made me believe you and I together were the ultimate deal
    You’ve not only killed me in every way, you’ve destroyed my friends and my family so badly I don’t know they will ever heal
    I hate you for so many things and I love you for so many more
    I hate that I still say I love you and finding out who you really are is not any kind of man I would ever adore
    I hate that you walk away so easily already into the next relationship leaving us all in absolute chaos with our head spinning
    And you love how we react knowing exactly how confused we are so you call us all crazy and play the victim once again just to portray like you’re the one winning
    I have so much self guilt and shame for not being able see clearly
    And feel the need for the truth to be known so more people don’t have to pay so dearly
    My loving you has killed me and taken away my whole life
    All because you made me believe I would be
    By your side as your forever when you made me your wife
    The monsters in my life were never hiding under my bed or in my closet, they slept beside me in bed and told me they loved me
    I hope they all forgive me for all the pain and hurt and are able to remember me as the woman I used to be

    Reply
    • Teresa

      Kelly, I’m stunned and actually crying as you poured your heart out about the man you couldn’t resist as he was stabbing you in the back causing you such horrific pain and your words are exactly what I would say but not able to put together, I feel the exact same pain in the exact same way in every aspect of your words so I know how broken you are, I am too but you have got to remember time does heal and you will get better and one day you will wake up and that sick feeling you feel inside will be replaced with a overwhelming feeling of happiness as you look down at your sleeping husband that is EVERYTHING that sets yourheart beating like mad and a burning desire inside you, you will then be whole again and find out you are not broken you are strong because you survived the sheer terror and torment at the hands of a monster and you feel alive inside again. I truely hope you so much happiness and this pain becomes nothing but a distant memory. I hope to hear from you.

      Love
      Teresa

      Reply
  9. Princess

    @Kelly… I have spent many years…10 somehow… I was 21yrs…and he was 31yrs old… I time spent & years wasted= 10 years…I’m almost embarrassed to admit that our song is your own”song”…same EXACT rhythms for every beat, melody (the highs&Lows) right down to his dance!(his behaviors)and the damn thing uses our faith also… I Googled the term, “psychological abuse…FIRST yada Yada I read this sites description and every one on that 1st page and went here… I NEVER THOUGHT that I would be writing one,, but I was only reading the comments because for a split second of this bad dream, I have others stories like my own to compare and to forget my own… consider that just maybe he’s not the same…but I haven’t been able to find anything ever until now. I was just wondering if I could or should continue to be used for the sake of my own 2 boys not losing the longest man and only father figure they’re used to having around and having a comfortable (stable) living situation…but you’re bio… was like reading my very own words and Autobiography if I didn’t…

    Reply
  10. Maria MunozPiz

    How can we join the support. I need help. I have been healing for the past three years. You think it gets easier but some days all just falls apart.

    Reply
  11. Toni

    I am interested in joining. It isn’t getting any better. I have been isolated and emotionally destroyed.

    Reply
    • Anne Blythe

      The best free resource out there is the Betrayal Trauma Recovery podcast:). You can listen here on the website, or subscribe on Apple Podcasts.

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Susan Powell's Story: Betrayal & Abuse | Betrayal Trauma Recovery - […] mental and emotional toll that narcissistic abuse takes on victims is extreme. Becoming educated about narcissistic abuse, and protecting…
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