What is Narcissistic Abuse
Narcissistic abuse originally was just a term to describe parental narcissistic abuse -- the abuse of children by narcissistic parents. Now, it can be used to describe abuse in any type of narcissistic relationship. Someone with narcissistic personality disorder has an inflated sense of ego and self-importance and has difficulty feeling empathy for others. Narcissists believe themselves to be superior to others and require constant admiration. They cannot handle any criticism. Nobody knows exactly what causes narcissistic personality disorder, but it may be related to genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. More males than females have narcissistic personality disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
According to the DSM-V, the following features can be found in narcissistic personality disorder.
Impairments in self-functioning including identity (ego-centrism, self-esteem gained by personal gain, power, or pleasure) or self-direction (failure to conform to culturally normative ethical behavior, goal-setting based on personal gratification).
- Impairments in empathy or intimacy, such as a lack of concern for other people’s feelings or needs, lack of remorse after hurting others, using deceit, coercion, and intimidation to relate to others.
- Antagonism characterized by manipulativeness, hostility, deceitfulness, and callousness.
- Disinhibition characterized by impulsivity, irresponsibility, and risk-taking.
In layman’s terms, you can expect to see:
- Exaggeration of achievements and talents
- An exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Sense of entitlement
- A requirement for constant admiration
- An expectation of special treatment and favors
- Taking advantage of others
- Arrogance and boastfulness
- Monopolizing conversations
- An expectation of unquestioning compliance
Signs of Narcissistic Abuse
Narcissistic abuse doesn’t take just one form. It can be emotional, verbal, physical, spiritual, financial, or mental abuse. It may be a combination of all of the above. The narcissistic abuser may belittle and abuse the victim. He may threaten her and resort to name-calling. He will likely manipulate the victim, including using gaslighting techniques that cause the victim to question her perception of reality. Emotional blackmail leads the victim to feel fear, obligation, and guilt. The narcissist may lie, exploit, and invade the victim’s privacy. The victim may be isolated from her normal support system including friends and family. The victim, particularly child victims, may be neglected by the narcissistic abuser parent.
How to Respond to Narcissistic Abuse
It is hard to respond to narcissistic abuse. Like all abuse, the victim usually feels worn down by the abuse and may lose her sense of confidence and feel like she doesn’t have the strength to stand up to her abuser. Narcissists will not take responsibility for their actions and will blame the victim for their behavior and actions.
First, it is important to explain how you should not respond to narcissistic abuse. These techniques will get you nowhere. Do not plead with the narcissist because it will give him a sense of power. Do not explain yourself or try to get him to understand, because he doesn’t care about understanding you. He only wants to “win.” Narcissists do not handle criticism well, and criticizing him can backfire and enrage him. Withdrawal or denying the abuse won’t help you in the long term. It’s just not an effective strategy.
What you need to do if you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist is to be assertive and set boundaries. Tell the narcissist to stop their behavior without explaining yourself. Simply say something like, “stop criticizing me.” Set boundaries such as, “I will not tolerate you calling me names” or “if you yell at me, I will leave the room.” Stick to the consequences. Get support for yourself from family, friends, support groups, and a therapist. If possible, get out of the relationship. If the abuse is physical, there is no question that you must leave. You can contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.