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How to Overcome Narcissistic Abuse and Get Your Life Back

Do you feel that you are walking on eggshells by being around certain people who shower you with love and validation one moment and then the next moment they get enraged for something you pointed out about them? Ever felt that your feelings are always dismissed and you are always doubting yourself due to someone in your life constantly sowing seeds of doubt in your mind? You may be around someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and sadly, you suffer the resulting emotional and psychological abuse. Narcissistic abuse can wreak havoc on both men and women alike. Taking the steps needed to heal from narcissistic abuse can seem to be an arduous task. Fortunately, with the right tools and support, many people suffering from narcissistic abuse can start on their healing journeys. Today, this article explores the dynamics of narcissistic abuse and outlines a path toward a healing journey.


Understanding Narcissistic Abuse

To understand narcissistic abuse, we first need to touch on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a psychological disorder where one has a grandiose view of themselves, which many people may perceive as confidence, and can be seen as actually charming and charismatic. Despite these confident-looking behaviors, people with narcissistic personality disorder suffer from low self-esteem, can be very arrogant and envious, and lash out at people with even the slightest hint of criticism (Levy, Kenneth and Lia Robertson The Wiley Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences: Clinical, Applied, and Cross‐Cultural Research, 2020 Sep 18:109-14). Sadly, them propping themselves up usually comes at the expense of other people's emotional well-being, even family members. In the family dynamics, the narcissists will often label one person as all the sources of troubles and unfortunates of the family. Narcissistic victims of this kind are usually called the scapegoats (Mandeville, Rebecca C Rejected, shamed, and blamed: Help and hope for adults in the family scapegoat role, 2021 Sep).


Narcissists use many sinister, emotionally abusive tactics to erode their victim self, ranging from constant criticism to more emotionally damaging tactics like gaslighting (making someone question their reality), publically degrading the person (also known as smear campaigning), recruiting other people to take their side (triangulation). Finally, one of the most frustrating things about dealing with a narcissist is acting like they never did anything wrong, like they have amnesia (Howard, Vickie Issues Ment Health Nurs, May 2019).


Over time, this constant emotional abuse can wear down a victim. Narcissistic abuse victims, especially people with the scapegoat label and a large portion of women, can experience a range of symptoms, even well into adulthood. This constant emotional abuse overtime can even start breaking down one's immune system (Geng, Yaoguo et al Pers Individ Differ, 2021 May; Mandeville, Rebecca C Rejected, shamed, and blamed: Help and hope for adults in the family scapegoat role, 2021 Sep). These symptoms can range from, but not limited to:

  • Decreased self-esteem and self-worth

  • Trouble making decisions

  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Difficulty trusting others

  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)


Steps Towards Healing:

Narcissist abuse can severely degrade a victim's well-being. Fortunately, there are ways for a narcissistic abuse victim to start a healing journey.

  1. Recognize the Abuse - The first step towards a healing journey for narcissistic abuse victims is to educate and acknowledge that they are victims of narcissistic abuse. This is especially crucial for victims who were abused by their narcissistic family members. The Narcissist in Your Life, by Julie L. Hall, is a great resource that dives more into narcissistic abuse in families. By understanding these dynamics, victims can realize that the problem arises from the narcissists themselves or not them.

  2. Seek Professional Help - If the narcissistic abuse is severe or has constantly been taking place for years, a licensed therapist can be instrumental in your recovery. When seeking out a licensed therapist, it is crucial that you seek one with a specialization in handling narcissistic abuse for optimal treatment. One form of therapy that narcissistic abuse victims can take is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). If the victim has developed PTSD or Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has been found effective. EMDR is especially great at replacing the old, negative narratives that a narcissist feeds the victim with more assertive beliefs about the victim (Uri, Bergmann J EMDR Pract Res, 2008 Nov).

  3. Go No Contact from the Narcissist - Narcissists often normalize disrespecting a victim's boundaries. One step that a victim can take is to reduce, if not, go no contact with the narcissist. While going no contact might bring up stigmas, especially with a family member, going no contact is crucial for starting their healing journey. Establishing strict boundaries is essential if severing ties is not possible, such as co-parenting. Another tactic that victims can use is gray-rocking. Often, narcissists will feed on the reactivity of their victims to their emotions. A way a victim can be less reactive to their abusers is by being non-reactive or emotionless.

  4. Rebuild Your Self-esteem - Narcissists will often erode their victim's self-esteem. The depression and, sometimes, PTSD that arises will usually cause the victim to lose interest in activities that they once enjoyed. Re-engaging in activities and hobbies can help a victim rebuild their self-esteem. Physical activities, especially weight-lifting and martial arts, can be excellent ways for victims to build a sense of strength and release their frustrations. Mental and emotional health practices that can also be great for victims are journaling and meditation exercises like those from the Aura App.

  5. Reconnect with close ones and connect with people who went through narcissistic abuse - Narcissists will often isolate victims from their support groups. Reconnecting with friends and supportive family members, especially if the victim chooses no contact with the abuser, can help rebuild confidence and connections that the narcissist likely eroded.The victim may also choose to seek out support groups. This is especially a great way to be heard from people who have been through the same abuse you have. You may also learn new coping strategies from your peers here as well.

Moving Forward

Narcissist abuse can severely destroy a victim's emotional health and well-being. Fortunately, there are ways forward for victims to undergo a healing journey, which can be both a linear and nonlinear process for many. While closing the door on a relationship, especially that of a family member, can be heartbreaking for some. However, this opens the door for victims to rediscover themselves, reclaim their identity, and usher in a sense of well-being. While the battle wounds and scars from narcissistic abuse can run deep, healing is possible with the right resources and support. Once victims embark on their healing journeys, they can re-emerge as stronger, more self-aware, and with a renewed sense of self-worth and purpose.

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