8 Signs of Narcissistic Abuse

Last Updated on

From the outside, narcissistic people look “normal.”

They're often charming, outgoing and idolized by others simply because they appear so perfect.

But to you, they're anything but perfect.

You're never at ease around the narcissistic person, and you can't pinpoint exactly why. You can't reconcile the “perfect” image most people have of the narcissistic person with your experiences behind closed doors.

Worst of all, you feel like there's no one you can talk to about your problem with this person. How can you think such things about a person who's so admired by others?

Rest assured you're not alone.

Many others like you suffer in silence and are probably reading content like this right now to reassure themselves that they're not crazy. (Spoiler alert: You're not.)

It's tough to live with a narcissistic person, and it's even tougher to find a way out of your predicament when no one else realizes you're in a predicament to begin with.

Luckily, by searching out the common signs of narcissistic abuse, you've already taken the first step to healing and liberation.

If you're not sure whether you live with a narcissist or not, the following points may help clear things up.

Here are 8 signs of narcissistic abuse that you should learn to recognize:

1. You Often Please Others (Especially the Narcissist) at Your Own Expense

You cater to the narcissist's every whim, regardless of the cost to yourself.

You do everything for this person, short of giving them the moon and the stars. If you dare to do otherwise, the narcissist makes sure you don't “defy” him or her again.

woman bruised and crying narcissistic abuse

As a result, you let other people walk all over you as well. People don't acknowledge you have needs because you don't do the same for yourself.

You're taken advantage of more often than not, and even if you feel resentful about it, it seems you don't have the power to break the vicious cycle.

2. You're an Overachiever

If you had a narcissistic parent, you probably felt the pressure to be the “perfect” child.

You got top grades — not because you wanted to, but because your parent needed to live their dreams through you.

Make one tiny mistake, and you're a “failure” as far as your parent is concerned.


Related: Financial Abuse Signs In A Relationship


Because of this upbringing, you're extremely hard on yourself. You may be a workaholic and/or a perfectionist, and it's taking a toll on your health, relationships and other aspects of your life.

You keep telling yourself that what you do is for the best, but you sometimes can't help but wonder “Oh, who am I kidding? My life is a mess!”

3. You're an Underachiever

On the other hand, your narcissistic parent may not expect anything of you.

In fact, he or she expects so little that they tell you things like “Oh, don't worry about being a straight-A student like your sister. You'll never be like her anyway.”

Naturally, having no one else to tell you otherwise, you believe your parents. You internalize the idea that there's nothing lovable or special about you at all, and it shows in your self-confidence (or lack thereof).

You feel like everything you do is a complete waste of time, and even if you do achieve something noteworthy, you tell yourself it's all a fluke.

4. You Have a Vague Sense of Self

As much as you resent the narcissist, you also find it difficult to imagine a life without them.

You've become so used to being their “extension,” that the idea of breaking free from their shackles is just as scary as — if not more so — than putting up with them on a day-to-day basis.

You subconsciously believe that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't.


Related: Is It Hopeless That A Narcissist Will Ever Change?


But oh, the cost of being someone else's shadow!

Your identity has always been based on the narcissist's, so when you're left to your own devices, you feel like one tiny boat in the middle of a raging ocean.

If someone were to ask you who you are, “I don't know,” is the most honest answer you can come up with.

5. You Feel Excessively Stifled

Whether the narcissist is with you physically or not, you always feel like they're over your shoulder, watching and judging every move you make.

You can't talk to the narcissist about your dreams because they laugh at you.

You can't show your vulnerability around them because they use it against you.

You don't feel free to make your own decisions because the narcissist prefers to make the decisions for you.

6. You Feel Like You're Going Crazy

Whenever you try to confront the narcissist, they throw your accusations back at you.

You hear things like you're “overreacting,” “over-sensitive” and even “crazy.” You experience gaslighting, where the narcissist makes you question your own sanity by denying the abuse.


Related: 61 Signs of Emotional Abuse


When this goes on for a long time, you begin to wear down. You begin to wonder whether fighting back against the narcissist is worth it.

Worst of all, you begin to think that maybe the narcissist was right, that maybe you were in the wrong all along.

7. You Fear That You're a Narcissist Yourself

This is probably the most frightening effect of living with a narcissist.

Since you had no one else to model healthy behavior for you, you learned that the best way to survive in the world is to “join them, if you can't beat them.”

That's why you find it difficult to empathize with others. You can't help but talk about yourself in conversations, even when people complain that you're always making it “all about you.”

You feel superior to everyone else, and yet when you make a mistake or are criticized, no one takes it harder than you do.

You look up the signs and symptoms of narcissism, and you're horrified to realize that they fit you to a T.


Related: 7 Damaging Effects Of Emotional Abuse


8. You Experience Symptoms of Other Mental Illnesses

Even if you manage not to fall into narcissistic behaviors yourself, you may still experience these other signs of narcissistic abuse:

Anxiety. You're so used to being in a hypervigilant mode around the narcissist that it's become your default mode, and you constantly feel a low-level anxiety.

Insomnia. You're so anxious and stressed about your situation, you hardly sleep at night. You have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Memory Loss/Selective Memory. In order to cope with the suffering you experience at the hands of the narcissist, your brain may lock away some of your more painful memories.

woman with her mouth taped and shushing narcissistic abuse

Dissociation. You feel like your “real self” is somewhere else or that you have multiple selves inside you.

Depression. You feel hollowed out and empty inside. You no longer enjoy the activities you used to. Most days, you'd rather stay in bed and never get up.

Suicidal Thoughts. Self-explanatory. If you have these sorts of thoughts, call your nearest suicide hotline ASAP.

What to Do Next

If you suspect you live with a narcissist and experience any of the signs above, the best solution is to find a therapist as soon as you can.

But if seeking treatment isn't an option for you right now, the steps below can help you cope for the time being.

1. Establish boundaries.

Let the narcissist know what you're willing and not willing, to do. For example, if they call you foul names over the phone, say “I will not let you talk to me like that anymore. One more offensive word out of your lips, and I'm hanging up.”


Related: 29 Signs of A Malignant Narcissist


This may be hard to do if you're not used to being assertive, but it's essential that you know how to set boundaries with a narcissist.

2. Keep your health in top shape

Studies have consistently shown a positive relationship between physical and mental health, so don't neglect either of them.

Maintain a balanced diet, regular exercise schedule and strong network of friends. The stronger you are inside and out, the easier it'll be to resist the narcissist's machinations.

3. Distance yourself.

If possible, find a place to stay where you can be as far away from the narcissist as possible.

This way, you can give yourself breathing room to think about what to do next.

But if you can't leave them for one reason or another, you'll have to learn how to deal with narcissists without giving up your personal power.

Dealing with a narcissist can break your spirit and make you question everything about yourself and your ability to have healthy, positive relationships.

8 Signs of Narcissistic Abuse Click To Tweet

Narcissists often operate within societal norms when you first meet them, making them extremely difficult to detect who they really are before you become deeply involved with them.

Recognizing the signs of narcissistic abuse is the first step in reclaiming your power and untangling yourself from the emotional traps set by these difficult people.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 9 comments
  • Jim

    I don’t know if there are guardian angels out there or not, but this website just might come close. I had sought out the abuse test a few weeks ago and couldn’t get my computer to make everything function correctly (OLD computer) and honestly forgot. My partner fits your descriptions of being a narcissist and I fit the description of one that has lost their way. Tonight was rather unnerving due to a conflict that makes me doubt my sanity and I happened upon an email asking if I really did want to use the abuse test. I saw the website listed below and came to check it out. I don’t want to exaggerate but your words have brought me a sense of peace that was sorely needed. I have lots to work at but your words look like guideposts that I need to keep learning about.

    Reply
      Jillian

      Your not going mad Jim …..Hang in there. This is so, so common now days. Everything is about them, revolves around them……you find yourself not being able to make normal plans or commitments with family and friends because you are always second guessing what the narc partners next move is and what they will approve of…..and whether you need to be there to manage the situation so as drama does not escalate. It’s not a life for the empathic partner. I am 12 months out of this type of relationship and have finally calmed my soul, lol I had forgotten how to even enjoy the normal flow of life. Your not mad my friend you are truly just temporarily lost. First step to realising your old self is in asking the questions and seeking material to devour. Good luck and keep searching, Google is a marvellous starting point when finding out about Narcissism and Gas Lighting(causing you to question your own sanity) Cheers Jilly

      Reply
  • Amanda

    I need help. I need help

    Reply
      Kelly

      Amanda, I found a local Meetup that deals with this issue. Haven’t attended yet, but so relieved that this is a real condition and I’m not the loser my husband of 24 years made me out to be. Check and see if there’s a group or counselor close to you.

      Reply
  • Samantha

    I’m not sure that I’m actually dealing with a narcissist, but I cannot think of any other way to describe this person. I’m constantly asked who I’ve been talking to, I get told completely contradictory things on a daily basis, I’m always being accused of bad-mouthing him or smarting off to him. I watch him talk to other women, and there have been a few occasions where he’s made me meet them. He yells at me, says I’ve done something wrong, kicks me out, and then is right back the next day telling me it’s my last chance. I feel sometimes like he just looks for anything as an excuse to be angry with me. He wakes me up at 3 am to yell at me or try to start a fight. I have nightmares about him that often leave me shaking and anxious, and lately i’m not sure when it’s a nightmare and when it’s real. When I try to talk ti talk to him about my feelings or my life, he changes the subject or walks out of the room. He gets upset if I don’t give him my undivided attention. He’s threatened me on many occasions. He tells me he wishes I would start seeing someone else, but goes through my phone or watches me when I’m in social situations and tells me that he doesn’t want me talking to any other men. He yells at me in public and tells people my personal business every time we go out (always where he wants, with who he wants). He asks me questions and then says I don’t answer them correctly.

    I’m just so tired. I feel like nothing I do is right.

    Reply
      Alison Anderson

      Samantha, I have been where you are. It certainly sounds like a narc to me. Work on getting yourself out of that toxic relationship asap. Good luck.

      Reply
      Tina

      Samantha, He’s a malignant narcissist, which is worse than a plain narcissist.

      Reply
  • Marie

    I am beyond exhausted. I grew up with a father who had a narcisstic and an ocd personality disorder. By the time I was in sixth grade, I was picking holes in my skin because I was so anxious. I hated myself, (based on my inability to live up to him). Long story short, this cumulated in depression and suicide attempts.

    One day I decided enough was enough, and that I would take the necessary steps to get well. I met and married my second husband -who at first seemed great. I moved out of state, and worked hard to get well, away from my Dad. He passed away in 2014, and my husband and I moved back home the following year. Now, 18 years into this marriage, I realized I married someone just like my father-which I never thought I would do. He is controlling, manipulative, and always thinks he is right. He berates me for everything-I couldn’t even put a trash bag in the can correctly, according to him. He is angry and volatile, and if challenged, look out. Every time I try to go for my dreams, he has something negative to say. He is an expert at pushing my buttons-mainly, I don’t react well to manipulation or control tactics, given what I grew up with. He also throws my past suicide attempts and depression in my fact frequently, in order to feel “superior” to me. He does everything he can to keep me “dependent’ on him.

    I realize I cannot change him; I need to learn to control my own emotions and reactions. He will tell me constantly not to do this or that-of course, he can do it himself and he sees nothing wrong with that. I am called names, belittled, then in the next breath his mood will completely change. I am not in a financial situation where I can leave-he makes sure of that. He has anti-social traits. He has hurt animals in the past, while all the while professing he loves them. He lies. He wishes violence on people that have crossed him, and if he thought he could get away with it, he would hurt them. He convinces everyone else that he is “perfect”, and goes out of his way to be certain he is perceived that way. No one believes me that this false self is just that-completely false. I had a shot recently at the career I missed out on years ago, and was just about to realize that dream. He sent threatening text messages (without my knowledge) to a colleague who didn’t like me, and there went my chance. I have been turned down for three jobs in this town due to HIS actions. (It is a small town, and quite political). He threatened someone he worked with, and ended up in court. It didn’t end up hurting him-he retired. But it has cost me jobs with three different agencies. I could go on and on, but I won’t.

    My apologies-I just needed to vent. I have no one to talk to, and sometimes feel like I am losing my mind. I just want a peaceful, quiet life, and to help others. He even puts that down.

    One good thing is that I don’t buy into his belittling or abuse. After many years of work, I have a much better self-esteem. I just don’t know if I have the strength or energy to start all over yet again. So very tired of chaos and drama. 🙁

    Marie

    Reply
  • Eleanor

    I didn’t realize I married a narcissistic. We met on a Christian dating site and I thought he was everything he portrayed himself to be. We met the end of July last year and by August 27 we were married. Yes one month after we met on line. I left him in December last year and went back to try and make it work. He had filed for a divorce the day after I left in December. By May this year I knew it was over for me. I took alot of emotional abuse. I went to counseling almost from the very start of our problems trying to change me. I only knew I was dealing with a narcissist because my massage lady asked me some questions because I was emotionally breaking down and crying. She shared she had been married to a narcissist and when I went home I looked up the definition and saw what I was dealing with. The verbal abuse got really bad and we both agreed it was over. He tried to play a mind game with me the day before I left. I realized he was trying to put it all on me whether to leave or come back. He never admitted he was wrong. He never tried to make up with me. It was always me admitting I was wrong, asking for forgiveness first and making up. He was never rational in our verbal fights/discussions. There was no reasoning with him. He flirted with women to the point that I didn’t want to fly on an airplane with him or go to any appointment where there was a woman at the desk. I just didn’t feel cherished or respected. It was all about him. I left PA, my family, friends, furniture, etc. I thought he would move back to PA one day and then he told me he never would move. He accused me of wanting to live next to my daughters. I never said that. There was so much insanity in his verbal abuse. He ignored me when we had an argument/disagreement.
    I found out that his adult children didn’t want to have anything to do with him because of the abuse they took on as children/teens. I know I need help now to deal with all the abuse. I feel so sad at times. I don’t know why I did what I did. I ask myself, “What was wrong with me”. I am in counseling but feel like I need intense help so that I can find out why I did what I did and not repeat it.
    He was only a widower for 4 months when we married. This is such an eye opener for me to realize he was a narcissist. So I pray I can heal well and learn a valuable lesson. My family is still trying to heal from my leaving them so abruptly. I was very close with them. They felt abandoned when I left. I know God can and will heal me.

    Reply
  • Leave a Reply: