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A practical guide to recovery from narcissistic abuse

Narcissism and narcissistic abuse

Narcissism is a personality type that is characterised by a distinct lack of empathy, selfishness and self-seeking intentions and behaviours. Narcissists have deep-seated insecurities, loathing and shame yet their actions overcompensate for this. Instead, they have a pathological need for attention and admiration to feel good about themselves and to ease their fragile sense of self. 

Other characteristics include having a distinct sense of entitlement and grandiosity. They tend to regard themselves as special or different and therefore seek special treatment from individuals and organisations. They exaggerate or fantasise about their capabilities or achievements. Narcissists also lack the ability to self-reflect or be aware of how they impact others - often blaming others for any interpersonal issues, they rarely take responsibility. 

Narcissism is generally identified by overt and covert types. The overt being more of the usual stereotype - the charismatic, confident and charming male. However, narcissism is also present in a variety of covert ways. This is more subtle and arguably harder to spot. This can include manipulation attempts via more sophisticated ways and can include the narcissist portraying themselves as a victim, or perhaps seeking sympathy via complaints of illness or aches and pains (psychosomatic) to name just a few. 

Narcissistic abuse in relationships is more and more commonly identified, however, it is one that is often misunderstood by many health professionals. Many people seeking help for stress, anxiety, depression or addictions can be wrongly diagnosed as this unique and often subtle kind of abuse is missed. Increasing awareness and information about narcissistic abuse is helping address this. It is important to arm yourself with information.

Signs you may be involved with or around a narcissist

  • Constant drama. A narcissist needs to be needed and seeks chaos and conflicts. Being in a relationship with a narcissist usually involves dramatic break-ups and make-ups.
  • Chaos and drama can also include argumentativeness, dangerous activities such as sports interests, dangerous driving, drug-taking, high-risk sexual interests, cheating, lying, and so on…
  • Being around a narcissist feels exciting and ultimately draining. There are almost constant ups and downs. Usually, relationships are on and off or threats and love-bombing.
  • They may appear very genuine, forgiving, emotionally available, sensitive and caring at times, however, you may notice that they never really mean that they say or take full responsibility for their own actions or behaviours. 
  • A narcissistic partner or family member is likely to say things like “If you cared for me better, then I wouldn't need to drink” or “If you didn’t do X then I wouldn’t have had to cheat”. 
  • They rarely, if ever, apologise for their behaviour. If they do, it's done with manipulation for their own gains.
  • Ultimately they manipulate and exploit others for their own selfish gains. 

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can be extremely stressful, exhausting, maddening and traumatic. The dynamic and the adrenalin of the ups and downs can become highly addictive, damaging and many victims of narcissistic abuse end up struggling with trauma, anxiety, panic, depression, stress and burn-out. In extreme cases, it can lead to a complete nervous breakdown.

Recognising these kinds of traits or relationships patterns is an important first step in recovering and healing from this kind of abuse before learning how to, and developing healthier relationships with both yourself and others. 

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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