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Surviving Trauma: How to Recognize the Signs of Narcissistic Abuse

I've dealt with a narcissist in my immediate family since a very young age, and know how difficult it can be to understand what's happening.

Narcissists want their victims to keep quiet about their treatment behind closed doors.

Narcissists want their victims to keep quiet about their treatment behind closed doors.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Can Be Difficult to Recognize

If you're not sure if you are being targeted by somebody who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, you're not alone. Narcissistic abuse can be extremely difficult to recognize, for many reasons. In fact, the very nature of a narcissist is meant to cause confusion and doubt in the person they are abusing. Usually you will know something is off about the person's behavior, but you can't quite put your finger on what it is.

It can also be a very complicated type of abuse. There are different types of narcissists, and some of the signs are less clear than others. Some of the more well known signs might not be present at all with certain types of narcissists. In some ways it can be a lot like a spectrum disorder, because not all narcissists present themselves in exactly the same way.

Narcissistic abuse leaves the victim feeling ashamed and bad about themselves no matter what type of narcissist they are dealing with. And unfortunately, they usually don't see the issue with how they treat you and have no desire to seek help. Actually a lot of times they will try to say that you are the problem, not them. This is all part of how the disorder manifests itself and is typical behavior of a narcissist.

Dealing with a narcissist can be draining, and contribute to stress and anxiety for the victim. It feels like no matter what you do, nothing is good enough for them and they always have a tight grip on your feelings

Dealing with a narcissist can be draining, and contribute to stress and anxiety for the victim. It feels like no matter what you do, nothing is good enough for them and they always have a tight grip on your feelings

Common Narcissistic Traits

First, you should know there are certain characteristics that all narcissists display to some degree. This will help you to identify when someone you know is displaying narcissistic behavior.

With narcissists, they are all masters of manipulation and gaslighting. They manipulate you and they manipulate the way outsiders view your relationship with them. Often times if you explain to other family members about what is happening, they will tell you they had no idea because of how nice that person seems. The narcissist has an image to uphold, and they never like it when you tell outsiders about their abusive tendencies.

Sometimes outsiders won't even believe you because the narcissist is telling them that it's all you're fault, and they are so charming and believable. This is how they seperate you from those you love and care about. They create doubt and make you believe that maybe you really are the problem.

Eventually you stop talking about it because nobody believes you anyways, and the abuse gets worse. In a romantic relationship setting, they will try to control everything you do. If you go out with friends they will try to guilt trip you so that you stop seeing your friends. But remember that narcissistic behavior can pop up in any type of relationship, including parents, siblings, children, and friends.

It's common for narcissists to put others down in an effort to make themselves feel better. But if you call them out on it, they become deeply offended and angry. Convincing them that they are the problem is nearly impossible. In their eyes, they are never the problem. They will blame you every single time. Very rarely will you be able to reason with them because their reality is not based on fact. Their entire world is fictional, right down to their vision of themselves.

They are usually selfish, and put their own needs first in all circumstances. Many times you will be left scratching your head at their behavior, because it can be hard to believe that someone who thinks so highly of themselves can be such a callous person. In their world, they are better than everybody. Even though the reality is that they are actually very weak and afraid individuals, feeding off of the negative energy that they dish out.


Narcissists are good at making you feel alone and worthless. This is how they gain power, by taking it from their victims.

Narcissists are good at making you feel alone and worthless. This is how they gain power, by taking it from their victims.

The pain that a narcissist inflicts is often unbearable. Don't be afraid to seek help.

The pain that a narcissist inflicts is often unbearable. Don't be afraid to seek help.

Different Types of Narcissists

We're going to breakdown 5 different types of narcissists that you may come across. Because narcissm is sort of like a spectrum disorder, not every narcissist will display the same exact signs. Therefore, it is important to be aware of some of the lesser known traits they sometimes possess.

Covert - This can be a very difficult type of narcissist to detect. In general, they do not come off as being arrogant or acting as if they are more important than others. They are conniving and sneaky in their abusiveness. Their attack is much more subtle and passive aggressive.

Overt narcissists are typically very sensitive individuals, but are also insecure and have very low self esteem. They tend to be significantly more introverted than other types of narcissists. They are withdrawn and have very few friends, if any.

They will try to make you feel bad or blame you for things without actually coming out and saying that you are at fault. They throw hints and try to make you wonder if they're being rude or you're imagining things. These tactics wreck havoc on your mental state and leave you feeling confused and alone.

Overt - This type of narcissist is more of an extrovert. This means they are usually quite outgoing and bold. They think very highly of themselves and want to make sure everyone else thinks highly of them as well. They like to gloat about their personal accomplishments while putting others down for theirs, always treating everyday things as if they are a race or a game.

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You will notice that they seem to experience pleasure in tormenting others, similar to a school yard bully. They are extremely selfish and put themselves above others in almost all circumstances. It will always feel as if they are trying to one-up you at everything you do, and if they are made to feel below you in any way, they can become angry.

Communal - Communal narcissists believe that they have a golden personality. They view themselves as being generous, admirable, and respectable in their community. You will recognize them by how they seem to go out of their way to donate and/or volunteer.

Generally you would think this type of person is kindhearted and thoughtful, and that certainly is what they want you to think. But pay attention. They never do any of their good deeds without boasting about it or finding some way to make sure they are noticed by those around them.

They are also very judgmental and set in their ways. If you disagree with their beliefs, they will try to humiliate you into seeing things their way. They love to give people their unsolicited opinion on a wide variety of topics. Normally they are sensitive topics that will cause a lot of arguing and animosity.

Antagonistic - One very noticeable characteristic of this type of narcissist is that they like to antagonize their victims. They will do anything possible to elicit a response to their behavior. When they do finally get a response, they will try to pretend that they are the victim.

They are masters of manipulation and use others to fulfill their selfish needs in any way possible.

Malignant - This type of narcissist can be very dangerous to deal with. It's very common for them to exhibit aggression and hostility on a regular basis. Sometimes this leads to physical harm being done towards their victims.

They have complete disregard for any type of rules and laws, and won't hesitate to break them. They have a hard time controlling their impulses and are often referred to as daredevils. They derive pleasure from hurting others, and despise anybody of power.

Narcissists only care about their own feelings, but will try to make you feel like you're the bad guy. This is called deflection, and is a manipulation tactic.

Narcissists only care about their own feelings, but will try to make you feel like you're the bad guy. This is called deflection, and is a manipulation tactic.

Things Narcissists Say to Create Doubt in Their Victims

You can usually recognize a narcissist by the things they say. Here are some of the more common phrases that they say to keep their victims under their control and to create doubt surrounding their actions.

"You're overreacting"

"You're imagining things"

"Why do you always do this?"

"It was only a joke"

"You're being too sensitive"

"You're the one with a problem, not me."

"I never said that"

"You're twisting my words around again"

"You never loved me"

"It's your fault that I did that"

"You made me do that"

"Nothing I do is good enough for you"

"Are you sure you want to do that?"

"OK, I guess I have to be careful what I say to you."

"You always do this to me."

"Why can't you be more understanding."

"There is something wrong with you."

"I can't even talk to you."

"Nobody will believe you because you're crazy."

"You're just like everyone else."

"You need help."

"Why is everything always about you?"

"You're just trying to make me feel bad for you."

"I guess I'll just continue to let you treat me this way."

They also love to use backhanded compliments, and passive aggression to prove a point or to get their way.




What to Do if You Are Suffering Abuse from a Narcissist

Please know that you are not alone! So many people have gone through this at least once in their lifetime. Many people have no idea what it is that is actually going on, or that there is a name for it. Often times they will know something is mentally wrong with their abuser, but they can't quite place their finger on what it is. Recognizing what is happening is the first step in healing from it. But you also have to get yourself away from it.

In my personal opinion, I am a fan of walking away. If somebody is harming your mental or physical health, there comes a point where it is OK to walk away and never look back. In fact, it is probably the most effective step you can take. Especially if the abuser refuses to acknowledge how they've hurt you and denies needing help. Just because a person is family doesn't mean they can treat you however they want. Remember that you have options. Don't be afraid of doing what is best for you.

Additionally, don't be afraid to reach out to a therapist or counselor in order to help you heal. They are there to help you sort through your thoughts and feelings and get back on track. When you've been dealing with this type of abuse for a long time, it is common to become very lost from who you once were or who you thought you were. The narcissist creates so much confusion and self doubt for their victims, you can feel like your sense of reality is shot. A therapist can help you make sense of those feelings.

A therapist or mental health professional can also help you with tips on how to handle your abuser so as not to aggravate the situation. They can help you find the strength to set up healthy boundaries and learn how to ease tensions between the two of you.

One great thing about the internet is that you can find other people who are dealing with (or have dealt with) the same thing. Find a Facebook group or other social media group that has other survivors of narcissistic abuse. Talking with other people who went through similar situations can be very helpful and eye opening.

Also remember that healing takes time, and there is no set limit of how long you're allowed to partake in the healing process. You will heal and you will do so on your terms, for however long it takes. Some of us might say that we are never fully healed, and we carry the pieces of that trauma with us for life. It can mimic PTSD in a lot of ways. So don't put a time limit on your healing journey. It may happen fast or it may take a lifetime, but you got away from your abuser. And that's the biggest step you could ever take!

Keeping a diary is helpful while you are in the situation and afterwards as well. Sometimes seeing the abusers actions day by day on paper can help you wrap your head around things and put them into perspective, and realize things that you may not pick up on otherwise. Like pieces to a puzzle.

The same goes for your thoughts and feelings. If you can write them down and see them on a day by day basis you can see how things started compared to how they are now. It helps the brain piece together information and make sense of complicated situations. Also it will help you remember small details that may be helpful to your healing journey.

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