Narcissistic Abuse Examples: How To Identify If You're A Victim Of Abuse 

Updated July 08, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Tanya Harell

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If you’re in a difficult relationship with someone that you think could be a narcissist then you know first-hand the impact that it’s had on you. You may feel like you’re constantly walking on eggshells. And you may go back and forth from feeling like the other person is at fault to then thinking that you might actually be the problem. What you may not have thought about is that their behavior is abusive, and you are the victim. Below you’ll find narcissistic abuse examples to help you see if this is true in your life and where you can find help.

What is a narcissist? 

An article in Time Magazine describes how the word “narcissist” is often used to define someone that is vain. However, it is much more than that.

In order to understand what narcissistic abuse is, it can be helpful to understand what a narcissist is. While you may hear someone referred to as “a narcissist”, it is not a type of person. It’s a diagnosable mental health disorder known as Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD).

Someone that’s living with NPD may come across as extremely confident. Mayo Clinic describes them as having an inflated ego. They desire admiration from others and want to be recognized.

But while they act confidently outwardly, they struggle with self-esteem. It can also be difficult for them to have empathy for others which can make relationships a struggle.

Personality traits that can be associated with NPD include:

  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Demanding their way and unhappy when it doesn’t happen
  • Has a hard time accepting criticism
  • Need for constant praise
  • Takes advantage of others
  • Struggles to see the needs of others
  • Focuses on things like success, beauty, and power

As you read over the traits, it might be hard to understand why someone would be in a relationship with someone like this. However, people with NPD can be very flattering when you first meet them. In an American Psychological Association podcast episode, a licensed clinical psychologist describes how they can be very charming and charismatic as they work to earn your admiration.

And because of different forms of narcissistic abuse, it can be difficult to recognize the signs. So if you’re reading this and wondering how you could have missed these signs, don’t feel so bad.

Narcissistic abuse examples

It’s important to understand that narcissistic abuse can come in any of the same forms as abuse – physical, emotional, mental, sexual, or financial. Some abusive behavior is easier to identify in your life than others.

Gaslighting 

The first example of narcissistic abuse is gaslighting. This is when the narcissist’s behavior can make you start to question your own sanity. The following can be signs that you are a victim of gaslighting.

  • Apologizing often, even when it’s not your fault
  • Always thinking problems are your fault
  • Loss of confidence
  • Feelings of isolation from your friends and family
  • Difficulty with decision making
  • Feeling like you’ve lost a sense of self

When someone is gaslighting, they may do or say that make you doubt your memory of things that have happened or have been said. This could be that the person says you said something that you know you didn’t say. Or, it could be questioning the details of an event until you find yourself questioning what you believed to have happened.

The behaviors involved in gaslighting can be difficult to catch from the start because they tend to be gradual. People with NPD can be good at knowing when to turn the charm back on in order to not lose the relationship. The good times can be so enjoyable that it can be hard to decide to end the relationship.

Blame shifting 

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Another form of narcissistic abuse is blame-shifting. People with NPD often struggle with self-esteem. They tend to be overly critical of themselves and others which can make it difficult to accept responsibility for things that they’ve done wrong. Because they tend to judge themselves and others harshly, they believe that you will do the same to them. So instead of taking the chance, they may shift the blame to you.

If this behavior continues, you may find yourself starting to take the blame. If you do this enough, it can lead you to start believing that it’s actually your fault. You might also have poor self-esteem and self-doubt, leaving you feeling like you’ve lost a part of yourself.

Withholding 

Some people with NPD withhold things to manipulate others into doing what they want. This could include withholding money, conversation, sex, or other forms of affection. If you try to confront them about their behavior, they will probably deny it or shift the blame to you.

Because of their inability to take the perspective of someone else, they struggle to see the role they’re playing in the situation and may convince themselves that the reason they’re withholding something from you is because of your behavior.

You may feel that you’re constantly working to try to earn the things that you need or desire. They may also expect you to show appreciation for when they decide to stop withholding.

Invading privacy and crossing boundaries 

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Those with NPD tend to struggle with trusting others. This can make them suspicious of the other people in their life. If you’re in a relationship with someone with NPD, they may invade your privacy by doing things like checking your emails or text messages. They could even go as far as following you to see where you’re going or tracking your location using an app.

If your partner has NPD, they may struggle with following any boundaries that you try to establish in your life. Think of boundaries like a fence around a yard. Everyone knows your fence is there and it stops them from going into areas you don’t want them to. When you create boundaries in your life it allows you to establish what behaviors are acceptable and which ones aren’t.

Someone with NPD may think that your boundaries are against them and confront you about it. Or, they may just refuse to stick to them. Since they have an inflated sense of self, they may not feel that your boundaries should apply to them.

Isolation 

It’s common for people with NPD to try to isolate their partner from their family and friends. They may not want their partner to be influenced by others. They may also be worried that loved ones will see what’s happening within the relationship and encourage the partner to end it.

One of the ways that isolation happens can be when the person with NPD works to make the family and friends look like they are trying to cause problems. They may do whatever they can to try to turn you from your loved ones. This often happens because they want to be the person in your life that you turn to. Once your friends and family aren’t part of your daily life, they will fill that role. They can use it to manipulate you so that you’ll stay with them.

What to do if you think you’re a victim of narcissistic abuse 

If you believe that you’re the victim of narcissistic abuse, there is help available. If you thought some of the signs above sounded familiar but then talked yourself out of believing it couldn’t be true, that can be a sign that it is. Those with NPD don’t want the situation to change because it works for them.

They tend to be good at creating a scenario where the two of you are a team together and must stick together. They may flatter you, especially if they think that you’re starting to catch on to their behavior. And they can be great at making you feel needed, which can make it hard to take action in ending the relationship.

However, it’s unhealthy to allow any form of abuse to continue. Taking action doesn’t mean that you have to end the relationship with the other person. But it does mean that you’re going to need to work on making changes yourself so you can move forward in a healthy way. Because you’re only able to control your own actions and behavior, it can help to focus on getting therapy for yourself.

A therapist can help you learn strategies to protect yourself in your relationship. They can also help you work through your own thoughts and feelings to see if you want to continue in the relationship.

Where to get help 

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If you are interested in talking to someone about the possibility that you’re a victim of abuse, don’t be afraid to seek help. You can talk to a therapist in person or even join a support group for victims of abuse.

If you’re worried about your partner knowing you’re going to therapy, virtual therapy like BetterHelp can be a good option. You’re able to meet with a therapist from anywhere that’s convenient for you. However, if you feel threatened, you should seek help immediately.

Remember, seeking help doesn’t mean that you’re deciding to end your relationship with the other person. It simply means that you’re taking the steps you need for mental wellness. There is hope and help available.


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