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Narcissistic Victim Syndrome: What It Is & How to Escape the Mess

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can be very damaging. It can even lead to narcissistic victim syndrome. Let’s learn more to understand.

Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

Most of us are happy-go-lucky types. We see the best in people as much as we can, we forgive, we forget, we show empathy, and we try and understand how others are feeling. Yet, if you meet a narcissist, you’ll quickly notice that the ‘happy go lucky’ side of you disappears. Instead, you become withdrawn, unsure, doubting. You may begin to suffer from narcissistic victim syndrome.

A person with true Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, is someone who shows a distinct lack of empathy. Now, we should point out that they don’t do this because they feel like it, they do it because they are not capable of showing empathy.

They don’t love or feel in the same way as everyone else. They’re basically self-involved, self-absorbed, and extremely selfish individuals.

This is someone who can twist and change everything to suit their agenda. When you’re with someone like that, you begin to wonder which way is up and down. In the end, you’re not even sure who you are anymore.

[Read: How to deal with a narcissist in the best way you possibly can]

Why would anyone fall for a narcissist in the first place?

Yet, you might ask why anyone would fall for someone like this. Obviously, they don’t show that side of themselves at first. They’re the epitome of charm and wonder. You basically fall for an illusion.

Then, you’re sucked in long before you realize what is happening.

When you first meet a narcissist, they will sell you a tall tale. They’ll be the most charming, caring, attentive, and wonderful person you’ve ever met. You’ll feel like the luckiest person alive because you met someone who’s so perfect, and who seems to be totally smitten and obsessed by you. They’ll even seem too good to be true. And that’s because it’s not true at all!

You become so addicted to this “perfect” person that you’re desperate not to lose them. They make you feel amazing!

But, when they sense that they’ve got you right where they want you, they’ll start to show their true nature bit by bit. If you start to become suspicious or look as though you may leave, they’ll snap back to the charm offensive. Then, you stay.

Nobody falls for a true narcissist. They fall for the illusion that a narcissist shows. [Read: How do narcissists hook you hard and what’s the best way to avoid their bait]

Is it possible to have a healthy relationship with a narcissist?

It is not possible to have a healthy and happy relationship with a narcissist. At some point, you will have to leave because the treatment is too much to bear.

If you stick around and do your best to try and see their good side *whenever they try and show you their fake good side, that is*, you’re probably going to find yourself even more damaged by your efforts.

In this case, you simply need to give up. You’ve done all you can. There is no good side to be seen. They do not have any empathy inside of them. Sadly, they cannot love you how you want them to. They only love themselves.

For sure, it’s difficult to accept the truth and walk away. They will show you a fake charm that keeps you right where they want you, just enough to stop you from leaving. When they’re pretty sure you’re not going anywhere, they go back to their old ways.

At the end of the day, it’s a cycle of abuse. [Read: How do narcissists control you so subtly? And why we allow them to!]

What is narcissistic victim syndrome?

Anyone who has been in a relationship with a narcissist and comes out the other side will show some signs of what they’ve been through.

If the experience was thankfully mild, they may simply be able to shrug it off after a while. It will probably impact their future relationships, however. But, some are not that lucky.

Some people develop what is known as narcissistic victim syndrome. This can happen after the relationship has ended, or while it is still going on.

The main signs of narcissistic victim syndrome include:

1. Constantly walking on egg shells

It’s likely that a person struggling with narcissistic victim syndrome won’t want to upset their narcissist and they’re never sure what to say or do.

Instead, they walk on eggshells and they’re always worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. They can’t be relaxed or be themselves. They’re always worried about an outburst coming their way. [Read: Blowing hot and cold – The 3 stages to explain why narcissists do this]

2. Trust issues

A person who has come out the other side of a narcissistic relationship will have problems trusting others. It’s no wonder when you think about the emotional abuse they have been through.

This can also begin before they leave the relationship as they become deeply untrusting of anyone who threatens their relationship. They desperately don’t want to “rock the boat” and so they’re always on the lookout for threats.

3. Trying to handle everything alone

One of the main manipulation tactics of a narcissist is isolating their victim from their friends and family members. That means the victim has no social network to rely upon.

The victim becomes so used to doing everything alone and not having people around them that they tend to isolate themselves even after the relationship is over. They worry that if they talk about what they’ve been through, nobody is going to listen to them and take them seriously because their narcissistic partner never did.

As a result, they end up feeling very lonely, miserable, and alone. [Read: Why do I feel so alone? The answers that can change your life]

4. A very low level of self worth

Narcissists suck the life out of their victims and that means they’re going to leave them with zero self-worth to their name.

When someone has been tricked and had mind games played on them constantly, how can they feel like they deserve to be treated well?

Of course, they deserve everything positive in life, but they won’t realize that until they’ve managed to escape the clutches of a narcissist and they’ve had time to work through the after-effects.

5. Problems with making decisions

A person with narcissistic victim syndrome is very unlikely to trust themselves to make a decision, be it big or small. Gaslighting is one of the most common tactics that narcissists use on their victims and it causes them to completely doubt their own sanity in some cases. [Read: How to spot gaslighting in a relationship and shut it down for good]

So, when it comes to making a decision, they’re going to doubt every option and therefore end up making no decision at all.

Either that or they rely heavily upon other people to make their decisions for them and therefore become codependent.

6. Constantly apologizing for nothing

Narcissistic victims are made to feel like everything they do is wrong. So, a person who is still in this type of relationship or who has escaped, will usually feel like they need to regularly apologize for everything.

In reality, they’ve done nothing wrong and have nothing to apologize for, but it’s a knee-jerk reaction to any situation which causes them to feel uncomfortable.

7. Being frozen in action

Another of the main signs of narcissistic victim syndrome is freezing. If they’re asked to say something, do something, or something happens that makes them uncomfortable, they will freeze and not know what to do.

They may also run away to avoid having to deal with something. This is the ‘fight or flight’ response that is in overdrive when someone has narcissistic victim syndrome. [Read: On-off relationships and all the reasons why you should never stay in one]

Why do we know so little about narcissistic victim syndrome?

We focus so much on the narcissist and the whole personality disorder dedicated to them, that we forget about their innocent victims. These are the people emotionally damaged by being around them. It’s worrisome that we have little background information on the condition which may be pushed upon them.

More studies are being done into the effects of narcissism on the people who care for a narcissist, but as of yet, there is little background evidence.

The good news, medical professionals and psychologists know it’s a real thing and there are treatment options available for anyone who has been emotionally and psychologically damaged after leaving a relationship with a narcissist.

For the most part, this is counseling, to work through the events and pains, gaining closure. However, future relationships are likely to be tricky, especially at first. [Read: What is the worst thing you can do to a narcissist to hurt them?]

How narcissistic victim syndrome can impact on your future

Narcissistic victim syndrome encompasses the emotional damage and symptoms displayed by someone affected by a narcissist. This can be a lack of trust, flashbacks, a total lack of confidence, anxiety, debilitating fear, confusion, and a general feeling that they don’t trust their own mind.

You see, one of the main tactics used by narcissists is manipulation, most commonly via gaslighting. This makes the victim question their own sanity. [Read: Psychological manipulation and the 16 most common tactics manipulators use]

For instance, the narcissist might agree to meet you after work and go out for dinner. They say they’re going to treat you to dinner at your favorite restaurant after a long week at work. You get excited about it, looking forward to the end of the day. You go to the restaurant and wait outside, just as you had arranged, only they don’t turn up.

Then, you call them and they have no recollection of arranging to meet you there, and use language which makes you question your own sanity. Did you make it up in your own mind? Are you going crazy? Why would you think you’d made plans when you haven’t?

It’s a clever tactic, and the narcissist is likely to laugh at you and pull you down, berate you for being stupid and making something up.

The thing is, you didn’t make it up. You’re not going crazy, they did arrange it, and now they’re manipulating you and using cruel tactics to pull your confidence down to the gutter so they can control you and keep you where they want you. [Read: 15 ways a pathological liar hurts and confuses you with their lies]

Can you see how manipulative and negative a narcissist’s ways can be? Can you understand how damaging the effects of narcissistic victim syndrome can turn out to be as a result of all of this over the long term?

Isolation is a very real possibility

When this happens over the long term, it can cause severe emotional and psychological damage. You will become isolated from your friends and family. Even though they probably try and warn you about what’s going on, you’re so connected and almost addicted to the good *yet fake* side of your narcissist that you can’t understand why they would say such things.

In addition, the narcissist will likely feed you a fake rhetoric about how your friends and family don’t take you seriously, how they think you’re stupid or crazy. This will pull you further away from those you can trust and into their grip.

When you have little to no support as a result of this isolating tactic, you’re prime for the picking as far as the narcissist is concerned. This is likely to be when they turn up the heat on their tactics. [Read: How to set boundaries with a narcissist and weaken their hold over you]

When does the end arrive?

So, when does it end? How does it end? Is it even possible to get away?

Yes, but it’s not easy.

There will come a time when something clicks. You might read something in a feature like this one about narcissism and every point will resonate.

Perhaps it will be this specific part of this article that makes that lightbulb go off. Then, it will almost be like someone has pulled back the curtains, and the light floods in. Something will be screaming at you inside about what’s going on, telling you that you’re not crazy. [Read: How to quickly recognize narcissistic traits in a relationship]

However, that’s just the start. As you try to get away, the narcissist is likely to figure it out and turn on the charm again, just to keep you where they want you. Don’t listen. You’re not wrong and you’re not crazy. Be brave and take the step to change your life.

What is the treatment for narcissistic victim syndrome?

For anyone who is struggling with narcissistic victim syndrome, there is help out there. Of course, you need to reach out and ask for it. That can be difficult when you’re dealing with the after-effects of narcissistic abuse and you’re struggling with trusting anyone.

But, if you want to feel better, you have to be brave and go for it. It will be the strongest and most rewarding thing you will ever do.

Some people find enough support in those around them, e.g. friends and family members, but other people prefer to speak to someone unrelated, e.g. a third party. In that case, professional therapy is a great idea. Your therapist will work through the narcissistic abuse you have been subjected to and help you to overcome the effects.

Of course, it’s also very important to practice self-care. It’s very easy to say that you deserve better. But you have to understand that you do, and really believe it. That will come with time, and the more you seek help and support, the easier it will become. [Read: How to leave a narcissist and free yourself from their web of control]

For those who make the step to leave, living with narcissistic victim syndrome can be hard.

Thankfully, there is help and you should welcome that with open arms. Now you are aware, and you have a future to look forward to. It’s simply going to take some time and work to overcome the trauma you’ve been through. But the time is worth it if it allows you to heal.

[Read: How to handle a narcissist without falling apart or losing yourself]

Narcissistic victim syndrome is something we’re learning about as more and more victims of this type of abuse find the strength to walk away and look towards the light of the future. Just remember, you’re not alone. And you can find your way out of the narcissist’s grasp. All it needs is your determination.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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