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Narcissistic Abuse: 16 Subtle Signs a Narcissist is Abusing You

In whatever relationship, narcissistic abuse can be one of the hardest forms of abuse to endure. These 16 signs tell you if you are being abused.

Narcissistic Abuse

Although more attention has been paid to the personality disorder termed the narcissistic personality type recently, it is not a new phenomenon. Alice Miller, a Swiss psychologist, brought the notion of narcissistic abuse as far back as the early 1980s.

The first psychoanalyst to break from the pack, she proposed a theory that trauma need not come only in the form of violence or sexual abuse. She asserted there was a fundamental way to abuse children through a parent’s behaviors and indifference toward a child.

Miller believed most mental illness, cultism, addiction, and crime all resulted not just from trauma as traditionally described, but from a form of longstanding emotional abuse throughout childhood.

Many who came after Miller defined the ways a narcissistic individual perpetrates abuse on those dependent on them or in a relationship with them. Narcissistic abuse happens not just in parent-child relationships, but in many adult relationships.

What is a narcissist?

A narcissist is someone who cares only for themselves. Termed after a Greek mythological character, Narcissus. The story goes that he’s so smitten with himself that he falls in love with his own reflection. That is the cornerstone of a narcissistic personality.

They are so self-absorbed that they lack the basic human trait of empathy *being able to put themselves into someone else’s shoes*. Without empathy, you are left with a person who uses everyone in their wake as a means for their own pleasure. In fact, people in a narcissist’s world only exist for the sole purpose of pleasing them. [Read: 23 secret signs of narcissism people overlook until it’s too late]

Narcissistic abuse – 16 signs you are being abused by a narcissist

The term narcissistic abuse refers to the way people can be emotionally manipulated by a narcissist, and how it adversely affects one’s self-esteem and self-worth. The worst part about being abused in an emotional manner is how you are almost completely unaware of the abuse.

The recipient of narcissistic abuse typically believes they are, at times, crazy, not deserving and not worthy of love or concern. That is exactly what the narcissist feeds off. It is by making others insecure and dependent where they find their power.

How do you know if you are a victim of narcissistic abuse? These are the 16 signs you are in a narcissistic abusive relationship. [Read: 21 big signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking]

#1 You have low self-esteem. The victim of narcissistic abuse typically has a very low image of themselves. That is how a narcissist gains control. By making you feel less than, they control and manipulate you. Before you know it, you wake up lacking the self-worth you used to have. [Read: 10 signs of low self-esteem and 5 ways to increase it]

#2 You think you are going crazy. A narcissist makes you feel like you are going crazy. When you begin to see what is going on, they convince you that it is all in your head and that they are an innocent bystander. That is why it is so hard to leave a narcissistic abusive relationship.

The continual push-pull is one of the most difficult things to overcome. In technical terms, it is called “gas lighting.”

Gas lighting is the way narcissists intentionally make you feel as if you are crazy and making everything up in your head. They have an answer for everything or they answer nothing, to make you feel like you are going insane. [Read: Gas lighting: 16 signs your lover is messing with your mind]

#3 You become depressed or anxious. When someone treats you with disregard or to their own end, it is easy to become depressed and anxious. Feeling unworthy, invisible, and developing self-loathing, in some instances, people who are the recipient of narcissistic abuse typically exhibit depression and anxiety.

#4 Nothing you ever do is good enough. It isn’t just you. If you feel like nothing you ever do is good enough, it isn’t. It is through the constant debasement where the narcissist gains the advantage.

If they allow you to “have one,” then you gain some power. And something they don’t want. Backhanded comments, continual negativity, or complete ignorance of anything you have accomplished or done well, are all signs you are a victim of narcissistic abuse. [Read: Controlling relationship: 18 signs you’re being coerced into one]

#5 Just when you are about to leave they pull you back in. The cornerstone of narcissistic abuse is emotional manipulation. They push you to the very limit, just before you have had enough that you want to cut them from your life, and then the charm comes out. They love you when you want to leave, ignore you when you stay.

#6 Their attitude toward you changes rapidly. When you first form a relationship with a narcissist, they make you feel like you are the best thing they have ever had. They can’t adore or compliment you more. Very charming, they win your heart.

But, once you have it, they no longer want you. If you suddenly feel like the person who used to smile at you and make you feel incredible can’t be bothered with you, that is part of the abuse and emotional manipulation.

#7 The person you are with is charming when they want to be. Narcissists can be the most charming people alive. If you are in a relationship with one, you often notice they are charming to everyone but you.

Take heart, it isn’t that there is something wrong with you, or that they even care about anyone else. The way they manipulate people is through their charm. They don’t feel the need to attract you anymore because they feel as if they already have control over you. [Read: 16 real signs you’re in a narcissistic relationship]

#8 You feel ignored and invisible. The victims of narcissistic abuse often feel neglected, ignored, and invisible. Because they are. By withholding attention and love, the narcissist keeps you right where they want you, dependent on them. If they pay you any attention, you may just have the strength and the self-esteem to move on.

#9 Your partner or parent belittles and debases you. It isn’t always outward. The narcissist is very good at throwing out covert negativism or planting seeds in your head you don’t hear or even see coming. Masters of manipulation, they make sure to debase anything you do or put water on any spark of enthusiasm you have. [Read: 25 signs of covert narcissism – A special kind of mind game]

#10 They attack you with rage when you question them. The narcissist doesn’t like to be challenged or to have their own self-identity put on trial. At the slightest question of their authority or their greatness, they attack with fervor.

Rage and verbal abuse are all a way they stop people from questioning how powerful and magnificent they are. One simple question leads to a tirade.

#11 The narcissist refuses to take responsibility for anything. The narcissist convinces you that everything is your fault because they refuse to take responsibility for anything or any actions that they make. Never responsible for what they do, they project it onto someone else. Typically, it is the other person in the relationship. [Read: How to stop being insecure: 15 steps to transform your life]

#12 The narcissist uses love as blackmail. If you threaten the narcissist, they use emotional blackmail to stop feeling the threat. Blackmail comes in the form of ignoring you and withholding their love.

#13 They never acknowledge your success. Only by always being better than you can they feel powerful and steal your self-esteem. Always in competition with you, a victim of narcissistic abuse feels as if they’ve never accomplished anything good or succeeded in life.

That is by design. A part of the emotional manipulation, a narcissist makes sure they are always the top dog. They are also not above sabotaging things for you to make sure you never get ahead or succeed.

#14 Lying is not out of the ordinary. Narcissists lack in both empathy and conscience. If caught, they easily switch their story to suit their needs. Lying is a very common form of narcissistic abuse. Never knowing what is true, those being abused, have nothing to believe in. [Read: Relationship with a narcissist – What it really means to love one]

#15 When you are out of favor with them they isolate you to gain control. The best way to control someone is to be the only one in their life that they depend on. In a narcissistic abuse situation, the narcissist does all that they can to isolate their victim from friends and family members to manipulate them emotionally.

#16 They may be physically abusive. A narcissist uses emotional manipulation to control their victim, but they can also be physically abusive.

The worst part about being in a narcissistic abusive relationship is that by the time you know you are being abused, you have very little left to fight with. Breaking free from the abuse as an adult can be very difficult. Overcoming the childhood abuse can be overwhelming. [Read: How to deal with a narcissist – 13 ways to manipulate them]

The hardest part is realizing it isn’t about you. It is about a pattern of manipulation that revolves around making you feel as if it is.

[Read: 12 clear signs of a narcissist and 5 steps to break up with them]

The only way to break free and heal is by understanding that it has nothing to do with you or who you are. It isn’t your fault you can’t find love in a narcissist, after all, they are incapable of loving you.

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Julie Keating
A writer isn’t born, but created out of experiences. No lack of subject matter, my life reads more like fiction than anything that could have been imagined in...
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