Narcissistic abuse: 10 subtle signs it’s happening to you

Nobody wants to experience narcissistic abuse.

But the problem with narcissistic abuse is that it can be difficult to spot when it’s happening to you, and the pain that stems from it slowly accumulates.

So if you’re wondering whether a narcissist (or a covert narcissist) is emotionally abusing you, watch out for these 10 common signs.

1. You Become Defensive Of Your Abuser

Being a victim usually involves the need to evaluate your position in a relationship. More often than not, it’s challenging to come to terms with the fact that you’re in a relationship with a narcissist and they’re subtlety abusing you.

This is why many victims don’t admit they’re being abused, either because they’ve been trained to think that what they experience is normal or because they don’t want to come to terms with it.

When you try to evaluate your relationship and find yourself justifying maltreatment, it’s one of the earliest signs that you’re knee-deep in emotional trauma.

2. You Have A Broken Sense Of Self

Sufferers in narcissistic abusive relationships can no longer identify who they are as people. Their goals and aspirations melt into a sad blur, often because abusers are against other people’s success.

This trains the victim to associate the things they’re proud of with horrible treatment, making them second guess what they want to do in fear of consequences.

3. You Tend To Self-Destruct

Abusers can’t help but affect every part of the victim’s life, so much so that they become a voice through which the victim sees themselves.

It’s one thing when the abuser continues to devalue the victim, and another when the victim falls into a pattern of anxiety, self-doubt, and eventually self-destruction.

4. You Are Being Manipulated Into Blaming Yourself

Abusers with narcissistic personality traits can integrate other things into the relationship that would make the victim feel worse about his or her self. Maybe it’s another love interest or a successful group of friends.

Whichever form this may take, this third object will tend to appear like an ideal version of the relationship between the abuser and the victim.

Observing how different your abuser is to other people makes you think that you’re at fault. This kind of suspicion grows until you are conditioned to blame yourself every time abuse happens.

You end up thinking that if you had done something differently, you would receive the same pleasant treatment others are receiving.

5. You Become Reclusive

Abusers are manipulative in nature. Abusive relationships are founded on fear, not only of the other person, but of other people finding out.

Because of insecurity, victims cast a doubt on their experiences and often start invalidating what they feel. As a result, they are unable to reach out for help or talk to people, precisely because they are made to worry if what they are feeling is true or imagined.

6. You Become Hypervigilant

This is when you know that the abuse has been embedded into your personality. You no longer trust the people around you because you worry that they would turn out to be just like your abuser.

You are vigilant of the things you say, do, and feel because you are constantly worried of triggering an abusive event.

What’s worse, victims develop a crippling sense of self-doubt. You stop believing what you feel and begin putting yourself in the abuser’s shoes. It becomes easier to excuse their selfish and cruel behavior and stay trapped in a dysfunctional relationship.

7. Your Psychological Problems Become Physiological Ones

Sooner or later, depression becomes a part of who you are, so much so that you become it. It takes a toll on your day-to-day life and you find yourself manifesting some physical iterations of your psychological turmoil.

Most people who suffer from emotional abuse develop eating disorders. Because they are subconsciously suppressing what they feel, they end up exerting their mental energy on other things, resulting in an incredibly unhealthy and self-destructive lifestyle.

8. You Give Up On What You Want For The Abuser

People with narcissistic personality types are effective in making everything about them. It’s only a matter of time before you give up on the things you enjoy doing to appease the other person.

This includes letting go of potentially life-changing opportunities because your abuser is guilting you into staying trapped in the relationship.

9. You Experience Dissociation

Have you ever felt like you’re trying to construct a narrative to make up for things that you’ve experienced? Have you ever felt like your mind is numb and that your body and mind are two different things? If so, you might be experiencing dissociation.

Dissociation is an inevitable phenomenon in traumatic experiences. Your experiences can become compartmentalized, making it harder for you to evaluate the situation. When it comes to this point, experts suggest that you see a trauma-oriented therapist to help you put the pieces back together.

10. You Are Losing Self-Respect

All of these signs coming together can only lead to feelings of hopelessness. When you feel trapped in your situation, you start thinking about self-harm as a way to cope with your reality.

No matter what you tell yourself, when someone becomes a prime motivator questioning your self-worth, you should immediately disengage. Get help from your friends and distance yourself from the abuser so you can find the time to heal and reconstruct your sense of self.

How to Stop a Narcissist From Ruining Your Life

If you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, here’s how you can help yourself get out of that relationship and get on with your life.

1) Think About What is Driving the Narcissism

If the narcissist in your life is just doing a terrible job of telling you how much you mean to them, that might be one thing, but if they are seemingly going out of their way to hurt you or manipulate you, that is quite different.

In order to begin to get out from under the thumb of the narcissist in your life, you’ll need to understand what is motivating them or driving them toward the actions they are taking.

For someone who is just interested in being in control, you might find that a simple distraction technique or redirection of your efforts may be all that is needed to overcome these issues.

If, however, you are experiencing violence or physical abuse from a narcissist, you might find that the motivation is that they get pleasure out of hurting you because it is the thing that makes them feel good about themselves.

It’s a sick and twisted way to live, but many people live lives like this all over the world. Recognize the motivation in the actions and words and you’ll be on your way to being able to change the situation.

Keep in mind that changing the situation usually means walking away or pausing the relationship in some way. There’s a lot to consider here, but this is a good place to start.

2) Recognize the Recoil of the Narcissist

When you are dealing with someone who is narcissistic, you’ll want to pay close attention to how they pull away or recoil after an interaction that doesn’t go in their favour.

For example, if you’ve recently decided that you are no longer going to allow yourself to be spoken to in a certain way and you speak up to that person who is antagonizing you, you may find that the narcissist ignores you or tries to punish you in some way.

This may be physical or mental abuse, but rest assured that whatever form it takes, the punishment will be punitive and on purpose. With time, this abuse may get worse, and many people have to eventually make the decision to leave a narcissistic relationship.

If the relationship is not romantic, you may find it even harder to walk away, especially if it is a close relative, parent, or sibling that is abusing you and the relationship itself.

3) Know Where You Stand

In order to take an effective stand against someone who is narcissistic, you need to know where you stand on the whole relationship. Decide ahead of time what you want the outcome of a conversation or interaction to be and if you don’t get that outcome, consider what you are willing to do to make that happen.

If you are unable to process the situation in a way that leaves you to feel empowered or at the very least, protected, then you’ll need to decide on a more effective course of action.

Again, many people need to walk away from these kinds of relationships because they think about narcissists that you don’t find out until late in the game, is that they don’t give up easily.

Whatever it is that you want to get out of the relationship, be sure to ask yourself if it’s worth getting those needs met by someone who is trying – on purpose much of the time – to hurt you in some way for their own personal gain.

The sad part is that their actions are not about you at all, but about satisfying their own needs.

If you have a narcissist in your life, get clear on what you want and need and work your way through the situation from the point of view that your needs are more important than anyone else’s.

Sure, it is going to be hard to walk away from a destructive relationship, but if you are serious about doing what is right for you, you’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that your rights and dignity are protected.

Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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