Some common strategies narcissists employ include:
Seeking Admiration: Narcissists constantly crave admiration and approval from others. They may surround themselves with people who flatter them and provide positive feedback to feed their ego. This admiration serves as a temporary boost to their self-esteem.
Emotional Dependence: Narcissists may create emotional dependency in their relationships, making others reliant on them for validation and support. By being the primary source of validation, they feel a sense of power and control over the other person's emotions and self-worth.
Love-Bombing and Idealization: In the early stages of a relationship, narcissists often "love-bomb" their partners, showering them with affection, gifts, and compliments. This excessive praise and attention make the victim feel special and valued, but it's a tactic to keep them emotionally invested and dependent on the narcissist.
Devaluation and Control: Once the narcissist feels secure in the relationship, they may switch to devaluation. They demean and belittle their partner, eroding their self-esteem and confidence. By making the victim feel unworthy, the narcissist maintains a position of power and control.
Triangulation: Narcissists may involve others in their relationships to create competition or jealousy. By making the victim feel that they are in constant competition for the narcissist's attention, the narcissist can maintain control and keep the victim emotionally engaged.
Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic where the narcissist distorts the victim's perception of reality, making them doubt their memory, perceptions, and sanity. By undermining the victim's confidence in their own judgment, the narcissist gains more control over them.
Isolation: Narcissists may isolate their victims from friends and family, ensuring that the victim becomes solely dependent on the narcissist for emotional support and validation. This isolation makes it harder for the victim to seek help or leave the abusive relationship.
Projection: Narcissists often project their own insecurities and negative traits onto others. By blaming the victim for their own faults and shortcomings, the narcissist maintains a sense of superiority and protects their fragile self-esteem.
It's also important to note that these tactics are used by individuals with and without narcissistic personality disorder, and not all individuals with narcissistic traits will employ such behaviors.
Narcissistic Abuse is a complex pattern of interpersonal harm driven by narcissistic and/or Dark Triad traits. This form of abuse encompasses various manifestations, including emotional and psychological abuse, coercive control, physical abuse, spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, legal abuse, and post-separation abuse. Two key components define narcissistic abuse: 1. The mechanistic dehumanization of one individual by another, and 2. The abuser's personality pathology, commonly associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), antisocial personality disorder (APD), and psychopathy.
While not all narcissistic abusers exhibit a personality disorder or pathology, those who do demonstrate pervasive, ingrained behavior with low motivation to change, lack of insight, and poor treatment outcomes. At the more severe end of pathology, disorders like APD are linked to strategic exploitation, deceit, manipulation, and a lack of remorse, and psychopathy extends beyond these traits to include callousness and sadism. NPD, APD, and psychopathy exist on a spectrum, ranging in intensity from mild to severe. Narcissistic abuse typically unfolds gradually, insidiously eroding the victim's sense of competence, self-worth, autonomy, identity, and relatedness.
Similar Terminology, Diverse Meanings
Let’s start with the word “narcissism.” Defining this term presents challenges due to inconsistencies within and across various disciplines like clinical psychology, psychiatry, and social/personality psychology. The diversity of definitions leads to significant disparities in how narcissism is understood and measured in different studies. However, amid these complexities, one point of agreement among experts is that narcissism can manifest both as a pathological condition and as a normal personality trait.
Narcissism is a trait which is properly viewed on a spectrum. It doesn’t necessarily represent a surplus of self-esteem or grandiosity; it refers to a hunger for appreciation or admiration, or more simply put- the drive to special, exceptional, or unique. Narcissism is on spectrum ranging from healthy narcissism to pathological.
Traits are personality characteristics that adhere to three criteria: they must exhibit consistency, stability, and variability among individuals. Following this definition, a trait can be conceptualized as a relatively stable attribute that influences individuals to engage in specific behaviors.
Narcissistic refers to a trait or characteristic associated with narcissism that describe a personality style of someone who exhibits one or more of the following traits and behaviors but does not meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
Narcissists are people who score well above average on measures of the trait of narcissism. Narcissist is not a diagnosis or disorder.
A Personality Style is like your personal signature – it's the unique and consistent way you think, feel, and behave in life and when dealing with others. It's not just about individual traits, but rather how all these traits blend together to shape your overall approach to the world. It's what makes you, you.
A Personality Disorder according to the DSM-5, “is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from individual culture. It manifests in at least two or more of the following areas:
• Cognition: Refers to the ways individuals perceive and interpret themselves, others, and events.
• Affectivity: Encompasses the range, intensity, lability, and appropriateness of emotional responses.
• Interpersonal Functioning: Describes how individuals navigate and engage in interpersonal relationships.
• Impulse Control: Reflects the ability to manage and regulate impulses effectively.
Overt Narcissist is also known as a grandiose narcissist and shares the same core traits as other narcissists, but overt narcissists are more extraverted, boastful, and their grandiosity is very visible.
Grandiose Narcissist is another term for an overt narcissist, and they are used interchangeably.
Covert Narcissist is also known as a vulnerable narcissist who shares the same core traits as other narcissists, but covert narcissists are more introverted, humble, self-effacing, seemingly vulnerable and their grandiosity isn’t as apparent.
Vulnerable Narcissist is another term for a covert narcissist, and they are used interchangeably.
Communal Narcissist is a type of overt narcissism, and shares the same core traits of other narcissists, but is primarily concerned with being seen as altruistic and benevolent, even if it’s not the case. They may act in ways that appear noble; however their motivation is driven from a desire to be helpful or kind, it’s driven by their desire for recognition.
Malignant Narcissist is a term often used to describe individuals with narcissistic personality disorder who display antisocial behavior. It is an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sadism, paranoid thinking, and sadism.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition disorder comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, entitlement, and a lack of empathy that begins in early adulthood and persists across a variety of contexts.
Antisocial personality Disorder (APD) sometimes called sociopathy is a personality disorder is a mental health condition marked by antisocial behavior, a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. APD is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and in violation of, the rights of others. Its primary diagnostic criteria include criminal activity, deceitfulness, impulsivity, recklessness, aggressiveness, callousness, irresponsibility, and indifference to the mistreatment of others . DSM-5 APD overlaps substantially with the diagnosis of psychopathy. Antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders often co-occur with one another and with other personality disorders and substance use disorders.
Sociopath and the term “psychopath” are often used interchangeably, but a “sociopath” refers to a person with antisocial tendencies that are ascribed to social or environmental factors, whereas psychopathic traits are thought to be more innate. Sociopath is thought to be the “unofficial” term for antisocial personality disorder (APD). That said, both genetic and non-genetic causes likely play a role in shaping any person with antisocial traits. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fifth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR) uses neither “psychopath” nor “sociopath” as diagnostic terms.
Psychopath is used interchangeably with the term “sociopath”, and overlaps with antisocial personality disorder, but is not the same condition. A key difference is psychopaths are classified with little to no conscience but are able to follow social conventions to fit their needs. They are associated with traits such as glib charm, arrogance, callousness, sadism, and thrill-seeking. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fifth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5-TR) uses neither “psychopath” nor “sociopath” as diagnostic terms.
Dark Triad Traits: The Dark Triad represents a psychological theory of personality that delineates three perilous but subclinical (not reaching the severity for a diagnosable disorder) personality types—Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy. While these three traits of the Dark Triad are conceptually distinct, empirical evidence indicates significant overlap. Individuals embodying the Dark Triad exhibit a callous–manipulative interpersonal style. Those with a Dark Triad personality tend to display callousness and manipulation, being willing to employ virtually any means to achieve their objectives. They possess an inflated self-view and often shamelessly promote themselves. Such individuals may demonstrate impulsivity and engage in risky behaviors, including, in some instances, criminal activities, without considering the impact on others.
Machiavellianism: originates from the famous Niccolo Machiavelli, a 16th-century politician and diplomat from Italy. The associated traits of Machiavellianism include manipulation, self-interest, lack of emotion, absence of morality, and deceit.
Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional and psychological abuse inflicted by someone with narcissistic traits or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It can be challenging to identify because it often operates subtly and covertly.
Here are some common signs that someone may be experiencing narcissistic abuse:
If you or someone you know is experiencing narcissistic abuse, it's essential to seek help and support from a therapist or counselor who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery. It can be a long and challenging process to heal from this type of abuse, but it is possible with the right resources and support.
According to the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education, the 12 symptoms are the most identified forms of trauma resulting from narcissistic abuse in intimate relationships:
Classic symptoms of complex traumatic stress disorder:
Causes of complex traumatic stress disorder:
Complex PTSD may be caused by experiencing recurring or long-term traumatic events, for example:
You may also be more likely to develop complex PTSD if:
Effects of Narcissistic Parenting:
Narcissistic parenting can have significant and lasting effects on children. These effects can manifest in various ways, both during childhood and into adulthood.
Here are some common symptoms and effects of narcissistic parenting on children:
It's important to note that the effects of narcissistic parenting can vary from one individual to another, and not all children of narcissistic parents will experience all of these symptoms or effects. Additionally, many individuals find healing and recovery through therapy, support groups, and self-awareness, which can help them overcome the negative impacts of their upbringing and build healthier lives and relationships.
If you believe you are being narcissistically abused, it's essential to take steps to protect yourself and seek support. Narcissistic abuse can be emotionally and psychologically damaging, and addressing it is crucial for your well-being. Here are some steps to consider:
Remember that seeking professional help, such as therapy or counseling, can be instrumental in recovery from narcissistic abuse. It provides a safe space to process your experiences, develop coping strategies, and rebuild your life. Healing is possible, and there are resources available to support you through this process.
Here are some steps to help someone in a narcissistically abusive relationship:
1. Educate Yourself: Learn about narcissistic abuse and its characteristics so that you can better understand what your friend or loved one is going through. This will help you provide informed support.
2. Maintain Open Communication: Create a safe and non-judgmental space where the person can talk freely about their feelings and experiences. Listen actively and validate their emotions.
3. Avoid Blame or Judgment: Avoid blaming or criticizing the person for being in the abusive relationship. Instead, focus on their emotional well-being and safety.
4. Offer Emotional Support: Let the person know that you are there for them, no matter what. Encourage them to express their feelings and fears without fear of repercussions.
5. Encourage Professional Help: Suggest that they seek therapy or counseling from a mental health professional who specializes in narcissistic abuse or trauma. Therapy can provide them with the tools and support they need to heal and make informed decisions about their relationship.
6. Respect Their Choices: Understand that the person may not be ready to leave the relationship immediately, and it's essential to respect their choices and autonomy. Pressure to leave can sometimes backfire.
7. Safety First: If you believe the person is in immediate danger or experiencing physical abuse, encourage them to reach out to local authorities or domestic violence hotlines. Offer to help them create a safety plan.
8. Stay Connected: Narcissistic abusers often isolate their victims from friends and family. Continue to reach out and maintain contact with the person to counteract this isolation.
9. Document Abuse: Encourage the person to keep a journal or record instances of abuse, including dates, times, and descriptions. This documentation can be valuable if they decide to seek legal action or a restraining order.
10. Be Patient: Recovery from narcissistic abuse can take time, and the person may go through periods of confusion, doubt, and ambivalence. Be patient and supportive throughout their journey.
11. Offer Resources: Share resources, such as books, articles, support groups, or online forums, that can provide additional information and peer support.
12. Seek Support for Yourself: Supporting someone in an abusive relationship can be emotionally draining. Consider seeking support from a therapist or a support group to help you cope with your feelings and maintain your own well-being.
Remember that ultimately, the decision to leave or stay in the relationship belongs to the person experiencing the abuse. Your role is to provide support, information, and a safe space while respecting their autonomy and choices. Encourage them to seek professional help, as therapy can be instrumental in healing from narcissistic abuse and making informed decisions about the future.