About 6% of the US population have narcissistic personality disorder. This is over 19 million people. If they abuse five people in their lifetime, that’s over 96 million people!
People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have no conscience and lack empathy. Unfortunately, it often goes undetected. Ironically, despite the term ‘narcissist’ being bandied about often, especially recently, most people don’t know what narcissistic abuse is.
It’s important to know if you or someone you love is a victim of narcissistic abuse. Read on to find out the signs and symptoms to look for. Knowing these may help to increase the detection rate and prevent others from being victims.
What Is A Narcissist?
A narcissist, as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves. You may be tempted to classify many people you’ve encountered as narcissistic simply because you think they talk too much about themselves or they take one too many selfies.
But a narcissist is someone with a mental health condition known as narcissistic personality disorder. This disorder is usually characterized by the following:
- -Lack of empathy
- -Inflated sense of importance
- -A need for excessive admiration and/or attention
As a result, these individuals often have troubled relationships. However, these are just a few characteristics.
To be diagnosed with NPD, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists nine criteria that indicate signs of the disorder. An NPD diagnosis requires the person to meet five. This qualifies them as a narcissist.
Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
As mentioned, there are nine official criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. These include:
- 1. Arrogant attitudes or behaviors
- 2. Grandiose sense of self-importance
- 3. A belief that others are envious of them or they envy others
- 4. Preoccupation with fantasies of brilliance, beauty, ideal love, power, and unlimited success
- 5. Lack of empathy
- 6. A belief that they’re unique or special and can only associate with special people
- 7. Interpersonally exploitive behavior
- 8. Need for excessive admiration
- 9. A sense of entitlement
Unfortunately, despite the extensive criteria, the disorder is still not easily diagnosed. Lack of diagnosis often means that someone with NPD is not treated and is free to have relationships with others which can often be destructive and can lead to narcissistic abuse.
What Is Narcissistic Abuse?
Narcissistic abuse occurs when someone is subjected to emotional abuse at the hands of someone suffering from sociopathy or narcissism. Narcissists can consciously or unconsciously manipulate their victims. This can include exhibiting control over or trying to damage or alter their partner’s behavior.
The abuse is usually described as emotional manipulation or thought control. Some of the manipulative techniques that narcissists use include gaslighting to make their partners feel as if they are overreacting about the abuse or the abuse is as a result of something have done.
This results in the victim becoming disoriented or confused, often second-guessing themselves. This, in turn, makes them more susceptible to the abuse and the demands made by the narcissist.
Signs of Narcissistic Abuse
There are several signs of narcissistic abuse. It often results in damage to a victim’s self-esteem. They also often question their sense of reality. All forms of abuse are not necessarily narcissistic and all narcissists aren’t abusive.
However, there’s usually a pattern to narcissistic abuse but it may vary depending on the particular relationship. Here are some of the signs.
It Happens Slowly
In romantic relationships, the narcissist is usually extremely loving and giving, and kind. They make their partner feel adored and special through public displays of affection, expensive gifts, and being wined and dined.
It is so overwhelming that their partner is usually unsuspecting. The pattern includes the narcissistic victim falling hard and fast for the narcissist.
It never crosses the victim’s mind that the person may be ‘too good to be true’. And by the time they start to suspect this, they’re already in too deep. This ‘honeymoon’ phase of the relationship is often replaced by manipulative behavior.
In the case of narcissistic parents, they withdraw their love and support when their child falls out of favor or does something to displease them. It’s often followed by gaslighting and silent treatment.
There Are Doubts About the Abuse
Due to the subtlety of narcissistic abuse, it’s often well-disguised, even when it occurs in public. Onlookers see the behavior but don’t necessarily recognize it as abuse.
The victim often feels uneasy but often can’t clearly define what’s wrong in the relationship. They often feel guilty for making mistakes. It may also be difficult for them to describe how they feel to someone else.
A narcissistic parent may make statements or ask questions to make their child second guess themselves or feel guilty. “Are you sure you want to do that?”. Otherwise, they may insult their child making it seem well-intentioned.
The Victim Becomes the Problem
In making their victim seem like a bad person, the narcissist maintains their own image of perfection. If the victim questions their behavior, they may insult or threaten them openly. They may even manipulate others to join in to criticize you.
They often try to convince the victim’s loved ones that the issue lies with the victim. That he/she is unstable or harmful. They can even use the victim’s reaction against them. Making it seem irrational or extreme.
Narcissists are charming. In the same way, they initially wooed their victim, they do the same with their friends and family, making them believe they are the epitome of a good partner. They can easily convince family members that the victim is actually the problem.
There are other signs and symptoms of narcissistic abuse. If you know someone who may be a victim find out some of the ways you can assist them.
Knowing And Avoiding Narcissistic Abuse
The key to avoiding narcissistic is abuse is the ability to detect it when it starts. If you are the victim of this abuse, you may doubt yourself. Think about the behavior of the narcissist, write it down if you have to, and get advice from a professional.
This is important as even family members may doubt you if the narcissist has already painted a specific picture of you.
If you or a loved one are the victims of narcissistic abuse, D’Amore Mental Health can help. We specialize in mental health treatment including narcissistic personality disorder and can help you with narcissistic abuse recovery. Take a look at our specialized programs and contact us at (714) 790-9784.