7 Warning Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse & Ways To Deal With It

check_icon Research-backed

Image: Shutterstock


Narcissistic abuse occurs when a person hurts another emotionally, psychologically, or physically. A person who displays narcissistic tendencies has extreme behavioral patterns.

A narcissistic person could be anyone close to you, maybe your parent, partner, sibling, or relative. Recognizing such people is not easy. They look strong, self-assured, and confident on the outside but may have dwindling self-esteem on the inside. Such people are self-centered and show no empathy for others. They are not moved by the pain and trauma they cause to others.

This post tells you about the various types of narcissistic abuse, its signs, and ways to deal with such people.

Types Of Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic abuse can be physical as well as emotional. But it may not always be evident. Here we tell you about the primary forms of narcissistic abuse and their signs.

1. Verbal abuse

Negative behavior that includes criticism, threats, blame games, bullying, ordering, and belittling to hurt the sentiments of the other person is categorized as verbal abuse. A narcissist also uses sarcasm just to humiliate the other person. Some narcissists manipulate to get their wishes fulfilled.

2. Emotional abuse

There are two ways in which a narcissist could emotionally abuse you. One way is to act innocent and gain sympathy from you. The second one is to punish, intimidate, or get angry with you. They might try to isolate you from your friends and family members and demand your complete attention. Neglecting, lying, and exploiting can all be a part of it.

3. Physical abuse

Physical abuse can be painful. Pushing and pulling, throwing things, using physical force on you are some ways of physical abuse. When the narcissist is using this form of abuse, then the victim should rise and act for their own safety.

4. Others

Some other types of narcissistic abuse include gaslighting (abuser makes you believe something is wrong with you), character assassination, financial exploitation, withholding, and counterattack. All these are negative behaviors that trouble the victim and give pleasure to the abuser.

It is not always possible to determine the narcissistic behavior. But there are signs to help you identify the narcissist.

Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse

If you feel uneasy about your relative’s behavior, then look out for these signs of narcissistic abuse (2).

1. Lives in delusion

This person lives in a world where they think that they are always right, and the others are not. They try to portray themselves as attractive, brilliant, powerful, and successful. And they think they deserve everything, although the truth is that they are afraid and insecure about their position in life.

2. Cannot accept failure or rejection

One of the signs of narcissism is that they are intolerant to anything that doesn’t go their way. When they start losing control over you, or feel hurt, or feel disrespected, then they start acting strange. They could abuse you verbally, punish you, or humiliate you just to make you feel sorry or guilty.

3. Self-obsessed

The most dominant sign of narcissistic abuse is that they are all about themselves. They are self-obsessed and crave for attention from everyone. They are nice to you if you give them appreciation, attention, and praise. Otherwise, they can become really mean. When you are not nice to them, they tend to look at it as betrayal and may even hurt you while disregarding your emotions.

4. Blames others

For a narcissist, it is always the other person’s fault. They blame the other person, even if they are wrong, to escape the consequences. Their ego doesn’t allow them to accept their faults, because of which they always find fault with others, and eventually abuse them verbally.

5. Has certain fears

Usually, a narcissist internalizes certain fears, which could be due to negative experiences in the past. They might be vulnerable but wear a mask to protect their inner selves. To hide their past, they act as if they are strong, and the others are weak. And they can go to any extent to not let the others suspect their fears and to get things done their way.

6. Moody and vengeful

Usually, narcissists are moody and passive aggressive. Their behavior is unpredictable as it changes quickly. Sometimes they whine, and the next, they may scream. And there are times when they become silent for hours. If they are hurt because of a person, they are most likely to do what it takes for revenge, as that gives them satisfaction.

7. Egoistic and selfish

A narcissist thinks they are the best. That builds up their ego, and they become selfish. They lack empathy for others and hardly care about the person who is loving them. Eventually, they develop a negative attitude.

The behavior of a narcissistic adversely affects their loved ones and the people they live with.

Effects Of Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic abuse, in any form, affects the victim who could be a child, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, or a parent. Here, we list some of the significant ways in which the victims of this abuse might be affected. 

  • The victims may develop insecurity with time. They could become anxious and blame themselves for the abuser’s behavior. And eventually, they lose their self-esteem.
  • The victims mostly live in fear of upsetting the narcissist. They hesitate to do anything in life, even if they are good at it, worrying that the abuser might get furious about it.
  • A victim might feel isolated or abandoned after being abused by a narcissist. They are so traumatized that they may hide their true selves and avoid coming out of their safe zone.
  • A victim may try to protect the abuser. And they try to look happy in front of the world. But from inside, they could be deeply saddened.
  • A victim may sacrifice a lot of things to make the narcissist happy.
  • There is a possibility of the victim becoming depressed eventually, and even develop suicidal or self-harm tendencies.
  • A victim might also develop health issues. Lack of sleep, appetite, and self-care could result in mental and physical illness.

Such behavior should be stopped. It is not easy, but there are some ways to deal with it.

How To Survive Narcissistic Abuse?

Here are various ways you may use to stop the abuse. Your reaction may depend on the level of abuse you are going through. However, if the abuse is threatening your well-being or your life, you need to come out of it and seek help.

1. You deserve respect

Healthy self-esteem can take a person through the thick and thin of life. It is every person’s right to get the respect they deserve. If you are being treated badly, your self-esteem might get affected. Irrespective of how close your relationship is with the abuser, they are not supposed to scream at you, humiliate you, touch you without your permission, disrespect, or hurt in any way. Only when you know your rights, you can move ahead and fight.

2. Establish boundaries

Every relationship should have certain limits. Whether it is a parent-child relationship, husband-wife, siblings, or any other, it doesn’t matter how close you are to each other; there is always a limit that shouldn’t be crossed. For instance, a parent cannot abuse or use any physical means to get their child to do a task. A wife cannot emotionally abuse her husband to get what she wants.

If these things happen and are going out of control, let the person know about it. Let them know you are being hurt with such behavior and that they cannot continue it. 

3. Stand on your ground

If the person repeats the behavior even after you have asked them not to, you must act. And when you do, stay calm and firm. At this time, you should know that you are dealing with someone’s personality issue. You can pull in your family members or any of your close friends to talk to that person. You may adjust to certain terms with the person, but make sure you are not compromising on anything.

4. Have a plan of action

Narcissism is a mental disorder and must be handled with utmost care. Otherwise, it could lead to unhealthy scenarios. You need to understand the cause behind the person’s narcissistic behavior, what they want from you, what the limitations of the relationship are, and what options you have to deal with it. Deal with it carefully and take the help of your friend or family member if needed.

5. Professional help

If you are unable to help yourself or the abuser in any way, you may seek a professional’s help. You don’t have to carry the weight on your shoulders to keep someone else happy – it is essential to think about yourself too. And someone with experience and expertise can support you well.

Even if you get out of the situation and away from the narcissist, you might need time to recover from the pain or trauma that you experienced. It may take a while, but know that, eventually, you be happy again.

Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

It is easier said than done but try and have a positive attitude towards life. This will help you recover faster.

  • Don’t blame yourself for what happened. It was not your fault. Instead of thinking about the past, you should accept what has happened and move ahead in life.
  • It’s not at all easy to forget the past. But you need to stay away from the toxic memories. You can talk to your family or close friends. Sharing your deep memories and feelings with someone close could help.
  • You may try distracting yourself if the memories are disturbing. Stay strong and get busy to make new memories and forget the past.
  • Time is the answer to most of life’s problems. Don’t get frustrated when things don’t fall into place sooner. Be patient and keep making an effort.
  • Be proud that you have come out of the trauma. And know that you have your life to enjoy now.
  • You can also seek professional therapy for as long as needed. It may take time, but eventually, you could start feeling better and more confident about yourself.

Narcissism is a trait that may go unnoticed initially. If someone always thinks highly of oneself, is egoistic, self-centered, and looks down on others, it may indicate narcissism. It is even more challenging to identify when the person causing you pain is someone you love. Narcissistic abuse may manifest as verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. So, be mindful of the red flags, or it may lead you to lose self-esteem and suffer in isolation. Once you stop sacrificing your happiness and command the respect you deserve, you will be able to combat the negativities in life.

Key Pointers

  • A narcissist is a self-obsessed individual who always blames others and is intolerant, moody, and disrespectful.
  • They can abuse you verbally, emotionally or physically.
  • A victim of narcissism often lives in fear and may eventually become depressed or mentally ill.
  • To survive, you need to identify your rights and stand your ground without blaming yourself. Seek professional help if needed.

Recommended Articles

The following two tabs change content below.

Courtney Makdad-Light

Courtney Pfohlman did her Master’s degree from Walden University for Clinical Mental Health Counseling and is a doctoral student at Walden University for Clinical Psychology. She is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) Part I and II trained and focuses on trauma-informed approaches. Through her counseling sessions, Courtney helps couples, individuals, and adolescents come out of their past traumas, addiction, depression,... more

Pallavi Lakhotia

Pallavi freelances for MomJunction, covering topics on child psychology, their mental health and development. She also writes on couples relationships. Being a graduate in Psychology helps her understand and analyze relationships and children. Her research-skills coupled with her field expertise help her bring forth a holistic view of the situation and provide the right guidance to readers. Before getting associated... more