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  • Writer's pictureKatie Kroening, LCSW;CADC

Breaking Free from Narcissistic Abuse

Written by Paige Bandel, bachelor's in social work from Western Michigan University

Understanding narcissistic behaviors is the first step in breaking free from abuse. There is so much power in knowledge. Taking the time to understand and put a name to the abuse occurring is incredibly courageous. I hope this blog can provide you with an educational and informative perspective.

What is a “Narcissist?”

The word “narcissist,” is a far over-used word. We see people using the term as an insult or a character trait to describe someone with arrogance, or someone who is fully consumed with themselves and their needs. However, the diagnosis goes much deeper than that. The general definition for narcissistic personality disorder is someone who presents a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. Narcissistic personality disorder is diagnosed on a spectrum, so patterns and behaviors can vary from person-to-person.

Patterns and Behaviors

It is important to understand the patterns and behaviors that an individual with narcissistic personality disorder presents. Narcissists tend to exaggerate achievements and talents, is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love, believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people, requires excessive admiration, has a sense of entitlement, takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends, is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others, is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her, and displays arrogant behaviors or attitudes. If you feel that you are in a relationship with someone who is a narcissist, listen to yourself! Trust your gut and intuition!

Narcissistic Abuse

When having any form of platonic or intimate relationships with an individual who presents similar patterns and behaviors, it is important to learn the examples of abuse that can occur or have already occurred.

  • Controlling Behavior Controlling behavior is when the individual with patterns and behaviors like the patterns and behaviors of narcissistic personality disorder, try to restrict what you wear, with whom you spend time, or how you spend money. Controlling behavior may present itself as the individual insisting that everything needs to be their way, is inflexible and not open to others' suggestions or may threaten you with ultimatums.

  • Gaslighting Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that causes another person to question elements of reality or their own lived experience. Gaslighting partners, friends, or parents, will often sugarcoat toxic situations, feel intimidated and jealous of your success, play mind tricks on their loved ones by insisting they told them to do something when they never did, or insist they care about someone else’s well-being while simultaneously trying to tear that other person down.

  • Invading Privacy and Ignoring Boundaries An early sign of abuse can be a lack of boundaries. Someone who inserts themselves into your life very quickly, exuding charm and showering you with attention and gifts, may eventually become controlling or abusive. As the relationship moves forward, the abuser may track your whereabouts, look at your social media, or otherwise violate your sense of privacy. These behaviors can give the abuser a sense of control and a way to intimidate you.

  • Isolation Isolation is a common tactic of abusers, who use it to ensure their sense of control is not threatened or disrupted by outside influences. They may not want their partner to be influenced by others, knowing that their behavior is unhealthy. Isolation can occur when the individual tries to convince you that your family and friends are causing you problems. This may cause tension with your loved ones, which could cause conflict between you and those you love, strengthening your belief that your abuser is right.

Effects of Abuse on the Victims

If you are experiencing abuse mentioned in this blog, or any other form of abuse, you may be feeling extreme emotional and physical effects. Some common effects of abuse victims are shame, guilt, anxiety, depression, feeling powerless, confusion, loss of self-esteem, being overly compliant, and taking the blame for other’s behavior, however, more emotional, and physical effects may be present. It can be extremely draining and difficult to heal from a present relationship with a narcissist, as well as a past relationship with a narcissist. The psychological, emotional, and physical toll narcissistic abuse takes on your body, can feel like a huge battle to recover. Recognizing narcissistic behaviors in individuals is the first step to recovering and healing. Always remember, you are not alone.

What do I do now?

Sources Used in This blog:

The DSM 5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Disarming the Narcissist Surviving & Thriving with the Self-Absorbed by, Wendy T. Behary, LCSW:

Disarming the Narcissist : Surviving & Thriving with the Self-Absorbed (Easyread Large Edition) (Paperback) -

National Domestic Violence Website:

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