Abuse can take many forms, from physical violence to coercive control. Narcissistic abuse is something that often gets overlooked. It’s a very subtle form of abuse. Many people actually suffer PTSD from narcissistic abuse.
It’s something that can happen in romantic relationships, friendships, and families. It can have a lasting impact on its victims.
What is Narcissistic Abuse
Narcissistic abuse is often seen in romantic relationships or parent-child relationships. These relationships usually have a clear pattern:
- Idealization of the victim in the early stages
- Love-bombing in the form of compliments and/or gifts
- A period of devaluation including “negging” and manipulation to reduce the victim’s self-esteem
- Stonewalling and gaslighting as the abuse gets worse
- The abuser may ‘discard’ the victim when they lose interest
- Later, the abuser may come back and repeat the cycle of abuse
The initial love-bombing stage can create a powerful bond that the victim is willing to overlook or dismiss later abuse. Some abusers are so effective at gaslighting their victims that the victim might start to believe they deserve the treatment they’re getting.
PTSD from Narcissistic Abuse
Because narcissistic abuse is so insidious, it can take a long time for a person to realize that they’re being abused. The long-term effects on a victim’s mental health can be significant. Many victims end up with PTSD from narcissistic abuse.
Victims may feel:
- Isolated from friends and family who don’t believe the abuse is happening
- Confused and helpless because they don’t know what to do to make the abuse stop
- Devalued and questioning their own sanity
- Scared that no matter what they do, they’ll be verbally attacked by their abuser
- Scared that nobody else would want them and they’ll end up alone
- Constantly on edge
- Physically unwell with nausea, fatigue, or insomnia
- Anxious or depressed
It can take a long time for victims of narcissistic abuse to realize that they’ve been abused. It can take equally as long to find the confidence to leave the relationship. Breakups of any kind are difficult, but leaving a narcissist can be much harder than leaving other relationships because of the damage the narcissist did to the victim.
Some victims experience lasting PTSD from narcissistic abuse symptoms, such as:
- Unexpected or unexplained panic attacks
- Extreme physical or emotional reactions to events that remind them of their trauma
- Difficulty concentrating
- Intrusive thoughts
- Anger and irritability
- Low self-esteem
- A desire to avoid social situations
- A general sense of detachment
These symptoms respond to the cycle of love-bombing/hoovering and devaluation that characterize relationships where one person is a narcissist. The abuse can make it difficult for the victim to rejoin society and form relationships with others.
It can take a long time for a victim to heal from the abuse that they’ve suffered. It’s only natural for people to forget the past and walk away from the relationship. Fully moving on may require more than just time. For some people, enlisting outside assistance in the form of therapy can help.
How Long Can Hypervigilance and Trauma Last?
Hypervigilance and trauma can last for many years. Some adults who grew up in a household with a narcissistic parent become hypervigilant and suffer trauma that lasts for a lifetime. They might be triggered by loud noises such as the sound of a door slamming. As a child, they may have learned that noise was a sign their parents were arguing.
This kind of trauma can be problematic because it makes a person react in a way that isn’t proportionate to what is actually happening around them. They are instinctively reacting to a threat that is no longer present.
Some people living with this kind of trauma don’t even realize that the fears have been negatively impacting their lives. They’ve grown up with them, so they’re normal to them. Fortunately, it is possible to heal.
The first step towards recovering from trauma is acknowledging that it’s there and that recovery is a better option than avoidance. The instinct to avoid things that remind a person of their trauma is understandable, but in the long term, it hampers recovery. Therapy for mental health is just like physiotherapy for the body. Promotes healing and strengthening the mind so that the abuse victim is in a stronger position to cope with life’s challenges in the future.
Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse
When the trauma from narcissistic abuse is recent, it can be paralyzing and sometimes scary to deal with. Healing after the abuse can take a long time, and some people find themselves turning to unhealthy coping strategies such as eating issues, drugs, or alcohol. These strategies may offer momentary distraction but don’t help the victim lead a normal life in the long term.
It is possible to recover from narcissistic abuse with therapy. Specialist trauma therapy approaches tend to be the most effective at helping people who have complex PTSD. Some potentially effective therapy options include:
- Comprehensive Resource Model
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Internal Family Systems Therapy
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
- Somatic Experiencing
- Yoga and Meditation practices
Some people find they need to employ more than one recovery strategy. For example, yoga and meditation are useful for managing the symptoms of trauma and PTSD at the moment but don’t offer long-term healing. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or sensorimotor psychotherapy, can be employed as long-term healing mechanisms alongside those practices.
Get Help Today with Southern California Sunrise
Have you been a victim of narcissistic abuse or suffer PTSD from narcissistic abuse? If you would like to start the journey towards healing, consider treatment at a nearby therapy center. At Southern California Sunrise Recovery Center, we offer a variety of therapies and mental health treatments.
It helps people who have been the victim of narcissistic abuse take control of their lives once more. We have a variety of therapy options available to suit your circumstances and lifestyle.
Contact us today to learn more and book an initial consultation with a qualified therapist.