The Secret Language of Narcissists: How Abusers Manipulate their Victims.

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Society assumes that everyone has a conscience and the ability to empathize.

In fact, 1 in 25 people in the United States are estimated to be sociopaths, according to Harvard psychologist Martha Stout. Narcissists (those who meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder), sociopaths and psychopaths, speak in the language of crazy-making, of projection, of word salad, of gaslighting and of pathological envy.

While I will be focusing on narcissistic abusers in this post, keep in mind that all three are unable to empathize with others and frequently exploit others for their own agenda. If you encounter someone with narcissistic traits, they could very well fall towards the extreme end of the psychopathy spectrum and be a sociopath or psychopath.

Narcissistic and partners with Antisocial Personality Disorder engage in chronic manipulation and devaluation of their victims, leaving victims feeling worthless, anxious and even suicidal. This type of continual manipulation, which includes an idealization-devaluation-discard abuse cycle where they “lovebomb” their partners, devalue them through stonewalling, gaslighting, smear campaigns, verbal and emotional abuse, then discard them until the trauma begins again, also known as narcissistic abuse—abuse by a partner with NPD or on the far end of the narcissistic spectrum.

Their manipulation is psychological and emotionally devastating and very dangerous, especially considering the brain circuitry for emotional and physical pain are one and the same. What a victim feels when they are punched in the stomach can be similar to the pain a victim feels when they are verbally and emotionally abused, and the effects of narcissistic abuse can be crippling and long-lasting, even resulting in symptoms of PTSD or Complex PTSD. Needless to say, this type of abuse can leave psychological and emotional scars that can last a lifetime.

Yet what makes narcissistic abuse so dangerous is that it is often not recognized as abuse.

Mental health professionals are only now beginning to research and understand what Narcissist Victim Syndrome is, although survivors have been speaking about it for years. Narcissistic abuse is primarily psychological and emotional (though victims can suffer physical abuse as well) and since these abusers employ very covert and insidious methods to abuse their partners, they are able to escape accountability for the abuse because of the false persona they present to the outside world which is usually a charming mask that hides their cruelty.

Survivors often blame themselves for the abuse, not being able to put into words what they’ve experienced. Once they learn the vocabulary of narcissistic abuse, they are armed with the tools, the insights, and the resources to heal. Learning the language and techniques of these predators means that we are better prepared to identify the red flags when interacting with people who display malignant narcissism or antisocial traits and that we can better protect ourselves from exploitation and abuse. It means we can set appropriate boundaries with others, and make informed decisions about who we keep in our lives.

Understanding the nature of these toxic interactions and how they affect us has an enormous impact on our ability to engage in self-care. I personally know how devastating this type of abuse can be, especially when survivors are not able to speak of their experiences in the traditional discourse about what abuse entails and are often alienated and invalidated by friends, family members, and even mental health professionals who are not trained in this type of abuse. As a survivor, author, coach and a researcher, I’ve made it my mission to continue educating the public about the effects of narcissistic abuse, the techniques of narcissistic abusers, and the fact that healing from this type of abuse is possible.

These pathological individuals walk among us every day in their false masks, often unseen and unnoticed because of how eerily normal they are. They can be of any gender, background, and socioeconomic status. Often times, they are charming, charismatic, the life of the party, able to hook their victims in and dupe the public effortlessly. It’s very possible you’ve dated, worked with, had a family member or friend with Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder in your lifetime.

Learning their emotional language means acknowledging that their cruelty is not only explicit but implicit, deeply ingrained in nuances in their facial expressions, gestures, tones, and most importantly, the contradictory mismatch between their words and actions. Their cruelty is deliberate and designed to control and ultimately destroy their victims.

These types of abusers are fluent in manipulation, well-versed in sadism, in control and in rage. It is akin to psychological and emotional rape—a sordid violation of boundaries and of the trust the victim has given his or her abuser.

Narcissistic abusers can attack at any given moment, using their choice weapons of sarcasm, condescending remarks, name-calling, and blame-shifting whenever they perceive you as a threat or whenever they need entertainment in the form of an emotional reaction. They can also use their nonverbal language in the form of a sadistic smirk, the cold deadness in their eyes while professing their to love you, their bored, sulky looks or their cruel laughter to bully you into believing that you are inferior to them.

Survivors spend much of the devaluation phase of an abusive cycle (the phase where they are thrust off the pedestal, only to be demeaned and degraded) constantly on their toes, careful not to make a sound lest they incur the wrath of their narcissist. Yet walking on eggshells doesn’t help, as the narcissist can and will use anything and everything you’ve said or done against you.

There are three key pieces of information that narcissists frequently collect in the idealization phase of the relationship where they are first lovebombing and grooming you with excessive attention, that they later wield against you in the devaluation and discard phases in their special language of depravity:

1. The flaws, shortcomings, insecurities and secrets you’ve confided in the narcissist about.

The narcissistic abuser rejoices when you share your wounds, your struggles, and your triggers early on. It is then that much easier for them to get underneath your skin and inside of your mind. During the early stages of the relationship, you are likely to feel so trusting and open with a narcissist that you share everything with them: your past, your heartbreaks and what you perceive to be your flaws.

You may see this as a way of establishing rapport, a connection with your partner, a way of being vulnerable and intimate.  A narcissistic abuser sees it as dinner laying itself on the table. They will pretend to support you and empathize with you when you reveal these to them initially, but will later use these to provoke you, belittle you and demean you during the devaluation phase.

Remember: The narcissist has no limits as to what he or she will use, they thrive on the fact that you are being retraumatized. Their ability to make you regress right back into the original trauma with just one turn of phrase makes them feel powerful. And they live for that power, because it is the only power they have. To a narcissist, any open wound is an invitation to cut deeper and the narcissist can and always will cut a wound even deeper than the first.

2. Your strengths and accomplishments, especially the ones they are pathologically envious of.

Initially when you were on the pedestal, the narcissist couldn’t get enough of your strengths and accomplishments. They couldn’t stop raving about you to family and friends, showing you off, treating you like a trophy, an essential part of them. Their association with you inevitably made them feel superior and important. It bolstered their false image of being a normal human being who could get a “prize” like you.

In the devaluation phase, a narcissist will literally translate your strengths into perceived flaws. Once you were “confident and sexy,” but now you’re “cocky and vain.” Before, you were “intelligent and driven,” and now you’re just a “know-it-all” or a “a smartass.”

They gaslight you into believing that your value and worth are not real, all while projecting their own sense of inferiority onto you. They will degrade, minimize, and ignore what you accomplish, now acting as if it means nothing to them and as if it is of little importance or value to the world. They will feed you falsehoods about your lack of competence and ability. They will claim to be better at you, all the while stealing your ideas. They will taunt you into believing that you’re not capable of the smallest of tasks, even if you are out of their league professionally and personally. They will threaten to ruin your reputation and they will often sabotage major events as well as support networks you may have, attempting to turn everyone against you. They will trample upon your dreams, your aspirations, your beliefs, your personality, your goals, your profession, your talents, your appearance, your lifestyle – all the while extolling their own.

Their sudden turn of language takes a toll; it is traumatizing, shocking and unexpectedly vicious. Everything they once praised will inevitably be turned and twisted into a weakness. This is because they cannot stand you “winning” and being better than them at something. To them, everything is a competition and a game that they must win at all costs. They seek to destroy you in every way possible so that you, in turn, destroy and sabotage yourself—all the while they sit back, relax and watch the unraveling of everything you’ve worked hard for.

3. Your need to please them and their need to be perpetually dissatisfied.

The narcissist cultivated your need for his or her validation and approval early on in the idealization phase. By making you dependent on his or her praise, they conditioned you to seek the excessive admiration that only they could dole out. Now, as they devalue you, they use your need for validation to their advantage by withdrawing frequently, appearing sullen at every opportunity, and converting every generous thing you do for them as a failure on your part that falls short of their ludicrous expectations. Nothing can meet their high standards and everything wrong will be pointed out. In fact, even the things they do wrong shall be pinned on you.

Their blame-shifting language, passive-aggressive sulky behavior and narcissistic rage at the slightest injury becomes all-consuming for the victim, as the victim attempts to strengthen his or her efforts to meet the standards of the narcissist —standards which inevitably set the victim up for failure. For this, the victim is met with verbal assault, accusations and unfair comparisons which instill in him or her a pervasive sense of worthlessness and never being “enough.”

If the victim ever attempts to make the narcissistic abuser accountable for being a decent human being, they will lash out in rage, blaming them for the abuse and stonewalling the victim into silence. They love to have the last word, especially for the language they’ve created.

Taking back our control and power from a narcissistic abuser means going to war with the language they use against us. This means seeking validating, professional help for the abuse we’ve suffered, detaching from these people in our lives, learning more about the techniques of abusers, finding support networks, sharing our story to raise awareness and finding the appropriate healing modalities that can enable us to transcend and thrive after their abuse.

We can channel this experience of abuse for our highest good and for the greater good. We just have to be willing create in its place what I call a “reverse discourse”—a new language and a rewriting of the narrative that instead lifts us, motivates us, inspires us and revives us by replacing the narcissist’s cutting words with our own powerful truth.



Love Bombing: A Seductive & Manipulative Technique.

Why the World Needs Narcissists.



Author: Shahida Arabi

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: Stephanie Overton/Flickr

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About Shahida Arabi

Shahida Arabi is a graduate of Columbia University graduate school and the author of #1 Amazon Bestseller, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare: How to Devalue and Discard the Narcissist While Supplying Yourself as well as another bestselling book, The Smart Girl's Guide to Self-Care. She studied Psychology and English Literature as an undergraduate at NYU, where she graduated summa cum laude. Her interests include psychology, sociology, education, gender studies and mental health advocacy. Her blog, Self-Care Haven, has over 1.8 million views and has been endorsed by numerous mental health professionals, bestselling authors and award-winning bloggers. You can check out her blog, Self-Care Haven, for topics related to mindfulness, mental health, narcissistic abuse and recovery from emotional trauma, like her page on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.


87 Responses to “The Secret Language of Narcissists: How Abusers Manipulate their Victims.”

  1. Karo says:

    Thanks for the article. I have had some experience of the behaviour you have described, but I am not sure the man I am thinking of was a narcissist or not. He did put me on a pedestal and he did have a way of cutting me down sometimes, but we never got close beyond that and I cannot say that he changed his opinion about me. He simply put me on a pedestal and when he wasn’t interested anymore he just disappeared without any consideration for my feelings. It hurt a lot and I suffered a trauma, but I am not sure he would classify as a narcissist. I am still trying to work out what happened to me. Since my opinions were often devalued I am struggling to make sense of it all. Any feedback would be helpful.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Hi Karo, thank you for sharing your story. If you have experienced the deliberate cruelty (as in, they fed off your pain and would make sure to provoke you where it hurt) combined with a lack of empathy as described in the article, it is very possible your partner had narcissistic traits. On the other hand, if you feel this partner had the ability to empathize but simply did not want a close relationship, it could be emotional unavailability. Whether this partner had the full-fledged personality disorder is difficult to say without knowing too much about your full story and without learning the partner's full spectrum of behavior, which is often observed throughout the course of a very intimate, long-term relationship, although it can surface sooner. Many outsiders do not know who a narcissistic partner is behind the mask because they never get close enough to them for them to uncover the mask through devaluation and discard. What you experienced seems to be a brief portrait of this person, which means there can be something much deeper beneath the surface – the ways in which narcissists act in long-term, romantic relationships can be different from short-term ones, as the long-term relationship partner is often subject to a horrific cycle of abuse, while the short-term one can also have horrific abuse but the cycle is cut thankfully short. I am not sure if your relationship with the narcissist is a long-term or short-term one, but if you did not get too close to them, it's very possible you did not get the full picture of what he was really like – there could've been so much more trauma had he not disappeared. I often find that the way narcissists react to our emotions (callous indifference, especially when we are vulnerable or showing our emotions) is a telling sign of whether or not they lack empathy. It can take some time for that lack of empathy to be unmasked, as narcissists often wear a charming mask until their partner is sufficiently hooked. Narcissistic partners also engage in stonewalling, gaslighting, projection, triangulation and smear campaigns. You can read more about these techniques and narcissistic abuse in my other article, Five Powerful Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head:… I hope this helps!

  2. Kalonia says:

    This took all the thoughts I couldn’t shape and put them into perfect form. Having a vocabulary to use, in order to address the inner pain, helps a great deal. I’m starting to see how this is not just happening on an individual level, but a societal level as well. With those who have control over survival resources being the macro example of this type of abuse. And unlike asking the victim why they aren’t leaving, we ask ourselves, as victims of a social mindset, how we can help each other heal and grow from the trauma.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Hi Kalonia, you're absolutely right. Narcissistic abuse is a societal problem, especially with society invalidating this type of abuse and placing the focus entirely on the victim rather than the symptoms of trauma which makes it very difficult to heal from this type of abuse. It's important that we continue to raise awareness in the mental health professional community about this type of abuse so that survivors can connect to appropriate resources that enable them to identify what they've experienced, process it and heal from it. Many blessings to you!

  3. Morten says:

    It may be hard and unpleasant to recognize, but the so called abuser is exactly as much a victim as the so called victim.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      I do not agree with this. The victims of narcissistic abuse do not go out of their way to smear a narcissist's name, devalue them or harm them for a thrill; the narcissist does and often succeeds in destroying many facets of a victim's life without any empathy and very little remorse. Survivors collectively suffer a great deal more from the projections of the narcissist than the narcissist ever has in his or her original "narcissistic wound," if such a wound even exists. Additionally, while there are clinical theories about why NPD arises in an individual, there is actually still no definitive answer for the cause of this disorder – whether it be trauma or overvaluation by a parent of the child. We still do not know for certain what causes this disorder, so we cannot assume that every narcissist is a child of trauma (there may be narcissists who are taught a sense of entitlement by having everything handed to them in childhood, which is another plausible theory). If a narcissist is a victim of any form of childhood abuse, they should be actively seeking professional help, which a large majority of them do not because their behavior rewards their sense of entitlement and superiority. Victims of narcissistic abuse do not use their traumatic experiences as excuses to abuse others; many of them are the ones who end up getting professional help precisely because they wish to heal their wounds and not take out these wounds on others. I applaud anyone who has NPD and has enough self-awareness to seek help and treatment, but many of them do not, and continue to hurt others to gain supply. Their lack of willingness to seek treatment is intrinsic to their disorder, which is why I wrote this article because victims should be on the lookout for these types of abusive behaviors – more often than not, the abuser is unlikely to change.

    • Jenny Hannah says:

      I do see the value of considering the causes and conditions of what creates a narcissus. This article is definitely supportive of the victims of abuse and its intention to support this population appears to be very successful–it is thoroughly researched and holds a strong view in this arena. However, there IS a time and place (perhaps not within the forum of the victims), to raise the question of how narcissistic personalities are fostered and how many of those diagnosed with NPD have been given a diagnosis because they sought help. Can we really blame anyone for failing to have the awareness to seek help? Comparatively, that is like telling someone with with schizophrenia that they “should get a grip” on the consensus reality, which is unreasonable to expect considering they are literally incapable of doing so.

      If we expect others (i.e. narcissists) to be aware of their own projections, I feel we can take a look at our own–not to internalize another’s dysfunction or blame ourselves, but to examine the nature of how our projections may easily want to hold someone accountable. We often want the tidiness placing fault. However, both victims and abusers co-create a relationship of dis-ease, retriggering of trauma, and constant turmoil. One can make great progress in drawing boundaries with a narcissus, and that first step of knowing who owns which neurosis is profoundly empowering. Yet at the same time, we also need to be willing to look at the causes and conditions of both the victim and abuser in order to fully heal the issue. Examining one side of the relationship is of value only to that side, and it dismisses the systemic conditions from which the issue arises. As a society, with consideration to how we can develop awareness of NPD in mental health, I believe we can continue to consider the narcissist’s own issues, which may in part be choice, yet are largely due to early developmental conditions and attachment (as it pertains to primary relationships within the field of Psychology).

      • selfcarehaven says:

        I believe it is counterproductive to compare NPD to schizophrenia, as many self-professed narcissists and sociopaths do admit to enjoying the damage they do to others and feeling a sense of control/power when they do inflict that damage. These are two different conditions that should not be compared. Narcissistic abuse is often calculating, deliberate and designed to harm victims. An excellent book I recommend for survivors is Dr. Simon's In Sheep's Clothing, which dismantles this harmful stereotype that we should feel sympathy for our abusers – it is that sympathy that in fact allows them to manipulate and harm us further. In addition, a victim who recognizes and identifies the abusive tactics he or she is seeing is not "projecting" anything – they are calling out the abuse as they should. Perhaps "self-awareness" was not the right word to use, as many narcissists are deliberately calculating and they are unwilling to seek treatment precisely because their behavior does reward them. They are aware of their actions, but they do not have any sense of empathy towards their victims to care. I agree that the origin of NPD is a discussion for another article and that narcissism in society needs to be researched on a larger scale.

        This article was meant to provide support, validation and empowerment for abuse survivors. It's been all about narcissists for a long time for victims – I think it's their time and space to share their stories. I don't believe that an abuser and victim are equally at fault for abuse, nor will I ever subscribe to that idea. This idea of "co-creating" abuse is dangerous and verges on victim-blaming. You cannot "co-create" in a dysfunctional power imbalance of a relationship where the narcissist controls, brainwashes and abuses the survivor. There is a distinction between victim-blaming and owning our agency. A victim does not get involved with an abuser because she or he knows that person is a narcissist – he or she falls for the false mask, which is only uncovered once the victim has developed an emotional and psychological investment in the relationship. This creates trauma and biochemical bonds that keep the victim tethered to the abuser. What society still fails to understand is that an abusive relationship like this literally reshapes and rewires the brain, making it difficult to heal from the narcissistic abuse cycle. A survivor of this type of trauma needs a great deal of support, validation, knowledge and resources to move forward. An abuser is fully responsible for his or her actions and should be held fully accountable. Victims should own their agency by arming themselves with the knowledge of these abusive tactics, professional support and the appropriate self-care to heal from the abuse, but they are not responsible for the pathology of another person.

        • Kristyn says:

          Thank you so MUCH for the article and this reply. I am definitely going to check out your book as well as the suggested book Dr. Simon's In Sheep's Clothing. My husband hasn't been diagnosed as a Narcissist (because he REFUSES to go), but as a DV survivor and after being married to him and his seemingly Narcissistic personality for 20 years, to blame the victim and to feel sympathy for him is WRONG! He is in charge of HIS issues. Not I. His actions were totally emotionally abusive, controlling, and intentional. The damage that he did to our family was devastating. A majority of the damage was that he was so convincing at it being EVERYONE else's issues.

    • Daniel says:

      Have to agree with you Morten. Anyone who is that messed up has been a victim as well. It's a lonely, angry isolated place to live and I don't believe that believe happily choose to be there.

  4. Ellen says:

    This is the most comprehensive article, related to my life, that I have read. The need to be constantly dissatisfied is huge. The periods of extreme kindness until the rug gets pulled out from under your feet (again and again), the eggshells you try so hard to be gentle with as you tiptoe over them, the need they have to sabotage or take full credit for any accomplishment you have made, and the explosive and irrational anger as a tool to keep you in check. The passive aggressive isolation from any support network you may try to form…..

    Thank you for pointing out that not only is it possible to heal from this relationship, it is possible to create a new “reverse discourse” and begin to develop a new paradigm of wholeness.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Thank you Ellen. You described the dynamic of walking on eggshells and waiting for the next hit perfectly. Survivors spend a lifetime waiting – waiting for their abusers to change, waiting for the kindness to turn into cruelty, waiting for the next blow or hit in an attempt to avoid it or escape it, waiting for the right time to end the relationship. It is only when they stop waiting and start walking away that they begin to process what they've escaped and begin a journey back to wholeness. It is challenging to walk away, even more difficult to heal, but more than possible. Many blessings to you!

  5. Guest says:

    It's understandable you don't know if he was or not. I often don't know if I am or not but all the characteristics are there. It's like a game I play with myself that I never signed up to play and most of the time don't know I am playing it until after the fact. People assume we want to be this way because the outcome is typically getting what we want or making someone do something they don't want to do. Some look at the intelligence behind it as a gift. It does take a lot of intelligence among other things and not all good. It's far from a gift. How do you use this for good when the tendency for self gain is bred into us so deep. I call it an unwanted power and it truly is a power. A very powerful one and at the end of the day I just want to be normal.

    I think this was a great article and you do have a great understanding of it for the most part. There are two sides to every story and maybe my story is different then others. I can only speak for myself. I don't claim to be a victim of this power. I can't claim anything. I just know if I had a choice I would not be this way. Call me weak or just stupid. I can't argue for or against that. I don't have all the answers. Just know I could make you believe you have them and it's not something i'm proud of. I just want to wrap my head around around it.

  6. G says:

    Great Article, I notice this topic is popping up around a lot lately. I have encountered a few narcissists. I even had an encounter with a narcissist that started calling other’s narcissist and gaining sympathy for a narcissist she encountered I think narcissism is going on a very big scale and getting a little ugly and people are starting to wake up and not want to walk on egg shells around each anymore each. I think narcissism slide’s through many relationships and friendships on daily. The upside to narcissism it help other’s build person strength, love and self awareness. I think another issue with narcissism is that people have been trapped in vanity for to long.

  7. Brett says:

    Is it possible for someone that is a victim of Narcissistic abuse to become narcissistic as a result and is there anything that can be done to bring them back to the way they were? Thanks.

  8. Lilly says:

    Incredible article. I’ve read so much on this subject and it wasn’t until after I left the relationship and started learning about it, that I realized what horrible mess I was in. I am still now feeling the traumatic effects after a year of leaving his grasp. I thank you for putting into the words to explain my pain. Where can I read/learn more with literature you recommend.

  9. Brett says:

    Is it possible for a victim of narcissistic abuse to become narcissistic as a result and if so is there anyway to help them return to their former self?

  10. Janice says:

    How does this apply to the way siblings/children treat each other when growing up? I have two older sisters, who treated me like an emotional punching bag when we were children. And if I got upset about it and went to my parents, I got no sympathy at all. One reason was because my oldest sister, being the first born, was my mother's favorite child (even though she didn't obviously demonstrate it), and she would never scold that sister for anything she did (no matter how mean). The other sister would get in trouble because she was often do things none of us were supposed to do. And when she got in trouble, she took it out on me.

    I'm finally realizing after all these years that the way I was treated by my sisters is the reason I am so insecure and unsure of myself and have actually never been able to have a successful relationship with men. I also told my oldest sister several years ago that when we were growing up, I thought she hated me. She was horrified, and completely denied it. But it didn't cancel out all the harsh behavior she threw at me.

    So I'm very curious how your article may apply to what I've described … if it even does.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Hi Janice, thanks for your comment! Narcissistic abuse can happen in any context, whether it's family, friendship, a relationship or the workplace. In family situations where one or both parents are narcissistic, their children are seen as objects/trophies and are subject to narcissistic rage if the children dare to live independent lives outside of the control of their parents. One child can be made to be the scapegoat or the black sheep of the family while the other sibling is the "Golden Child." Family members who are the scapegoat are devalued and endure smear campaigns while the golden child is placed on a pedestal and idealized. In the case of siblings, if a sibling is narcissistic, they will do everything in their power to devalue and sabotage the sibling that threatens them. While this post was focused on romantic relationships, it can happen throughout various contexts and scenarios.

  11. Aly says:

    Hello Shahida,

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I finally feel like someone understands what I went through. Reading this has brought a lot of old hurt up particularly how I isolated and misunderstood I felt. I experienced everything you mentioned from step 1 to 3 and by the time he was finished with me I was suicidal, isolated from my family and friends, and I didn’t know who I was because I couldn’t understand my own erratic behavior. He is a doctor and therefore felt he had the right to diagnose me with every psychological disorder available because initially I had shared some childhood traumas with him. I normally never did but something about him compelled me to, as if it was wrong not to share. Later he used this information to tell me I was crazy, troubled, severely emotionally stunted, ect. When I told him I was having suicidal thought I saw excitement in his eyes. He ran out of the room to make a call. He used my pain to get his doctor friends to prescribe heavily controlled prescriptions to feed his own addictions. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. He paraded my suffering and blamed it on homesickness. I’m a deeply private person so this was particularly difficult for me to be so exposed. He was charming and social and appeared to be very happy but the moment the curtains were down his face would turn dead, indifferent. Even in my state it was fascinating to watch that severe transformation. When I confronted him about his behavior he would proudly say things like “It’s not like I hit you”. When we would go to events, just before we would arrive, he would pick a fight with about something silly and tell me how I make other people feel uncomfortable and how it’s very embarrassing for him. The event would be ruined because I would be upset and paranoid about what people were saying about me so I would isolate myself further. I was a very outgoing and social before I met him but slowly I developed severe social anxieties and a speech impediment. When he looked at me with these cold, dead, disapproving eyes everything inside of me shut down. He used money in particular to control me but a month after I got a job making almost as much as him he cheated on me and broke up with me. He tried to control me after that as well but once I was out of his grips I slowly started to piece myself together. I’ve never experienced that level of cruelty, it was difficult to realize what was happening to me. I just want to thank you so much for writing this and making me feel a little bit saner as to what happened to me.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Aly, I am so sorry to hear you went through this. Thank you for being so brave and sharing your story. Unfortunately what society doesn't realize is that many narcissists and sociopaths can hide themselves in helping professions to extract narcissistic supply. The narcissist's false mask gaslights and dupes the public as well as the victim initially. Narcissists use our past wounds against us, compounding those wounds with new ones they manufacture to retraumatize us and destabilize us. It is sick and cruel – no human being deserves to be treated this way. Anyone can be a narcissist or a sociopath. I am happy to hear you gained validation from this article. Many blessings to you and your journey to healing…sending virtual hugs your way.

  12. RB says:

    I am married for 17 miserable yes with 2 young girls & trying to leave. He is cruel, a compulsive liar, gaslighting, manipulative, non communicative ( he single mindedly talks only about what he wants) & has been abusive in every possible way in private but I don’t know how to control my reactions & am guilty of screaming in rage & have been violent. He has always used this to show others that he is the victim & has successfully explained away atleast 6 yrs of neglect, abandonment etc. by doing this. My life seems hopeless & I just try to do my best one day at a time but am constantly afraid. How do I expose him & is it at all possible to explain my reactions to the people he has turned against me ?

  13. Eva says:

    Coming from someone who’s mother is a NPD, this was an insightful article. I always knew something was wrong ( was not brought to my attention through counseling) that how she treated me was wrong- but of course, nobody else saw what I saw! It’s very tough when having a parent, especially a mother as one- due to it being such a taboo in society that it totally shreds to pieces what normal society constitutes as a “mom.” It’s only fitting that I came across this ironically on my birthday today. Thank you for the work you’re doing- but please don’t forget to be especially emphatic that even mothers can be real live monsters, because sadly so many people excuse this behavior and justify it in their lives because it’s their mom. I feel as though people look down on me and find it hard to comprehend why i wouldn’t or don’t have her In my life.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Hi Eva, thank you for sharing your story. I agree there can be societal taboo in detaching from narcissistic parents, but it must be done. Whether parent, friend, lover, partner, sibling – a toxic person is still a toxic person. While it is not the focus of this particular article, I speak a great deal in my videos and books regarding the impact of narcissistic parenting and I understand your pain. Sending much love, light and many blessings your way <3.

    • Dharma in Heels says:

      I agree! When everyone on the outside loves a parent you know is abusive, it makes things so much harder. You look like a spoiled brat and your feelings never get validated. My stepmother of over 30 years died a few years ago, and people still tell me all these stories about how wonderful she was and all the thoughtful things she did to them. She never did any of those things for members of her own family. It is so hard to wince through that and listen without chiming in. But I'm better now.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Eva, I feel you, girl. Same boat here, only my mother is a Borderline – BPD, NPD, and Psychopaths are grouped together as the unholy dark triad of Cluster B personality disorders, because they share the most destructive of all traits, lack of empathy. I cut mine off too. The lack of validation and understanding from other people does suck – especially from extended family, aunts & uncles, etc – but what I actually find sucks a lot more was not having a proper mother who's able to look after you, and to share experiences with, and learn from, and have a relationship with. Having one that's a complete horror is probably worse than having none at all. So that's what I grieve, the mom I didn't have. Bit heartbreaking.

  14. Matin says:

    Finally!!! Someone has put into words something I couldn’t…… Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

    I sufferred at the hands of a Narcissist for over 10 years and still do to this day but thankfully from a distance. Unfortunatley for me she now has her claws into our two children manipulating them anyway she sees fit. Its like watching a Tiger play with its food before going in for the final kill! The worst part is I can do nothing about it. Thank you for a wonderful article its nice to know I’m not alone.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Thank you Matin. You're definitely not alone. There are survivors all over the world just like you. I am glad you have distanced yourself from your narcissist, although I know it must be painful to witness the manipulation of your children even from afar. The most you can do in that situation is be the best parent you can be and be the role model of love and unconditional positive regard that they deserve to have. Many blessings to you and your children <3.

  15. CJ Harris says:

    Hey this is a very informative and eye opening article, however it doesn’t not state whethe or not people suffering with NPD can be helped or where such help can be found. Can you give me some guidance ? I think the reason why there are so many victims is because of the lack of awareness and the fact that victims accept the treatment and adapt. I will share this with as many as I can. Thanks

  16. @fuseboo says:

    Thank you , Thank you, Thank you!!!! Finally someone has put into words something that I could not. Having been on the recieving end of a narcissist for the best part of ten years it makes a nice change to see that my experience is recognised by so many people. Unfortunatley my ex now has her claws into my two children manipulating them at will. It is like watching a tiger play with her food waiting for the final blow to finish them off and leaving them with no choice but to break off all contact from me. It is sustained abuse no more, no less and until this is recognised by the authorities here in the UK it leaves victims powerless to do anything about it. Thank you again and #stayawesome

    • selfcarehaven says:

      I know it must be painful to witness the manipulation of your children even from afar. The most you can do in that situation is be the best parent you can be and be the role model of love and unconditional positive regard that they deserve to have. Continue to raise awareness about this important issue – survivor voices are beginning to be heard and recognized all around the globe. The mental health professional community is also waking up to this type of insidious abuse. Many blessings to you and your children <3.

  17. Rich says:

    Thank you for so eloquently writing this! I didn’t want to believe it, but I am now 100% convinced that one of my roommates is NPD. After walking on eggshells for months, the abuse has slowly escalated, and I recently suffered my first anxiety attack, which was horrible and extremely foreign to me. If my apartment and the rest of the roommates weren’t so amazing I would simply move out, but I have worked extremely hard to get where I am, and that isn’t an option. I have given up hope of rehabilitating her (she always perceives it as an attack and uses it against me), so the ideal situation would be to get HER to move out. What do you believe is the best way to make this happen? Or do you think it’s just something I need to learn to live with, and simply keep my distance? Any and all feedback is super appreciated.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      When living with a narcissist/forced to interact with one, it is best to minimize the number of interactions you have as much as possible and implement the Gray Rock Method whenever you do have to interact. This means you become boring supply for the narcissist. Any emotional reaction he or she attempts to stir up in you, you simply do not react. You become like a rock, indifferent. Over time, this lack of reaction tends to force the narcissist to seek more interesting supply (see more info here:…. Note: This is not an ideal method to use in romantic relationships unless you're co-parenting with a narcissist because Gray Rock is only meant for situations where interacting with the narcissist is unavoidable and is not meant to prolong a relationship with a narcissist/sociopath. Full No Contact should be the aim for anyone wishing to sever ties with their narcissistic partner/friend/family member.

  18. Linda says:

    my daughter married a guy like that, she will not have anything to with her family or friends, since she has married him. He has brain washed and degraded her and pribabably still does. I pray for her every day to come back to reality .. no connection at all . No phone, no car, no facebook communication at all. She even puts down her own family that ever loved her and still does abd misses her terribly. Please , beware of these people . Thank you for sharing this interesting article.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      I am so sorry to hear that Linda. Unfortunately, many survivors of abuse can be socially isolated by their partners and even further isolate themselves out of shame, cognitive dissonance and trauma bonding (akin to what happens in Stockholm syndrome) due to the abuse. It can take time before there is an awakening. I hope with all my heart that your daughter is able to escape this situation and seek the help she needs to heal. Many blessings to you and your family <3.

  19. Luis Ismael Arenaza Cruz says:

    I went away for a year and went I got released, I ran head on unto a brickwall, everything in me life that was going wrong was me fault, everything described in the article fits HER to a tee ,I have gotten so angry that all o could do rationally was just to turn around and walk away, I didn’t know who this woman was or why I was allowing this person to talk to me this way, but the truth was that I was under her spell because of the inside and private information she knew about I that I thought why is she so vicious and cruel, while seeing her face glowing with the pleasure she gotten by watching I being abused, I am not happy I’m not the only one going thru this but I’m happy that we recognized our problem and their is data backing up our ordeal and that the symptoms are there to be able to do something about it

    Now I finally cut the shackles that held me mind for so many years and the way I see it it’s their problems from now on NOT MINE! !!!!

    IS THEIR PROBLEM NOT OURS, don’t ever change who you are. …..

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Agreed, Luis! Once we've seen the truth and have begun breaking the spell, we can finally start to release ourselves from the prison of carrying their pathology as our burden. This is their problem to deal with, not ours – our duty to ourselves requires us to set healthy appropriate boundaries, detach, cut ties as much as possible according to the situation and engage in our own self-care. Many blessings to you and your healing journey!

  20. Sara says:

    Thanks for writing about this, it seems that more people are starting to understand this phenomenon . . . but not fast enough, especially when children our involved in a divorce situation.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Thank you Sara. I agree, this type of abuse is not as well-known as it should be and the effects of emotional and psychological trauma are deeply underestimated in our society, which makes it difficult for those who are co-parenting or divorcing a narcissist. As survivors and mental health professionals trained in narcissistic abuse begin to speak out more to raise awareness, a revolution is slowly stirring. By continuing to raise our voices, we can collectively make a change. Thank you for your comment!

  21. Hannah says:

    I feel it's important to state that the narcissist is typically not aware of the extent of what they are doing; they've obviously suffered trauma in their life and do this as a way to maintain a sense of control because their inner life is so out of control. It's by no means okay to do this, but the article seems to read as if the narcissist has complete knowledge of his/her actions and what he/she is doing. I feel fortunate that after spending four years with someone with this label, I've been able to understand more of the effects of childhood trauma and have gained more of an understanding of the potential whys behind the action.

    • Aly says:

      Hi Hannah,
      I was in this type of relationship and a year after the break up and educating myself on what happened I decided to see a therapist who specializes in this type of behavior. Her take on it is that they are fully aware of the pain they inflict on others and this is what feeds their egos. I'm close with my ex's sister who claims he was sadistic and abusive towards her from a very young age and that they've had what most would consider a normal childhood. She's also a psychologist and struggles to understand what caused this in him as there are no evident traumas. I'm just curious as to why you think they're not aware of this behavior.

  22. nicole says:

    I feel like my boyfriend is a sociopath. He does not have empathy, he doesn’t feel as if his actions affect others in any way, he is emotionless in times that most people would be emotional, he has no sympathy and no consideration. Most of the time. Then there are times where it SEEMS like he cares and understands or wants to understand. I don’t think he sees any issues with the above mentioned things. He gets upset when I am hurt or sad but his lack of emotions. We’ve been together for just over 3 Years but I am to the point I need emotional connection, he doesn’t get why I need it. I think he may need some help but I doubt he will.

  23. Nicole says:

    I am dating someone who I think is a sociopath. He has no empathy or sympathy. He doesn't think his actions affect anyone. He hardly shows caring or consideration. I think he need some help but I doubt he'll get it. He seems to get upset if I am hurt or sad over something. Then he just stares at me blankly if I am overwhelmed or distraught ot having a break down. I don't think he understands emotional comnections. It hurts.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Thank you for sharing your story Nicole. A lack of empathy and an inability to sympathize with your feelings is a clear sign of narcissism. Narcissists rarely seek out treatment, because their behavior rewards them and they do not wish to change. It is very painful to be with someone like that and I highly recommend detaching before getting even more invested. Their actions are damaging and the trauma can last a lifetime. Hugs and blessings to you, warrior <3

      • Nicole says:

        Thanks, I am working on my self esteem and self worth. Realizing I am worth someone connecting with me emotional. I try to not let his lack of emotions break me down too much. I have made it to the point where my caring is lessen each day. This article had a lot of good info in it.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Sounds more like autism than anything, which used to get misdiagnosed as sociopathy until the 90's. Relationships with them are always destructive, and even friendships are dangerous. Right across the spectrum, they're immature, self-centered, and emotionally unstable. They, too, lack empathy. They're not all evil, per se, and some are quite pleasant at a distance, but at best they're deeply disconnected and unsatisfying to be involved with, and at worst, they're nightmares.

      Regardless, run, run the f*cking wind. And don't be swayed into "Autism Acceptance" by the PC Bullsh*t Police.

  24. reader says:

    I, too, have a narcissistic mother. Maybe sociopath, too. She has never been nice or caring to me, but yes does brag about me to others as a way of reflecting glory onto herself. Often if I tell her news about my life, it is met with silence. Never has she bought me a birthday or Christmas gift that was chosen with care, for example, usually she gives me something she no longer has use for. Of course, I have learned to tell her very little. I am 65 and she is 94. I have had minimal contact with her most of my life but now I find myself assuming (large) financial responsibility for her, paying for her to live in Assisted Living, taking her to doctor appointments, etc. I should have walked away decades ago. I kept a connection because I didn’t want to deprive her of her grandchildren. That was a mistake. She never forged good relationships with them either. I have no feelings for her and don’t fall for her manipulative tricks, but I can’t in good conscience walk away now because there is no one else, and I am trapped in a terrible situation. I want to say to others: WALK AWAY WHILE YOU CAN AND DON’T LOOK BACK.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Thank you reader for sharing your story and your insights. I am so sorry you are trapped in this difficult and heartbreaking situation. Blessings to you. Please take care of yourself during this time and do as much as possible to show yourself self-love and self-compassion. <3

  25. Albert Sigman says:

    I understand the crux of the argument here but I think this article overly victimizes / blames two people in a relationship. Relationships are messy, it sounds like alot of these descriptions are just people acting with human nature, being immature or stubborn or envious. These are human traits that can be worked out. Instantly jumping to a conclusion that “you are a narcissist!” is not only dangerous but is counterproductive in the human effort to get along.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Emotional, verbal and psychological abuse will never be, and should never be, considered part of the messy equation of a normal relationship. As both mental health professionals and survivors can attest to, the traumatic highs and lows of being with a narcissist, a sociopath or a psychopath are not the normal highs and lows of regular relationships. That suggestion is quite damaging to society. The abuse described here is not a matter of everyday envy, it is a matter of a person with a real-life personality disorder subjecting a victim to chronic devaluation, control, sabotage and disrespect. It is also not a matter that can be "worked" out, as narcissists rarely ever change because their manipulative behavior rewards them. If you do not understand this predatory personality and seek to sympathize with them rather than detach, rest assured that there will be harm done. The manipulation is cruel, deliberate and the trauma lasts a lifetime. Please read the article carefully and read the links provided as they grant the insight to anyone who does not understand narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse.

      For survivors and anyone questioning how deliberate their manipulation is, I also recommend reading the following books about these predators: In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George Simon, Jr. Ph.D; The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout; Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare, Ph.D; Women Who Love Psychopaths by Sandra Brown, M.A; The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us by Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed; Narcissistic Lovers: How to Cope, Recover, and Move On by Cynthia Zayn and M.S. Kevin Dribble; Malignant Self-Love by Sam Vankin; Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas; Psychopath Free by Peace, It's All About Him by Lisa E. Scott; Help! I'm in Love with a Narcissist by Steven Carter and Julia Sokol.

    • @shebbops says:

      I don't think the label narcissist is even necessary, although it is possible that all narcissists are abusers. Even so, using the term is soft soaping the real issue. which is abuse and those who tolerate it. Abuse isnt part of a normal relationship. It isn't messy, its devastating. It isn't human nature unless human nature is immature, stubborn, possessive, demanding, belittling, accusatory, threatening, manipulative, or on the flip side, feels guilty, fearful, unworthy, walks on eggshells, appeases, etc. Abuse is about power & control, NOT about working things out for mutual satisfaction.

  26. Wendi says:

    I am so grateful for this information… you all go ahead and try and correct each other and disagree… but keep talking… it just brings more to light for me. 25+ years… my life in wreckage.. so big … I could never quite put a name to any of it… other than abuse… but there were cycles… predictable, regular cycles.. gaslighting… oh God. I allowed myself to be a human crutch for a horribly cruel and heartless person. My tormenter was (and is ) a Pro. Triangulation, narcissistic psychopath…. exactly. Thank you for writing and talking about this… how the hell did I give my life to this… I need council ing. Are there support groups? I got here through Facebook … and thank you ONE AND ALL

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Blessings to you Wendi. There are support groups for narcissistic abuse survivors all over Facebook and some real life support groups through depending on where you live. I also recommend looking up the following websites: Psychopath Free, After Narcissistic Abuse (ANA) and

  27. Janssen Kuhn says:

    You left out a key term – borderline. Borderline Personality Disorder, as I’m sure you know, is very close to NPD. The key difference is the BPD lacks the strong false identity. I wish their were a term that encapsulated both; maybe APD. Anyway, I mention this because many survivors of BPD may overlook this vital article.

  28. Ina says:

    I'm wondering, why does the behavior of the narcissist have to "deliberate"? It seems to me that that individuals who behave abusively often are convinced they are the ones being hurt. I work with many clients who come in with histories of being narcissistic abuse victims and then unwittingly spend their therapy treating me (the therapist) exactly the way they were treated. Isn't this the source of the behavior—that someone had been treated this way by others?

    This is unfortunately what makes this topic so difficult. To truly end the behavior, the victim has to acknowledge the narcissistic abuser inside of themselves. A narcissistic abuser also has the potential to play the role of a victim, depending on the context of who they're with; these two poles–victim and victimizer– are flip sides of the very same types of beliefs about the self. This is uncomfortable and many of my clients would rather spend therapy only speaking about how horrific the abuser was. The elephant in the room is the looming question–what beliefs about yourself attracted you to such a person? The same kind of blindspot seems to be reflected in the media on the topic—t's always about the cruel narcissist and never about those parts of ourselves that feel too "ugly" to speak about. And yet, not every person would fall in with a narcissistic abuser. These ugly parts need to be named if they are to be worked through.

    • Lisa says:

      I think that you have a good point here. "The blind spot", I can relate to that because I believe that I am the victim of a narcissistic relationship and have been in therapy for 6 months now following a very distressing experience. He did agree to couple counselling and on the few occasions he attended the counsellor made comments like "….. you are clearly not listening to each other…." This validated him and devalued my belief in myself further than he had already done but the question is what was he feeding me? There already existed within me something's that I don't like about myself and perhaps I allowed him the "ugly" task of tapping in on them so that I could dissociate from disliking myself. Wow – this is a complicated subject!!! I shall take this to my counsellor this week and maybe get back to you on the outcome.

  29. Nancy says:

    I spent 15 long miserable years being tormented, married to a narcissist. My children and I suffered greatly. It took great strength & family support to leave my sitiatuon. It took 2 years to realize I wasn't crazy. The emotional & psychological abuse was so scarey every day. I was so glad to read this article and have a clear understanding of the abuse we endured. By the end, I didn't leave the house, I cried everyday, I wasn't allowed to talk to my friends or family if he was home, and really became very introverted as a result of the abuse. I've been divorced 12 yrs now, the scars remain & he still attempts to degrade me through social media & friends, but he is remarried & his wife is equally as cruel as he is. He is blocked from my phone & my social media ,as is his wife. My now husband of 3 yrs has all the same signs that I started noticing about 2 yrs ago. The abuse has become more psychologically damaging this past year. 2 of my children were killed in 2 different states,one by a hit and run, and one was murdered in his home…all in the past 4 months. I'm a wreck to say the least, but what's been equally devastating is the lack of empathy from my husband. I actually think he's jealous of the "attention" I've recieved because my children were killed. After reading this article I realize that I must do what's best for myself and leave this volatile situation before it destroys me. Thank you so much for giving me the words to describe this abuse. Knowing this will help me find the way to recovery on so many levels.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Nancy. I am so sorry for your losses and I cannot imagine how deeply painful and horrific that must be. My heart is breaking as I read your story. You are so very strong, warrior. What you've gone through is something no one should ever have to go through and I am so very sorry that your present husband is showing the same signs. Please do everything you can to get out while you still can and save your life – do it in the way that is safest for you, and please tell someone if you haven't already, who you trust and believe would be validating and supportive, even if it is just a supportive counselor who specializes in trauma and abuse. You do not deserve this cruelty, nor this abuse. You deserve to live a life of freedom, love, and light. You deserve so much happiness and you are SO, so, so strong and resilient. I don't think there are many people who could have gone through what you have and have survived. You are beautiful, precious, valuable, and so is your life. Sending so much love, prayers and blessings your way <3.

  30. Sam says:

    This rings so true to my situation. It has become a more and more intense cycle over the last couple of months. The overwhelming and amazing hours of bliss, then the devaluation – whatever I do and no matter how careful I am, I always manage to do something wrong…then a big fight, the cold shoulder, the name-calling, the rage come… I cry but there is no emphaty…which enrages and hurts me all at once. Why do I allow myself to be treated like this? Then I need to wait for forgiveness though I still believe I haven't done anything wrong. And when we make up, it's so amazing! I find myself giving up my hobbies and losing friends….I am inlove and live for those moment of bliss…I cannot walk away. Even if rationally I realize there is a way out, I am emotionally and thus physically unable to break away because despite the pain, I don't want this to end!
    I am even scared of writing this, this is all part of the "walking on eggshells" I suppose!
    I know it's my choice… I just can't come to terms with this reality. I have never felt so strongly about someone… it's like two different people – the kindest, most loving person in the world; and the cruel one that sometimes scares me. 🙁
    I just always hope for the better…

  31. MIchael says:

    Great article. I have been living almost exactly what you described. My partner is a psychologist and has self-diagnosed as not having a problem – I bought into the diagnosis that I had psychological problems. I left the relationship about 3 months ago and have started the recovery process. I had no idea how deep a hole I was in – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

    Really important to get the word out. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t think anyone would believe. Outside our relationship she presented as perfectly normal. If I had told her family how she behaved with me they would have called me a liar, because they never saw any of it. I was embarrassed to tell my family. I was so beaten down, I couldn’t even think about leaving – I didn’t have the mental/emotional resources to even make a plan to leave. Thankfully, after repeated threats from my partner, I finally told my sister, who is a mental health worker, and she was able to support me in leaving the situation.

    Until I read this article, I thought my parter had BPD, but now reading this, I think she has traits of both. What are the key difference between BPD and NPD?

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Hi Michael, while BPD and NPD have some overlap in symptoms (for example, excessive rage, interpersonal dysfunction and need for external validation), there are clinical distinctions between the two. Primarily, they differ on three things:

      1) The degree to which they are capable of experiencing empathy and other emotions. Due to their overwhelming emotions, BPD individuals are capable of empathizing with others' mental and emotional states, even though they are often so absorbed in their emotions they find it difficult to get out of their own pain to see the pain of others which is why they require treatment. In fact, research has shown them to be more discerning than the average person <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>( On the other hand, NPD individuals feel a very limited range of emotions apart from excessive rage and envy. They feel a sense of emotional numbness and often exhibit a flat affect apart from their charismatic false mask. It is this perpetual boredom and numbness that causes them to seek, manipulate and destroy supply for excitement – whether the attention is negative or positive, it satisfies that need.

      2) Their motivations for their manipulative behavior. NPD individuals get a rush out of manipulating supply because it feeds their false sense of grandiosity and superiority. BPD individuals are motivated by an excessive fear of abandonment. While NPD individuals are more likely to manipulate and devalue their victims to bolster their own self-image, BPD individuals are more likely to manipulate as a way to avoid abandonment. BPD individuals may make suicidal threats or attempts as a way of expressing their excessive emotions and to prevent their partners from leaving them. This is of course incredibly upsetting and traumatizing for partners of individuals with BPD. NPD individuals on the other hand do not tend to self-injure (unless you count their various addictions) and prefer to harm their victims as a way to feel powerful, special and unique (a belief that is part of their diagnostic criteria:

      3) Their responsiveness to treatment. As of today, NPD individuals are unlikely to seek treatment and the few that attend therapy often terminate it due to narcissistic injury. BPD individuals on the other hand are often hospitalized for self-injury and suicidal attempts or seek out therapy as relief from their symptoms. Many of them undergo DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) where they learn emotion regulation techniques as well interpersonal effectiveness techniques.

      Abuse is still abuse regardless of whether a person has NPD or BPD and the harm from both is real, but discussing these differences can help to contextualize the different behaviors involved. In addition, trauma therapist Pete Walker discusses how individuals with Complex PTSD can be misdiagnosed as having BPD which makes this issue even more complicated. These disorders can also be comorbid, so your partner may display symptoms of both NPD and BPD. It's important to also acknowledge that there can be a gender bias when it comes to BPD and NPD – the majority of diagnosed narcissists are male – but since there are so many survivor accounts of female narcissists as well (especially narcissistic mothers), I personally believe that many female narcissists may be diagnosed as borderline or histrionic due to this gender stereotype of women's emotions being seen as "hysterical" and overemotional versus male rage being normalized.

      Hope that helps. You may also wish to read, "A Biosocial Development Model of Borderline Personality" here:

      *If survivors are in any type of abusive relationship, regardless of the specific disorder, please consult a mental health professional who specializes in abuse and can provide you with support for your own self-care. It's important to for you to seek validating, trauma-informed care during this time.

      • michale says:

        Thank you for listening and responding – I appreciate the comprehensive reply and links to further reading. I am no longer in the relationship – the diagnosis of my partner is of less importance than my recovery – however, I do still find I want validation for my experiences – basically validation that I am not crazy – those things happened and I didn't cause them. So it helps me to read and understand the traits of both NPD and BPD.

        I have been working with trauma-specialized counsellors, however, I realize I have been diminishing the abusiveness of my ex-partner (still protecting her to some degree). I plan on discussing this article with my counsellor and highlighting the areas that resonate with my experience (which are many).

        Thank you

  32. JEP says:

    Married for 20 years…I believe my ex husband and his mother were narcissistic. I went through much therapy during the ugly divorce. Now my daughter displays similar behavior. It has heen tremendously painful, difficult and heartbreaking. I still shudder remembering the emotional abuse even though the marriage ended 15 years ago,

    • selfcarehaven says:

      I am so sorry you went through that, JEP. What you've gone through, for such a long duration of time, is highly traumatizing and painful. The fact that your daughter is now exhibiting similar traits is just as heartbreaking. I hope that you are able to refocus on your own self-care and healing. It is hard when we see these traits in the people that we love and care about and often we get so consumed by the idea of fixing them that we forget to take care of ourselves. We cannot fix a person who does not wish to heal, we can only begin the process of healing ourselves. Sending virtual hugs your way and many blessings to you and your healing journey.

  33. Alison Greene says:

    Thank you. I just got out of a relationship 3 weeks ago that I was in for 2 years. I just realized he is an abuser. I reached out to his ex, and we have almost the same exact story. He is now in a relationship with someone else and I can see he’s already doing the same thing to her. He is a very charming guy and most people think he’s a good guy. People are shocked to hear what he has done to me. Even after the break up, he still tried to get into my head. He was telling me that all my friends would blow me off and that he was the only person who would be there for me. Funny, he was dating this new girl for two weeks. He would still come over to my house, yes he was that good at the mind game. My friends kept telling me to just ignore him? But he knew how to push my buttons to get a reaction to me. He didn’t want me to leave. He wanted me to stay on the back burner. When he started dating, he would drop everything and take them to do alot. I asked him why he did that for then when I’d asked him for the past few months for that. He’s reply was he’s courting, once he gets them it’ll stop. He use to tell me I was crazy, mental and insane. I was taking medication and really thought it was making me into a different person. After he’s been out of my life, the meds aren’t causing me to be like that. I think it was being with him. He would not look at me the way a man would look at his girl of two years. It was like I wasn’t there. He also used what my ex before him would do. He say the same things. He knew that was my weakness. Before I got into a relationship with him, I was this confident person. I could walk into a situation and adapt. Now, I have no confidence. I told him at the beginning of our relationship that I didn’t think he was interested in me after our first date.. throughout the entire relationship, he told me that he had always thought I was cute or pretty. When we broke up, he told me that he had thought I was unattractive and was not interested but had spent so much time o me that he thought what the heck… that right there did so much more damage then ever. He used that to get to me. He knew that was my weakness and for some reason I have no idea, I still allowed him to come around. He took more from me them I would have ever imagine. He told me that he was over me. However, I went out with a long time friend this past Wednesday evening for dinner. My ex thought I was on a date. He blew up my phone with text messages. When he didn’t get the response he wanted, he put a fake ad for a phone on Craigslist putting my number on there. I told him I was just giving the people his number. He told me good, so he can tell them what a crazy mental person I was. Just like his new girl message me on facebook yesterday asking if me and him had saw each other recently. Whe. I told her the truth and she asked him about it, he told people that I was starting drama with his girl.. it’s like ok, your girl messaged me first, but times. I’m pretty sure he’s manipulated the story wuth her as well. I have since blocked his girl from facebook. I refused to be in tbeir drama any longer. I’m in the healing process. My best friend is very supportive. Talking with her has helped. I know I have no self esteem. I’m almost 40 lbs lighter from the day I met him and I had more self esteem and confidence then I do now. In some ways, I’m afraid to even begin to date, because I don’t know if the person is interested or lying to I don’t know how to be intimate. They take that away to. Months of no attention from cuddling to kissing passionately. It sounds funny but that is going through my mind right now. I didn’t reloaded it was abuse until just this past week.. thank you for this article. I actually shared it with his ex.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Hi Alison, you have been through the narcissistic abuse experience to a tee. Any person reading this article should look to your story as an example of what this type of horrific abuse cycle is like – from the idealization to devaluation, the constant triangulation and keeping you as supply while pursuing new supply – projecting onto you his own pathology and illness, using your past wounding of your ex's words against you, the excessive sense of entitlement, ownership and control he demonstrated…I could go on and on. I am so sorry you have been through this nightmare. You ARE beautiful, worthy and precious. Narcissists do not primarily choose us because of our vulnerabilities, they also choose us because we are light to their darkness – we exhibit the gorgeous traits of empathy, compassion, intelligence and confidence that their fragile egotism and lack of insight could never achieve aside from their false mask. Sandra Brown discovered this and discusses it in her book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, when she talks about how women in these relationships were often confident, independent and very driven individuals – I highly recommend reading this book if you haven't yet. I am happy to hear you were able to find validation in not only this article but also in the stories of his other victims. I hope you and his other victims will continue to work on your own self-care. Promise me that you will not give up, no matter how difficult it is, to regain your sense of power, agency and control – you deserve to heal, to shine, to recover, and to be even more victorious than ever before – even if it is just one small step at a time, keep continuing to seek help, gain support and love yourself. Do not let this person destroy you, no matter what happens – you deserve to thrive and you can use these experiences to fuel you and motivate you towards success and rebuilding a better life without this toxic person in your life. Many blessings to you.

  34. Karen says:

    Thank you for this information. I have a question for you…Could I be attracting these types of people? Or do I just have bad luck with men? Or…as I have been made to believe…is it me? the funny thing is that I have isolated myself due to feeling that most of the people I have interacted with end up hurting me. The most recent has been the straw that broke this camels back and I am now on anti-depressant medication but I still dont feel better. I ended the relationship but now I find myself missing him…I try to remind myself of the "bad" in the relationship but that feeds into the "is it really me". thus I feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster I cant get off of. Reading this gives me hope that maybe I am not this terrible person that know one else can love. Thank you. Now I am going to check some the the other sources you have recommended…feeling hopeful.

    • selfcarehaven says:

      Hi Karen, toxic shame and self-blame are symptoms of the trauma we've experienced. Victims have been led to blame themselves for the abuse and the current victim-blaming stance in society does not help that. The fact of the matter is, while narcissists prey on the wounds of individuals, they are also very attracted to the strengths of those individuals. They enjoy surrounding themselves with people who are unique and special (in fact, that is part of their diagnostic criteria!) If you haven't yet read Women Who Love Psychopaths by Sandra Brown, I highly suggest reading it as soon as possible. Her study showed that women who loved psychopaths were not the meek, codependent personalities society assumed they must be – rather, they were women who were incredibly driven, independent, had high relationship investment. Regardless of what our vulnerabilities and wounds are, we do not deserve to be abused. It would be similar to blaming a rape victim for being raped – and due to the nature of the biochemical and trauma bonds that form in an abusive relationship, there are actual changes in the brain and in the body that tether victims to their abusers (please read The Betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes for more information). We also do not fall for the narcissist – we fall for the person they pretend to be. There are many survivors who are able to run quickly in the other direction when they interact with overt narcissists, but the problem is that there are many covert narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths who manipulate and deceive individuals very well, deceiving even mental health professionals.

      A common victim-blaming assertion in the survivor community is the idea that victims must be like narcissists in some way in order to have these toxic people in their lives. What many people forget is that a narcissist could never be with someone like them – they would eventually find it just as despicable and frustrating as we find them. They do not wish to be with someone who displays no emotion or has no empathy like them – that would be no fun for them. They need someone with empathy, with compassion, with insight (so they can manipulate the insight to cater to them – ex. convincing a very introspective individual that the abuse is their fault) and the willingness to see good in others – they are attracted to talent, to strength, to "special and unique" – and simultaneously they are pathologically envious of our amazing qualities – because these are the very qualities they will attempt to destroy throughout the course of an intimate relationship. You cannot seek to destroy what was never there, Karen, and I hope you know that narcissists seek to destroy these qualities because they do in fact exist.

      Anyone can be a victim of narcissistic abuse, especially if they have empathy or something special in them which narcissists tend to target. Do not let any ignorant person convince you that you are at fault for abuse. It is the abuser's fault alone. Even if you have been traumatized in the past and find yourself gravitating towards that type of individual that does NOT make it okay for you to be abused. Instead of focusing on the victim, it's time to focus on the perpetrator who would actually prey on these types of traumatic wounding to manipulate victims who are already hurting. These are the people who are truly sick, not the person who is seeking to form a loving relationship.

      We can own our agency in exploring our relationship patterns without resorting to victim-blaming. That being said, I am not against exploring your own traumas because I believe all survivors deserve to heal from both past and present patterns. I write about the impact of Complex PTSD/childhood abuse as well as the simultaneous wounding narcissists impose upon us in this entry here:

      Hope this helps, Karen. No one deserves to be abused or mistreated. We can own our agency in changing our lives and perform inner work, set better boundaries and rework our relationship patterns without blaming ourselves for the abuse. Much love to you warrior <3.

      • Karen says:

        Thank you for taking the time to answer me and for providing more information. I found your site and facebook page after posting the above last night and will continue to follow them. I have also ordered your books and will look in the to the others you have suggested. thank you for giving me hope.

  35. Ms.Mohammad says:

    I have read the article..I ‘ve exactly gone through evrything you have mentioned in the article.. I am glad that this kind of awareness has started.. I am married to someone who inflicted so much pain that I cannot pit in words..the same process everything just so with the support of my family and friends am outta it..but the scars just don’t go away..!!

  36. Katherine O'B. says:

    One area which I have not seen anyone cover is how to deal with the courts and the realities of being forced to co-parent with a narcissist. In my five years of court hearings, I have found his suave facade and vicious attacks of me (so multifaceted that I can’t possibly counter them all) to be very well received by judges. It’s enabled him to continue abusing me (only a little since we finally live in different states and I get as close to no contact as I can) through the courts and the children. I haven’t seen advice regarding how to raise your children so they don’t become narcissists, too – especially with the powerful example of one of their parents.

  37. Kim says:

    This is from 2 weeks ago from my father. And just in the last 2 years I’ve realized he is an narsocist…just a snip of what I go through with my father but as of this text I havent responded

    From my Dad

    U have 3 wonderful children and almost 3 grandchildren.

    That would never had happened if I hadn’t saved your like when u were very little. When everyone was standing around doing nothing I was going to cut your throat to save your life. But instead I put my finger so far down your throat it hurt me. Got the lettuce core out with blood on my finger. Thought I’d remind u your whole family is there because of me not bring afraid to cut your throat.

    So be grateful that your alive to see them grow and hope they have a better life than you have.

    Love dad

    I couldn’t believe he wrote that to me. So sad to call him my Dad. I’m 53!

  38. Guest says:

    I want to buy your book for my daughter who has just left this very relationship. However I can only find it in Kindle format. Any chance I can get it in paperback or hard cover form? Also, I know you talk about her healing but right now she's in the process of an ugly divorce and he is using the kids to get to her. Threatening to take them from her. Using lies to try and manipulate the kids ages 7, 11 & 19. And when he has the kids lying to her saying they don't want to see her again just to cause her pain. When she gets them back they tell her they missed her and he says awful things to them about her and how much they missed her. What can she do to stop him?

    • Krystal says:

      Tell her to only speak with him in the form of text messages or email. Document EVERYTHING the kids tell her he said and when they told her. She needs to make sure that the judge will be able to see his changes in behavior within texts and emails. Without it, it’s just a he said/she said and the judge could possibly take his word for it.

  39. Anu says:

    Hi Mam
    I got through this story n c how clean n precise u hv descried my life .living with such person as husband bfr he was my lover friend n soul mate everything. I shared my deepest of secrets flaws n family disturbances n traumas to the person. Nw its all out in our families n it s used ofen during furious fights as weapons against me. U give them your weaknesses n dey submit it with them as your wound diary to often read on for u as n wen required. U cnt trust hv any faith on a minute thing wid dat person evn to leave ur own child wid dem. Vry true of ur words frst dat v sufferers hv to cm together n close to mk evn doctors undrstnd dis. Even it leaves to migraine fear depression anxiety n oder mental problems doctors just dnt assign u wid a pill like drug to help u sleep . right u were wen u said dese smart cunning cruels hurt u wid thier tongues tone n facial expressions n cold laughter n mockery at u. Pointing each single mistake at home n other stuff. Demeaning you to b useless worthless n nt capable to do simple jobs. M living such life wit such partner but m experienced n I think learning to know how to handle situations n myslf. Or u cn say bearing fr my kid. Either I always stay silent frevr in his evry decision. Or tk one last strong stand wen m fully independent to bid bye frevr. Til den keep educating me.
    Thanks n regards.

  40. Sheila Burns says:

    Does the Narcissist label even matter? If the described behaviors elicit the described responses, its abuser and abusee/victim, But no one likes the label victim even when we are one repeatedly. I keep hearing a certain politician is a narcissist. I don’t care about the label; its just another name to call someone. I care about the actions and words and results.

  41. Chrystyana says:

    I was diagnosed with this… Well, not NPD but narcissistic traits and I was very hurt and deeply offended when I saw this diagnosis in my paperwork. My therapist made inappropriate advances towards me and in the end I was blamed for it and the tables were turned on me. When she was being a narcissist, she accused me of being one. I admit that I have had my moments when I was cold and narcissistic but not to the point of lacking empathy and compassion for others, thank God. I always try to put myself in other people’s shoes and this had made my life better. I wanted to point out that I am kinda sad after reading this article and feel that you are “demonizing” people with NPD. They are human too and they are like this because of trauma that they experienced. They also need compassion, empathy and understanding if they are ever going to understand empathy and compassion. Some people with NPD want to change and some do not. I know a guy that is highly narcissistic and all roads seem to lead back to him. A dead give away is that he delights in sadistic behavior, like spanking my cat when she has done nothing wrong. I understand how difficult these people can be but they STILL deserve to be treated like normal human beings.

    • Becki says:

      Chyrystyna, no, they don’t deserve to be treated like other people, because they AREN’T. A deliberate destruction of those who try to love– and be loved by– these lying monsters, sets them apart. To everyone else who is trying to sympathize with narcissistic people, stop. Unless you have experienced the absolute horror of of a so- called ‘ life’ with one , please go away and educate yourself. Everyone is not deserving of compassion. They have no concern for anyone besides themselves, and that exists only to garner more sympathy. Thank you for this article. It is by far the most comprehensive I have ever read. I feel validated and supported in reading this as well as the anecdotes by other survivors. It’s difficult enough to navigate the internal landscape without having Narc sympathizers on here.

  42. gina says:

    Not all abusers are AWARE of what they are doing consciously. Sometimes they experienced abuse and its just what they know. Maybe they are indecisive and depressed. Maybe they TRY to love but cant and then get angry and take it out on the person.

    I’ve had a boyfriend who was a bit emotionally abusive, more so after we broke up…. And i’m not sure it was a conscious thing. I think sometimes he just wanted to hurt me because he was afraid i’d leave him… His behaviour was worse when I showed signs of not being happy. He was hurt so he hurt me back.

    On the other hand, I lack empathy in relationships but I think thats emotional unavailability. The fact someone is in love with me barely seems to matter to me. I don’t really believe in romantic love… I see it as silly sentiment and that they will get over me and that i’m not special as they declare. Sometimes i hold onto these relationships because I think they are good people and I should give it a chance. But then I become unhappy and lash out. I consider the fact I punch below my weight and thats why I become unhappy. But any time i’ve not done that has led to me being dumped. anway These are not conscious abusive behaviours but usually some kind of pain but you might misdiagnose them as such according to your criteria and bias.

  43. Kate says:

    This was it almost exactly. It was so hard to describe it to someone but there, in the first paragraph of description, where it talks about how the narcissist will take the insecurities, weaknesses, and fears that you shared with them in trust and use them to “beat you up” with. It was like a punch in the stomach. It took me years, and I don’t think I’m over it yet. I had difficulty trusting before. Now? I trust no one. I’ve had unreliable experiences with my mother, my ex-husband, even a couple of therapists. It does not feel safe to trust anyone with any sign or show of weakness. I’ve become isolated deliberately because interacting with people all day doing my job exhausts me beyond measure. My favorite beings to spend time with are my dog, and my 3 year old grandson. Everyone else has their own agenda. They either want something from me or want me to do something for them. I’m tired. I’m sad that this is how my life is turning out. I keep trying but this last one may have broken me.

  44. Linda says:

    Reading your article had me thinking you had been sitting on my shoulder over the decades of my life, observing and learning about narcissistic behaviour from my experiences. Thankyou for articulating so accurately, what I have endured. Everything you wrote described precisely, the behaviour of not one, not two, but three men I had long-term relationships with. How do I approach my estranged sons with this information about how the narcissistic men in my life have turned them against me. The behaviour of these men has been attributed to me, by their meticulous and calculated intent of destroying my relationship with my sons. How do I even begin to approach my sons after years of them believing it is me who is the evil one? The problem being, that my realisation of the problems he has manifested and my desire to reconcile, make me look like the aggressor, which is what they have been made to believe.

  45. J P Martin says:

    Insightful article. And interesting comments. It is so important for behaviour like this to be exposed as abusive. I wrote a book about my relationship, and it is interesting how so many people, women in particular are not supportive, labelling me a ‘silly’ or ‘weak’ woman… As opposed to vulnerable and manipulated… If you are interested, the book is kNot, a memoir by a woman, about my previous relationship with an actor called Russell Brand, available on Amazon.

    Thank you.

    For those who are still suffering the effects of relationships like this, please know that you have the light to work through the darkness! Much Metta

  46. Munir says:

    Narcissists are not alone in their cause. They rid the society of real talent fill it with their own equally good choices. So that they may still be more powerful; it is a power wielding game. Whoever wins more tricks eventually is triumphant. Cause victim is singularly vulnerable!

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