June 1st—Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day: Myths & Truths.


The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 10
Hearts 5.8
Comments 5.5
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 6.6
44 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

Since the article I wrote, “The Toxic Attraction between an Empath & a Narcissist,” went viral three years ago, there has been an immense amount of attention focused on narcissists, and in particular, why people remain in relationships with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder given the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical damage and destruction they cause. 

Prior to my article reaching over 10 million people, there wasn’t a great deal of information readily available on the subject. Now, it seems to be a buzzword, and is often used to describe relationships that are dysfunctional—but not necessarily narcissistic. 

In fact, there was so little talk about narcissists that I felt extremely vulnerable writing about my experience, as I genuinely felt as though I was the only one who had experienced such insanity within a relationship. I felt too ashamed to talk freely about it, as I felt no one could possibly understand why I went through all that I did—and still stayed. 

It didn’t take long to realise the vastness of this insidious personality disorder, and how millions of people have been subjected to the often silent and invisible abuse.

Fortunately, narcissist abuse is no longer swept under the carpet as much, or perceived as something to feel ashamed about. There are support networks, both online and in the physical world, that people can turn to to talk through their experiences with others who know exactly what it feels like to live with, and love, someone who is playing a carefully contrived and constructed manipulative game. 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding narcissistic abuse, and many people loosely use the word without fully comprehending the core traits and characteristics of someone who has this disorder. This has led to many people being wrongfully accused of being a narcissist, as well as many slipping through the cracks, as it’s not easily diagnosed or recognised. 

If there is a term that sums up the impact narcissist abuse can have, I would say it has to be “invisible wounds,” which is no doubt why the World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Organisation has chosen the hashtag #ifmywoundswerevisible to promote their campaign. 

Although many narcissists are physically violent, they are more often covert in their actions, so the abuse is hidden behind closed doors, where even the person on the receiving end doesn’t always recognise the depth of their self-serving intentions and malignant ways. 

One of the most bewildering and destabilizing things about being close to a narcissist is that certain people around them fail to see the devastation they cause. This is because they exist behind shiny armor put in place to distinguish and hide their true selves. Narcissists will pick and choose who sees particular sides depending on what it is they wish to gain.

Narcissists know exactly who they can weave their web of dysfunction around and who they can’t. This is simply to make it look as though the other person is delusional so they can keep up their manipulative behavior without being questioned. This can make it difficult to seek support as others may struggle to grasp the situation.

As the narcissistic awareness abuse cause outlines, rather than being outwardly aggressive, violent, angry, and volatile, those with narcissistic personality disorder are categorised by their need for constant admiration, their arrogance, egotistical behavior, self-absorption, sense of entitlement and superiority, and obsession with beauty and/or success. They are also known for their inflated sense of self-importance.

Narcissists have a strong desire for wealth, possessions, prestige, control, and power. They function from their ego and display vanity, arrogance, pride, righteousness, and grandiosity. They have a desperate need to impress, receive praise, and to be admired for their mental or physical attributes.

They also lack the ability to empathise genuinely with other people, which is the part of their personality that causes the most harm and destruction. Their desire for self-gain and validation means they will do anything and destroy anyone to have their needs met, without caring who gets hurt in the process. 

Narcissistic personality disorder often gets confused with other disorders such as antisocial personality disorder, which has similarities. However, the main traits of antisocial personality disorder are quite different, for example, persistent lying, stealing, aggression, violence, reckless and impulsive behaviour, lack of remorse, and failure to take responsibility. Also, there is blatant disregard for other people’s needs or feelings.

People with the above disorders either have no concern—or are unaware—of how their behaviour affects other people. If someone tries to reason with them they move into self-defence mode where they refuse to take accountability and are quickly able to turn tables so they appear innocent and all blame lies with others.

They become infuriated when people have boundaries and expect that those around them are there to pander to their wants and needs. The moment someone refuses, they switch between a variety of tactics to manipulate, charm, coerce, threaten, or seduce people into doing what they want. 

One of the biggest myths I have found surrounding narcissistic personality disorder, is that people often think that narcissists are wounded characters who have had terribly abusive childhoods, so much so, that they become victims of circumstances themselves. However, this belief could not be further from the truth, as all too often narcissistic people are those who have been highly pampered throughout their childhood, and who have been led to believe they are elite, special, and more precious and deserving than other people. 

Another myth is that people think narcissism is rare, and that those who claim they’ve been in a relationship with one are just jumping on a trend, which in effect can turn to victim blaming, especially when it comes from people who have no idea what they’ve been through, or how soul-destroying these relationships are. This is why it is vital to understand and recognise the traits of narcissism before becoming emotionally involved with one. 

We can all carry some traits of narcissism, especially when we aren’t willing to accept our faults, or we aren’t accountable for our thoughts, feelings, emotions, or expressions. Like with most things, there is a spectrum.

Some people have just a few milder symptoms, while others may align with all of the above, and identify strongly. When we learn as much as feasibly possible about this personality disorder, we can then easily identify those who display the traits and consciously choose how we interact with them. 

Knowledge helps us gain a depth of understanding so we can protect ourselves, and possibly those around us, who may also experience this type of dynamic. 

An easy way to recognize narcissism is to ask if we are willing to gain what we need, whether emotionally or otherwise, by doing the necessary work ourselves. Or, do we expect other people to lift our moods, comfort us, tend to our needs, resolve our issues, take responsibility for our emotions, make us feel secure emotionally, compliment us on our physical attributes, take care of us financially, while feeling as though we are entitled to it? Do we expect them to maintain our lives with no regard for them, and no consideration for their suffering, general well-being, or their time, care, and effort?

If we cause suffering to others without consideration or regret, and if we cannot see, or do not care, about what other people go through so long as we are okay, then we will very likely have narcissistic tendencies.

As it is widely believed that narcissism is a learned behavior, it is also believed that it can be unlearned.

The difficulty here is that before any change takes place, the person displaying the behavior must be willing to acknowledge that their narcissistic traits exist.

Unfortunately, this is not common, as one of the strongest characteristics of narcissism is the belief that they do not do anything “wrong.” They cannot always see, or admit, that their behavior could be harmful to others. So, expecting they will be held accountable, or start to peel away the layers and begin the work of unlearning everything they have believed to be true, is highly unlikely.

The chance of a narcissist changing is unlikely, although it is possible, and they are also unlikely to be reasonable during the process. If a narcissist wants to change, then they will make the changes and we will see them. No one else can open a narcissist’s eyes or heart for them; they can only do it themselves.

It is not that narcissists aren’t comfortable with looking at themselves; they often genuinely don’t see they are wrong, and those narcissists who do see their behavior as harmful have such a high sense of entitlement and care far more for themselves than anyone around them. This is the main reason that it is difficult for narcissists to get treatment or to change their behavior; because to change they must first see the original cause and the eventual effect of what they are doing.

Unfortunately, people with this type of personality disorder usually only think only themselves. When interacting with them, it is essential for our emotional and mental health that we do the same. We can still show compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and love, but we must also show these things to ourselves.

If a relationship is already underway with someone with narcissistic personality disorder, it is never too late to seek help, seek understanding, search for knowledge, and to dig deep into our soul and recognize our own strengths and capabilities. We can then do everything possible to build awareness, courage, and confidence, so that we can get access to support, and so that we are able to walk away…if we choose to. 

Although labels can be detrimental, gaining a diagnosis or having a framework that helps us understand either ourselves, or other people, on a deeper level can be beneficial for all involved, especially if the person with the personality disorder is willing to work on changing, or if they wish to seek support and guidance.

I would recommend seeking advice from a counselor or therapist, whether together or separately. If the person with the personality disorder  is willing to take measures to work on the relationship and take accountability for  their behavior, this in itself is a major step, and as long as it is genuine and not done just for temporary relief in the relationship, or to gain in any way, there is a chance that the relationship can thrive.

The difficulty with dealing with someone with a personality disorder is that unless we are a mental health professional, it is not our place to diagnose anyone, nor do we need to be judgmental or put someone down who we believe to have a cluster B (characterized by dramatic, overly emotional, or unpredictable thinking or behavior) personality. Neither is it our place to “fix” someone, because  unless they want to change, there will be very little we can do.

Perhaps the most unfortunate thing is that most true narcissists will never admit to being narcissistic. They have no idea that their behavior is destructive, so the chance of them contemplating whether they are narcissistic and facing up to themselves is extremely low.

After exchanges with narcissists, education and regular affirmations to reinforce how far we have come, and our value as individuals is empowering and important. Therapy and support from others who have gone through similar experiences can also help through the recovery process.

For more information visit the Narcissistic Abuse Awareness website. 


Author: Alex Myles
Image: Fares Hamouche/Unsplash
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron



The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 10
Shares 10
Hearts 5.8
Comments 5.5
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 6.6
44 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Christiane Duclos Jun 6, 2018 5:52pm

Great article!

Alex Myles Jun 4, 2018 1:54pm

Hi Nicole, would love if you could elaborate a little on which points were wrong, for my clearer understanding and other readers. I've never proclaimed to be a mental health proffessional, however I've studied and researched it in-depth and experienced it first hand for many years.

Alex Myles Jun 4, 2018 1:53pm

Thanks for reading it Kristina, I tried to mention that in this section "One of the biggest myths I have found surrounding narcissistic personality disorder, is that people often think that narcissists are wounded characters who have had terribly abusive childhoods, so much so, that they become victims of circumstances themselves. However, this belief could not be further from the truth, as all too often narcissistic people are those who have been highly pampered throughout their childhood, and who have been led to believe they are elite, special, and more precious and deserving than other people. " as I agree with you, this is something not many people realise - and there is much more to it like you say, which I've covered in other articles.

Alex Myles Jun 4, 2018 1:52pm

I wasn't proclaiming to be the first in any way, of course info has been available for many years, just that before writing that article it wasn't as readily available and not many people were aware that there was a name for this hidden abuse. I've also wrote in depth, and covered numerous aspects of it since then to raise further awareness.

Alex Myles Jun 4, 2018 1:50pm

Thanks for reading it Colleen, as Joy explains, I've wrote numerous articles about almost every aspect of NPD, including C-ptsd, gaslighting, love bombing, hoovering, silent treatment, energy vampires, energy exchanges, the affect of stress on our system causing physical illness, co-parenting with a narcissists, parents who are narcissists, plus including an extensive amount in my book, and much more, this is only meant to be an 800 blog and it was already much longer than intended - it's not always possible to include every angle in every article, but thanks for your feedback.

Colleen McGuire Jun 3, 2018 1:11am

The fact that she said they do not lie shows me that she has not done her homework. Let's not forget that "not all narcissists are psychopaths, however all psychopaths are narcissists". This was the most powerful statement I came across that helped me to learn the difference between the two. To say they don't lie, like the other personality disorders, is incorrect.

Colleen McGuire Jun 3, 2018 1:02am

I love Richard Grannon. It was more difficult to find speakers on the subject of covert narcissists, but Grannon covered it probably better than most of them. Things are very different when you are hit with the covert type, and most only talk about the grandiose or classic narcs.

Kay Taylor Jun 1, 2018 6:53pm

BTW, the narcissist I was with, was raised in a "normal" home (to the world) but behind closed doors, severe alcoholism and child abuse.. Your sumation of how a narc is raised is WRONG for the most part,, cuz some are raised in pampered lives,, but most are NOT.. You are perpetuating another myth that those of us in the trenches have been fighting with for over 5 years..

Kay Taylor Jun 1, 2018 5:56pm

well said

Kay Taylor Jun 1, 2018 5:55pm

well said Colleen, thank you

Kay Taylor Jun 1, 2018 5:51pm

To believe you have done something "right" so's not to be a target of NPD abuse, is another myth.. Nothing we do can change the NPD person and once one has you as a target, it's their game, not yours.. The survivor escapes the relationship, never just leaves like in other relationships..

Kay Taylor Jun 1, 2018 5:45pm

well said,, thank you..

Kay Taylor Jun 1, 2018 5:34pm

NPD isn't just learned, it's a brain condition, one of the possibilities is that the part of the brain that deals with empathy and recognizing others have emotions, has not been developed because as a toddler, they were never able to get out of self-defense because of the truama in the home and their brains weren't able to fully develope empathy... In narcissism, the empathy center of the brain isn't developed.. No one knows if it can ever grow and develope once they hit adulthood especially after the rest of the brain has fully developed.. Lots of therories,, even a few studies with brain scans(showing no or less activity in the region that everyone else lights up when feeling empathy).. One of the biggest myths is that there's a symbiotic dance between the empath and narcissist,, that the empath somehow asks to be abused.. and the belief that most empaths have a subconscious need to hook up with an abuser for some sort of fullfillment.. WRONG that totally underestimates the manipulation skills that the narcissist ends up practicing and perfecting their whole lives.. ....... and most empaths have a natural acceptance of people's foilbles; something the NPD exploits and manipulates with lies.. Empaths don't grow up practicing how to protect themselves from the lies but the NPD person has a life time perfecting their manipulation.. Once you finally understand that the NPD person just doesn't think the same as the rest of us,, they don't have the same brain or logic even though they have perfected acting as if they did,, that they exploit everyone around them and repeat and perfect the art of taking advantage of people before those people are able to even recognize they've been screwed, that's when you will be able to start to understand the depth of expoitation that is attributed to narcissistic abuse.. US statistics claim that up to about 25% of peeps have NPD, in England, it's about 11 to 16%,, but NPD peeps are negatively affecting over 60% of the rest of the population at any given time.. This article has some good information in it but it's obviously written by someone who is an outsider to this subject.. so thank you but until you understand what it's like, you're always looking in a mirror of your own myths.. Number one rule to understanding narcissism is that all narcissists lie,, and lie and lie... Everyone of them lives in perpetual fear of everybody else since their core belief is that people around them, who claim to love them, will eventually turn on them.. (and that's a scary place not pitiful, pity is supply for the narcissist's addiction to attention) Taking credit for the world waking up to narcissism is incredibly narcissistic.. Especially since I've been admin in narcissistic abuse recovery Facebook groups for over 4 years.. You may have pubished an article at a good time but the rest of us have been in the trenches with the victims and survivors, sharing information published long before the author even learned about narcissism..

Nicole Galindo Jun 1, 2018 9:28am

The irony here is overwhelming. The Author's attitude of superiority is a little too blatant to ignore. She is not a mental health professional and she gets several point of the article severely wrong. She is doing more to contribute to mis-information than good. Talk about self-inflated ego. Yikes!

Kristina Sandstrom Jun 1, 2018 5:42am

It’s worth noting that some people who develop narcissistic personality might have been raised in a home with emphasis on wealth and achievements, and made to believe that they are ‘one up’ from other people. They might appear to have been ‘pampered’ when in fact from an early age the implicit message is that you are loved for your accomplishments not simply for being alive. Unconditional love and safety with caregiver are not present. What follows for a narcissist ( or other PD type presentations) is some kind of trauma, leaving them feeling empty inside.

Lisa Sardo Fremaint May 31, 2018 5:26pm

While, I appreciate you reaching 10 million with your article, you are by far not the first to "let the cat out of the bag", so to speak. There are great educators on the subject, whom I personally have been coached by going back 5 years. Melanie Tonia Evans, who has an amazing recovery program and Richard Grannon, Spartan life coach, have been informing people of true Narcissistic Personaliry Disorder, in quite depth. Not the vague catch on internet craze. Many of us have been victims, like yourself, and Im sorry for you, but you did not start the "craze".

Joy L Anderson May 31, 2018 2:59pm

This isn't her first article. She talks about triangulation, gas lighting, etc, in other articles.

Colleen McGuire May 31, 2018 12:56am

Very weak. This article does describe the disorder well enough, and does not paint a picture of just how affecting this disorder can be on the victim. No mention here of PTSD or cognitive dissonance following lengthy exposure to a narc. Nothing here about how long term exposure to a narcissist can cause physical illness from lengthy exposure to stress induced cortisol and other stress hormones. Most experts on the topic have reported that the disorder is NOT cureable. Narcissists are well known for being pathological liars, which was not mentioned here. And the most important part left out...that their goal is to obtain supply in the form of your energy, whether positive attention or negative does not matter to them. In fact, the covert types may not even seem to seek attention at all. However over a period of contact with them, you will find yourself completely focusing all your attention on them because of the manipulative forms of abuse they use such as love bombing, silent treatments, and triangulating you with other people (such as forming love triangles). It would be nice to see an article that paints it as it is...insidious cruelty where the orchestrator finds out what would hurt you the most...and does just that.

Read The Best Articles of March
You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.

Alex Myles

Alex Myles is a qualified yoga and Tibetan meditation teacher, Reiki Master, spiritual coach and also the author of An Empath, a newly published book that explains various aspects of existing as a highly sensitive person. The book focuses on managing emotions, energy and relationships, particularly the toxic ones that many empaths are drawn into. Her greatest loves are books, poetry, writing and philosophy. She is a curious, inquisitive, deep thinking, intensely feeling, otherworldly intuitive being who lives for signs, synchronicities and serendipities. Inspired and influenced by Carl Jung, Nikola Tesla, Anaïs Nin and Paulo Coelho, she has a deep yearning to discover many of the answers that seem to have been hidden or forgotten in today’s world. Alex’s bestselling book, An Empath, is on sale now for only $1.99! Connect with her on Facebook and join Alex’s Facebook group for empaths and highly sensitive people.