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** Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or anyone with a degree to properly diagnose people. I am just a normal person who has survived torment from someone suffering from NPD. I have done a lot of research into this topic, and my references can be found below at the bottom of this post.


It has taken me days to write this one. I wanted to be able to really give a good understanding between Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Normal Narcissism. I wanted to accurately describe how it feels to live through this type of abuse. It did bring back a lot of hard memories of what I had been through, but sharing this can hopefully help someone in their process of understanding what NPD is, how the person with NPD acts, and how it can really play with your emotions and manipulate you into believing things that are not true.

Please stick with me on this one, because it is a bit of a doozy.


Narcissism is classified as being full of one’s self. It as based off of the Greek God Narcissus, who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water. He became so obsessed with his reflection that he could not look away and ultimately he starved to death. Nice right?

So what does that mean? Pretty much everyone falls out he spectrum of having narcissistic tendencies. We all can sometimes end up being too self-absorbed, sometimes we might seem a bit self-centred. We may look at ourselves in the mirror more than normal. It is perfectly okay to have a bit of healthy narcissism.

Does that mean you have Narcissistic Personality Disorder? If you have to ask yourself if you have NPD, chances are you probably don’t have it. One of the big things of people with NPD, is that they don’t see anything wrong with their behaviour, and don’t see that they have a problem.


Let me break this down. If someone has a healthy dose of Narcissism, they don’t have a need to feel superior. They will have a great deal of self-confidence, and high self-esteem. They will not need constant reassurance of being a good or successful person, because they already know it. They will brag, but not over embellish. They may avoid conflict or criticism, but will always admit fault, and apologize for it. They know when they step out of line, have no problem asking for help when things get hard, but will remain humble through it all.


So then what is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

NPD is a personality disorder diagnosable by perpetual personality traits. The US National Institutes of Health, have stated that 1 in 100 people, or 6.2% of the total population suffers from NPD (Hartwell-Walker, 2018). It is generally seen in more men than woman, but both genders can be affected.


What causes NPD? There are many differing opinions on what could cause it. Some studies say the Narcissist suffers from low self-esteem, others say they have a inflated sense of self-esteem. Others have found that it can be a learned behaviour and generally by a child that is overly sensitive. Often the child in their developmental years will receive excessive praise, and / or excessive criticism. There is also a correlation between adults suffering with NPD who experienced childhood abuse, or neglect.


John M. Grohol, Psy.D., has said that there could potentially be more factors that can cause NPD in adults. Including Social Factors: how the child deals, and interacts with family and friends, and “parenting behaviours from one or both parents” (Grohol, 2020). But also Psychological Factors can attribute to it. These would include personality or temperament, genetics, environment growing up, and can be shaped by learned coping skills.

How does all of this attribute to the actions of a person with NPD?

Generally someone with NPD will have a low self-esteem, needing constant reassurance or admiration. They will act as though they have it all together, but deep down they are scared. They generally will surround themselves with people who will stroke their ego, not fearing ditching those who no longer serve a purpose to push them forward. The Narcissist will base relationships “on whether others are useful to them or make them look good” (Hartwell-Walker, 2018). Don’t be surprised if the Narcissist in your life, quickly drops you when they find you no longer of use, or no longer make their new image look good.

Narcissists are usually drawn to people of power. They want to surround themselves with people who will increase the perception of their image. They will be drawn to strong people in hopes it will allow them to also look strong. It is not uncommon though for the Narcissist to begin putting those around them down in order for them to take control, and feel better about themselves. Let’s just call them the bullies of the adult playground. This is not something that happens right away. The Narcissist will begin by acting “caring but only if it will further their need for the relationship (Hartwell-Walker 2018). They will showcase sympathetic behaviour to be seen as a “good” person, even though they have an inability to actually understand another person’s feelings. They lack a normal sense of empathy for other people, and are often attracted to those who are considered Empaths, as the Empath always looks for the best in people, and “have a lot of compassion and understanding to give” (Dodgson, 2018). The Narcissist thrives off of the attention that the Empath has to give, and will continue to step out of line, as the Empath will generally forgive the Narcissist for their behaviour.


So what does a Narcissist actually look like? How do they behave?


Here is a list of common attributes that can be found in people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

  • Attraction to people of power

  • Over inflated sense of self including, their abilities, their own sense of power, their success, and their physical appearance.

  • Often will have the “God” complex

  • Fantasizes of unlimited success

  • Inflated accomplishments

  • Will not fear putting other’s down, calling out other’s mistakes, to make themselves look better

  • Will never discuss their failures or mistakes

  • Distortion of facts

  • Constant self-promotion

  • Constant need for compliments

  • Jealous if the attention is not on them

  • Boastful

  • Vain

  • Selfish

  • Lack of empathy

  • Aggression

  • Overly emotional

  • Extreme mood fluctuations. One minute they will be extremely happy, and the next very angry

  • Overly sensitive / highly reactive to criticism

  • Unpredictable behaviour

  • Acting as though they deserve special treatment, and get angry when they don’t receive it

  • Plays the victim

  • Will lie to get their own way

  • Gaslighting

  • Condescending

  • Unethical and have no issues breaking the rules. They very much believe that rules do not apply to them. Have often been known to see themselves as above the law

  • Only their opinion matters, and is the only right one

  • False accusations

  • Superficial relationships

  • Public shaming of those they are with

  • Believe relationship issues are at the fault of the other person

  • Notorious for the “I’m sorry, but...” apologies

  • Will take no responsibility and will shift blame any chance they get

  • Will never admit that they have, or are the problem

Let’s break this down a little bit more:

At the beginning of a relationship, Narcissists are notorious for “love-bombing”. They will quickly tell you they love you. They will place emphasis on how special you are, how much they value your relationship, shower you with attention, and make you feel like the most special person in the world. You’ll be “the love of their life”, and they will very quickly move forward in your relationship. Often you will notice the first change, the first time you “disappoint” them.

The Narcissist will also constantly fish for compliments. They will say or do things to encourage a constant flow of compliments. If you stop supplying them, they will begin to search elsewhere for someone who will give them more attention.


As the relationship progresses, you’ll find that they will begin to talk only about themselves. They will not engage in conversations about you, and if you try to talk about yourself, or something that happened, they will shift the conversation back to themselves, or zone out completely.


On many occasions, I found that when I was talking about something that I found interesting, whether it was history, or something about my job that had been explained to him previously, I would be met with “I don’t know what that means” or a complete zone-out where he would look at his phone, and completely ignore everything I was saying. Nothing hurts more than your partner not taking an interest in the things you are interested in.


You’ll begin to notice a lack of empathy coming from the Narcissist. Or you won’t because, you know, red flags are just flags when you’re wearing rose coloured glasses. I sure didn’t see them. But in hindsight, you’ll look back and notice it. This can commonly be seen if you are having a bad day: the Narcissistic will not care, and will get bored of you talking about your feelings, and abruptly change the conversation to something about themselves.

Narcissists can also be seen as a “revolving door”. This can go in all aspects of life, from relationships, friendships, even jobs. The relationship I was in with someone that had NPD, I can’t count how many friends came and left throughout the years, but there were at least 13 different jobs that he either quit, or was fired or let go from. This was in the span of three years. Three years. Thirteen different jobs. Yeah...

Eventually you will find that the compliments directed towards you stop. You’re no longer the love of their life all the time, and they will slow down on the communication and attention they give you. They will start to put you down or talk down to you in front of your family and friends. They will start to criticize things they once said they loved about you. They will also begin to make jokes at your expense. They will do anything to lower your self-esteem to feel powerful over you. Guilt trips and gaslighting become and everyday thing.

They will try to change the definition of your relationship.

They will not take responsibility for any of the hurtful things they say to you, and in fact will tell you that its your fault that they have to say those things. Remember the “I’m sorry, but...”? Yeah, “I’m sorry, but you made me do it.”, “I’m sorry, but you really shouldn’t push my buttons, you know how it makes me angry”. These things are all your fault.

So what does Narcissist Abuse actually look like?


Remember that lack of empathy I talked about? Yeah, they won’t care what they say or how much it hurts you. Nothing is off limits. For example: my family wasn’t good enough. He tore down every single member of my family. My friends weren’t good people. They were all idiots, and not nice people (for the record my friends are amazing, my family are great people, and I wouldn’t be here today without any of them). I was told on numerous occasions, that because of my issues with mental health that I was not strong enough. I couldn’t treat a man properly. I wasn’t sexy enough. Any other man would have cheated on me by now. If I couldn’t get my shit together then I would be on my own. Any other man would have left me by now.


The relationship will become a constant string of verbal, emotional (including mental, financial, and spiritual), and/or physical abuse.


1. Verbal abuse could include:

  • Blaming you for their actions

  • Shaming you for feeling a certain way

  • Accusing you of things they have done themselves

  • Interrupting you when you’re talking

  • Ordering you about

  • Threats

  • Criticism on everything you do

2. Manipulation will become a common thing. There will always be an indirect influence to get you to act a certain way. This can often come across as demeaning or hostile. There will be a constant stream of manipulation to get you to stay “through cycles of approval and rejection” (Hartwell-Walker, 2018).


3. Emotional abuse could include:

  • threats (these could include physical threats, threats of leaving, threats of changing the definition of your relationship. The threatening question of “do you want me to get angry?”, was a constant one for me)

  • Anger

  • Warnings

  • Intimidation causing Fear, Obligation and/or Guilt (Commonly known as FOG)

  • Gaslighting, causing you to doubt yourself, your memories, and even your sanity

  • Isolation from friends and family

  • Talking poorly about you to your friends and family to put you in a bad light and to deflect attention away from themselves

  • One-Uping or Competition between them and yourself

  • Using or taking advantage of you

  • Sabotaging your endeavours / other relationships

  • Lying

  • Withholding things like money, intimacy, communication or affection

  • Neglect

  • Ignoring your boundaries

  • Slander

4. Physical abuse can include:

  • Sexual

  • Physically hurting you

  • Throwing things (at you or not)

  • Destruction of your property

When you finally decide its time to end the relationship, it is likely that they will blame you for the failed relationship. They will lash out at you. They will also likely try to play victim to anyone who will listen to them. It is also not uncommon, that shortly after your break-up, they will move on to the next person, who they likely had lined up before hand.

When you’re being blamed for your failed relationship remember this:

In my personal experience, it was purely mental and emotional abuse that I went through. I had said on numerous occasions that if he had just hit me once, I would have left sooner. But even when there was physical violence I stayed. It was never directed at me. I was never physically hit. But there was destruction of property, and throwing of things that occurred several times. It was not easy to cope with. It was not easy to move on from the mental manipulation. Somedays even though years have passed, and I have done a lot of mental work to work through it, I still struggle. The negative words said to me and about me, play repeatedly, strongly and aggressively in my head. Not every day. But some days. The flash-backs have nearly ceased, and I am slowly on the mend, retraining my brain to not think of the horrific things I experienced.


How can you get yourself to this stage and further? How can you properly deal with and move on from this type of trauma?

It’s going to take some work, but I promise you it is so worth it.

  1. Remind yourself that you deserve better

  2. Remind yourself that you are worthy

  3. Remind yourself that you deserve love

  4. Strengthen your existing relationships

  5. Build a support system that you can turn to when you’re having a bad day

  6. Go to counselling. Seek out a psychologist or a psychotherapist that specializes in trauma, and how it affects the brain

  7. Learn to strengthen and protect yourself

  • This does not necessarily mean physically, although I found going to the gym regularly did help in my confidence as I could see my physical strength increase

  • Begin meditating or doing yoga to help strengthen and calm your mind


If you find yourself walking on eggshells, constantly filled with anxiety over potentially doing something wrong...

If you find your spouse has told you one thing, and then changed their story, telling you that you got it wrong , and you find that you are questioning yourself...

If you find that your significant other is constantly putting you down, and making you feel badly about yourself...

If you find that you wake up one day, and recognize the changes in your spouse and find yourself realizing that respect is no longer being served by them, you do not have to stay at the table.

It is okay for you to leave.

You do not have to stay in a situation where you are not being treated with love and respect.

When you’re second guessing your decision about whether to stay or go, because it’s likely to happen, remember this:


Writing this post has been mentally exhausting for me. It’s brought a lot of memories back, and made me realize a lot more of things I experienced. While most days I am good, there are still days where things bring me instantly back into that fearful mindset. I do not regret my past relationship. I do not regret and wish I had never experienced it. It has made me who I am today. It has showed me a strength that I didn’t know I had.

I didn’t write this as a way to diagnose your significant other. As I previously stated, I am not in a position to do that. I am not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a psychotherapist. I am just someone who has been through this, has experienced the torment that can come from someone with NPD.


All I wanted was to share what I learned through research, and personal experience, in hopes that someone can realize what is happening sooner than I did; in hopes that this may shed a little bit of light onto you a situation you may have experienced or are currently experiencing. At the time, I know it seems bleak, and as if you’re all alone. But I promise you, you are not alone. Other’s have been in your shoes, and have made it out of the woods, and onto the path of peace, light and happiness. It is possible to have light after dark, and to turn this life into lemonade.

References:

  1. Christina Gregory, Ph.D., 2019, PsyCom, accessed 19 June 2020, <https://psycom.net/personality-disorders/narcissistic/>

  2. Darlene Lancer, JD, LMFT., 2017, Psychology Today, accessed 19 June 2020, <https://psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/toxic-relationships/201709/how-spot-narcissistic-abuse%3famp>

  3. Gabrielle Kassel, overviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., Psy.D., CRNP, ACRN, CPH, 2019, Health Line, accessed 18 June 2020, <https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/am-i-dating-a-narcissist>

  4. John M. Grohol, Psy.D., 2020, Psych Central, accessed 19 June 2020, <https://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder/>

  5. Karen Arluck, LCSW., 2018, Quora, accessed: 18 June 2020, <https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-examples-of-where-the-line-is-drawn-between-regular-narcissism-and-narcissistic-personality-disorder>

  6. Lindsay Dodgson, 2018, Business Insider, accessed 21 June 2020, <https://www.businessinsider.com/why-empaths-and-narcissists-are-attracted-to-each-other-2018-1%3famp>

  7. Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., 2018, PsychCentral, accessed 18 June 2020, <https://psychcentral.com/lib/narcisstic-personality-disorder-vs-normal-narcissism/>

  8. Melody Wilding, 2018, Business Insider, accessed 19 June 2020, <https://www.businessinsider.com/narcissism-vs-narcissist-2018-11>

  9. Psychology Today, accessed 20 June 2020, <https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder?amp>

  10. Sheenie Ambardar, MD, 2018, Medscape, accessed 18 June 2020, <https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1519417-overview>

  11. Yvette Brazier, overviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., 2018, Medical News Today, accessed 19 June 2020, <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9741>

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