To the victims of Narcissists:
”What you allow is what will continue” Elizabeth Gilbert.
- Ask yourself if there’s anything in your life that you are allowing to continue that needs to stop.
- What needs to change in your mind today from YES to HELL NO?
- Alternatively, what needs to change from NO to HELL YES!
What is Narcissism?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental condition characterized by an inflated sense of own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. Grandiosity is a distinct characteristic of narcissists.
People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. This type of behaviour might have been customary for the King of England in the 14th century, but it is considered inappropriate in our world today.
The word ‘’narcissist’’ originates from Greek mythology. It was the name of a hunter, Narkissos, who was not only known for his extraordinary beauty, but he also loved everything beautiful. It made him proud and condescending, and he rejected the love of many, even of a nymph named Echo. Instead, he fell in love with his image reflected in a pool of water.
Narcissus grew ever thirstier, but would not leave or disturb the pool of water for fear of losing sight of his reflection. In the end, he died of thirst. The narcissus plant or daffodil started blooming at the very spot where he died. Narcissus is the origin of narcissism, a fixation with oneself, and physical appearance or public perception.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
For a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), they must present with five or more of the following symptoms:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a powerful sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes
Because personality disorders describe long-standing and enduring patterns of behaviour, they usually diagnosed in adulthood. A narcissistic personality disorder is more prevalent in males than females and occurs in up to 6.2 per cent of the general population.
Like most personality disorders, narcissistic personality disorder typically will decrease in intensity with age, with many people experiencing a few of the most extreme symptoms by the time they are in the ’40s or ’50s.
Difference between Narcissists and Sociopaths
Narcissist personality disorder and Anti-social personality disorder (which describes sociopaths) are different disorders with distinguishing differences, but they share similar traits. It means not all narcissists are sociopaths.
- Both narcissists and sociopaths can come across as charismatic, charming and intelligent people.
- They also share dark traits like being unreliable, controlling, selfish and dishonest.
- Both have positive self-images and a sense of entitlement.
- Both lack insight into their behaviour.
- Both are insincere in emotional response because they lack empathy.
A sociopath does not have a real personality. He or she is a cunning, manipulative con-artist that takes on any persona that suits them. Unlike a narcissus that desperately wants to win your approval because their ego is at stake, a sociopath might decide to centre a conversation around you if it suits their goal.
Narcissists often work hard to achieve success and perfection. They may use lies and intimidation to get what they want and even exploit people along the way, but they are interested in what people you think of them. They need admiration. In contrast, a sociopath’s every move is calculated and premeditated. They get what they want by stealing, defrauding and exploiting others financially. If they are exposed, they leave or vanish to find a new target. Given the inhumanity of his crimes, Hitler was early on linked with “psychopathy”, a severe personality disorder whose main symptoms are a great or complete lack of empathy, social responsibility and conscience.
How is Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnosed?
Trained mental health professionals diagnose personality disorder such as narcissistic personality disorder, for example, a psychologist or psychiatrist. Family physicians and general practitioners are generally not trained or well-equipped to make this type of psychological diagnosis. So while you can initially consult a family physician about this problem, they should refer you to a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment. There is no laboratory, blood or genetic testing to diagnose a personality disorder.
Like with other personality disorders, many people with a narcissistic personality disorder don’t seek out treatment. If they seek treatment, it will be for a symptom they experience like depression or when the condition starts to interfere significantly or otherwise impact a person’s life. A mental health professional compares your symptoms and life history with those listed here to make a diagnosis. They determine whether your symptoms meet the criteria necessary for a personality disorder diagnosis.
Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
There are many theories as to what causes a person to have this disorder. It is probably a mixture of genes, early childhood experiences and psychological factors. It suggests that no single factor is responsible — instead, it is the complex and likely intertwined nature of all three critical elements. Research suggests that if a person has this personality disorder, there is a slightly increased risk for this disorder to be “passed down” to their children.
Early childhood risk factors include:
- insensitive parenting
- over-praising and excessive pampering – when parents focus intensely on a particular talent or the physical appearance of their child as a result of their own self-esteem issues
- unpredictable or negligent care
- excessive criticism
- extremely high expectations
Other possible factors include:
- abnormalities in the genes that affect the connection between the brain and behaviour
- being over-sensitive
Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Treatment of narcissistic personality disorder typically involves long-term psychotherapy with a therapist who has experience treating this kind of personality disorder. There are no medications specifically used to treat narcissistic personality disorder. However, if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other conditions, medicines such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs may help.
If a loved one suffers from this condition, encouraging them to seek professional treatment is the most effective way to help them begin to overcome its damaging effects.
How to protect yourself against a narcissist
What to do if your fairy tale relationship, the “swept me off my feet, man of my dreams, soulmate” partner suddenly leaves you confused, hurt and disheartened? You have discovered that “Prince Charming” actually has a thin skin and a very fragile ego.
He uses you as a scapegoat for all that goes wrong because he can’t deal with it. He is never accountable for anything. He takes everything so personally because underneath his grandiose bravado lurks profound self-loathing.
You are a compassionate person; you continue to forgive him and benefit from the doubt. You, in essence, enable the abuse to continue and even to escalate. Instead of resolving anything, your kindness, coupled with the rationalization of their behaviour keeps the cycle of abuse going.
Is it worth staying in a relationship with a narcissist?
According to psychologist Edward Tierney, it depends on what floats your boat. He says if you examine what you get out of a relationship with a narcissist, it is coldness and emotional distance, verbal abuse, criticism of everything you do and everything you believe, isolation from your family and friends.
So what don’t you get? Support, love, praise. He says to him the answer is obvious. It is not; it is never worth it. If he is super-rich and you get a lovely house, the right car, designer clothes- nope, still not worth being treated that badly. Such is the dark side of narcissism.
“I have found that narcissists are like mosquitoes. They anesthetize you, so they can bite you and suck your blood. Before long, they find another person to attack. As long as you offer a good supply of whatever it is they need, they’ll stick around. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’ve been bitten, until the anesthetic of narcissistic love bombing has worn off, and we are covered in lumps.” Karyl McBride. PhD. ‘’The Legacy of Distorted Love’’
How do you heal from a relationship with a narcissist?
Listen to your gut feeling.
Of the six perceptions we have, the sense we use least is “common sense”. Often our gut feel tells us something is wrong. Sometimes there are just little hints which we disregard as “perhaps it’s nothing”. Perhaps your mom told you “You made your choice and now have to live with it”. Maybe you had an unhappy childhood and never felt loved. You were seeking someone to fill that void. A predator smells that void like a shark smells blood in the water. If something feels off, it is. Take note of what you experience and warning signs.
The best advice is to walk away and cut all contact with the narcissist. Keeping contact (via phone, email or social media) with the narcissist will allow him to manipulate you still and hurt you. It will prevent you from healing. Distance protects you against more hurt, and it will help you gain perspective back.
If you can’t get away, SOUL GPS advises you ”to practice being emotionally and mentally disengaged when you deal with a narcissist – as not to let him/her get to you. It requires you to stay calm, cool and collected although you might be fuming inside, saving the outlet of emotions for a time when you are alone. It keeps them from having something to react on.”
It might work on the short term, but it will wear you down entirely over time. Being in an abusive relationship makes us always dwell in a state of hyper-vigilance to keep the peace. You might find yourself walking on our tip-toes not to disturb the abuser. It overstimulates your sympathetic system, pumping chemicals of stress into your bloodstream. It is one of the reasons why you so exhausted while in the relationship.
”You need to switch from ‘flight’ and ‘fight’ to ‘rest’ and ‘digest’.” You might need to learn and practise relaxation techniques. Joe Cohen discusses some techniques that he found helpful to cope with anxiety.
Narcissism is a severe mental health disorder, and it will affect you profoundly. You need to get the toxicity out of your system and get perspective on this disorder and how it affected you. It will help to keep a journal on what you feel, think and experience. It also helps to talk to a therapist, or a friend or join a support group for people who went through abuse.
Accept what happened
Maybe over time, you lost belief in yourself and your sense of worth. Numbness, shock, depression, isolation and despair replaced it. Although difficult to admit, you have to accept that the person was highly toxic and he/she was hurting you consciously. He used your best traits (empathy, kindness, forgiveness) against you. The narcissist outwitted you in his dirty game. The charms he/she used to woo you hid his imperfections. You have to realize it is not your fault that he/she turned out this way. It was nothing you did wrong. You have to forgive yourself for choosing to fall in love with this person.
Do a post-mortem (self-inquiry)
We learn something from everything that happens to us. If you don’t, you will walk into the same problem again. Some people say they tend to pick “bad partners” and have a long history of broken and abusive relationships. It is necessary to reflect on every connection that fails to determine what went wrong and how can you choose better next time. Sometimes our shortcomings lead to us attracting the wrong people all the time.
Ask yourself – do you have
- A need for security? For example, did you experience fatherly neglect in your life?
- A need for adoration? Have you been neglected as a child? Have you often been brushed aside by your parents?
- A need for acknowledgement? Are you walking around with a sense of not being worth much? Not intelligent, attractive or significant enough? Do I need someone else to complete me or make me happy? If this is the case, someone might come along and offer just that – to fill the void. But how they fill it, might not be what you expected.
NOTE: It is an important skill to learn to be content and happy on your own. It will help you not to fall for any guy intentions to fill the void. It will give you the patience and time to get to know someone very well and to make rational decisions about who you want in your life and if they add value
Heal from childhood trauma
IIf you experienced any form of childhood trauma, work on healing it now. Unfortunately, childhood trauma does influence your life as an adult, as well as the important choices you make. You can assist you in working it through a video series by John Bradshaw, ‘Homecoming’.
Be kind to yourself
A person who comes from a traumatic relationship often keeps on denying themselves nice things or experiences. A victim of a narcissist may have become conditioned over time that their needs and wants are unimportant. They were never allowed to choose what to do and when. The narcissist decides on how things will be. Some victims turn on themselves after abusive experiences and practice self-harm behaviour like cutting, not eating, not taking care of themselves physically.
It is essential to learn to love yourself again. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to enjoy things you deprived yourself of for a long time. Make sure that you do activities that you relish in particular every week. It can be a coffee date with a friend, a movie, a hair- or spa treatment, a trip out into a park, or the beach. You have to learn that you may choose what you do and when without being overruled by your partner. You take control back.
Resurrect your dreams, maybe even give them an upgrade. To have a sense of purpose in life and things to look forward to helping us overcome the trauma’s pull and launches us ahead.
Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time.