What is Narcissistic Abuse?

Narcissistic abuse is the emotional and mental abuse that takes place at the hands of a narcissistic person.

While all people have narcissistic traits to some level, those with narcissistic personality disorder will become abusers to those around them.

To better understand narcissistic abuse, we must first understand narcissism and its effects. In this article we’ll discuss narcissistic traits and basic information about it, signs and methods of abuse and more.

Narcissistic Traits in the Average Person

Healthy narcissistic traits in the average person manifest themselves in ways of self accomplishment, self-care and general self-esteem.

While it is healthy and encouraged to have those traits, there is a distinct difference between that and someone who is truly narcissistic.

Someone with a “big ego” or one who is simply self-centered and selfish might be described as narcissistic. This may or may not be true as not all people who are egotistical and selfish are narcissists.

Statistics on Narcissists

While true narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) isn’t as common as you might think, there have been varying responses when it comes to exactly how much of the population has narcissistic personality disorder.

Some studies show less than 1% while others believe 5% – 6% of the population has NPD. If we take the average of the two conflicting theories, we’d land somewhere around 3% of the population at an estimate.

It is also known that significantly more men tend to be narcissistic than women. Typically, it’s common for about 75% of narcissistic cases to be males.

Signs and Methods of Abuse

A narcissistic person will abuse people by manipulating them emotionally and mentally. Similar to what we discussed in this article on emotional abuse, they will try to confuse or disorient the person they are trying to manipulate. Here are several common signs and tactics of narcissistic abuse.


Gaslighting is a common  method of emotional abuse used in both narcissists and emotional abusers alike.

This occurs when the abuser makes the victim feel as though they’re fabricating the abuse. They will do this by acting like nothing is wrong, denying their behavior, and placing blame back on the victim.

Usually the victim will assume the blame after a while. The abuser will have an excuse for or deny all abusive behavior.

The goal of the abuser is to continue abusing the victim through emotional and mental manipulation while the victim dismisses that treatment, makes excuses for the abuser and ultimately thinks there is something wrong with themselves.


In some cases, narcissists will make you feel like they can’t live without you. The abuser will sometimes make you feel like they are incapable of doing basic things so you end up doing everything for them.

They will also make you feel like you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to them but their behavior contradicts that as they clearly do not love you.

If you’re a giving person, they will push that as far as it can go. This is how many victims of abuse stay in the situation for so long.


Since narcissists thrive off of flattery, they assume everyone else loves it as well. They will flatter others to get out of explaining their behavior.

Narcissists are extremely charismatic and use this to their advantage. When someone pays you a compliment, subconsciously, you think you like them.

A narcissistic person will flatter people all the time, not just to get out of explaining themselves.

Verbal Abuse

Some abusers are not so subtle in their methods and will verbally abuse the victim. Name calling and swearing at them are two common forms that abusers will use.

narcissistic abuse

At first, the victim might try to rationalize the abuse. In some cases, the victim is so severely conditioned that they might believe that they’re to blame as this treatment will not drive them away.

Negative Emotions

Negative emotions are very powerful. They can cause us to do things we might otherwise not and behave in extreme ways.

Narcissists (and any emotional abuser) will induce feelings such as fear, shame and guilt. They could fabricate scenarios to “keep you in line”.

The more the victim is at the mercy of the narcissist, the more control the abuser has. 

Undermine and Belittle You

Usually an abuser will undermine you by tearing you down. You could be really excited about something and they’ll play it off like it’s nothing.

You may also speak up for yourself or voice an opinion on something and they’ll cut you down right away. They will try to make you feel like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

The abuser will try to make you think that you’re not smart or capable of having valid opinions of your own. They will also try to mess with your emotional state by being cruel intentionally.

A narcissist will look for opportunities to put you down and put the spotlight on them any chance they can.

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Characteristics of a Narcissist

As we previously discussed in the article on 9 Signs of a Narcissist, a narcissist’s focus is fulfilling scenarios (that they’ve previously thought up) that will bring you the most attention or “wow” people.

People without narcissistic disorder would find this behavior exhausting or childish.

They’re “Flashy”

Often narcissists want flashy things in order to help manipulate situations so people see how “amazing and cool” they are.

Flashy material items are just props in their fake “awesome” lives. The more attention a narcissistic person gets from others, the happier they are.

If they can throw on some flashy clothes or drive around in a flashy (or obnoxiously loud) car for a few extra looks, they will. They will also embellish their stories to seem more exciting in order to “wow” their audience.

They’re Controlling

This might be one of the most noticeable signs of a narcissist. The control aspect makes sense as they always need to be getting some sort of external gratification.

In order to ensure they’re always getting that they have to be able to control a variety of situations. This is the only way to always get what they want.

They will want to control the smallest of things just to make it about them.

Let’s say you’re tired of the mistreatment and decide to stand up for yourself. When you finally put your foot down and call them out on how unreasonable they’re being, they’ll make it about themselves by giving you an inadequate reason about why they must have it that certain way.

For example, when you’re neck deep in this person’s relentless behavior you could find yourself saying something like “Let me get this straight. You don’t want me to listen to the music I like anymore because why?”

They’ll make up a pathetic reason and try to make you feel bad. The more they can make you feel shame or guilt, the more they’re in control.

This could be an extreme example (it actually happened to me once), as other narcissists might have “bigger fish to fry”.

Whatever the scenario may be, they’re upset and being unreasonable because you did something that wasn’t about them. Hopefully, if this sounds familiar to you, it’s not on the same level.

narcissistic abuse

They Lack Empathy

As if the control issue wasn’t bad enough, lack of empathy is also at play. Narcissists are mentally incapable of feeling empathy toward others.

They will mimic empathetic behavior, but they’re just doing that to control the situation. While they lack empathy, they will do everything they can to make you believe that they really care for you.

Living with a narcissist is exhausting, confusing and lonely. 

They Can’t be Blamed

As obvious as this sign might be, keep in mind that narcissists are very manipulative. Unless it was completely obvious that something was their fault, they will most likely be able to convince you that they aren’t to blame.

Just like being able to fake empathy, they will fake responsibility for something they’ve done just to shut you up and get on with their day. They think rules don’t apply to them.

If everything is about them and they are more important than others, then of course it makes sense that they would think the rules don’t apply to them.

In this case, it will be something more serious than running a red light or crossing the street without a crosswalk. A narcissist could intentionally break rules that would make the average person uncomfortable.

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They’re a Perfectionist  

While being a perfectionist is not a trait strictly of a narcissist, many narcissists are. Like other mental disorders, there is some degree of a spectrum to be considered.

Perfectionism is common in narcissists since they are controlling and like everything to go their way. Some narcissists will be more predominant in certain areas than others. 

They’re Charismatic – People love them!

Narcissists love the fact that they “have a silver tongue” and may not be afraid to tell you that either.

They know they’re charming, after all, it’s kind of a prerequisite of manipulation and control.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust anyone who you find very charming, just be aware of how they use their charm and don’t let your guard down too easily.

Effects of Abuse on the Victim

When someone has been emotionally abused, there are often short or long term effects. Emotional health issues are one of the first concerns seen with victims of emotional abuse.

When someone is subjected to emotional abuse for any significant amount of time, small emotional changes may be unnoticed and develop into serious underlying problems.

PTSD is another typical effect. Post traumatic stress disorder occurs under a variety of circumstances. The victim could have pre-existing emotional issues that are worsened by the abuser, or they could be conditioned over time.

Regardless of how the PTSD occurs as a result of narcissistic abuse, proper treatment will be needed in order to recover.

PTSD is usually very noticeable in the lives of those who have it. Usually people exhibit symptoms such as being “jumpy” or being extremely irritable.

They may also have issues sleeping and will often experience nightmares. Anxiety and depression are also very common effects of emotional abuse.

While anxiety can occur instantly, depression usually takes more time to develop. The length and severity of the abusive treatment usually determines the severity and effects seen case by case.

I found this article particularly interesting in regard to the short and long term effects of emotional abuse. Feel free to check it out as well!

So what can you do to get help with dealing with narcissistic abuse?

Talk to Someone

Talking to someone about your health is always a good idea if you’re comfortable doing so. Getting an outside perspective is very helpful for an outside solution.

Whether you’re more comfortable talking to a family member, friend or a certified therapist, having that outlet can do wonders for improving your mental health.

A certified therapist will have the experience and skills needed to help you resolve and avoid your triggering instances in the future.

By sharing your experience with abuse, a therapist can help you understand things about yourself that you may not even be aware of.

This will speed up your recovery process and give you a better understanding of your self-worth and how your brain processes trauma.

I hope this little bit on narcissistic abuse helps you get some helpful information on what to look out for. Understanding emotional abuse can help you avoid months or years of pain.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in any form, check out this website for resource and hotline information.

As previously mentioned, here is the discount link to sign up for online therapy (plus the “extras” toolbox) at 20% off your first month! START ONLINE COUNSELING 20% OFF

More from the Blog…

Resources and Other Helpful Articles from…

sane.org – basically all things narcissism. Check it out!


Hi, I'm Marissa! I'm passionate about mental and emotional health and want to share what I've learned over the years with others! I've seen first hand how mental health struggles can cause serious issues within relationships, work life, daily productivity, self-worth and more! I truly believe that we owe it to ourselves to bring more awareness to these life changing topics. Start your mental/emotional health journey by learning more today!

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