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Healing Strategies After Narcissistic Abuse

| Healing from Narcissistic Abuse – How I Engaged in Recovery | Updated 3/24/21 |

Healing from narcissistic abuse is no small matter. For the first couple months after I left my abusive relationship, all I could really do was survive. I was having a moral and spiritual crisis and I was viewing the world with new cynical and suspicious eyes. I retreated. It wasn’t until I began to look at  my condition more scientifically that I realized it wasn’t only a “time heals all wounds” situation. I could take steps to help the healing process along.

I tried a lot of things, even things I was skeptical of. I wanted desperately to feel normal again. Some things worked better than I imagined they would and some things were about as effective as putting magic crystals on my head. I was fairly unimpressed by aroma therapy, for example.

I was adrift for too long and didn’t immediately appreciate how important stabilizing my housing situation was to my well being. Living out of bags in motel rooms was not at all conducive to healing. I needed a space to make my own.

I had to come to grips with what had happened. I was so confused that nearly all of my brain power was devoted to unraveling what had been years of reality-warping gaslighting. Then, realizing the depths of deception and depravity I’d been entangled with led to deep shame. I was so disappointed in myself for being deceived and manipulated. I didn’t trust my own judgement anymore. Getting that back required learning about cluster B personality disorders and connecting with other people who’d suffered narcissistic abuse. I read so many personal stories and began to see how similar all those experiences were to my own. I wasn’t alone. Coming to understand how the pattern of behavior plays out helped me forgive myself for becoming entrapped and then debilitated by narcissistic abuse.

Even understanding the darkness of narcissistic abuse that I was dealing with, I still suffered from intense feelings of loss and loneliness. This was no ordinary breakup. In retrospect, the relationship was more like addiction than love. That’s a trauma bond and it had to be broken.

I had firsthand experience with chemical dependency and I recognized that just like when I quit drinking, I was going to have to commit myself to a period of suffering in order to break free and begin recovery. Maintaining no contact was first a physical endurance challenge.

I came to learn that narcissistic abuse leads to physical brain damage. The hippocampus shrinks while the amygdala grows. This leads to chronic confusion, short-term memory loss, anxiety, anger, panic attacks and even bouts of rage (see Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse). Reversing that damage is crucial to recovery and that’s not a matter for magic crystals. It’s scientifically, physically quantifiable. It’s all about stress hormones, which a person’s brain is continually marinading in while in a relationship with someone with a cluster B personality disorder. This physical change explains why I found myself very jumpy after leaving Tina. I was never physically afraid of her, so I couldn’t understand why my body was reacting as if I’d come out of a bloody war zone. I never had to dodge bullets, so I didn’t get why I’d jump so easily at certain sounds, wake up gasping in adrenaline-pumping fright or jump backwards like Jason Vorhees had lunged at me with a machete, just upon noticing people I wasn’t ready for. It’s because the amygdala controls the fight-or flight response and thanks to a steady diet of overflowing cortisol, mine had grown out of control. These reactions aren’t psychological. They are physical! They are chemical. The amygdala doesn’t distinguish between physical and emotional. A threat is a threat. That revelation changed the course of my recovery.

I began to study what causes increased cortisol production and what can mitigate it. Stimulants are an obvious culprit. Caffeine, nicotine, taurine, etc. All of those (and illegal drugs like methamphetamines or cocaine) elevate stress hormones. Those chemical precursors had to be eliminated, or at least curtailed.

I had to evaluate situations that induced any physical stress or anxiety. That required really paying attention to what was going on in my body. I realized that I was producing a stress response sometimes just by playing intense video games. From that, I learned how to identify other things that were stressing me out and then to limit their impact on me.

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Physical exercise  is a proven stress-reducer. It doesn’t have to be intense. Just taking a long walk can have a beneficial effect.

I was happy to learn that there were other things I could do beyond just changing some habits. Fish Oil, for example is an effective cortisol-reducer. I began taking it daily and found it almost immediately beneficial. Magnesium deficiency is a common culprit for elevated stress hormones, so magnesium supplements can also help. I was already taking magnesium and I dabbled with some other supplements for stress-reduction and found some use for Kava Kava and vitamin D (also helpful with depression).

I’d learned earlier that, odd as it sounds, over the counter pain relievers, like aspirin and ibuprofen can ameliorate heartache (don’t just take my word for it – there’s research to back this up). In case of acute anxiety or panic, diphenhydramine is a surprisingly effective over the counter solution. It’s an antihistamine. The most commonly known brand name is Benadryl. It’s also marketed as a sleep aid. In my personal experience, I’d take two (25 mg capsules) to sleep or just one to kill a panic attack. Bear in mind, I’m not a doctor. This isn’t medical advice. I’m just relating my personal experience.

I gave up energy drinks, but couldn’t quite manage without a cup or two of coffee in the morning, so I allowed that much for myself, but in the evening, I found Hawthorn Tea to be particularly soothing.

Quitting nicotine required a compromise of sorts. I had to forgive myself for gaining some weight. Snacking replaced smoking and vaping, for a few months. That was hard. It was almost three months before the cravings were gone, but it wasn’t as hard as breaking the trauma bond. If you can do that, you can do anything!

Having undertaken some steps to repair my enlarged amygdala, I began to research ways to address an impaired hippocampus. Many years back, I’d seen a documentary about London taxi drivers which claimed learning the haphazard maze of roads in that city caused a measurable increase in the size of drivers’ hippocampi. So, I knew deliberately, physically changing this part of the brain was possible. I’d had a part time job driving limos for some time and I found it satisfactory, so I was already engaging and exercising my hippocampus with that occupation. I also had an affinity for crossword puzzles and with an app on my phone, I finished at least one a day. Little did I know I was perhaps instinctively engaging in the very activities I needed to repair my hippocampus. Crosswords and logic puzzles are cited by doctors as activities to strengthen that region of the brain!

Light therapy sounds like new agey hocus pocus, but it’s actually helpful for depression. Getting outside on a nice sunny day is best, but when that wasn’t possible (like dark winter days), natural daylight simulating full-spectrum lamps made a noticeable difference for me.

I needed a lot of alone time at first, but as I gradually began to grow stronger and more confident again, getting supportive friends and family back into my life accelerated my recovery and tipped the balance of good and bad days or even hours in my favor.

During the deep depression that set in when I’d first left Tina, my body atrophied. I eventually had to force myself into physical activity. I began getting some light exercise every day (or at least every other day). As I mentioned above, that’s also a good way to reduce stress!

After I got settled into my condo, making improvements to it were like an analog to improvements I was making inside myself. Putting up decor that reminded me of my history – of who I am – mirrored and reinforced the reconstruction of my very personality.

I gravitated to a lot of elements from my youth. My therapist called it regression, but that seems to have a negative connotation. I restored my operating system to an earlier state that was known to work! I was buying Cookie Crisp cereal and Eggo waffles like I used to eat before school as a kid.

I was binge watching 70’s science fiction television. Star Trek, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica. The old stuff was good. It had a straightforward morality to it. The good guys always won and there was nothing too vicious that could trigger an overblown response of stress hormones. Those kind of things also helped me remember who I was – before the narcissist took over my life. Immersing myself in things that I enjoyed before the trauma helped me reconnect with my good, less damaged self (see also: Regression on the path to Healing).

If I wasn’t watching nostalgic sci-fi, it was comedies – just not the romantic varieties.

I had to avoid a lot of music for a while, because most songs are love songs and every love song was about her. Fortunately, I like electronic dance music, because a lot of that is just instrumental.

Writing proved to be essential in setting order to the swirls of gaslit confusion in my bleeding brain. Writing my stories helped me reestablish objective reality and hold on to it when emotional and trauma-bonded responses would try to convince me otherwise. It also helped me to segregate the emotions connected to those memories and thereby reduce their impact (Also see: Write it Out for more about writing to heal).

My therapist always counseled patience and self-forgiveness, which are easy enough words to say, but surprisingly difficult to put into practice. I did eventually learn. I was eventually ready to be patient. Though I’ve learned that time isn’t the only factor, it’s still an important one. There is no rushing some healing.

I discovered that I had some delayed mourning to do. I was so wrapped up in all the chaos and confusion of Tina’s making as well as the responsibility of dealing with my Mom’s estate that while still embroiled in the relationship, I never allowed myself the time to fully accept and mourn my mom’s passing, or losing my dog, Clyde to cancer. Delaying the processing of that kind of grief had the unfortunate side effect of prolonging it.

I still practiced kindness and generosity. That’s just who I am, but I gave myself permission to set limits and even to be selfish. It’s OK to be selfish sometimes, especially in times of need. My wellness and comfort could come first. I doubt I’ll ever be exactly the person I was but after a year, I found myself stronger, more confident and having more good days than bad ones. That’s pretty good progress for only a year after narcissistic abuse. I’m certain that being proactive about my recovery instead of just waiting for it made a huge difference.

I’d had my doubts that I’d ever be ready to become romantically involved again, but I’d even started dating after 6 months or so. I discovered that some superintendent of safety in my brain still has some areas cordoned off and I’m not able to fully trust or let people closer than a metaphorical arms-length, but I still consider that progress!

After coming to better understand cluster B personality disorders, in a way, I felt safer in the world because I knew how to recognize them and knew to stay away. On the flip-side, knowing that these people exist and in larger numbers than I would have imagined (6 to 15% of the population, depending on the study) made the world seem a darker place, though.

When I first moved into my own place, Amazon became one of my best friends. Here are some of the exact products I found helpful in my recovery.

For important reinforcement of some ideas you may need to disabuse yourself of, check out Kim Saed’s tips for people new to recovery, “Real Self-care Ideas for New Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse.

Find out about more ways to get help for narcissistic abuse, here. | Next: Get Help for Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

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40 comments

  • B

    Omg,thank you!! Its been two years out of that crazy fog and I’m still so confused,feel crazy talking about my abuse,its one big mind game.I spent 15 yrs. Living with pathological gaslighting and cluster B abuse,antisocial mother who gets a high trying to destroy me.I never felt love,I was hated and near the end of this abuse I knew and saw straight evil,her eyes bugged out just staring off while i told her i dont hate u mother,I feel bad for you and she just turned her head towards me and said “u need help” it was then I realized she cant comprehend anything I’ve said.They slowly (mother and enabling father) sucked the life out of me and I litterly felt like I was dead.Take my belongings and displaying them in their house and denied everything.I cant believe how much I’ve lost and I’m still in shock.I isolate and feel like I’m gonna explode,its so hard to explain this kinda abuse even to therapist,I still haven’t found the words to explain this hell and its built my mind into mush,I cant think straight,very very bad short term memory loss,watching a movie that u finish watching the next half the next day,having to start it over because u cant even remember what u watched the prior day.I cant remember how to spell many words.Two years later and I still cry every morning and every night.I believe I have a trama bond because I still want to have normal family,but I know I never will have that.where do u get help for this without sounding insane?? I’m truly struggling…very good explanation of my exact abuse…thank u!!!

    • Dan

      For starters, I’d recommend calling some psychology clinics and ask specifically if they have a therapist experienced with C-PTSD or narcissistic abuse.

      Maintain no contact with your mother (or “gray rock” if that’s not possible).

      Be selfish for a while. Focus on what makes you happy and healthy. Reduce stress and exercise your mind.

      If you’re on Facebook, here’s a support group you might find helpful: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2086262928054302/

      • Be careful and ask specific questions when seeking a clinical therapist. I had done alot of the self care work and overcoming ABD abuse similar but not always as sophisticated or as easily masked as NPD. Becoming a widow unexpectedly, a situation having to move to area of origin I found myself in a situatiin with my sister as well as a pain specialist both extreme NPD behaviors. The therapist highly recommended for specializing in abuse/trauma and specific chain stigmatization reversed the situation I explained. I was shocked obtaining my records having misquoted, negative misleading paraphrasing, minimimizing the clear stated abuse patterns, projections, gaslighting, etc to discover the therapist doing the same. In questioning the stonewalling, denying, gaslighting reoccured. Had I not engaged in my own hesling prior earned a BA degree in psych BSW in Social Work , gained experience largely assigned to assisting clients with histories of abuse and trauma in residential settings this therapists tendency for controlling and narcisstic patterns herself at such a vulnerable time for me I niece the damage would have been extreme. Obtain records immediately and if need be seek a survivor like Dan, someone who understands to give you tips on questions to be certain the professional doesn’t have naticcissistic tendencies. Psychology Today has an article on the top 6 professions narcissists are drawn to. Shahida Arabi, author of book:”becoming the narcissists nightmare is excellent and she correctly stated narcissists with propensity to abuse exist in every profession. She is a truesurvivor to thriver. Dan certainly sounds a strong survivor too and his sharing was definately helpful. We survivors need to stuck together for there remains a great deal of bias and stigma perhaps even a larger percentage than the 6 to 15% of narcissists (perhaps 20% ) Strangely so the disorder of recent years has become more accepted even admired from those in the top 6 and more top professions.

    • Shell

      Abuse like that will even throw your central nervous system off, as the constant fight-or-flight hormone being released off our kidneys, and going to the brain, sending protein transmitters across our bodies causing tension, heart palpitations, jumpiness, anger, memory loss, etc. It’s hell man, but it IS healable!!!
      Gray Rock your earthly mom, and lean into your spiritual family. It was the only thing that helped me survive. Best of luck to you on your healing journey!!!

      • Makhesa Nyamane

        Oh my gosh….. I just read what you went through and realized that narcissistic behavioral disorder is really a thing.

        Im fresh out of a relationship with what I believe is a malignant narcissist. The abuse was physical, emotional and financial. It left me at the end of my wits as to how to salvage a – then unbeknown – unsalvagable relationship.

        I knew I was dating a narcissist since around June last year but it never occurred to me that it wasn’t just the person’s personality, but a disorder and I had to just get out of the relationship. Yes, of course I thought I could change him, but the person who ended up changing, for the worst, was me. You can never win trying to play a narcissists game when you are not one. Best thing to do is to leave. Period!!!

        I wish there was a support group around where I live and a way to reach out to more people who are living with people with narcissistic personality disorders but not knowing they are living with narcissists and what that is

    • josie

      There’s a very helpful subReddit called raisedbynarcissists.

    • Inez N. Elswic

      My s.o. man sounds exactly like her mom.. She said to her one time that her eyes were blue when the girl clearly has green eyes. Literally looked straight at her and tried insinuating that to her own daughter i couldn’t pick my jaw off the floor for days after that.. I still feel like apart of me, my own heart was chipped away from what she must have felt or went through. My mom is damn close to being the same way. But sounds to me like we’re all in this together to break those generational curses set by our parents. Let us not do anything the same as our mothers did and only from a place of love because we know how it feels. So instead of continuing those types of patterns and behaviors, we have to stick together and #BreakTheCycle

    • Alex

      Consider yourself lucky that yours are gone …imagine having one hell bent on destroying every aspect of your life and mentally and emotionally abusing you by proxy …and with a skill that it’s impossible to describe because the harassment and torture techniques are seemingly everyday things …like someone entering the aisle you’re in in the store but they come and stand right next to you …and this happens all the time …or anytime you call a customer service rep it’s the same person no matter the company and they never solve your problem and you can’t disable call forwarding for some reason…and they’re so good at being a victim they’ve convinced everyone you’re an abusive nut and they all treat you like crap …talk to you like you’re a horrible person and don’t deserve to be treated as a human being….the police won’t even let you file a report after someone buys a laptop without your knowledge on your account …they won’t even give you a copy of a police report someone made falsely accusing you of domestic violence …and when you try to get answers you get the universal time waster and agitator ….they isolate you from everyone and leave you with no
      Support system …no way to reach any help …constant harassment and it shows just how truly evil people can be and that it is alive and well and thriving and all you can do is try and remain caring and help people when you can ….even when it appears there is and never will
      Be hope again….you have to hold onto something to be able to go on and that God has to turn the narrative one day…..

      • Wanda Ethridge

        Alex I am so sorry you are going through this, but for what its worth I relate to every single word you just posted. It’s maybe something for you to keep writing about because you described whats been happeneing to me like you are right there with me through all this mad insane dont know where to turn and when you do its only short lived peace if any at all, going to bed with doom, waking up with the same and even more because as time also adding to the reality of feeling stuck in a wall less prison, that some insane demonic vile putrid inhuman creature has you in, like a bug in a jar and the mean ass brat keeps shaking the damn thing everytime you almost get to the opening and get free. When will he finally discard me, its been 18 plus years of his self serving hell and no end in sight, I am not suicidial and finding out that he in fact actually is gave me some kind of well theres that way maybe he will out himself? I know I know its wrong but to live in this horrific isolation, out in the rural Arkansas area, no friends or family as I gradually lost them and have only limited phone access, suffering from C-PTSD has caused PNES seizures, so from basd to worse now I am limited to drive the klunker truck he keeps sabotaged so again more limits on finding any out side reflief of normal human conversation so the idea this disgusting abusive bastard will possibly kill himself one day, surprsingly is a ray of hope that some would call evil on my part, but if they truly ever see who is behind that mask theyd hand him the weapon, hell theyd push him over the first ledge they could, if they only knew what I wished I didnt, yes I wished I was still dumb to this hell and trying to live long enough to be free is worse because I know and sometimes I feel like when I was dumb to what and who he was at least I didntg hurt so much, at least I still was dumb to what hell was really just around the next corner. Thanks again Alex, think about it and maybe you can write some more for me/us out here, for there are far too many of us left to suffer in silence, then sometimes validation can come from the words of another soul just as broken as us, so then we can find some comfort knowing that at least we arent alone. I am going to also write with my best grammar through my blurry vision from sobbing in my tears that although I dont know you, I honestly can say I love you my dear friend Alex, take care and stay brave, May God Bless us all.

  • stacey

    Great article! i do find crystals healing tho. i learned how to work with the frequencies. Lepidolite is great for stress. Bach flower essence like Rescue Remedy helped me too.

    • Vicky

      What do u mean how to work with frequency so cool say more about this

      • Wanda Ethridge

        Vicky I think it means to listen to the HZ frequency in music and meditation sounds for healing and I have this playing often as a calming and self healing method to heal, it does make my moods better, and I can often transport myself into another inner realm in my mind fantasy, day dreaming of being in a lovely little cottage closer to my sons and their families, holidays with loving friends and them all sitting at my long dining table, and as I carefully spread out a feast for them and we sit for hours talking and remembering good times and we are always thankful for my escape from the dark one in his dark dungeon, I often do this one over and over, its my fav but anyways I’ve found the HZ healing frequency selections take me to this special place quickly and are better than drugs, or staying awake all the time suffering. They have many choices on youtube, just type in HZ frequency for healing and you will be on your way, I hope this is helpful and answers your question. Take care and stay brave, God Bless us all.

  • Audrey Gonzales

    I am going through all of this as I write this message. I am in need of help. I can’t eat , sleep..he has taken over my life. Nine years. I finally left tho…but We got back together two years ago…I thought he changed. I thought he realized. I was wrong. It’s worse and yet he is constantly on my mind, in all that I do. I didn’t know what I was going thru til I found out what a narcissist was. I’m going thru everything they say a victim of narcissist goes thru. Everything!!! I am a broken mess. I want to get better. What do I do? Please.

    • Dan

      I understand how difficult this is. Breaking a trauma bond, some say, is harder than kicking heroin. A large part of what you’re going through is physiological. It’s like chemical withdrawals. You have to be prepared to face some suffering if you are going to come out OK on the other side, but there are things you can do to ease the passage. I wrote this piece in the hope that others in similar circumstances might be helped by my experiences.

      I suggest that you get in touch with a therapist who’s experienced in narcissistic abuse or C-PTSD. If it gets to a point that you feel you can’t manage, get yourself to an emergency room and they’ll get you going in the right direction.

      Since a lot of what you’re experiencing is physical, you can use physical means to reduce the pain. Believe it or not, even simple aspirin or other over the counter analgesics can help. So can antihistamines, like benadryl.

      Learn about narcissism, take walks or otherwise, get some light exercise. Start putting your wellbeing first.

      Even if you do everything exactly “right,” healing is still going to take time. Give yourself time. Every day you suffer is a day closer to breaking free of the trauma bond!

    • Lori

      I’m sorry and I know exactly what you are going through! I’ve been 3 months out of a 3 year relationship with a NARC! It’s hard. I wanted to straight up commit suicide. It consumed my life, I’ve lost friends. I had to see a counselor which has helped. Every day gets better and better is the best thing I can offer. I literally try and focus on the BAD the lies the cheating and the mental abuse! Seriously hang in and focus on getting your life back in order.

  • Marty

    I’m 54. I’ve been married for nearly 19 years. I can’t leave right now, as I am in a custody battle for my granddaughter. That should be resolved in a year, with custody going to her mother( court keeps getting pushed back etc) I’m cut off from friends and family. I’ve become riddled with panic attacks and anxiety. I don’t have a job, but I keep looking, even if I get one, it will be low paying. I am not sure that I can afford to take care of myself. I’m trying to be realistic, and smart about things…but I feel like I am losing my mind. My self esteem is nil. I’ve gained a lot of weight. I feel empty, fat, and featureless. I don’t trust anyone anymore, and live in this dreary repeat cycle of mental abuse and depression. I don’t know what to do. I have no access to money, he controls every aspect of my life. I have no autonomy. I know logically what he is doing to my soul…but I don’t know how to fix it. I wrote this in a hurry, forgive me if it is garbled. I feel so lost and alone. Any thoughts would be appreciated, and thanks!

    • Dan

      My heart goes out to you. It sounds like a crushing situation to be in. I’m wondering if you’re as cut off from friends as you say, or if the barriers are more a matter of perception. Narcissistic abuse can make us feel isolated and can cause us to self-isolate. I’d test that. Try to get back in touch with people. Friends can be a HUGE help. It sounds like you’re going to have to rely on the “gray rock” method for dealing with your narcissistic partner. Getting a job sounds like a great idea both because it will provide you a means to work towards freedom and because it will get you out of the house and around other people for a while.

      Your message doesn’t seem at all garbled. I understand perfectly. If you’re on facebook, there are a couple support groups I’ve found helpful. Maybe check them out, too:
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/2086262928054302/
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/198860354210215/

    • Veronica

      I can feel your sadness and your despair Start listening to daily meditations and healing 10 minutes a day if you can Check out 528 hz music for inter healing Read all you can on mindfulness and self compassion. Get a big teddy bear that you can hold and pretend it is you and talk to it love it. You were going to have to love yourself whole and do not let him see that you are rebuilding yourself from the inside out keep it all to yourself. Learn detachment imagine a big safe plexiglass all around you and none of his words or his behaviors can get to your soul your spirit your heart. Learn about grey rock. Pray and give your fears to God ask him to give you strength

    • Ms D

      Yes I’m the same age and exact same situation, no job, raising our 14 yr old son alone, no family or friends cuz iv been a stay at home mom, us who r suffering from these narcissist need support, so if I could help, I’m here to listen, we need to b heard, cuz as we both no a narcissist is alot about them. Stay strong and start doing for you!! God bless 🙏

  • Annonymous

    I just went through practically the same thing! Mom died, cat died, and then clusterB. I lost so much weight and felt inept at everything. Physically I have never felt so much pain and mental confusion from the c-ptsd. I couldn’t even write my hands were so shaky. I had to move across the country and wouldn’t look any strangers in the eye walking down the street.
    After reading your post, I keep forgetting that I didn’t get to properly grieve death and clearing an estate as well. It all happened at once. I’m 4 months No Contact and dealing with the worst smear campaigns because my SO is high profile, but slowly able to move my body again and have moments where I don’t obsessively read on Quora. Taking nootropics (responsibly), B vitamins, and getting massages helps a little at first when trauma is at it’s worst.
    Thanks for letting us know there is hope, and sorry this happened to you too. Bums me out that little is known amongst therapists and the public in general about this abuse. Also that science hasn’t caught up with a cure. I still fight the feeling of wanting to find a cure for these miserable people. So far Eleanor Greenburg is a therapist with a lot of insight to narcissism. Check her out!

  • Robin

    Hi Dan, just wanted to say this was one of the better and realistic articles I’ve read on actually getting through. I continue to reflect and googled narcissists and ownership as I continue to realize I don’t think there was ever love only ownership. Anyway, I am also struggling with the aftermath related to the cortisol release. Luckily I’ve gotten really good as noticing what stresses and stimulates me. It’s actually quite interesting. Some people immediately make me sweat and I realize my body has always had this “pre warning “ system I never paid attention to. Congrats on your progression through removing some harmful to your health behaviors. I can’t seem to ditch the coffee though either, as much as I probably should. Gonna try this crossword puzzle thing out though. I’ve taken the holistic route and am also working on healing. Thanks for the article.

    • Ms D

      Yes thank you, I’v been doing research and been learning about this and now it all makes sense, 14 yrs of marriage with the last 10 being hell, the emotional abuse is awful and no one sees it but me, and yes I feel a negative impact on my brain and that scares me, I used to b a vibrant and fun lady, now I’m always tired and grouchy, hate it, so I’m looking for ways to better myself, and pray for all who are suffering 🙏

  • Heather

    Omg I want to thank you for sharing this🖤I am so lost right now and this gave me hope that everything could “wake up” , that’s what I call it, I just feel like everything is sleeping; my brain, my feelings, my heart, basically everything that makes me a functioning person😔

  • Dan

    Even with help and determination, it can be a long road, but hope is step one towards recovery. Once you believe you can get better (and truly want to), you can start taking steps forward.

    This article has had more of an impact than I might have imagined. I’m so glad people are finding it helpful. Thanks for your feedback. Good luck on your path back to yourself!

  • Tana THOMASTON

    This article and the responses are so helpful in recovery. I am very thankful someone referred this on to me. It is a new week and a new day and I am very thankful for receiving this today!

  • A J Alford

    Oh my goodness, I am in the process of ending a 17 year relationship with someone I believe is a narcissist. He and I had a conversation yesterday and I started to believe that I was the one who messed up our relationship. That is was my fault. It doesn’t matter that we have had a volatile relationship for years. He has angry out bursts. I have walked on eggshells our entire relationship. He has betrayed me 4 times. Holy crap. I was starting to believe this was my fault.

  • Erin Conway

    After 4 devastating years of his abuse, I finally went NC & set myself free. The Dr Jesse Lefever & Mr Hyde dynamic wore me thin.
    Months later, when I diplomatically informed him he had given me chlamydia in both eyes, his final words to me were:
    You stupid Bitch. No one cares about your fucking problems. Just go KILL YOURSELF and leave everyone alone
    You pathetic, psycho loser
    DIE!
    Just DIE!

  • Donny

    I’m just coming to terms with accepting that I was involved with a covert narcissist. We were together for 3 and a half years. We broke up 3 months ago, but contact has still been in place. This discard phase has caused me so much pain, confusion, anxiety, depression, and so many other emotions. I started drinking heavily and hating myself because she made me feel like everything was my fault. Nothing made sense to me at all.

    And then just this past weekend some information was revealed to me that she had had an entirely different life on the side from what she had me believing she had including another boyfriend. For 3 years she had told me she didn’t use social media, and she never showed up in any searches as well. But my new friend was able to find her easily. Come to find out my ex had blocked me and hidden herself from me from the very beginning ultimately keeping me a secret from her public life. Suddenly it all became very clear.

    Upon letting my ex know that I had learned the truth, she had zero remorse and acted like she hadn’t done anything wrong at all. That was when my friend had suggested I look into narcissist and signs of being a victim of a narcissistic relationship.

    It all makes sense now. The love bombing, the devaluation, the discard, and the trauma bonding that has me longing for her attention and interactions.

    I know I’ve got a long road ahead of me, but this article has helped me understand things logically.

  • Dariona Velasquez

    Thank you so much. People have no idea how their abusive behavior and problems can destroy a person. It’s so sad. I was robbed of my peace, happiness and so many other opportunities. And the worst part is these narcissistic people won’t leave you alone. It’s like they keep coming back to torture you just pure evil. Narcissist is a demon. Like I was 15 months from being a Bsn and just dealing with all these people smh now I’m 14k away from getting back in school. People please just stop everything and focus on you , do not destroy yourself staying in that evil loophole Of trying to prove your love and not give up. Leave don’t take threats as jokes or anything a lot of people say evil stuff behind smiles. I’m literally having to pick up and move my whole life now because of an abuser and I have no idea how I’ll even get the finances to do it and probably have to get a new job which is just sad. Please don’t allow yourself to slowly get that wrapped up. It’s awe full I’m in my early 20’s having to escape and it’s crazy because I grew up with abuse so I knew better but that’s the thing about narcissistic abuse it is a grooming these people do and they do it to the kind and loving people. They do it to people who have already been traumatized and only want love and to love and they take advantage and they have zero conscious they don’t apologize just terrible what it can do to a person and it’s awful. I literally deleted my photos on social media and videos. The people destroy you and then the pain causes you to further self destruct . Dan you are beyond accurate, God lead me to you. God bless you and keep you and I pray you receive a miracle in the next few days . God bless you and thank you so much you have no idea how many people you are helping!

  • Stronger & Wiser

    I sit in stunned silence. You have described and, most importantly, explained what’s going on with me. I didn’t realize what I’ve been doing is actually trauma healing. Your words resonated so deeply in my spirit I felt calmed and … dare I say joyous? The damage was real and this validated my experience – both the devastation and the healing. I’ve done many of the same good things instinctually and I’m proud of myself. I feel lighter somehow.

  • Sherry T.C.

    I posted a message somewhat lengthy and don’t see it. It’s very late and self care needed. For now I wanted to thank Dan for his valuable sharing and for all NPD survivors reading ..posting ..thanks to all of you too. We will heal through this horrendous form of abuse. Psychology Today has two articles on NPD..one titled 14 common characteristics of a narcissist. It includes 13 characteristics if a non narcissist which I found very helpful in counteracting some of the bias and stigma against survivors perhaps as prevalent as the narcisstic abuse disorder. The second article lists the top sux professions narcissists are drawn to in greater proportion than tbe genersl 6- 15% Dan correctly addressed. Author Shahida Arabi in valuable book: Becoming The Narcissists Nightmare rightly states those with NPD exist in every profession, probably every occupation. Sadly enough narcissism so prevalent with so little awareness of it’s destruction has become more accepted even admired by many. I believe we survivors can make a difference. Very grateful to you Dan, and to all if you the courage for sharing.

  • Theresa

    Dan

    Thank you for sharing. I am in my seventh year of recovery from a covert narcissist who lived a double life with me for years. The fear and the pain that grips you when you discover the deceit is debilitating and hard for others to understand.

  • Vou

    Hello Dan… my mother is recovering from
    Narcissistic abuse. I, unfortunately, played a role that I am desperately constantly atoning for… but I’m still a trigger. i try not to be, and i have children myself and she loves them… but in one of her “reactions” she has decided to cut me out completely… which means my children also suffer. I have ways for her to see her grandchildren without having contact with me. i want to see her get better, but I know not having a support system does not help either. Any advice would be appreciated!

  • Ravyn

    Here in 2022 👋🏼
    I’ve been out 6 years now this Feb and yet, still in the thick of it. Its actually the worst its ever been and these past 6 years take the cake for the entire 17 years I’ve known him. I have 6 kids with him and my kids are now witnessing what I did with the added on physical abuse to a couple of them. The system won’t help because its his word against mine and the kids are too scared to say anything for fear it gets back to him, so he default, he wins. Again. So we survive this until we can all get out 100%. My youngest is only 6, oldest 12.

    Thank you for these posts. How do I heal myself and my kids in the environment we are stuck in?

    • Dan

      I’m sorry to hear you’re going through all of that – still. It’s a heartbreaking story I hear too often. I always felt like I dodged a bullet by not having kids with my narcissistic ex, so that’s a complication I have no experience with, but I sympathize with you and your kids. I can only imagine.

      Most sources I’ve seen that discuss the topic advise “gray rock” for a co-parent to kids shared with a narcissist. As to the kids, themselves – That gets more complicated than I’m qualified to talk about. Hopefully, another reader with experience raising children with a narcissist can weigh in and help fill in some of my gaps in knowledge and experience.

      Healing, in general, requires attention to the areas that have been damaged. That’s what this particular article addresses. Work on your stress levels and get your stress hormones under control. Flex your hippocampus with some brain exercises. Maybe see a therapist. Keep your body healthy with some activity and a decent diet. Knowledge is power. Study up on all the games narcissists play and they’ll lose a significant portion of their power over you.

      Readers with kids: Advice?

  • Aubrey

    Dan, thank you for sharing your story and experiences. I especially appreciate the points regarding physiological impact of abuse on your body and brain.
    Also, the stat of 6-15% resonates because I believe the number of these people out there falls into over 10% of society.

    Briefly, I grew up raised by a narcissistic parent and have found myself always in relationships with people who have similar character traits and treat me with total disregard. I have battled PTSD most of my life.

    I finally managed to remove myself from an abusive situation after 10 years only to find myself in another situation, of 2 years, with what I believe is a Covert Narc…it has been a hideous ride of cycles occurring every month…showering me with gifts and attention then the abuse, personal attacks start again. I feel like a shell of a human being who can barely get through the day without crying or having nervous breakdowns.
    I wish I had access to someone who could help me. At least there is online support and validation.

    • Dan

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sorry you’re experiencing all that. I’d guess, you’re subconsciously conditioned to accept narcissistic abuse. Many keep falling back into the same trap. It feels “normal” and what is actually “normal” might even feel wrong or strange.

      Narcissism generally can’t be cured, but codependency can. Maybe work on your inner self before getting into yet another harmful relationship.

      If you’re on Facebook, look for a group called Covert Narcissism Group. You might find it helpful.

  • TL

    I dont know where to start or if i even have the energy or clarity to tell my story…and it may be a little long. I’ve been married for 19 years. My husband has always been pretty troubled and has had mental health issues, severe cyclical substance abuse with periods of complete non-functionality. He is very smart, has an MBA and a law degree, but has often worked. He has worked very little for the past 6 years. I knew he had a rough childhood in the sense that his mother struggled with alcoholism and his father was often tough on him, but it came out a few years ago while he was in treatment that he was sexually abused for a solid year while at an all-boys boarding school when he was 12. I often felt like there was “something else” contributing to his depression, anxiety and substance abuse, so this explained a lot… And it broke my heart for his pain. He has a good side to him and a more prominent side that is very challenging. I have stayed for many reasons, but mostly because I do love him and he has often not h ad anyone in his corner except me. I have always tried very hard to not enable him I just didn’t abandoning him. I’ve had to walk a fine line with it and I am sure I have made some mistakes. Probably even more than staying to try to help him have hope, I stayed so my boys would have their dad. It’s a complicated thing, but while he often can’t cope with being a parent, he does love his boys and of course, they love him. I have tried to keep things as normal as possible for our 3 boys, but it has been hard and they have been affected. Our oldest son who is a senior in HS is very angry. His father was very absent and ill from his 6-9th grade years and it was hard on him. Our middle son who is 14 is on the autism spectrum and has a lot of emotional challenges anyway. He has been homeschooled for the last 3 years. Our youngest is 11…and my easiest, but for that reason he kind of gets lost in the shuffle and I feel bad about that. My husband is in and out of the house, and has been that way for about 7 years…either due to drug abuse or just because he can’t handle life especially the rigors of life with 3 kids. He has been involved in extra-martial affairs quite often and at this point I am not staying with him with hopes of healing for us or our marriage being salvaged. Due to him not working much for many years, our finances are not good. I have thought about finally filing for divorce, but I don’t even know how I would afford it. I work full time but my income is not enough to cover everything. To further complicate things, his father is the one who helps me make ends meet…which I am eternally grateful for, but i really don’t like it and it complicates things. And my husband uses it against me and as a way to control me financially and emotionally. He is very critical of me for “how I handle things”, for how I “deal with the boys”, for not being “harder on the boys”, for having credit card debt. Nothing I do is ever good enough or right. I like to keep the house clean because it makes me stressed out when it is a mess or dirty, but I only have time to do that in the evenings or weekends. He criticizes me for “wiping down the counters for the hundreth time today” (it;s only the first time because I’ve been at work all day and then helping kids with homework all evening) instead of watching TV with him. He criticizes me for not working out and says I should do that before I clean. If I show that I am tired or overwhelmed, he tells me I am a martyr….which really hurts and I pray to God that is not what I am…I don’t think at all that I am…I am just trying to take care of everything the best I can and keep life as stable as possible for my kids. I feel at my wits end many days lately…and I also feel trapped. I do need his help that he does offer, for things like helping get the kids to tutoring or the orthodontist, etc. because it would mean more time out of work for me,..or money I don’t have to pay someone else to help. But, lately I wonder how much more I can handle. I feel like I am barely surviving. I have isolated more and more over the years, partially because I don’t have the energy for more in my days and partially because I am ashamed that I have allowed this to be my life and my children’s life, Some days lately I am so worn out and overwhelmed that I just wish I could go to sleep and not wake up…I say that as a selfish thought because I would never hurt myself intentionally because i know it would hurt my kids. I just keep moving along through each day and hoping and praying for a break somewhere.

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