Escaping a Narcissist
I spent a lot of my years in difficult relationships. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized I had dated a lot of narcissists or people with narcissistic tendencies. I dealt with someone for years who abused me, talked down to me, treated me poorly, made fun of my weight, criticized me when we had sex, and never was really there for me. He was an alcoholic and super abusive. I always made excuses for him; made excuses as to why he was the way he was. I blamed it on the alcohol, the fact that he had PTSD, the fact that he was unmedicated. I was so far down the rabbit hole and he had made me feel so bad about myself that I could not see past the abuse. Then I ended up with another person with narcissistic tendencies; who was super controlling and always made me feel like everything was my fault. Any time we did not agree he made me feel like I was the problem. He would confuse me with his words and make me feel like I was doing something wrong all the time. He made me feel like I was hard to love, like I was always the problem. Anytime I expressed myself he would make me feel bad and turn it into an argument then call me needy or clingy. This was not okay but I dealt with it. I put up with it for years because I did not feel good about myself, I allowed these people to make me feel like crap, to make me doubt myself to the point where I was even putting myself down and that was and is not okay. Then there was the guy who would cheat on me all the time but make it feel like it was my fault. He would twist it around so I felt like it was okay for him to sleep with other women, like it was okay for him to do what he was doing. He really had my mind feeling so twisted that I actually started to believe what he was doing was acceptable. I actually started feeling like I wasn’t worthy, wasn’t worthy of love, worthy of someone being faithful. Like I wasn’t worth someone putting in the time and energy into me and a relationship with me.
I am here to tell you, you can take your power back. Do not let the narcissists of the world win, do not give them any power. You are strong, you are loved, and you are powerful and you need to take your power back. I allowed it to go on for to many years, I allowed this negativity into my life, but no more. You have to stand up say enough is enough. You have to know that you are enough and you got this. It’s time to make moves for you or for your children and you if you have any. Know the signs, be prepared, act carefully and get out. It’s never too late to fight for yourself and to get out of a bad situation. We all deserve to be happy and we all deserve to be loved.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)
What is NPD?
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition in which a person believes they are better than everyone else. While many people have narcissistic traits, people with NPD have problems that affect their lives, relationships and everyday life.
People with NPD may appear arrogant, with an inflated self-image and disregard for the feelings of others.
NPD is part of the cluster of personality disorders with symptoms of intense and unstable emotions and a distorted self-image. It usually starts in the early adult years and affects more men than women.
Narcissism, narcissistic personality types and NPD
Everyone can show narcissism from time to time —feeling self-important or not showing empathy, or being selfish, aggressive, egotistical or insensitive.
In extreme cases, people might have a narcissistic personality type, which means they feel very entitled, but their behavior is still normal.
People with NPD are significantly impaired. They might look excessively to others to boost their self-esteem, they can’t feel empathy and they have trouble forming deep relationships.
NPD is a mental illness that affects all areas of life, since symptoms are present during work and at home. It can be hard for others to tolerate the symptoms of NPD, which can mean the sufferer becomes isolated.
The difference between NPD and general narcissism is that NPD doesn’t change over time, and isn’t caused by a medical condition or drugs. You don’t grow out of it, and it can cause significant distress.
What are the symptoms of NPD?
People with NPD have a very exaggerated sense of their own importance. Key symptoms include:
- feelings of grandiosity (being superior)
- fantasizing about power, beauty, success and intelligence
- exaggerating achievements and abilities
- constantly seeking attention and admiration
- being very sensitive to stress
- superiority, specifically towards people perceived as ‘lower’ in status
- inflated sense of entitlement
- obsession with class and status
- believing that others are envious of them
- great pride in the accomplishments of children or family
- expecting constant praise and recognition for achievements
- unrealistic goal setting
People with NPD have trouble handling criticism and can feel hurt easily. They may not be able to admit they have done anything wrong, and can get very angry if their orders or directions are not followed by others.
They also have problems with relationships which may be due to:
- inability to listen to others
- lack of awareness regarding others
- exploiting others for personal gain
- lacking empathy, especially for perceived weaknesses
- strong desire for control over relationships
- envy for those perceived as being of a higher status
- distant, practical manner in personal relationships
- can ‘write off’ friends permanently over small or imagined issues
People with NPD are at increased risk of using drugs and alcohol and withdrawing socially.
They may have feelings of deep insecurity beneath an arrogant exterior. With effective treatment, it is possible for people to learn to change their behaviors and have more positive relationships.
What causes NPD?
As with many personality disorders, the exact cause of NPD is unknown. It is probably a mixture of genes, early childhood experiences and psychological factors.
Early childhood risk factors include excessive praise or judgment by parents, trauma or abuse.
Low self-esteem and problems handling stress can also contribute to NPD.
Although there is no one answer to the question of what causes NPD, professionals agree that the sooner treatment begins, the better a person’s chance for an improved quality of life.
When to see a doctor
It can be difficult for someone with NPD to seek treatment since they generally do not recognize they have a problem. The first step to recovery is for the person with NPD to become aware that their behavior is affecting their life and relationships.
You should seek help if you or someone you know has the symptoms above and is struggling to manage their relationships or their lives. Signs you should see a doctor are:
- feeling depressed or anxious
- having mood swings
- abusing drugs or alcohol
- thinking or talking about self-harm or suicide
If you or someone you know has NPD and you think there is any immediate danger of suicide, then please call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Don’t leave the person alone until help arrives.
How is NPD diagnosed?
A doctor will do an initial mental health assessment and may carry out physical examinations to ensure no physical illness is causing the symptoms.
There is no specific test for NPD. For a diagnosis of NPD, people must have at least 5 of the following criteria:
- an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- fantasies of great success, power, attractiveness, beauty or ideal love
- believing themselves to be special, and only able to be understood by others who are also special
- an increased sense of entitlement
- a need for constant admiration or attention
- taking advantage of others, envying others, or believing others envy them
- arrogance or haughtiness
- a lack of empathy
- envy towards others, or believing others are envious of them
The doctor will talk to the person, get to know them and ask some questions to understand their history and how severe the symptoms are. Sometimes it may take weeks or months to be diagnosed.
How is NPD managed?
Psychotherapy, or talking to a therapist, is the most useful treatment approach, although more research is required to determine the most effective therapies. The aim is to develop a more realistic self-image and enable the person to relate to others more positively. The type of therapy used can include:
- Psychodynamic therapy — long-term individual therapy that helps a person to understand their behaviors, moods and disruptive thoughts. These insights can help them find better ways to relate to others.
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) — helps people identify negative, unhelpful behavior patterns and replace them with more productive and positive ones.
- Family or marital therapy — NPD can affect families. Coming together for a session can help people in dealing with relationships, with problem solving solutions and positive communication.
8 steps to Escaping a Narcissist
- Realize the way you are being treated is abuse
- This is abuse. The way you are being treated is not okay and you don’t deserve it. Emotional abuse is just as unacceptable as physical or sexual abuse. You may sometimes feel confused and doubt whether you are in an abusive relationship—especially when your partner acts nicely towards you. If you live in a culture where certain behaviors are deemed acceptable, this confuses the matter further. If you are controlled, bullied, silenced, put down, not listened to, and treated as a lesser person, then you are in an abusive relationship.
- Gather all your information that you need to prepare to leave
- Emotional abuse has not always been considered a serious problem, but more and more countries now recognize it as a crime. Keep a record of the abusive behavior (somewhere where it cannot be found). This record might include things such as having to take time off work or seek medical attention because of the impact the behavior is having on you. Keep a record of extreme things which were said or done to you, including emotional threats made against you.
- Get Support
- Contact any charities which work with abused people. If you have a trusted friend or family member, discuss how they could support you if you left. If you have children, discuss with a charity or attorney what your legal rights are with regard to taking your children with you when you leave your abuser.
- Make a copy of any Documents you will need when you leave
- Particularly if you are living in a foreign culture, ensure you have a copy of your passport and any other documents which prove your identity. Your abuser may have taken control of your documents; in cases where this occurs, if it is possible to find your documents—for instance, while your partner is out of the house—you should take a photo or write down your passport number and other key information. If you have children, make copies of their documents.
- Save up some or as much money as you can
- It’s possible that your abuser is financially controlling—but if it is possible, open up a secret bank account into which you can at least deposit some money.
- Do not announce that you are leaving
- If you tell your abuser that you’re leaving, they will do everything in their power to make you stay. They will lie, beg, promise to change, and threaten—doing anything in their power to make you change your mind. If they have been emotionally abusing you for some time, you need to remember that, no matter what they say as you announce your departure, they’re not going to change.
- Do not allow yourself to get sucked back in
- Once you have managed to leave, your partner will use every narcissistic technique to get you back. Don’t forget—narcissists are expert manipulators. They are experts in convincing you that they are right and you are wrong. They will flatter you, declare their undying love for you, promise to change and attack your self-esteem by pointing out that you won’t manage without them. If you’re already feeling weakened by years of abuse, it would be easy to give them another chance. You need to remember that, once you’re back, they will return to their old patterns of behavior.
- Remind yourself constantly why you left, so that you do not end up going back
- If you are still in contact with your ex-partner, for example if you are in a situation where you have children together; you need to remind yourself why you left, particularly if they are trying to convince you to get back together with them. Write a list of all the abusive behavior you have experienced at their hands and check it whenever you feel your resolve weaken.
- If you are in immediate danger you need to call the police and leave immediately; remember preparation is key when deciding to leave your narcissistic abuser. You are backed up by the law. There are charities and organizations who will support you. You deserve to build a life where you and your children, if you have any, are free from controlling, abusive behavior. And once you’ve left the relationship, you need to create strong boundaries so that you can move on with your life.