Is Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome Really a thing?
Is this a real condition or a made up term that has become bandied about on the internet lately by those desperate to appear more knowledgeable than the rest of us on the subject of narcissism. Me, I like to call a spade a spade. Ultimately, it’s a spade in any language; it just sounds different. I get it, I like to make up words and play with language for fun. I’m always creating words. I call them spurbs. But I never do this where it is subversive with regards to something that really matters! And this, really matters! Sometimes people will look to gain attention by coming up with new ways to describe something. Oooh, the wonders of today’s freedom of information highway. I’ll be exploring this further in a future blog. But for now, I’ll say that this was a new term to me when I came across it within the last few weeks so I had to do some new research on the matter.
It’s not a term I have come across in any reputable literature or espoused by any professionals that I follow on the subject as yet. Let’s politely put it that way haha. Neither is it in the reference manual that psychiatrists and psychotherapists use (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) according to Dr Todd Grande and Dr Ramani both available to follow on Youtube. Find the links at the end of the blog for reference.
This so called ‘syndrome’ is really just a collation of narcissistic abuse symptoms which have a lot in common with symptoms and traits of depression, PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. Here I’ll be listing 9 of the most basic ones that are generally experienced by survivors but there are others.
Here’s the thing though, names and labels can be helpful for signposting but ultimately if you have experienced narcissistic abuse, like the many I have encountered in groups, chat rooms and supported to recover; you don’t care what label it has. All you care about is how to overcome it and thrive. Am I right?
I really do get that. I’ve been there and I’ve done an awful lot of healing myself. I’m still going. Does personal development ever stop? No, I don’t think so. But I am enjoying a level of peace, happiness and stability that means I’m thriving despite still navigating the consequences of my narcissistic abuse past through my childrens’ healing journey.
Perhaps you have a nagging feeling that seeking to understand and make sense of what has been going on for you is a big part of your journey to getting better. I agree. I spent many hours coming to terms with what I’d been through and opening my eyes to it. Acceptance is a significant part of recovery. Indeed, if you don’t have the resources to invest in your recovery then confronting it head on, is I believe the only way.
Does it matter what we label narcissistic abuse survivor symptoms?
My answer is categorically no! Not unless, you are simply into the theory, psychotherapeutic education and philosophy of it. Im into the healing of it so no, I full stop do not give a fig about what the latest ‘in’ name to refer to it by is.
Now that being said, let’s take a glimpse at what victims suffering or having suffered from any form of abuse but particularly narcissistic abuse can experience. Symptoms vary of course but are typified by levels of a lack of personal growth (in children/youngsters) regression (in adults), lack of self actualisation, autonomy and a general and usually fast decline in health and wellbeing. This is in addition to disenfranchisement and disengagement. This may or may not be dependent upon the severity or even covertness of the abuse but may also be more heightened in more sensitive individuals. We must remember, people are different and each case is unique.
Now that I’ve laid somewhat of a foundation. Let’s get into it!
9 Signs you may have experienced Narcissistic Abuse [and what to do about it]
Making simple decisions even about what to eat, what to do and when (even with regards to simple tasks or relatively menial concerns) like, where to go to have fun and with whom can be taxing for survivors. The individual often cannot establish a preference or a desire. They have been conditioned to feel inhibited by others responses where they expressed their preference. They have been repeatedly either dismissed, ridiculed or met with extreme and unreasonable resistance to any expression of ‘self’ that now they struggle to not only express an opinion but formulate one (even around those who are recognised as ‘safe”). Oftentimes, the memories of this are suppressed because they are painful. Victims simply blame themselves for being wishy washy and indecisive.
If this is you, you may feel that you prefer to let others make decisions for you. Taking charge is something that will probably only come easily when placed in a situation of duress or emergency. It will take the fight mode in you being activated before decision making becomes easier. This state of apparent apathy only improves where the instinctual survival mechanism kicks in because nobody else adequately takes charge in an emergency. Interestingly, survivors often cope exceedingly well in a crisis.
Do you know who you are? Do you have a definite sense of self, where you fit in and what you want to do in life? If the answer to this is yes, then it is doubtful that you are suffering from Narcissistic Abuse Symptoms. Typically sufferers are plagued by self doubt.
Do you dream of an easy way out? Do you dream of a saviour coming to improve your life? Do you think you are useless? Do you give up before you have even started? Do your dreams, if you have any, feel too big, too out of reach for little you to accomplish? There is a sense of no point in trying because you’ll be bound to fail. Is this you or somebody you know?
Victims of narcissistic abuse tend to be very sensitive to triggers. Their self esteem can flit between over inflated to compensate for a sense of inadequacy or to virtually non existent where they feel completely hopeless and helpless. In fact they may even feel others are better off without them. They resist love and often reject others in anticipation of being rejected.
For survivors of narcissistic abuse, socialising has proved to be a treacherous playground where their abuser has toyed with them. Integrating socially may not only be a trigger but may be a threat to them as they no longer trust others or themselves. In addition, general anxiety occurs where they cannot control their environement. Fears of feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed or being unable to cope with or manage others’ disapproval can be extremely isolating and socially debilitating.
This is an overarching sense of unreasonable worry. The individual finds themself preoccupied with the current or past toxic relationship. But this also extends to general life concerns and experiences. In the case of the latter, it is inordinate and in some cases unnecessary concern about potentially anything and everything (in very severe cases). There is a sense of ‘doom thinking’. This can inhibit trying new things, going new places, spending time with others and may even manifest into full blown phobias or Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
Do negative looping thoughts about what you have done or decisions you have made plague you? Do you know somebody who is always wondering if they have done the ‘right thing’. You or they constantly beat themselves up over having made wrong decisions or questioning even seemingly right decisions from time to time dependent upon mood which can swing fast from one extreme to the other.
What Lies at the Root of all these symptoms?
Shame – you’ve been taught to feel that you were never enough. If it wasn’t perfect then it wasn’t good enough. You may have internalised this as a reflection upon you as a person or it might have been said or implied either towards you or indirectly to others while you were listening.
Guilt – you’ve had other people’s guilt projected onto you, been made to feel guilty for having your own needs or were raised with perfectionist ideals
Lack of Self love – your basic needs of food, clothing and a roof over your head may have been provided for but feeling loved and valued does not come from those things alone. Affection and showing genuine concern and interest are key. Love languages play an important part in this. For instance, If your love language is physical touch, and you are sexually abused as a child then this experience creates enormous cognitive dissonance for you.
Lack of Self Acceptance – It is not possible to accept yourself for who you are unless you are accepted and appreciated by others.
Lack of Self Worth – If your needs are disregarded or always come last then you do not develop a strong sense of self worth. You always put yourself at the bottom of the list and exhaust yourself for the benefit of others. You may even do it resentfully or reproachfully but you still do it because a lack of self worth coupled with all of the above leaves you in a state of being unable to justify or assert your own needs let alone enforce healthy boundaries for yourself.
What Caused it?
What can you do about it?
How can you heal? Do you need an official diagnosis?
In conclusion, these 7 signs as above can also be signs of depression, PTSD or mental health personality disorders. What intimates a connection with narcissistic abuse is whether or not you have experienced any abusive love bombing/rejection/abandonment cycles, co-ersion, manipulation, control, intimidation, unwarranted spontaneous/surprising anger outbursts, threats, violence or threat of violence or even financial abuse.
Oftentimes mental health conditions are derived from narcissistic abuse in childhood but not necessarily. There is much that can be done to alleviate suffering. You do not have to live this way. Most importantly diagnosis is not necessary for improvements to be made.
Neuroplasticity has proven that our brains are constantly capable of growing and learning and redefining our reality even into old age, even to the point of healing disease and sickness; yes, even of the mind!
The principles I use with each client are the same in foundation. I create a safe environment where the focus is on programming you with an empowering paradigm shift in thinking. We avoid the rigorous dissection and analysis of the past which is so prevalent in psychotherapy and counselling. Instead Neuro Linguistic Programming Coaching establishes a sense of peace and happiness with a minimal amount of sharing. This, coupled with utilising life transforming and recalibrating tools such as Hypnotherapy, Reiki, and EFT works wonders in a matter of mere weeks.
So what do you make of diagnosing any mental health condition? How important is it? Does it make sense to you that we can help you recover without actually having diagnosed you at all? Do you agree with me or disagree with me? Do you, like me, believe or know that treating symptoms does not require a label or even a diagnosis?
Dr Todd Grande
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