Narcissistic individuals are people who have an overblown sense of self-importance, an overwhelming desire for attention and esteem, issues in relationships, and lack the ability to empathize. However, underneath this façade of a highly confident individual reveals a person who has low self-esteem and shatters under even the smallest critique.
Narcissistic abuse comes from the behavior of a narcissist. People in relationships with a narcissist can become taken advantage of victimized by these individuals. Here are some signs to consider when recognizing narcissistic abuse:
Verbal abuse: Many people might describe this as bullying behavior. It can also include constant criticizing, shaming, demeaning, and blaming. This type of abuse often feels as though it was completely unwarranted or as if it came out of nowhere. It can feel very attacking and targeted when it occurs. Verbal abuse of this nature is likely to be more frequent as well.
Manipulation: It can be used to get people to do what they want. Narcissists can also be very good at turning the tables in conversations. They can make things seem different than what they really are. They also use manipulation through gaslighting, making you doubt your own thoughts and beliefs to the point where you are not sure if what happened was real or it is all “in your head.”
Competitive: Narcissists want to be at the top level of wherever they are. They can become extremely competitive wanting to “win” at all costs. They will not be afraid to cheat or act unethically if it means they get where they want to be. In regular conversation, they also have the tendency to one-up people to inflate their own sense of self.
Punishing: If you were to go against a narcissist through disagreement or you did not do what they wanted you to do, you might receive a “punishment” from them. They do this through direct threats, ignoring you, withholding love or affection from you, or even spreading lies or rumors about you.
Physical abuse: While physical abuse is not always present, it can be a sign of narcissistic abuse. It can be potentially violent behavior like hitting or pushing you against the wall. It can also come in the form of coercion or intimidation like hovering over you or backing you into a corner where you feel trapped.
Personality disorders and even personality traits in general range on a continuum. Narcissistic personalities are no different. Not every narcissist is going to display all of these signs. Some of these signs in isolation might not be considered abusive. However, the frequency and intensity in which these signs occur can be considered highly abusive. It can be helpful to be aware of these signs as well as the symptoms of narcissistic personality. If you know someone who exhibits the personality of a narcissist, there is a chance they likely display some of the signs listed above.
If you feel you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to know you are not alone. Getting out of an abusive relationship can be extremely difficult. It can be helpful to find someone to talk to who can provide you safety and support.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.