Last Updated on March 17, 2022 by Ray
Abuse can take on many different forms and faces, and it’s not always apparent to people when they find themselves caught in an abusive relationship. Abuse can come in physical forms, which is more easily recognizable. But it can also come in more obscure forms, including sexual, emotional, psychological, and financial abuse, as well as others.
While not every single abuse case involves each of these specific abuse types, it can be common to find many of them in situations of narcissistic abuse. Narcissistic abuse refers to the various forms of abuse that a narcissistic individual (someone diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder) inflicts onto others. It can significantly range in terms of overall severity.
Some narcissistic individuals may use mild insults and putdowns to manipulate people and try to harm their self-esteem. In contrast, others may make and act upon threats of severe and potentially life-threatening violence. This article covers some of the most common narcissistic abuse examples, and what to do about them.
Abuse is something that no one should have to tolerate and the negative impacts it can create in people’s lives are substantial. If you believe you may be experiencing narcissistic abuse at the hands of a partner, friend, or family member but aren’t entirely sure if that’s what’s happening, please continue reading to learn about ten of the most common examples of narcissistic abuse that people tend to experience.
If you know that you have been abused, please also understand that you are not alone and do not have to deal with the situation by yourself. Feel free to reach out to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline for free, confidential assistance, available 24/7.
On the surface, narcissists tend to be quite likable, primarily because they know how to get attention and give attention that can make other people feel unique or important. In short, they tend to have a lot of charisma and charm. However, these individuals also tend to use verbal abuse, which they use to bully, shame and belittle others, if not outright threaten them.
It’s also used as a method of control and intimidation and a way for the narcissistic individual to try and prove themselves as being the dominant or superior party. These tendencies towards verbal abuse also have the strong potential to escalate in frequency and severity over time, especially if the people they are abusive towards don’t choose to leave the relationship, no matter what form said relationship might take.
Lying Narcissistic Abuse Examples
Perhaps even more so than verbal abuse, narcissistic individuals tend to resort to lying to manipulate people and situations to help them achieve their goals. Lying is a common tactic that narcissists will use to help them gain and maintain a certain level of control within a relationship. However, it serves other purposes as well. Lying allows narcissists to aggrandize their behavior to get more attention, admiration, acclaim, and other forms of external validation.
Lies are also used to help them avoid their shame and mistakes while protecting their fragile egos. Additionally, it allows them to try and avoid taking responsibility for their behavior, especially regarding their harmful actions and the abusive way they tend to treat many of those around them. The lies can vary in size and importance, ranging from seemingly little white lies to significant lies about infidelity and other prominent issues.
Gaslighting and Emotional Manipulation
Gaslighting is a very common tactic of narcissists, and it goes hand in hand with lying and is considered a form of emotional manipulation. Specifically, gaslighting is a type of psychological abuse that involves making the victim of said abuse question their reality, memories, and even perceptions of their sanity. People who experience gaslighting tend to become anxious and confused and may grow unable to trust themselves, especially if they have been gaslighted for an extended period.
This infliction of self-doubt can be incredibly damaging to people’s overall psychological wellbeing and self-esteem, eventually leading them to become stuck in perpetual states of fear, guilt, and even obligation towards the abuser.
Narcissists utilize gaslighting as a power move to control other people and as a means of self-protection. It allows them to avoid accountability for their behavior and treatment of others by flipping any complaint or critique from the individual who is being abused. In short, it’s another method that narcissists use to try and undermine the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others while also making themselves feel better.
Narcissistic abuse is primarily about two distinct elements within a relationship; power and control. Narcissistic individuals often feel a distinct lack of control within their own lives, which leads them to try and control the lives and experiences of the people around them to protect their self-esteem and ego. This control is primarily gained through lying, emotional manipulation, and gaslighting, as we just explored above. While this control can be seen in any relationship a narcissist may be involved in, it’s especially apparent in romantic relationships and parent-child relationships.
Over an extended period, narcissists can steadily gain control of nearly every detail of an abuse victim’s life. This includes what they eat and wear, where they are allowed to work, who they can contact, what they are allowed to do with their time, and more.
Victims of this control will often become anxious and fearful, feeling like they have to walk on eggshells and always submit to the wants, needs, and demands of the abuser to avoid or de-escalate the conflict. This becomes very dangerous in sexual relationships, specifically, as the victim of such abuse essentially loses their right to consent (or not) when there is a massive imbalance of power and control within the relationship. This has the potential to lead into the realm of sexual abuse.
Denial and Trivialization
Denial and trivializations are two more elements that go hand in hand with lying, gaslighting, and other emotional manipulation that narcissistic individuals frequently utilize. Denial is pervasive and involves the narcissist saying that specific events and conversations never happened. For example, if a narcissistic abuser calls their partner a cruel name or makes a harmful comment, the abuser may insist that they never said it.
Or, if they do admit that something happened, they will often try to trivialize the situation, either making it seem less important and impactful than it was or by turning the argument around to make it seem like the victim was at fault for everything that happened. Abusers tend to trivialize their victims’ experiences, thoughts, and feelings by belittling them or claiming that they overreact and are too sensitive. Usually, they will try to use platitudes like “no one else would be angry over something so small, you’re just unreasonable.”
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Neglect and Withholding
Narcissistic individuals will often withhold things from their partners as a form of control to get what they want. The things that tend to be withheld can include anything from love and affection to basic communication, finances, sex, and more. Also, since narcissists are so deeply focused on their own thoughts, feelings, and desires, they tend to be very neglectful towards the wants and needs of those around them.
Neglect is especially prevalent for children raised by narcissistic parents. Sadly, such a parent-child relationship also can create cycles of narcissistic behavior that the child can pick up and learn from throughout their lives, which will significantly impact their behavior and treatment of others as they grow up. When narcissistic parents don’t meet the needs of children, the child has the potential to grow up as narcissists who also only focus on their own needs.
Isolation from Others and Love Bombing
Isolation is a critical tactic that is used by many types of abusers, especially narcissists. It’s common for these abusers to try and cut their victim off from their family, friends, and general support networks until the narcissistic individual is primarily the only person in the victim’s life that they can turn to. This leaves the victim very reliant on the abuser, which provides narcissists with the power and control they crave over others.
This is often utilized in tandem with something called love bombing, which is the process of showering their victim with large bursts of sudden love and affection (often through grand gestures) that can often be seen as overly intense.
This combination of isolation and love bombing is a specialized manipulation tactic that steadily causes the abuse victim to become more reliant on the abuser as a sole source of affection and attention. It also puts the victim into a state where they become anchored to the sudden onslaughts of affection and hold onto hope that their abuser will return to being that kinder, more loving version of themselves.
This is a major component in what makes it so difficult for victims of narcissistic abuse to leave their partners and why so many victims will take their abusers back to give them “another chance.”
The Targeting of Specific Personality Types
Narcissists tend to target specific personalities that make people more susceptible to the kinds of abuse they tend to inflict on their partners (isolation, emotional manipulation, gaslighting, and more). Narcissists typically treat relationships as a form of transaction, which means that they will typically only invest their time and resources into someone who has something that the narcissist can exploit for their own gain.
For example, narcissists tend to target more empathetic, caring, and supportive individuals. This is because narcissists are skilled at warping people’s compassions and the contexts around their problematic (if not outright disturbing) behaviors. Empathetic people are more likely to internalize the abuse and blame themselves for the narcissist’s actions.
Emotional Blackmail and Character Smearing
Narcissists often use two more tactics to control and exploit their victims: character smearing and emotional blackmail. These tend to be responses to actions made by victims who try to stand up for themselves, leave the relationship, or who want the narcissist to be held accountable for their actions. Emotional blackmail is strongly linked to general emotional manipulation but involves more threats, punishments for behavior, and intimidation tactics.
Smearing, meanwhile, refers to how narcissists may attempt to sabotage the character, reputation, and credibility of their abuse victims by making them look bad, though this tends to involve a lot of lying and gaslighting as well. This may also involve the narcissist taking on a victim mentality to gain sympathy and shift blame onto the hands of the actual abuse victim.
Not all narcissistic abuser examples are violent, though many violent individuals tend to possess narcissistic characteristics. Violence involves a range of behaviors, including pushing, slapping, and hitting, to instances of outright sexual assault. Violence can also refer to threats of violence, even if the abuser doesn’t go through with a physically violent act.
When narcissists engage in violence, it’s often because they feel they are starting to lose control over a situation (or their partner). They want to take their anger and frustration out on others. Generally speaking, there is little to no regard for how their actions will impact those around them.
Narcissistic Abuse Warning Signs
It’s not always easy to identify narcissistic abuse. It comes in many forms, and the signs vary between relationships. However, you can spot some of the signs very early on—watch out for these warning signs:
- They love power, control, and need to be in charge.
- They may apologize but won’t change their behavior.
- Time restraints don’t mean anything to them; they don’t care about showing up on time.
- They aren’t accountable to anyone—watch out for this one.
- They get upset if someone holds them to specific time frames to perform a task.
- They always seem to have a hidden agenda—what’s their real motive?
- They might seem untrustworthy, even if you’re unsure why—they’ll often work hard to make themselves seem believable.
- They say one thing and do another.
- They turn their mistake into your problem—they blame everyone else.
- They treat you perfectly fine in public but show their abusive side in private.
- They refuse to acknowledge or celebrate your achievements.
- They love to talk but never listen.
- They know everything better than everybody else.
- They use flattery to gain power and trust.
- They are manipulative and deceptive.
- They love gossip and often twist the truth in a way that benefits them.
- They can’t be a team player.
- They can do no wrong—it’s always someone else’s fault.
- They don’t show compassion and can’t have a deep conversation.
Narcissistic abusers believe in only one person: themselves. Know these warning signs so that you can identify these behaviors early in a relationship.
Narcissistic Abuse Examples – Final Thoughts
Narcissistic abuse, like any abuse, is a terrible thing that no one should ever have to suffer from, though it is a sadly common occurrence. If, after reading this, you have come to realize that you are the victim of such abuse, please understand that there are many quality resources available to you, and you are not alone. Aside from getting one-on-one assistance from a coach, you can find a variety of books to educate yourself. Two that we recommend are:
- Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare – This book by Shahida Arabi addresses questions such as: What successful techniques, tools, and healing modalities (both traditional and alternative) are available to survivors who have been ridiculed, manipulated, verbally abused, and subject to psychological warfare? What can survivors do to better engage in self-love and self-care? How can they forge the path to healthier relationships, especially if they’ve been a victim of narcissistic abuse by multiple people or raised by a narcissist?
- Who’s Pulling Your Strings? – This read by Dr. Harriet Braiker can help you identify those who use manipulation tactics to control you and provides tips to break the cycle of these manipulations.
And if you’re looking to move forward from your abuse to take back more control of your life and happiness, consider reaching out to Ray of Solace to learn more about how to take control of your life, relationships, and overall wellness.
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