Read on to learn the top warning signs of narcissistic abuse to look out for when in a relationship with a narcissist.
What is Narcissistic Abuse and Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic Abuse is a covert and insidious form of domestic violence where victims may spend years not realizing what is happening to them, unaware that their abuser has maliciously and intentionally created a world to coerce, control, isolate, demoralize, and dehumanize their victims in order to feed and supply their disorder, known as narcissistic personality disorder. It is often linked to other personality disorders, for example, bi polar disorder, borderline personality disorder and psychopathy. Read on to learn about the top 10 warning signs of narcissistic abuse.
How is Narcissistic Personality Disorder diagnosed?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is hard to diagnose. There are not any medical tests to identify it and it is rarely diagnosed through the family court process, although some psychiatrists will identify if a person displays narcissistic personality disorder traits. Even though Narcissistic Personality Disorder is difficult to medically diagnose, there are clear warning signs to look out for.
What are the top Warning Signs of Narcissistic Abuse?
You may not recognise the signs of narcissistic abuse, coercive control, gas lighting and emotional manipulation immediately as narcissistic abuse is often covert.
The most common warning sign that you are in a narcissistic abuse relationship, is control of the victim by the narcissist.
Some red flags to look for which are signs you are the victim of narcissistic abuse are:
- You often feel tricked or pressured into doing things.
- It seems as if you can’t do anything right.
- They guilt trip you and make it seem impossible to say no.
- They often twist the truth.
- they isolate you from family, friends and your support networks;
- You often feel guilty or confused.
- Your efforts never seem good enough.
- They invalidate your feelings;
- They use emotional blackmail;
- They gaslight you (emotional manipulation);
- They withhold affection/give you the silent treatment;
- They take on the role of victim and turn situations around to make it seem you are to blame.
- They attack your character, shame, mock, blame, insult and threaten you and rationalise the verbal abuse as being for your benefit.
- They shift the goal posts so you can’t meet the goals they set, no matter how hard you try.
Click the link to learn more about the red flags for narcissistic abuse and coercive control.
The top 10 Warning Signs of narcissistic abuse to look out for which are signs you are the victim of narcissistic abuse are explained in more detail below:
1. Controlling behaviour
The most common sign of narcissistic personality disorder is where a person displays controlling behaviours towards their victim. This is because for narcissists, control is the equivalent to power.
Coercive control is a course of conduct so the behaviours are likely to continue over a period of time.
The types of behaviour that allude to coercive control are intimidation, emotional, physical and mental abuse, isolation, financial abuse, sexual abuse/coercion and threats of abuse if you do not do what the narcissist wants.
The controlling behaviours may seem subtle at first, for example, wanting to control your time and attention, or insisting that things are done a certain way, but the behaviours tend to escalate over time to things such as controlling who you speak to, where you go, what you do, when you must be home and when you have sex with one another.
2. Self centred
Narcissists are very self centred. They demand excessive love and attention through tactics that range from manipulation to intimidation to threats and violence. They don’t care about the impact of their behaviour on others because their happiness is priority and they are not afraid to hurt other people to get what they want.
A major manipulation technique often used by narcissists is Gas Lighting. Gas lighting is a form of emotional abuse where the manipulator fabricates fiction and presents it as fact, makes you feel like your own judgement or memory is unreliable and undermines your entire perception of reality by causing you to second guess your own thoughts, memories and reality and the events occurring around you.
This technique allows the narcissist to maintain control by ensuring that the narcissist’s narrative of the truth prevails. Once in control of the narrative, they believe they can control outcomes to their own benefit.
Some specific examples of gas lighting include:
- Trivializing how you feel: “Oh yeah, now you’re going to feel really sorry for yourself.” or “your just being overly sensitive” or I don’t know why your making such a big deal out of this.”
- Telling you that people are talking behind your back: “Don’t you know? The whole family talks about you. They think you’re losing it.”
- Saying things to you that they later deny having said: “Oh, come on, I never said that.” “I didn’t say I’d take the deposit to the bank. What are you talking about? Thanks a lot for the insufficient funds fee we’re going to get.”
- Hiding objects from you, and then deny knowing anything about it: “You seriously can’t find your sunglasses again? That’s alarming.”
- Insisting you were or were not at a certain place, even though it’s not true: “You’re crazy. You never went to that show with me. I should know.
4. Social Isolation
Narcissists frequently isolate you from your friends, family and support networks, before implementing harsher forms of abuse. By keeping you away from loved ones who know you best, this gives the abuser time to secure control over you.
Sometimes isolation is imposed physically, by moving you away from your home or state, so you have no access to your loved ones and support networks.
The narcissist will otherwise try to keep you from spending time with your loved ones and friends who disapprove of them or express concern for your welfare. The narcissist will do this by making you feel guilty for spending time with those people. The narcissist may even try to break bonds of trust and cause you to develop a mistrust of others outside of the relationship, by lying or speaking poorly of your loved ones and by manufacturing a confrontation between you and your loved ones that causes you to ‘choose’ to keep those people at a distance.
By removing your friends, family and support system, the narcissist becomes your most trusted source of information and the primary source of your affection, validation and support. Once you are reliant on your abuser to confirm the ‘truth’, the narcissist’s coercive control will most likely escalate.
5. Tracking, stalking, invading your digital privacy
GPS trackers, social media blocking, or stealing passcodes are common techniques of the narcissist to maintain control over you.
The narcissist may also threaten to share intimate images on social media networks.
The purpose of this behaviour is to ensure that you are dependent on the narcissist and compliant with their rules so they can maintain control.
6. Verbal abuse, Emotional Abuse & Silent treatment
Narcissists will put you down, belittle, degrade and insult you in order to chip away at your self confidence. Often the insults can be subtle and in the form of hurtful comments about your appearance of decisions, said in jest or posed as posed as positive encouragement.
Verbal abuse becomes emotional abuse when the name calling, blaming and judging escalate to threats, yelling and the silent treatment, bullying and harassment.
7. Threats of physical violence & physical violence
Narcissistic abuse focuses more on gaslighting and emotional manipulation. However, narcissists may also break things, hurt you or others, or threaten to hurt you or others to punish or instill fear in you if you do not do what the narcissist wants. Threatening to hurt your loved ones or take your loved ones (usually your children) away from you, is a common strategy of the narcissist to maintain control over you and ensure you do not leave the relationship. Self harming or threatening suicide is another common technique of emotional manipulation used by the narcissist to maintain control.
When manipulation is no longer working (usually when the relationship ends), the narcissist’s behaviour may escalate and they may become more aggressive and coercive. After you separate from the narcissist, it is at this point that you are most at risk of harm because the narcissist may act out after having lost the control they maintained during the relationship. This may lead to violent outbursts and threats to harm you or your loved ones if you do not do what the narcissist wants.
Hoovering is a form of emotional blackmail that is common among narcissists. The analogy is that the narcissist ‘hoovers’ you back, like a vacuum, by sucking you back into another cycle of abuse.
The nature of hoovering is that when the narcissist feels that they are starting to lose control over you, they may portray that they are sorry for how they have behaved, they will validate your feelings and ease prior restrictions on social behaviours in order to make you feel like things are getting better.
The period where things appear to be better is usually brief and as soon as the narcissist regains your trust the cycle of abuse and coercive control will start all over again.
9. Disregarding boundaries
Narcissists maintain control by making you feel that you can’t make independent choices or decisions, particularly anything that involves physical separation from them. Codependency and physical togetherness are important to the narcissist in order to maintain control over you and so they will often violate your boundaries in order to maintain control and power over you. The narcissist may read your diary, facebook, private emails and text messages. The narcissist may also not respect your right to privacy or your right to make decisions about your own body by controlling what you eat, when/how you exercise and the clothes you wear.
10. Instilling fear of negative reactions
The narcissist wants you to fear them, to feel anxious around them and to feel like you are walking on eggshells. This ensure the narcissist maintains control and gets what they want. It is not uncommon for you to suffer from hyper vigilence or anxiety about how the narcissist will react and for you to be constantly trying to predict their reaction. Everything you do will be centered around pleasing the narcissist and not making the wrong move in order to avoid the narcissists unpredictable outbursts.
I recognise signs of narcissistic abuse – what do I do?
Now that you know the warning signs of narcissistic abuse you can be vigilant about the behaviour of others around you and you can seek help!
Many victims of these toxic relationships attend counselling with their narcissistic partner. The narcissist puts on their mask, manipulates the session, and the victim becomes re-victimised all over again.
Courtney Barton and the Barton Family Lawyers team, along with Courtney’s mother, Nova Gibson, narcissistic abuse counselling specialist, work together to assist people who are victims of narcissistic abuse, to process the abuse they have been exposed to and to take their power back. Our team are trained personally by Nova to be able to recognise the signs of narcissistic abuse and the techniques to be able to successfully communicate and negotiate with a narcissist.
The Barton Family Lawyers team of narcissistic abuse specialists, advocate on behalf of victims of narcissistic abuse who have separated from the narcissist to free themselves from the narcissist’s grip. At Barton Family Lawyers, we make sure our clients can negotiate with the narcissist on an equal playing field, free from coercion and control and without being re-victimised by the process. Our priority is to ensure that our clients achieve a resolution of all issues quickly and at the least possible financial and emotional cost.
Nova Gibson, Narcissistic abuse counsellor, has a wealth of professional knowledge around narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse. Nova speaks with victims of narcissistic abuse on a regular basis to help them to pick up the pieces of their lives, to take back control and to move on with a Brighter Outlook.
If you are separating or thinking of separating, contact Barton Family Lawyers on 3465 9332 to book a reduced rate initial consultation with one of our experienced Brisbane Family Lawyers who have special expertise and experience dealing with narcissistic abuse.
If you are struggling following separation to free yourself from the grips of your abuser and to take your power back, please reach out to someone you love and trust and ask for help. Your mental health is priority. You can’t be a good parent to your children until you look after yourself first. To put yourself first, book a counselling appointment with Nova, narcissistic abuse counselling specialist of Brighter Outlook Counselling. You can contact Nova to book an appointment by calling 0433 317 580 or click here to email Nova.
If you want more information in relation to Narcissistic Abuse & Communicating with a Narcissist, click the link to our page How to Divorce a Narcissist, or watch our videos below: