Narcissistic abuse is what a person in a relationship with someone that meets the criteria for narcissistic (NPD) or antisocial (APD) personality disorder experiences. The potentially crippling, life long effects of narcissistic abuse on a partner’s mental health form a cluster of symptoms, not yet included in the DSM, known as narcissist victim syndrome.
Narcissists and sociopaths use language in specific ways, with a specific intent to take another’s mind and will captive. The term “emotional manipulation” should be reserved for narcissistic abuse, to avoid risks of falling prey to a narcissist’s ploys to hide themselves, blame-shift and mislabel those they victimize as narcissists.
NPDs and APDs are masters of disguise, and narcissistic abuse is a form of thought control, a specific use of language, designed to emotionally manipulate another person into handing over their mind and will, and thus their thoughts, desires, agency as possessions for the narcissist’s personal gain.
NPDs and APDs use language specifically designed to get their victims to:
- Question their sanity
- Mistrust those who support them, i.e., family, parents
- Feel abandoned, as if only the narcissist cares
- Feel worthless
- Give themselves no credit for their hard work
- Doubt their ability to think or make decisions
- Disconnect from their own wants and needs
- Give in to whatever the narcissist wants
- Devalue their contributions
- Obsess on their faults or mistakes
- Ignore or make excuses for narcissist’s actions
- Spin their wheels trying to gain narcissist’s favor
- Obsess on how to make the narcissist happy
- Idealize the narcissist
In present day circumstances, these disordered personalities have advanced their methods with scientific studies on how to emotionally and mentally devastate another person, more often a partner in a couple relationship, to exist in altered mind and body states of powerlessness and helplessness — at least temporarily, until they wake up and come out of the fog.
Narcissist abuse syndrome
A person victimized by narcissistic abuse often comes to counseling, and presents oblivious and disconnected from her own emotional pain and mental anguish. Instead she tends to be obsessed with her own failures, inadequacy, desperately seeking answers on how to solve the specific problems and flaws the narcissist has identified as causes for his misery. He may even have given her a list of the expectations she has not met to take with her to therapy, most of which are centered around her not being attentive enough, being too attentive to the children or her family, and not enough fantasy sex.
Her mind is often spinning, preoccupied with trying to sort the confusion — the effects of the use of tactics such as gaslighting and word salad on her mind, with intent to distort her reality and impose his own — seeking an explanation for why the narcissist is so miserable, why he treats her the way he does, why he’s so insecure, why they cannot communicate, why he still doesn’t “get” what she’s trying to tell him, and so on.
The thinking patterns of a victim of narcissistic abuse are often replete with self-blame and self-condemnation. At the start of therapy and even in later stages, for example, she often repeatedly makes statements such as the following:
- “We really have no problems, just minor things.”
- “We’re happy and get along most of the time!”
- “It really is all me.”
- “Can you fix me please?”
- “Can you make me stop upsetting him so much?”
- “I don’t’ want to lose him, can you fix me?”
- “After what I did, how can I ask him to love me?”
- “Is there hope for me?”
In addition to repetitive statements, her thinking and words describes the issues she faces with an imbalanced sense of responsibility. For example, that she:
- Is “failing” to make him feel loved and secure.
- “Can’t figure out” how to fix herself to stop upsetting him.
- Can’t blame him for interrogating her, being punitive, moping, ignoring her, yelling, name calling, etc.
- Did things that “so crushed him” he’ll never get over, even though “it’s minor things.”
- Doesn’t understand why she resists one or more of his demands, i.e., to agree she’s “crazy” and “needs meds.”
- Is the cause of his affairs with other women.