What Is Narcissistic Victim Syndrome?
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Narcissistic Victim Syndrome is a term that refers collectively to the severe symptoms of narcissistic abuse. It’s a type of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) which is associated with long-term abuse.
Post traumatic stress occurs when a person is subjected to some kind of trauma. You might have heard about it in reference to war veterans. When the trauma occurs over a long period of time, usually years, it is referred to as complex post traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD.
Narcissistic victim syndrome is not formally recognized as a mental health condition, but it is really a form of C-PTSD. It leaves you with lasting signs of trauma that can seriously affect your life.
The emotional — and possibly physical — abuse you suffer at the hands of a narcissist can leave you with many emotional scars. These can continue to affect your ability to handle various life challenges well into adulthood.
Signs of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome
There are several signs that you’ve been subjected to long-term narcissistic abuse. Here are several problems you might encounter whether or not you’ve distanced yourself from the narcissist.
When you feel helpless in an abusive situation, a common response is to freeze up. Frequently, this happens because you have dissociated, a term that refers to emotionally distancing yourself from the traumatic incident.
Dissociation will help you numb yourself to the pain you’re experiencing, whether that pain is emotional or physical. This has a beneficial effect in that it helps you stifle the pain you’re experiencing, it doesn’t really help you to actually escape the danger.
After being conditioned to freeze up for years by a narcissistic abuser, you may find yourself freezing anytime you feel even mildly distressed. It also prevents you from truly experiencing your emotions.
Difficulty Making Decisions
After years of being subjected to constant criticism and devaluation, you might have very little self-confidence in your ability to make decisions. Part of what the narcissist does is cause you to question everything you do, and that fills you with self-doubt.
Your narcissistic abuser might even have called you stupid or ignorant, and they may even have done this is a falsely affectionate tone. They might say something like, “I don’t know how you would get by without me.”
After being subjected to these insults for many years, you start believing them, and they become part of how you see yourself. Even when you’re finally free from the abuse, you will continue to see yourself as someone who can’t make good decisions.
You Always Feel Like You’re to Blame
Narcissists have difficulty taking responsibility for anything, and if you’ve been blamed for everything for years, you begin to feel as though it is your fault. That makes you look inward first before blaming someone else.
It’s good to be self-reflective and take responsibility for your own actions, but not everything is your fault. This barrage of blame is designed to make you feel as though you need the narcissist to help you act responsibility, and this is something you will carry with you long after your relationship has ended.
Unexplained Physical Symptoms
Years of emotional abuse can leave you feeling anxious and nervous. These feelings can actually lead to somatization of your distress. In other words, you will experience real physical pain as a result of your emotional pain.
You might notice that you have experienced changes in your appetite, nausea or an upset stomach, gastrointestinal distress, muscular aches and pains, fatigue, and insomnia. All of these are common symptoms, and it’s not uncommon for people experiencing this kind of pain to turn to substances like alcohol or drugs to numb it. You’re really just trying to numb the emotional pain behind the physical manifestation.
Restlessness and Feeling Unsettled
Because a narcissist is so unpredictable in their behavior and emotional state, you can’t fully relax when you’re around them. Even after you leave them, that tension stays with you. You simply might not know how to relax anymore, and it will certainly feel unsafe to let your guard down.
It’s going to take time for you to unlearn your responses and to release this now subconscious tension from your body. Look to your support group for that safety and access resources like yoga, meditation and therapy to heal.
Trouble Setting Boundaries
Narcissists don’t respect boundaries, and if you’ve been exposed to years of narcissistic abuse, you may have difficulty setting boundaries even if you’re no longer around the narcissist. You might not even know what your boundaries are anymore.
After years of destroying your sense of self for their own narcissistic needs, you may not have a strong enough sense of self to know where your limits are. It can take time to rebuild your self-esteem and self-worth to regain an understanding of your value and why your boundaries should be respected.
Anxiety and Depression
It’s common for someone who has narcissistic victim syndrome to suffer from anxiety and depression. After long-term emotional, and perhaps physical abuse, you’ve had your sense of self-worth nearly destroyed.
That kind of treatment results in chronic stress and persistent worry. You also feel helpless and even hopeless. It can be hard to find joy, and the future looks bleak. You might also feel confused over what caused the person you thought was a perfect match for you to change so suddenly into a nightmare partner.
It’s important to seek treatment for these conditions so that you can free yourself of the self-blame and feelings of low self-esteem. There is help, and you can climb out of the abyss.
The effects of long-term narcissistic abuse are serious and can take a significant toll on both your emotional and physical health. It leaves you feeling isolated and alone, but there is help, and it’s important that you seek it out.
Your best bet will be to get professional therapy. It offers a safe space to learn new coping strategies, practice setting the healthy boundaries you need, and find ways to reinvent yourself as you regain your self-esteem.
Narcissistic victim syndrome is a serious form of C-PTSD, and it will require therapy and the support of a loving network of family and friends. You are worth the effort, and you can rebuild your life.
To learn more about narcissistic abuse, check out the post, “Five Toxic Ways Your Narcissistic Mother Abuses You.”
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