8 Signs of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome: What Does Narcissistic Abuse Feel Like?

by | May 27, 2022 | 0 comments

Are you in an emotionally abusive relationship? Or did you leave one?

Either way, living with a toxic individual such as a narcissist can lead to a condition known as narcissistic abuse syndrome. This happens when your self-confidence and mental are adversely affected by a narcissist.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a complex mental health issue in which an individual strives to maintain an inflated sense of self by manipulating and controlling others.

They treat their partners horribly during the relationship but these behaviors come on slowly so the victim doesn’t even realize what is happening. They will even continue these abusive behaviors after the relationship is over in order to gain back control.

Before I get into what narcissistic abuse syndrome is, what the signs are, and how to recover from it, I just want to say that being a victim of this syndrome doesn’t mean that you are sitting in a dark bedroom and crying all day.

You can be suffering from narcissistic abuse syndrome while going about your normal life. Just because you haven’t fallen to pieces doesn’t mean that you are not a victim!

What is Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome?

When you spend a significant amount of time with a narcissist, such as having a relationship with one, you may suffer from emotional abuse known as narcissistic abuse syndrome.

Whether the narcissist knows they are doing it or not, they use words, languages, and behaviors to manipulate in order to control their partner.

Does your ex have to be a narcissist in order to suffer from this abuse syndrome? The thing is, we can’t diagnose narcissists even though it is a mental health issue. And because narcissists rarely take responsibility for their actions and admit they are wrong, it’s unlikely that they will seek a diagnosis.

But I always say “if the shoe fits!” If you find yourself learning more about narcissism and recognizing many behaviors you experienced in your relationship, go ahead and call them a narcissist.

This will help you make sense of the treatment, the abuse, and how to start your healing journey.

Apart from that, you’re probably wondering: “What does narcissistic abuse feel like?”

Before we get into that, let’s look at a few tactics that narcissists will use to manipulate, control, and abuse their victims:

Common Narcissistic Abuse Tactics

While there are many things that narcissists do in order to control their victims, here are a few that are most commonly used:

  • Gaslighting: Narcissists gaslight you by trying to get you to doubt your own reality and memories. You can learn more about it here.
  • Scapegoating: Narcissists rarely take responsibility for their actions and will blame their shortcomings and behaviors on someone else – likely their partners.
  • Triangulation: Triangulation happens when the narcissist tries to pull a third person into the conflict to reinforce their position.
  • Hoovering: When you start to pull away from a narcissist, they will attempt to reconnect by being overly charming and apologetic to pull you back into the toxic relationship. This is known as hoovering.

Signs Of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

Even though narcissism is a recognizable mental health condition, there is no official diagnosis for narcissistic abuse syndrome.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t real! We can still talk about what narcissistic abuse feels like and how to recognize the symptoms within yourself.

1. You Feel Like You Are Always Walking on Eggshells

Whether you are still with the narcissist or not, you may find that you are constantly walking on eggshells in your life to avoid angering your partner or other people. Because you were treated so horribly whenever you “provoked” the narcissist, you do whatever you can to avoid confrontation.

2. You Have a Hard Time Trusting People

In order to cope with narcissistic abuse syndrome, you may find yourself having a hard time trusting other people. The narcissist convinced you that your experiences and feelings were invalid so you have difficulty opening up to other people or trusting their intentions.

3. You Have a Hard Time Trusting Yourself

Narcissists abuse and manipulate in a way that forces you to become dependent on them – not just physically, but mentally and intellectually as well.

Through tactics such as gaslighting, you question everything and likely turned to the narcissist to see what is real and what is not.

For this reason, you may have a hard time trusting yourself when it comes to making decisions in your life.

4. You Isolate Yourself From Other People

Narcissists try to isolate their victims from friends and family. Following the relationship, you may find that you are continuing this isolation in your life.

Also, you may be ashamed about the abuse you suffered (which is very common) and fear that others will judge you or not understand what you went through.

5. You Freeze and Distance Yourself From the Abuse

You’ve probably heard of “fight or flight” syndrome which refers to what humans usually do when faced with a stressful situation or trauma. We either fight by confronting the issue or flee away from it.

But there’s a third option here called “freeze” where you actually don’t do anything at all. It’s a massive feeling of helplessness where you go completely numb in an effort to minimize the effects of the abuse.

6. You Have Trouble Setting Boundaries

Narcissists have little to no respect for boundaries and when you try to enforce limits, they see this as a challenge or completely ignore them.

It’s likely you gave up setting boundaries during your relationship and now you have difficulty establishing them in your life. It may be hard to say “no” to people and you end up becoming a sort of human doormat.


7. You Don’t Recognize Yourself

When involved with a narcissist, you probably adjusted your self-identity to accommodate them and keep them from getting angry. In doing so, you begin to lose your own sense of self.

This can leave you feeling lost and empty and unsure of who you are, what your values are, and what makes you happy.

8. You Feel Anxious and Depressed

While anxiety and depression can arise following the end of any relationship, it is more likely to happen following narcissistic abuse.

If you feel worthless and hopeless and lose interest in things that used to make you happy, you could be suffering from depression.

Anxiety happens when you worry about future events, especially those that are unlikely to happen. It’s possible to suffer from one and not the other but likely they will come as a package deal.

Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome Quiz

The aftermath of narcissistic abuse involves a lot of confusion and not everyone who has dealt with a narcissist suffers from the abuse.

But if you’re still not sure if you are dealing with this, you can always check out a narcissistic abuse syndrome quiz.

This narcissistic abuse syndrome quiz by Psychology Questions will help you get a better idea if you are suffering from this syndrome.

Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome Recovery

Any type of abuse is hard on your physical and mental health but there are ways you can start your own narcissistic abuse syndrome recovery!


The more you learn about narcissism and toxic personality traits, the more you will begin to make sense of your situation. This is the first step in getting rid of all that confusion.

To get started, check out my Narcissism and Relationships Masterclass. It will walk you through the signs of narcissism, and how narcissists treat other people.

Find Support

Even though the narcissist may have isolated you from your friends and family, you need to establish a strong support system. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to people in your life, check out online support groups.

In these groups, you will find individuals who deeply understand what you have been going through. Check out my group on Facebook – it’s more geared toward parenting with a narcissistic ex but really it’s open to anyone struggling with the abuse.

Develop Healthy Copy Strategies

It’s totally common to feel like a complete and utter mess coming out of a relationship with a narcissist. However, it’s important that you develop some healthy coping strategies to help you get through your healing process.

For example, take some time for your own self-care. Go back to doing things that brought you joy (even if they don’t right now) and find activities that help you feel calm and balanced.

You can start journaling or practicing mindfulness to help reorganize your thoughts and work through the abuse.

Lastly, start putting your foot down and establishing healthy boundaries. If you co-parent with a narcissist, there are ways to do this. You can also start creating boundaries for other people in your life.

Get Professional Help

What narcissistic abuse feels like varies from victim to victim. Some may be able to work through their own healing journey while others may need professional help.

There is nothing wrong with speaking to a mental health professional and it can be helpful to have someone with an outside perspective help you make sense of what happened and see the bigger picture.

In order to manipulate and control people, narcissists will do what they can to confuse their victims. Talking it out with a therapist is a great way to dissipate that confusion and start finding yourself again!

You Deserve to Move On!

Getting over narcissistic abuse is totally possible! Yes, you may carry some of it with you throughout the rest of your life but you can heal and move on and be happy!

It’s going to take some work which I know is unfair because you didn’t ask for or deserve this trauma. But the more you focus on yourself, the stronger you will be when you come out the other end.

How about you? What was the hardest part of the aftermath for you following the relationship? Or what’s the hardest part of being in a relationship with a narcissist? Let me know in the comments!


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