Recovering from narcissistic abuse can be challenging and stressful. Although it may take time, healing is possible through some of these methods.
Narcissistic abuse is psychological and emotional abuse associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with NPD may display behavior that is regarded as self-centered which can reflect a need for recognition or attention.
Signs of this type of abuse may include gaslighting. Gaslighting includes denying that an event happened and questioning a person’s memory. It can also mean controlling another person, sometimes due to feelings of insecurity or jealousy.
If you’ve recently ended a relationship with someone displaying these behaviors, you may be going through a recovery process and dealing with a lot of hurt and emotions.
Any form of abuse can be traumatizing. In addition, narcissistic abuse may also leave you wondering if you’re to blame for what’s happened. This can be part of a narcissistic abuse cycle.
If you’re getting out of an abusive relationship, know that recovery is possible. While your experiences may be traumatizing, you can get through this.
Recovering from abuse-related trauma can be difficult, but it’s possible. Here are a few tips on how to heal from narcissistic abuse.
Label the abuse
David Tzall, a licensed psychologist in New York, states that the first step in your healing process can be to acknowledge that abuse occurred and that it impacted your life. Identifying and accepting that it happened can help you make sense of your experiences and emotions.
Sometimes, abuse from a narcissist can be subtle. You may even question if it’s abuse at all. As much as it may hurt, accepting and putting a label on it means you’re addressing it head-on.
Use exercise to help heal your mind
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, you can heal your mind through your body.
Trauma can live in your body and your mind. Engaging in physical activity, such as kickboxing or yoga, can help relieve the trauma stored in your body, says Tzall.
Try to find a physical outlet that will help you release your emotions. Make sure that it’s something that you enjoy doing. If you force yourself to do something you’re not comfortable with, it can feel destructive rather than healing.
Connect with old friends and family or a support system
Don’t be afraid to reconnect with anyone you may have been isolated from while you were in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, says Tzall. Getting back in touch shows you’re brave and ready to receive help.
In addition to reconnecting with your own support system, you can consider reaching out to a support group. Having the support of other survivors that have been through a similar journey can help your healing process.
The road to recovery from narcissistic abuse can be challenging.
The trauma you’ve endured may be too complex to unpack on your own. A mental health professional can help you process your feelings and help you recover from the abuse you’ve experienced.
According to a 2020 study, some types of therapy may help alleviate stress and impairment and help you recover from abuse. These include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): talk therapy that helps change negative thought patterns
- Trauma-Focused Therapy (CBT): treatment for children and adolescents impacted by trauma
- Integrative therapies: options like motivational interviewing can support recovery by enhancing motivation
- Psychologically‐orientated interventions: treatments like art and music therapy use self-expression to help heal trauma
- Humanistic therapies: supportive counseling and non-directive therapy can help people going through recovery feel more understood
A therapist can offer you guidance and help you heal. If you’d like to be supported as you begin the road to recovery, you can consider reaching out to a mental health professional today.
How to Find a Therapist
Looking for a therapist but not sure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.
Narcissists portray a sense of confidence where they try to maintain a sense of control over you. They may use different tactics to do so, such as:
- emotional abuse
- lacking empathy
- financial abuse
- using superior behavior
- ignoring your boundaries
- using manipulation
- playing the victim
Narcissistic abuse isn’t limited to romantic relationships. It can also happen with:
- other family members
Narcissistic abuse can lead to many long-term psychological effects that may range from mild to severe. Some of the possible long-term effects include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- feelings of unworthiness
- low self-esteem
- mood swings
- sensitivity to criticism
- self-destructive behaviors
- racing thoughts
- difficulty sleeping
- tendency to peopleplease
- trust issues
- disconnection from others
Often, those recovering from narcissistic abuse need support. Here are a few ways that you help a friend or family member who’s recovering.
Be there for them
One of the best ways to support someone recovering from narcissistic abuse is to simply be there for them, says Tzall. Try not to make them feel judged and don’t blame them for having stayed or staying in the relationship.
Someone recovering from narcissistic abuse will most likely have trust issues, explains Tzall. Try to be their safe haven, providing a place where they can go to feel safe and secure.
Listen to them
Another way to help someone recover from a demoralizing relationship is to listen to them. They’ve experienced trauma, and what they need is someone who listens with empathy and love.
Be their shoulder to cry on as you lend a non-judgmental, listening ear. Your support can be their guiding light to help them recover.
It’s important to acknowledge the experiences and feelings of the person you’re supporting. If they mention thoughts of self-harm, it’s essential that you take it seriously rather than shrug it off.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available
You can access free support right away with these resources:
- 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.Call the Lifeline at 988 for English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The Crisis Text Line.Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
- Veterans Crisis Line.Call 988 and press 1, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
- Deaf Crisis Line.Call 321-800-3323, text “HAND” to 839863, or visit their website.
- Befrienders Worldwide.This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
Recovering from narcissistic abuse can be difficult and traumatizing. The abuse can leave harmful long-term effects like anxiety or feelings of unworthiness.
If you’re getting out of an abusive relationship where you felt manipulated or gaslighted, know that there are ways you can recover.
You can start healing from narcissistic abuse by first acknowledging that it happened to you. Then, heal your mind through your body by partaking in self-care through enjoyable physical activity. Lastly, you can reach out to your support system or a support group for guidance and care.
If you have a loved one who needs support to recover from narcissistic abuse, the best thing you can do is to be there to support and listen to them.
Ultimately, recovery is possible. Seeking assistance from a mental health professional or support groups can help aid in recovery.