Healing from a parent with narcissistic traits is possible. It can take time to reset the way you view yourself and the world, but you can overcome this type of childhood trauma.

Whether a person has a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or only a few narcissistic characteristics, those traits can influence important relationships in their life. It can also affect the way they parent their children.

People with NPD often seem to lack empathy, need admiration, and exhibit grandiose behaviors. Their need for validation is so great that they may be driven to overlook the needs of others, including those of their children.

To receive a diagnosis of NPD, a person needs to meet specific criteria when assessed by a mental health professional.

But a parent can still have narcissistic traits even if they don’t meet the criteria for NPD. These traits can lead to relationship dysfunction, and mental health issues for the child of the narcissist.

If you’re healing from a parent who lives with NPD or has narcissistic traits, there are a few strategies that may help.

2023 research has found that forgiveness:

These mental health benefits can lead to improvements in your physical health.

If you’re experiencing the stress of holding on to anger, this may have adverse physical consequences. It can impact aspects of your health, such as:

  • sleep quality
  • heart health
  • cholesterol
  • blood pressure

But, forgiveness reduces the chance of these adverse effects.

Forgiving a person for their behavior is not the same thing as defending that behavior. You can forgive your parent while understanding that the way they’ve treated you is wrong.

If you’re the child of a parent diagnosed with NPD or who displays narcissistic traits, you may be part of a legacy of intergenerational trauma. This means that the narcissistic traits your parent exhibits may be from adverse events in their own childhood.

Research has found that NPD symptoms are sometimes linked to childhood neglect or types of abuse, such as:

Household dysfunction may also be a contributing factor. Or your parent may have been raised by someone living with narcissistic traits or NPD themselves.

Recognizing and dismantling this cycle of intergenerational trauma is an integral part of healing.

Grief is a natural response to loss. Loss that’s not as societally recognized is commonly referred to as disenfranchised grief.

You can also self-disenfranchise by not allowing yourself to grieve the loss of a childhood that was free from narcissistic influence.

For example, as a child, you may not have had:

  • the nurturing parenting that you deserved
  • the carefree and innocent childhood experienced by your peers
  • a stable environment that enabled you to feel secure
  • the unconditional acceptance to foster healthy self-esteem
  • the freedom to develop your own identity

Acknowledging and processing important losses like these can help you move forward with your healing journey.

Educating yourself about narcissism can help you identify toxic behaviors, like gaslighting or emotional abuse.

If you internalize the criticism you receive or blame yourself when your parent is unhappy, this can affect your self-esteem. Educating yourself on the condition may help learn how to deal with narcissistic behaviors.

Analyzing narcissistic behaviors enables you to:

  • know when a narcissist is overreacting to a situation
  • understand that their behaviors are shouldn’t be taken personally
  • identify manipulation attempts
  • recognize when their expectations are unfair or inappropriate

Setting boundaries is a way to protect yourself. Internal boundaries reduce your parent’s influence on the way you think about yourself.

This type of boundary involves seeing their unkind behaviors as narcissism symptoms, rather than reflections of your worth. This protects you from internalizing the harm from their behaviors.

External boundaries involve tapering back on the way you’ve learned to over-accommodate your parent. It includes saying no and expressing your own preferences and opinions.

It’s important to note that it may be easier to set external boundaries when you’re an adult and no longer living with the parent in question.

Changing jobs or college programs to follow your own interests is an example of making choices for yourself.

You may be on a path that pleases the ego of your parent but doesn’t align with your goals.

Changing your path is a way to establish your own identity, work toward your goals, and create some distance between you and the damaging effects of your parent’s manipulation tactics.

It can be challenging for the child of a parent living with narcissistic traits to know the characteristics of a healthy relationship.

As you learn more about narcissism and its effects, you’ll become more skilled and confident at identifying beneficial human interactions.

Using your experience and insight to find healthy friendships and romantic relationships is an important part of breaking this mental health cycle.

Finding a therapist who specializes in narcissistic relationship patterns may help you cope. A trained therapist can help you:

  • identify narcissistic behaviors
  • change your thought patterns
  • set boundaries
  • identify healthy relationship characteristics

NPD is a formal mental health diagnosis that can affect the way a person relates to other people.

Even without an NPD diagnosis, a parent can have some narcissistic traits that adversely influence their children.

Being raised by a narcissistic parent can increase a person’s chance of experiencing issues like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Healing from a narcissistic parent is possible. Learning about narcissism and its characteristics and effects is a helpful place to start. Finding a trained therapist can also be of tremendous benefit.

If you need help locating support, Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource and Healthline’s FindCare tool can help you find a therapist near you.