Finding Out That You've Been a Victim of Narcissistic Abuse

The day you discover that you are or you have been a victim of narcissistic abuse, you feel anger, frustration and emotional pain. These emotions are warning signs for you to react, distance yourself, and heal your wounds.
Finding Out That You've Been a Victim of Narcissistic Abuse
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

The day you discover that you’re a victim of narcissistic abuse, you see yourself differently in the mirror. How could you not have noticed? How could you have been so innocent? What can you do to put a stop to it? The most striking thing about these difficult and delicate experiences is that you may end up developing a negative perception of yourself for having allowed it to happen in the first place.

You might tend to think of narcissism as being more likely in romantic relationships. However, the truth is that there are many kinds of narcissistic relationships. One of the most problematic is when you discover in adulthood that, as a child, you were a victim of narcissistic parents. It’s a difficult fact to come to terms with. It’s even more difficult to understand both the experience and what the consequences might be.

We might even speak of post-traumatic stress disorder in these kinds of cases. There are no outwardly visible scars but internal bleeding that isn’t always taken care of the way it should be. Let’s take a closer look.

Sad man suffering from being a victim of narcissistic abuse

Being a victim of narcissistic abuse: a reality with many faces

There’s extensive research on the effects of relationships with narcissists. Indeed, you’ve probably seen the “Are you living with a narcissist?” articles in the popular press. However, it’s just as important to know the consequences that these situations cause. In fact, these are much more serious than you might think.

The University of Amsterdam conducted research that studied the effect of having a boss with this personality trait. The data stated that having a narcissistic leader tends to condition employees’ self-esteem. In other words, few come out unscathed from this type of situation, especially if it’s a close relationship and is maintained over time.

However, you can find this type of personality in almost any setting. There are narcissistic fathers and mothers. There are friends, co-workers, bosses and, of course, partners with this trait. Furthermore, in certain cases, they exhibit a clear personality disorder. It’s worth delving deeper into this subject, particularly if you’ve found yourself to be a victim.

If you’ve been emotionally abused by narcissistic parents

No child usually questions the behavior or treatment of their parents. In fact, anyone can spend their first years not knowing that conditional affection and harmful treatment aren’t normal. For this reason, you don’t usually realize the fact that you’ve been raised by a narcissist until you reach adulthood.

Nevertheless, you’ll usually demonstrate characteristics that are a direct consequence of this kind of daily treatment. For example:

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Feelings of unsafety.
  • Problems maintaining friendships or romantic relationships.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders.
  • Extreme perfectionistic traits.
  • Self-destructive behaviors.

If you’ve realized that your parents exhibited narcissistic behaviors, you should do two things. The first is to stop blaming them. That’s because the projection of blame will further increase your discomfort as well as the feeling of being a victim. Secondly, you must place all your efforts, energies, and affections in yourself. In fact, your priority should be to repair the fabric of your self-esteem.

If you’re a victim of narcissistic abuse in your romantic relationship

“I feel furious. I don’t know how I didn’t see it before.” If you’re a victim of narcissistic abuse in your romantic relationship, you’ll find yourself saying things like this. Indeed, it’s the frustration of not having seen the signs before that weighs on you most heavily. However, you must be clear on certain aspects:

  • Nobody sees a narcissist coming. They’re skilled chameleons of deception. Furthermore, they use your empathy and affection to manipulate you.
  • You couldn’t predict what was going to happen. What’s more, the simple act of blaming yourself for not having seen it before will further undermine your self-esteem.

In addition, if you’ve spent a long time in a relationship of emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you might feel ashamed. Once again you ask yourself “why didn’t I see it ?” or “why was I so stupid?”. This further aggravates your discomfort.

woman being a victim of narcissistic abuse

If you have a narcissistic boss

We’ve all heard of burnout. However, in many cases, there are situations of psychological exhaustion caused by the presence of a narcissistic leader.

  • If you discover that you’re a victim of narcissistic abuse in your work, you’ll feel humiliated.
  • This humiliation is due to unequal positions of power. There’s someone above you who manipulates you, who turns their anger on you, or who always seeks to reinforce their status in front of you.

All of this takes a slow and deep toll on your mental health. Indeed, in all the situations we’ve spoken about (family, work, partner), the mere discovery of this abusive situation arouses more negative feelings in you. These self-perceptions arise from anger, shame, and feelings of violation. However, you mustn’t hurt yourself more than others have already inflicted on you.

Therefore, don’t wound yourself even more by being harsh and severe on yourself. Realizing who these people are means you must do two things. Firstly, distance yourself from them. Secondly, repair all the damage they’ve caused you. Doing so will take time, but you can do it.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bursten, Ben. The Manipulative Personality. Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol 26 No 4. (1972)
  • Buss DM, Gomes M, Higgins DS, Lauterback K. Tactics of Manipulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 52 No 6 (1987)
  • Nevicka, B., De Hoogh, A., Den Hartog, D. N., & Belschak, F. D. (2018). Narcissistic Leaders and Their Victims: Followers Low on Self-Esteem and Low on Core Self-Evaluations Suffer Most. Frontiers in psychology9, 422.
  • Johnson, Stephen. Humanizing the Narcissistic Style. W. W. Norton & Company. (1987)
  • Valashjardi A, Charles K. Voicing the Victims of Narcissistic Partners: A Qualitative Analysis of Responses to Narcissistic Injury and Self-Esteem Regulation. SAGE Open. April 2019. doi:10.1177/2158244019846693

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.