At some time or another, all of us present with narcissistic tendencies. Maybe we’re feeling untouchable after a coveted job promotion or in need of a little extra attention from loved ones. The thing is, though, that these healthy amounts of narcissism are reasonable.
It’s when narcissism becomes narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) that problems arise. A narcissistic person has high self esteem and an inflated sense of their own importance. As a result, they have a deep need to be superior to those around them. Understanding narcissism is essential for developing and maintaining relationships, especially narcissistic rage.
Most narcissists have an excessive need to prioritize themselves. Signs you’re dealing with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder include:
Only around 6% of the US population has a narcissistic personality disorder. Still, even one narcissist can permanently change the way you or your loved one moves throughout life. For example, living with a narcissistic partner or parent may lead one to develop post-narcissist stress disorder.
Are you or your loved one recovering from living with someone who has a narcissistic personality disorder? You need to learn about post-narcissist stress disorder (PNSD), how it could affect your lifestyle, how to develop healthy habits, and how therapy can help you recover.
What Is Post-Narcissist Stress Disorder?
Post-narcissist stress disorder is another name for narcissist abuse syndrome. Individuals develop this condition after undergoing long periods of narcissistic abuse at the hands of a parent, sibling, guardian, or spouse with a narcissistic personality disorder.
All of this is to gradually convince their victim to obsess on their own faults or mistakes. The abuser encourages you to look away from the abuse, give in to the narcissist’s will, and, ultimately, idealize the narcissist.
The end goal of narcissistic abuse is to cause the victim of a narcissist to believe, think, and feel the way the narcissist wants him or her to. Because narcissistic abuse doesn’t feature insults, threats, or shaming, it can creep up insidiously.
A person with NPD victimizes a person over a long time, especially since they’re typically a spouse or a victim's parent. A narcissist victim may experience a condition called narcissistic abuse syndrome or post-narcissist stress disorder (PNSD).
7 Signs You May Have Post-Narcissist Stress Disorder
As their monikers suggest, PTSD and PNSD have much in common. In fact, some suggest that PNSD is a type of complex PTSD (CPTSD). Since PNSD and PTSD are often mistaken for one another, it should be no wonder the two conditions share many of the same symptoms.
Here are seven symptoms of post-narcissist stress disorder one may experience when dealing with narcissistic abuse syndrome.
1. Intrusive Thoughts, Memories, Flashbacks, Or Nightmares
A person with PNSD may experience sudden thoughts or memories of their abuse. Flashbacks and nightmares are also frequent in people who endured more severe forms of narcissistic abuse like gaslighting.
The content of PNSD intrusive memories and thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares are different from those of PTSD. With PTSD, people have dreams and memories of the traumatic event. Meanwhile, PNSD intrusive thoughts and flashbacks usually consist of images or memories of the narcissistic abuse or abuser.
2. Physical-Emotional Reactions To Reminders Of The Abuser
While PTSD more commonly brings about physical reactions to the trauma triggers, PNSD typically features emotional reactions. Narcissistic abuse syndrome triggers also differ from PTSD triggers. People living with PTSD more commonly react to reminders of their abusers in general rather than a specific traumatic event.
3. Avoiding Thoughts, People, Or Situations Associated With The Abuser
Experiencing negative emotional or physical reactions to reminders of their narcissistic abuser may lead to avoidant behaviors. Victims of narcissistic abuse may avoid places or situations that remind them of the abuser. If the narcissistic abuse took place in the home, they might have trouble being around family, even if the narcissist is no longer present.
These avoidant behaviors can take a toll on relationships and the every day tasks in life. Like PTSD, dealing with your emotional and/or physical reaction to these triggers is essential for the healing process. That’s where therapy can come in.
4. Negative Thoughts About Self And Others
Narcissistic abusers know that if you feel confident, assertive, and love yourself, their manipulations may not work as well. That’s why they work hard to plant doubts about your worth and the worth of others into your mind.
As with PTSD, these negative self- and other-related thoughts may persist after you’ve escaped the abuser. For this reason, many individuals with both PTSD and PNSD report self-isolating to avoid negativity.
5. Distorted Sense Of Blame
When victims are constantly forced to make excuses for their abuser’s behavior, they begin to develop a distorted sense of blame. The abuser may convince his victim that he is not to blame for his actions. Instead, his outbursts are somehow your fault.
This is called blame-shifting, and it’s a way for narcissistic abusers to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior. Victims who have self doubt are chronically exposed to blame-shifting develop a distorted sense of who’s at fault, often to the point that the victim doesn’t recognize when others are failing to take responsibility, too.
6. Sense Of Detachment And Isolation
Constant gaslighting can force a person to doubt their reality. The continuous tendency to self blame for the narcissist’s behavior can take a toll on close relationships. Even after the narcissistic emotional abuse is over, negative emotions may make victims may feel uncomfortable going out into the world. Panic attacks and anxiety disorders can hold them back from living their best life. Victims may question their every move and decision, making staying at home and away from potentially manipulative people seem much more appealing.
7. Difficulty Sleeping And Hyper-Vigilance
As we’ve mentioned, people with PTSD and PNSD often experience disturbing and intrusive dreams. This challenge can lead to trouble sleeping. With insomnia comes other physical and mental health issues, such as weight gain, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
Living with PNSD may also influence your perception of the people around you. Many people who’ve been victimized by narcissistic abuse report feeling hyper-vigilant for manipulative qualities in others.
Because of the distorted reality they also experience, people with PNSD may blow situations out of proportion, as they perceive people around them to be a threat. This is also common to people with PTSD, if not more severe. Like people with PTSD, those diagnosed with PNSD may have suicidal thoughts.
If you are thinking about suicide or if you are thinking about harming yourself, or others or if you have any medical emergency, you must immediately call the emergency service number (911 in the US and 999 in the UK) and notify the relevant authorities. Seek immediate in person assistance.
How Is PNSD Diagnosed And Treated?
Since the DSM doesn’t recognize PNSD as a mental illness, there are no formal tools to diagnose it. For that reason, people in a relationship with a narcissist who has suffered narcissistic abuse are often misdiagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, some evidence shows that the same post-traumatic stress disorder treatments can be beneficial for individuals with PNSD. Primarily, that means getting back to the root cause of your symptoms— narcissistic abuse.
Individuals in recovery from narcissistic abuse may benefit from therapy.
Specifically, cognitive therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy are beneficial for people with PNSD.
Cognitive therapy is a type of talk therapy that focuses on your thoughts. Cognitive therapists help you identify negative beliefs about yourself and other harmful thoughts. Then, you learn how to restructure those thoughts more helpfully.
EMDR is a therapy technique that shows great promise for treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder and PNSD. Using guided eye movements and verbal conversation about the traumatic event(s), your brain can learn how to reprocess the memories and change how you react to them.
If you suffer from flashbacks or nightmares about the abuse, you may also benefit from exposure therapy. This technique teaches narcissistic abuse victims to face memories that scare them. That way, you can learn to cope with those frightening memories healthily.
In some cases, therapy may not be enough alone.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications may help alleviate some of the more severe symptoms of post-narcissist stress disorder. If you have insomnia due to night terrors, sleeping medications or nightmare suppressants like Prazosin are promising.
The bottom line on treating PNSD is that you don’t have to suffer in silence. Find a traditional therapist near you or an online therapist like the professionals at ReGain to start enjoying your life again finally.
Get Help For The Symptoms Of Post-Narcissist Stress Disorder Now
If you or your loved one is suffering from post-narcissist stress disorder, find comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone. Narcissistic abuse can occur to anyone, especially since a narcissist – even one with an exaggerated sense of self worth -- can be extremely hard to spot.
Also, take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to live with PNSD forever. If you are in a toxic relationship with a narcissist or are considering leaving a narcissist, consider speaking with a therapist. Consider working with an online mental health professionals to help you or your loved one work through narcissistic abuse syndrome. Get started with ReGain today to find an accredited therapist who can help you overcome prolonged living symptoms with a narcissist abuser.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Is Post-narcissist Stress Disorder?
Post-narcissist stress disorder (PNSD) is another name for narcissist abuse syndrome. Victims of narcissistic behaviors develop this condition after undergoing long periods of narcissistic abuse at the hands of a parent, sibling, guardian, or spouse with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
Do I Have PTSD From Narcissistic Abuse?
Post-narcissist stress disorder (PNSD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are similar, and some studies indicate that PNSD is a type of complex PTSD (CPTSD). Personality disorders share common symptoms as well. Individuals with PNSD can experience intrusive thoughts, memories, flashbacks, or nightmares of their abuse or abuser and react emotionally when reminded of their abuser.
Like PTSD, individuals suffering from post-narcissist stress disorder avoid thoughts, people, or situations that remind them of their narcissistic abuser. For instance, if the narcissistic abuse occurs in the home or near family members, they might have trouble being around family, even if the narcissist is not present. Other symptoms include:
What Are The Long-term Effects Of Narcissistic Abuse?
When a person with NPD victimizes a person over a long time, this victim may develop a condition called narcissistic abuse syndrome or post-narcissist stress disorder (PNSD). Living with PNSD can impact your daily life and have lasting impacts on how you view the world and those around you. Individuals in recovery from narcissistic abuse may benefit from therapy. Speaking with a therapist can get to the root cause of your symptoms and help you recover.
Can You Ever Recover From Narcissistic Abuse?
If you are considering leaving a narcissist or finding ways to cope with a loved one who lives with a personality disorder, consider speaking with a therapist. Cognitive therapy (often called talk therapy) can help people with post-narcissist stress disorder identify negative beliefs and harmful thoughts and learn how to restructure those thoughts more helpfully. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is also thought to be beneficial. This technique uses guided eye movements and verbal conversation about your abuse and then teaches your brain to reprocess the memories and change how you react to them. With the support of your doctor and a certified therapist, you can recover from narcissistic abuse, and you can find the courage to move on with your life.
Will A Narcissist Ever Change?
While people with narcissism cannot be cured of their tendencies, they can take steps to address their behavior with therapy. A therapist can help teach techniques to deescalate episodes of narcissistic rage and work with loved ones who may live with post-narcissist stress disorder. If, however, you do not want to live your life in fear, it is acceptable to leave; you should never be afraid for your life, especially from someone who supposedly loves you.