OVER THE LONG-TERM narcissistic abuse can lead to a range of adverse health outcomes for victim-survivors, including mental health conditions and stress related diseases.
The long-term consequences of narcissistic abuse can manifest as:
What is narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic abuse is a maladaptive form of emotional regulation used by one person to subjugate another. It is a kind of psycho-emotional abuse that is motivated by one person’s desire to dominate, control, manipulate, and exploit others to affirm their sense of superiority.
It can take the form of verbal abuse, manipulation, intimidation. It can also lead to the loss of friends and loved ones for the victim-survivor through isolation. Narcissistic abuse can happen in any relationship, including intimate partnerships, friendships, and families.
Physical effects of narcissistic abuse
In the presence of a threat the brain’s hypothalamus sets off system of defenses in the body to combat stress. The adrenal glands spring to action, secreting adrenaline and cortisol, sending the organism into survival mode responses, i.e. fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.
Survival mode is meant to last for a short time, until the person is able to get to safety. However, people experiencing narcissistic abuse remain in survival mode for sustained periods of time. The long-term effects of raised adrenaline and cortisol can have adverse health consequences as increased adrenaline and cortisol leads to elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.
Some of the health conditions chronic narcissistic abuse can lead to are:
- Cardio-vascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Type II Diabetes
- Substance dependency
- Behavioral addictions
Psycho-emotional effects of narcissistic abuse
Exposure to extreme narcissism can lead to the erasure of victim-survivors’ identity, which can negatively impact their psycho-emotional functioning. Manipulation, coercion, and repeated boundary violations leave the recipient of the abuse forever circling back and forth through fight, flight, freeze, or fawn responses.
The victim-survivor’s prolonged grief of the inner-self can lead to mental health conditions like:
- Major depressive disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
What are the consequences of narcissistic abuse on behavior?
Narcissistic abuse can cause significant changes in a person’s behavior. Feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation and worthlessness may cause them to withdraw socially. Narcissistic abuse distorts how the person experiencing it sees themselves and can lead to struggles with self-esteem. They may blame themselves for the narcissistic person’s aggression and come to believe that they deserve to be ill-treated. They may also place the narcissistic person on a pedestal and respond to their aggression by fawning over them in the hope that the relationship will revert to the love bombing phase again. To please the narcissistic person, the needs of the recipient of the abuse are neglected. To avoid angering the narcissistic person, the recipient of the abuse may even self-sabotage their own progress and goals.
People in recovery often describe “losing themselves” in relationships with a narcissistic partner and may experience:
- Inability to concentrate
- Lack of motivation
- Low self-esteem
- Fear of failure
- Decrease or absence of libido
Financial Effects of Narcissistic Abuse
Financial abuse is prominent a prominent feature of narcissistic abuse in the context of domestic violence. 99% of people who experienced domestic violence report that financial abuse was used to entrap them in the relationship. Perpetrators of narcissistic abuse sabotage their partner’s income through campaigns of manipulation, intimidation, and harassment. They may also take control of their partner’s income, restricting access to money. Victim-survivors are often plunged into poverty and forced to remain in abusive relationships because they cannot afford to leave.
According to the American Psychological Association, prolonged financial stress can cause people to develop, “higher resting heart rate, blood pressure, and circulating stress hormones such as cortisol.” Ultimately, this can lead to a condition known as allostatic load a term used to describe the cumulative effects of chronic stress that can lead to impaired physical and mental health.
Recovering From Abuse – Tips
As the old adage goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ If you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse it’s imperative to start looking after your health as soon as possible.
Try reducing your stress though activities that bring you a sense of fulfillment, get you to move your body, and give you peace of mind.
The following suggestions may be helpful:
- Set realistic health goals
- Learn time management skills
- Eat healthfully
- Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day
- Get restful sleep
- Spend time with family, friends, and pets.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Take up hobbies in your spare time
Part of recovering from narcissistic abuse is learning to change your focus from the narcissistic person to yourself so that you can use your time and energy to heal and build your best life. To prevent the long-term consequences of narcissistic abuse from impacting your health it is important to create a deep connection with yourself and a vibrant social life. Remember, all things are possible for those who believe. You’ve got this!