When you are in the grip of narcissistic abuse, it can be hard to think about your own needs. You may be so preoccupied with what is happening to you that you feel numb, or so angry that you feel like an emotional volcano about to explode. Either way, it can be hard to take care of yourself.
Is Self-Care Selfish?
No matter what the toxic people in your life would have you believe, self-care is not selfish. It is essential in order to maintain your physical and emotional health. And this is even more important for people who have survived narcissistic abuse because, for many of us, our whole lives have been about making other people happy. It’s time to focus on yourself, possibly for the first time in your life.
Have you survived narcissistic abuse?
If you have been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know how frustrating and exhausting it is to repeatedly deal with their crazy-making and mind games. When they aren’t treating you like your feelings don’t matter, they are making you feel crazy for having feelings in the first place! It can be that hard to be in a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but you probably already know that it is possible to leave such relationships when you learn how to recognize the signs of narcissistic abuse and how to set boundaries.
What you might not realize though is that self-care is a vital part of healing from narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship. If a partner or ex-partner has been abusive toward you, you might have experienced a lot of trauma. It can be hard to get out of bed in the morning, and even to take care of yourself and your needs when you’re in the depths of recovery.
Why is self-care important in narcissistic abuse recovery?
Everyone heals on their own time frame, but by practicing some self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors you can improve your quality of life and begin the process of healing from narcissistic abuse. But without proper guidance, healing from narcissistic abuse can be long and arduous.
It’s very common for adult children of narcissistic parents (ACONs) to suffer from Complex PTSD. Worse, many ACONs also end up getting into romantic relationships with narcissists and other toxic people – it feels normal to them. That’s why, without proper support, it is so easy to fall back into old patterns.
Did you lose yourself to narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic abuse is a particularly vicious form of psychological abuse. It is important to recognize that narcissistic abuse takes a toll on your mind and body. After experiencing an abusive relationship, it is normal to feel like you have lost yourself. You may also feel like you don’t know how to take care of yourself anymore. These feelings are often due to the way you were treated in your past relationships and can develop into a very unhealthy pattern if not addressed. After abuse, your whole sense of self needs to be rebuilt and nurtured.
Self-Care Tips for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors
Self-care is important for all of us, but especially for those in the healing process following narcissistic abuse. You can use these self-care tips as tools to help you heal and recover from the effects of narcissistic abuse and re-establish a sense of inner peace within yourself. Even if you have not left your abuser yet, self-care can help protect your mental health while you decide to leave or work on other aspects of your life that are related to the abuse.
Here are some self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors:
1. Remember You Are a Whole Person.
It may sound silly, but if you are still reeling from the abuse of a narcissist, it can be difficult to remember that you’re still a whole, multifaceted person. Narcissistic abuse survivors often find themselves existing in a fog of confusion and pain, and being told repeatedly that they are “crazy” or “imagining things.” It can be hard to muster the motivation or energy for self-care when you feel so beaten down. If you’ve been abused by a narcissist, it’s important to know that what you’re experiencing isn’t your fault. Narcissists are experts at gaslighting their victims into believing that they have no right to their own feelings or opinions. You have every right to grieve the loss of these relationships and experiences, and to take time to work through your feelings. You also have a right to care for yourself in whatever way is best for you. This video explains exactly what happens to you during narcissistic abuse and why you stop feeling like a whole person – this is exactly why it’s so important to take care of yourself now.
2. Assess Your Needs and Make a Self-Care Plan.
Maybe the most important step in self-care after narcissistic abuse is knowing what you need in order to feel cared for and nurtured. You’ve been through the hell of emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of a narcissist. You might just need to start by taking a bit of time for yourself. You can practice setting boundaries. Take a week or a weekend and just turn off the phones, close the door, and relax. If possible, use this time to disengage from the narcissist. Breathe deeply. Meditate. Stretch out any kinks or tension in your body. Do something creative or spiritual. Then sit down and write down your self-care plan. Note: Make sure you pencil in time to get enough sleep and relaxation. You can’t think straight or make good decisions when you’re stressed and exhausted. Watch this if you need to remember how important self-care is for survivors of narcissistic abuse!
3. Don’t Discount the Value of Positive Affirmations.
You’ve spent way too much time worrying about everyone else in your life – and the narcissist has facilitated this by requiring you to make them the center of your world. This means you’ve got a lot of thoughts, feelings, and unspoken words flying around inside you, likely adding to your pain. My suggestion here is to go out and buy a journal or a diary. Or just use a plain notebook if you prefer. Either way, use this to write in every day about how you are feeling, your thoughts, what you have been doing, and any other information that is important to you. The idea is that whatever you put into this journal is just for you. You can tear pages out if they are painful to read later on, or you can keep the book forever as a reminder of how far you have come. Personally, I prefer bullet journaling these days – here’s how I do it.
6. Pay Attention To Your Breathing.
Did you know that if you breathe through your mouth, you are going to feel more anxious? It’s true! And that will only cause you to think more about the pain you had endured. The best way to stay relaxed is by breathing through your nostrils. In fact, this is something that patients that suffer from insomnia are told to do before they attempt to fall asleep. Breathing through your nostrils will help lower anxiety levels and the more you do it, the more you will rewire your brain into a calmer state. Try the exercises I share here for help.
7. Tap Into Your Creativity
I always say that narcissistic abuse recovery is a great time to start a new project. Maybe you want to redecorate a room in your home, or learn to paint. Perhaps you’d like to write a book or a story. Maybe you’re a songwriter? When you listen to songs like Stronger Than Ever by Christina Aguilera, you know she was inspired by her own healing from abuse. And this is a positive way to deal with pain and trauma. Channeling your pain into creativity is highly therapeutic. Or, if you’re struggling with finding a project because you’re drowning in your own clutter (a common issue for survivors), you might try a decluttering project, as described here.
8. Ask For Help
Possibly the most important step to practicing healthy self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors is surrounding yourself with supportive people who understand what you’re going through. I think it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are millions of people who have experienced the pain that comes with being in an abusive relationship, so don’t feel like your situation is unique or uncommon. If you are struggling, be sure to look into finding a therapist and/or a narcissistic abuse recovery coach who understands what you’re going through. They can give you some helpful tips and since they may have been there themselves, they can empathize in ways no one else can. There’s also the option to join a small Zoom coaching group. If therapy or coaching aren’t within your budget, you can also join a free support narcissistic abuse recovery support group. The more support you have, the better! It MATTERS.
Get help with narcissistic abuse recovery right now.
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. It offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups– We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery and some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
Are you struggling with how to deal when your partner has C-PTSD?
If so, you know that CPTSD can trigger intense reactions in both sufferers and their loved ones. In fact, the reactions may be more intense when the person with CPTSD is triggered by someone they love. This is because loving someone makes it harder to put up a wall against their pain.
Narcissistic abuse is a pervasive, covert type of abuse that involves the exploitation and emotional and/or psychological abuse of one partner in a toxic relationship. This kind of abuse can affect a personal connection, such as marriage, partnership, friendship, or family relationships. When you’re dealing with a narcissist in the family, they will often abuse everyone in the household and even affect the extended family members. Even professional relationships and acquaintanceships can be affected by narcissistic abuse.
What is narcissistic abuse like?
While narcissistic abuse can result in profound emotional and psychological harm, as well as long-term, often debilitating, life-changing physical effects, the covert nature of this painful form of relationship abuse can make it difficult to spot and even more challenging to manage. Worse, if you find yourself involved in this kind of relationship with a malignant narcissist, your self-confidence and self-worth are often so low by the time you realize it, you can’t or won’t leave.
What do narcissists do to their victims?
Narcissistic abuse involves subtle manipulation, pervasive control tactics, gaslighting, and emotional and psychological abuse. Many narcissistic abusers might be diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder – if they actually go to a psychologist for diagnosis, but this rarely happens as narcissists don’t feel that there’s anything with them. They may be overtly narcissistic, or they may be more of a covert narcissist. In either case, anyone in a close relationship with one of these toxic people will be used as a form of narcissistic supply and not treated like an actual person. Sadly, even the most intelligent and educated people can be manipulated and abused by a narcissist. Spend any significant amount of time with a narcissist who knows you well, and you’re guaranteed to get a taste of toxic. If you live with or communicate with the narcissist on a regular basis, chances are that you’ve been gaslighted so often that you might almost feel like it’s part of “normal,” but the idea of just one more instant has you doubting your sanity, your IQ, and your memory, not to mention your whole sense of self.
Certainly, the term narcissistic abuse can refer to a variety of behaviors, as described above. So, emotional abuse and psychological abuse are often the results of narcissistic abuse. Sometimes it may also involve a number of other kinds of abuse including the following.
In other words: they don’t care how you or anyone else feels, and you can tell because of the way they treat the people around them. Their actions clearly highlight their extreme lack of emotional empathy and compassion.
How does relationship trauma affect your other relationships?
Research shows that dealing with relationship trauma affects more than just those involved in an abusive relationship. It impacts people from their immediate social circle as well. In one study, researchers interviewed 88 college students and found that those who experienced a relationship trauma felt the need to isolate themselves from others and felt significantly less attractive to potential partners. They were also more likely to feel they had a lack of control over events in their life.
The point is that when one person in a relationship is traumatized it can create an imbalance in communication between the partners and other people they come into contact with. For example, if one partner has been exposed to prolonged and/or extreme forms of abuse or neglect, it can create an imbalance in communication between the partners.
Can you have PTSD from narcissistic abuse?
A lot of people don’t understand that you can develop C-PTSD from long-term narcissistic abuse. It’s confusing because conventionally, post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with war, terrorism, natural disasters, and other life-threatening events. If you have PTSD, you may be experiencing flashbacks or nightmares about the event, avoid people or places that remind you of the event, feel numb or disconnected, have difficulty sleeping or concentrating, be constantly on guard for danger and have feelings of anxiety and fear. But what if you are suffering from PTSD after narcissistic abuse? Let’s talk about the differences between PTSD and C-PTSD.
What are the symptoms of PTSD from narcissistic abuse?
And how do you know if you have it? C-PTSD and other kinds of relationship trauma can be devastating to your physical, emotional, or psychological health, not to mention painfully life-altering – and usually not in a good way.
Not only can you end up depressed, numb, and feeling lost, but C-PTSD from narcissistic abuse may lead to behaviors such as:
Can someone with complex PTSD have a relationship?
Short answer: YES, as long as they’ve healed or mostly healed before entering that relationship.
Detailed explanation: When you’re dealing with someone who has complex PTSD who has taken the time to do the work (or in some cases who are still in the process, a healthy relationship is entirely possible. The newer the discovery of C-PTSD and the less recovery work a survivor has done, the more difficult the relationship could be. Still, if you’re patient and willing to be supportive in a kind, consistent, gentle way, you can be of tremendous help to ease many C-PTSD symptoms. Just be careful to maintain your own boundaries in the meantime.
When you’re dealing with a less-healed person with complex PTSD, things can get a little difficult, but there’s still hope. You can make it work if you’re willing to be patient and compassionate. It can help to remember to consider their perspective and to treat them with kindness – just as you’d want to be treated if you were in their shoes. Let your empathy shine.
How should I deal with a partner who has C-PTSD?
It’s important to remember that not everyone is capable of loving everyone – and in some cases, of loving ANYONE – they meet. Some people are naturally more kind and honest than others, but other people have been taught to keep their feelings hidden from the world.
With this in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with someone who has been through relationship trauma.
They might not say anything until they’re ready. In other words, they might not express their feelings at all. Don’t take this as a sign that they don’t love you — it’s just a way for them to control how they feel until they’re ready to let go of their pain.
They might try to avoid any discussion about their exes or other relationships out of shame or embarrassment. If you ask them about someone else, it’ll make them feel uncomfortable and bring up bad memories from the past. But if you respect their privacy, they’ll open up eventually without pressure from you.
They might get defensive when you bring up past relationships or talk about your own experience with other people. Their own history might make them feel vulnerable and insecure — particularly if they’re still working through their feelings — so they might become defensive when confronted with issues from the pasts of others. This is a sign that there’s something going on inside that needs healing, but your questions could be interpreted as a challenge or intrusion by someone who feels threatened by the vulnerability.
They might go silent when talking about topics related to their exes, such as what happened between them and how they treated them in the relationship.
What should I do when my partner struggles with C-PTSD triggers?
A better question might be what are the best practices for your own behavior during C-PTSD triggers? See, this will depend on two things: the understanding that this really IS NOT about you, even if you did cause the trigger. So, stay calm and remember that this is one of those times when “better or worse” comes into play. Here’s where, most of the time, avoidant partners will just shut down. They will do their best to avoid situations that could cause them to feel hurt again. The problem with this is that there is no chance for healing, which can lead to depression and feelings of hopelessness.
How much responsibility do I have when it comes to my partner’s C-PTSD triggers?
This is sort of up to your partner, in some ways, because they may or may not be able to accept any support, depending on how damaged they are and what phase of the relationship you’ve reached. Of course, you’re always free to walk away, but if you care about them and want to make the relationship work, chances are you’ll accept the level of responsibility they’re willing to give to you.
One important note: If you’re not equipped for it, please let your partner know. If you’re willing to help but don’t know how, that’s okay – there are ways you can learn. For example, You could choose to get some kind of counseling or coaching together or separately on how to deal with C-PTSD as a couple.
And remember this:
You don’t necessarily have to prevent your partner from shutting down, but you can certainly facilitate a safe, emotionally supportive response if the situation warrants, or some distance, or even a period of extreme closeness – depending on which of your partner’s needs you feel comfortable fulfilling.
Triggers in C-PTSD can be overwhelming for both you and your partner. If you’re the one dealing with the trigger, the first thing you can do to help yourself is to identify it AS A TRIGGER. In layman’s terms, this can help to switch out of your emotional side and into your intellectual one.
Step Two: Understand why you’re triggered.
Then, take a deep breath and remember that you’re not alone – even if you are in the middle of a CPTSD trigger, you are not alone. Even if you feel like an alien, you are not the only one who has C-PTSD as a result of narcissistic abuse. This is not an easy question to answer, because everyone responds differently to triggers, so there really isn’t a sure-fire plan on how to get out of one.
Step Three: Who is your narcissistic abuse recovery support team?
Start by figuring out your support team – who can you count on to get you through the hard times in recovery, and who will be there to celebrate your wins with you.
My Best Support Team Recruiting Tip: If you’re feeling alone in your recovery, I get it. I did too, and that’s why I do what I do – and why I always suggest a check-up with your doctor to have C-PTSD diagnosed and to determine if you need to be medically or psychologically treated. A lot of survivors also need support from outside of these helpful but time-restrained support people – and their friends stop listening after a while – or worse, side with the narcissist. Or for any number of other individual circumstances, you find yourself feeling lost and lonely after narcissistic abuse – you’re going to want to join a narcissistic abuse recovery support group.
That’s why I suggest that you also consider finding yourself a good narcissistic abuse recovery coach or coaching group, or a therapist to help guide and support you along your C-PTSD recovery journey. Or, if you’re struggling with money and can’t find someone who takes your health insurance, or you just want a little extra support, you can join one of our free online narcissistic abuse recovery support groups.
Dr. Robin recommends that you first and foremost physically ground yourself. She offers this simple technique for grounding.
Inhale through your nose, count to 6.
Fill your abdomen with air.
Do not hold your stomach in.
B. Hold your breath for 6 seconds
C. Exhale 6 seconds through your mouth.
Repeat 3 times.
2. Try Reparenting Yourself.
Dr. Robin recommends a reparenting exercise that can be very effective, especially if you grew up in a toxic family and were invalidated or at least not given proper validation by your parents. Her simple exercise, below, offers a shocking amount of help because you can learn to validate yourself in the process.
Talk to yourself like you’re your own best “mom ” or “dad.”
Be loving and kind.
This can help you feel calmer and less alone, as well as improve your self-image and self-esteem.
“Know that you got this,” Dr. Robin says. “You’ve been through so much and have developed residency. Much more than most. Believe in yourself, and remember that survivors become thrives!”
Help Yourself Through Narcissistic Abuse Recovery and C-PTSD Healing
You have to keep in mind that relationships go through many stages. And if you’re going through a rough period, it’s possible that your partner may not be able to fully empathize with your situation. Explaining the situation might help, but you can serve yourself and any potential future partner best if you work through this healing before committing yourself to a new relationship.
Help Your Partner Through C-PTSD Healing After Narcissistic Abuse
If you’re in a relationship with someone who suffers from trauma, remember not to get caught up in the drama of their anger or occasional outbursts of violence. Instead, try to understand what’s going on for them and offer them support by listening and talking things through instead of rushing in and trying to fix them. Remember that they’ve been through a very difficult and painful situation that took them away from who they were supposed to be.
They can’t get back the person they once were, but they can certainly become a better, more balanced version of it – and that’s what you’re going to help them shoot for. And consider where they’re coming from, what they were taught, and who they really are by thinking about the following questions, and asking them if appropriate.
How did they grow up?
What did they learn from their parents?
What did they experience at school or in the workplace that made them who they are today?
It’s important to take into account these things when understanding what caused the problems in the relationship. This, along with steady, unfailing support and a willingness to keep an open mind, can go a long way into helping your partner feel safe again.
Advice for Managing C-PTSD in Your Relationship
In either case, remember this: how you go on from a traumatic event is important – and the most important thing when it comes to getting into your next relationship is that you’re ready. You must take the time to heal and to learn to stand up for yourself and to set firm boundaries. You must learn to value yourself properly and to recognize your worth. If you grew up with toxic parents, chances are that you’ve never fully managed to do that.
Here are some resources to help.
Resources for Healing After Trauma Caused By Narcissistic Abuse
Professional Help for Managing Trauma and Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
If you are experiencing symptoms that are affecting your day-to-day life, it is important to get professional if needed. There is no shame in working with experts to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Consider talking to experts if you experience the following symptoms.
Ongoing distress, anxiety, sadness, etc for multiple weeks.
Feeling like you’re stuck or you have an inability to function in your life.
Feeling hopeless all the time.
Your work or school is affected.
Your daily life and activities have been affected.
You are using drugs or alcohol to cope.
It never hurts to start by contacting your family doctor or mental health professionals. Also, consider talking to a clergy member about a referral if you go to church. They may know a professional in your community that you can work with. You can also check out the narcissistic abuse recovery support resources here.
Comprehensive Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Glossary: This is a comprehensive guide to words and phrases (related to narcissism, NPD and related conditions, narcissistic abuse, and narcissistic abuse recovery) that are commonly used in articles, videos, and narcissistic abuse recovery support groups. Defined here as specifically how they relate to narcissism, narcissistic abuse, and narcissistic abuse recovery, these terms have been developed by psychologists, coaches, therapists, and survivors of narcissistic abuse who need a way to understand and overcome the abuse.
FAQ Help: Whenever you need help with something related to this site or you want to know how to find something, join a group or otherwise deal with an issue you’re having, visit our new FAQ Help page.
Self-Care for Survivors: This is a page that covers everything you need to know about self-care, from how to build your own self-care kit to how to sign up for self-care support, and more.
New Resources Page: This is a one-stop overview of narcissism, NPD, and narcissistic abuse recovery, offering a long list of resources that will be helpful for you.
Stalking Resources Center: If your narcissist is a stalker, the information and resources on this page will help you get and stay safe.
*Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It’s very important to always check with your doctor before taking any action that could affect your physical or mental health.