Coronavirus Stay-Home Order Presents Unique Challenges for Narcissistic Abuse Victims

Coronavirus Stay-Home Order Presents Unique Challenges for Narcissistic Abuse Victims

While the idea of “sheltering in place” is meant to keep us safe and help our communities flatten the curve of the coronavirus that is threatening our population right now, there is one part of the population that may be in more danger than ever – and which continues to suffer in silence despite growing awareness of its concerns.

As it turns out, not all of us are truly “safe at home.” While everyone is talking about domestic violence victims, not many people are mentioning those who are suffering from emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of a toxic partner or family member – often referred to as narcissistic abuse.

In combination with the stress and cabin fever that most of us are experiencing, narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships is making life even more unbearable for literally millions of people.

In fact, according to Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day founder Bree Bonchay, more than 158 million people are affected by narcissistic abuse in the U.S. alone.

“We must not get to the end of this public health emergency and look back on it as a period when a ‘secondary’ predictable disaster was allowed to happen,” said End Violence Against Women Coalition Director Sarah Green in a statement.

Why is the stay at home order so dangerous for people in toxic relationships?

Most abusers need to feel like they’re in control of everything in their lives, including and maybe especially their partners and children.

And, according to what Katie Ray-Jones, chief executive of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, told the New York Times recently, the hotline has seen a spike in calls from victims of abuse who need help.

“We know that any time an abusive partner may be feeling a loss of power and control — and everybody’s feeling a loss of power and control right now — it could greatly impact how victims and survivors are being treated in their homes,” Jones said, adding that she expects to see both the intensity and frequency of abuse escalate, even if the number of victims doesn’t increase during this crisis.

The fact is that even healthy couples are going to feel the pinch when they’re spending 24/7 together with no hope for relief in the foreseeable future. But when it comes to a toxic pairing, things get even more difficult.

Living with a Narcissistic Abuser

Life with a narcissistic abuser is never easy. But the current state of our society intensifies the abuse for a number of reasons.

For example, during “normal” times, a victim of narcissistic abuse is often grateful for the times they (or their abuser) can be away from home.

Whether it’s going to work, or running the kids to their various appointments and practices, going to the gym or meeting up with friends, the toxic partner and the victim are normally separated for at least some of the time during the week.

These little breaks offer sweet relief from the ongoing emotional torture, manipulation and mind games served up by the abuser. In so many ways, they make life tolerable, even if the victim isn’t happy.

But thanks to the current shelter-in-place order most of us are dealing with, home is far from safe for victims of narcissistic abuse as more time together means more opportunities for verbal, emotional and psychological abuse.

Real Narcissistic Abuse Victims & Survivors Speak

I asked members of my online support groups how they are doing during this difficult time, and their answers were shockingly poignant. Their names have been changed to protect their identities.

“Every morning is like waking up to a really bad version of ‘Groundhog’s Day’ that I can’t escape,” says Mallory, who is still living with her abuser. “Every morning, you have to push yourself to be grateful for life itself, pray for the strength to survive this period of time and plan your escape.”

Becky, a nurse, is currently in lockdown with her abuser, though she had been making plans to leave before the shelter-in-place order had been announced. But then, she says, “we got into an argument and he punched a door. He broke his hand and now he needs surgery.”

“I’m isolated, immunocompromised, and now get to deal with how horrible he is when he is on pain meds and recovering from surgery. I’m still working out how I am going to cope with this,” she says, but adds: “I’m a nurse so I feel like I have an obligation to help another person in need, regardless of my personal relationship.”

Alica, who is still stuck in the situation with her abuser, says that this situation has helped her see that she really needs to get out of the relationship.

“I was doing a lot of avoidance and (kept thinking to myself) ‘well, maybe it’s not so bad’” Alicia says. “Now I see that I need to take some responsibility and do what’s best for me.”

Isolation is Already an Issue for Narcissistic Abuse Victims

It’s also important to remember that psychological abuse often involves isolation from outside friends and family members.

The fact is that most victims of ongoing emotional and/or psychological abuse already have to deal with being isolated by their abusers – whether directly or indirectly.

This may come in the form of directly forbidding the victim to socialize or visit with certain people. Or, in some cases, it may seem to be the choice of the victim.

This happens when the abuser makes visiting with others so uncomfortable (during visits or afterward by harassing the victim for something that happened during the visits) that the victim just gives up and self-isolates from those people.

“I’m grateful every day that I’m not with my covert narcissist husband,” says survivor Marea R. “I don’t know how I would survive (this stay home order) if I was still with him.”

Even abusers who don’t live with us can be an issue during this time, as explained by narcissistic abuse survivor Reece R., who told me, “I don’t even live with my narcissist dad, but he was harassing me literally because of the virus. He was using it as an excuse.”

Children and Toxic Parents

Children are especially at risk of emotional and psychological abuse during this time, as one survivor, Bob, who left his abusive wife six months ago, explains.

“My children complain that she carries on like the lockdown rules don’t apply to her,” Bob says. “Of course they don’t – not rules that stop her getting out and getting the adoration and attention she needs in order to breathe.”

He added that his kids are worried about what this means for their health.

“My 13 year old actually said ‘it’s like I have to parent my parent.’” Bob says. “It’s so difficult to discuss with them in an age-appropriate way how they could deal with this – so difficult to find constructive advice that isn’t ‘your mother is a raging narcissist.’”

The Health Risks Associated with Grandiosity

Many survivors report that the narcissistic abusers in their lives are completely disregarding the shelter-in-place order. For example, one support group member, Natalie, who isn’t living with her abuser, says he has not taken the quarantine seriously.

“He continues to go out in public, go shopping and do everything else he can as if life is normal,” Natalie says. “It’s like he thinks he’s too good to catch this illness; it’s very selfish…it really shows his grandiosity to think that it’s OK for him to go on doing everything that he is not supposed to do during the quarantine without regard to anybody else, even his elderly parents.”

Beware the Quarantine Hoover

Narcissists and other toxic people are known to return to abandoned partners repeatedly in a move the narcissistic abuse recovery community has deemed “the hoover maneuver.”

Named after the famous vacuum cleaner company, hoovering is what we call it when the abuser tries to “suck you back in” after the discard.

This can be drama-related, or it can be an attempt to reconcile the relationship. It may also be an attempt to get you to break no contact.

As Danielle, a recovering survivor of narcissistic abuse explains, “I let my narcissist back in and he was so kind and sweet.”

She believed he’d changed because of his love for her, she says, noting that he even wanted them to live together, buy a home and get married in a couple of years.

“I fell for it,” she says, adding that one day, he called her and after a random conversation, it was like a switch had flipped.

“Out of the blue, he told me if I was fat like I was before he met me, he would not like me,” she says. “Then I knew to run.”

Danielle reports that she did exactly that and has currently been no contact for two weeks.

“I’m not interested in ever talking to him again,” she says.

Loneliness is no reason to get back into a toxic relationship!

Another survivor, Mattie, says that the pandemic has made it harder to resist the hoovering.

“His hoovering has never been so attractive and his love bombing has never been more needed,” Mattie says. “Being trapped inside like this, away from society is killing me. Maybe things are different for introvert survivors of narcissists – but as an extrovert, I can’t stand this.”

Getting lonely is hard for an extrovert, and Mattie says that her ex offers her “a bit of reprieve from this isolation.”

Michelle, another survivor, says her ex is actively hoovering.

“I am handling it,” she says. “It is the normal in and out energy.”

Michelle says certain affirmations have been helping her get through the tough moments. Her favorites?

“What you allow will continue”
“Forgive yourself first.”
“If they show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Are you in a toxic relationship during this difficult time? Here are some resources to help you.


When Narcissistic Abuse Makes You Afraid to Leave Home

When Narcissistic Abuse Makes You Afraid to Leave Home

In the depths of my toxic relationship, I found myself feeling really sort of numb. I functioned like a robot and did just the bare minimum I needed to do to get by. When I finally left, I thought everything would change – I thought my life would suddenly get better and I tried really hard to act as if that were the case. But just under the surface, there was a sort of anxiety that bubbled up every time I thought about going out in public.

I stopped taking care of myself in certain ways. While I showered every day, I only did it because I was forced to go to work to support my child. I only put clean clothes on for that reason. I stopped wearing makeup and I stopped bothering to try to feel good about my appearance.

On the weekends, I’d do my very best to avoid leaving the house and I would not shower or get dressed. I felt like I was so overwhelmed and stressed out by going to work and shopping for groceries and whatever else I did during the week that I needed a break – at least that’s what I told myself.

I thought that was taking care of myself, and I guess in some ways, it was – sort of. But it also caused me to avoid any social situations that I wasn’t forced to be part of, and quite honestly, if I did not need to support my son, I most likely would have avoided leaving the house at all costs.

I found myself thinking things like:

I wish I never had leave the house. I don’t want to get out of bed. How do I stop being lazy and start wanting to live again? What the heck is wrong with me?

Can you relate? If so, you’re not alone. Many survivors of narcissistic abuse find themselves feeling just like this when they leave a toxic relationship (and often, while they’re still in it!). But what causes this? Have you developed agoraphobia? Or is something else going on?

When you’re abused by a toxic narcissist, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the simple idea of leaving the house to do anything. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean you’ve got agoraphobia or any other mental illness. The depression can be caused directly by the narcissistic abuse, not to mention the anxiety and general adrenal stress that comes along with it.

Even basic stuff like going to the grocery store can feel overwhelming – and you might find that you prefer to be alone a lot.

And who can blame you? It’s incredibly exhausting, both mentally and physically, to deal with narcissistic abuse and people with a narcissistic personality disorder. And recovery has so many of its own challenges that we often stay stuck in negative patterns unless we intentionally choose to start to work through it and get out.

With all of that being said, I think it’s important to define agoraphobia for you really quickly. Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. Contrary to popular belief, agoraphobia does NOT mean you’re unable to leave the house, but that is often a complication of the anxiety associated with extreme agoraphobia.

You might also have a number of other anxiety disorders related to your toxic relationship – including stuff like social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and more. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), for example, can be a side effect of C-PTSD.

These issues along with a number of other factors will cause you to not want to leave the house – and there are lots of things you can do to get unstuck. In the short term, try things like pattern interrupts and baby steps to get you moving in the right direction. Watch this video for more. 

Re: ‘Sorry, But Your Ex Probably Isn’t a Narcissist’

Re: ‘Sorry, But Your Ex Probably Isn’t a Narcissist’

Re: “Sorry, But Your Ex Probably Isn’t a Narcissist” (The Truth!)  – In this video, Dana Morningstar from Thrive After Abuse and I respond to this article on Psychology Today.

From the article: “It seems there is a great hunger for info on narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) — what it is, how to identify it, how to co-exist with someone who exhibits NPD, or how to go on after having been in a relationship with a narcissist. This great interest is curious, given that NPD is a relatively rare condition — at least it is one encountered only infrequently in clinical settings. The highest prevalence rates reported run around 6-7% for men and 4-5% for women. But people with NPD are not known for seeking help from mental health clinicians. In fact, if a patient were to tell me that they were worried that they might have narcissistic personality disorder, I could be fairly certain that they don’t — narcissists don’t worry about being narcissists. To do so would imply the presence of empathy: “I worry about being a narcissist because being a narcissist would mean that I am harming or exploiting others and I wouldn’t want to do that.” This is logic that does not compute for someone with a true case of NPD.”

Challenge Your Conditioning & Take Back Your Life!

Challenge Your Conditioning & Take Back Your Life!

Challenge Your Conditioning (Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life) -Are you ready to take back your life after a toxic relationship? Learn how to challenge your conditioning so you can change your thoughts and change your life!

Have a question you need me to answer? Ask me at

My Cards:
Gabrielle Bernstein Super Attractor Deck
DBT Cards

If you’re tired of hearing about narcissists, this is for you.

If you’re tired of hearing about narcissists, this is for you.

In this video, I’m introducing the brand new Shine Buzz Daily Show on YouTube.

Tired of Binge-Watching Narcissist Videos? Watch this. Life hasn’t always been a bed of roses for you as a narcissistic abuse survivor.

But you’ve learned your lessons, and you’ve done a lot of the work of healing. These days, you’re starting to feel like it’s time to get on with it.

Maybe you feel like you’re kind of “over it” when it comes to learning about narcissists and their psychology.

You feel like you’re ready to be done with the hard part. You’re finished (or close to being done with) healing. You’re ready to start actually living and becoming the person you want to be – and creating the life you deserve. Well, my friend. You have come to the right place.

Introducing Shine.Buzz Daily! So much of what we see in the media today is negative. And the unfortunate fact is that it negatively affects our entire lives in bigger ways than we realize. When our vibration is low, we attract more negativity into our lives. But SHINE.Buzz is here to change all that.

It’s all about positive, inspirational, funny and/or helpful stuff intended to help give you that daily “SHINE Buzz” you need to lift your vibration and begin to attract more positivity into your life every day.

Cards Used in the Show:
Gabrielle Bernstein Super Attractor Deck
DBT Cards 

Identifying Emotionally Unavailable People in Relationships

Identifying Emotionally Unavailable People in Relationships

“Most people in the psychology field believe that if we do not get a child to bond at a deep level with someone by age eight, we have lost them. We can never recover them and teach them empathy. Never.” ~Patti Henry, Author of The Emotionally Unavailable Man

Emotionally unavailable people in relationships can often be appealing to people – especially those of us who like to help “fix” people’s problems, those of us who enjoy solving a good mystery, and those of us who may have experienced an overly emotional person in a toxic relationship. In some cases, you can potentially take steps to connect with an emotionally unavailable person and actually create some positive change in both of your lives. But in the case of the emotional unavailability being a side effect of NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) or otherwise on the cluster B spectrum – or even with someone who just has strong narcissistic tendencies but who hasn’t been officially diagnosed with the personality disorder – you’re going to be fighting a losing battle if you try to create genuine connection.

What does it mean to be emotionally unavailable?

Someone who is emotionally unavailable refuses to let his or her guard down. People who have been hurt or rejected often in their past may take this position without realizing it. They may find it difficult to trust new people or anyone at all if there has been significant trauma in their lives. In many cases, these people can be helped with counseling, coaching or even simple discussions with their loved ones. Toxic people, such as narcissists, who are emotionally unavailable might also be helped through counseling or therapy, but usually refuse to get or accept help as they don’t see anything wrong with their behavior.

How does it feel to be in a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable?

Whether the emotionally available person is your partner, your parent or your best friend, you might find yourself feeling very lonely and even rejected by this person. You might feel unloved, and you might feel like their repeated rejection of your attempts to connect are related to a big wall this person puts up around him or herself. You feel like this person isn’t there for you in the way that a normal parent, partner or best friend would be. It’s a one-sided kind of relationship.

If this person is a narcissist or other kind of toxic person, it gets even more complicated. This video playlist offers a powerful compilation of red flags to look for in toxic relationships. 

Can an emotionally unavailable person change or heal so they can become more emotionally available?

This depends on whether you’re dealing with a toxic narcissist or a “regular” person. In both cases, the behavior is most likely a subconscious way to self-protect themselves. They refuse to allow themselves to be vulnerable to you in order to reduce the chances that they might be hurt or rejected again – or to manage their own emotional response if it (inevitably, in their minds) happens to them again.

However, with narcissists, we need to consider the fact that they have impaired empathy, which could also appear to be emotional unavailability. And we must remember that while it’s theoretically possible that a narcissist could create true change in their lives, it’s also highly unlikely that they will. That’s because most narcissists are unable or unwilling to take any sort of responsibility for things that go wrong in their lives and their relationships – so they generally look to blame someone else (with deflection and projection) and see themselves as victims or at least innocent bystanders.

How do you deal with an emotionally unavailable person?

If you’re dealing with someone who is capable of change, it could just take some time and some talking to work the situation out. You could sit down and have a conversation with this person and ask thoughtful questions about how they feel and why. Do your best to make that person feel safe and comfortable with you and like they can trust you, and then show them this in your own actions and behavior.

If you’re dealing with a narcissist or another kind of toxic person, the game changes. In this case, it’s unlikely that the person will change at all, nor will they be willing to admit they have a problem, to begin with.

That means the first step to dealing with an emotionally unavailable person is to determine whether they are a toxic person, or not. Take this quiz to find out if you’re dealing with a toxic narcissist. 

Once you submit your answers, you’ll be given resources to help in your situation.




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