Dealing with Fear After Narcissistic Abuse

Written by Angela Atkinson

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?” ~Soledad O’Brien

Are you ever too scared to try new things, or do you feel stuck because you’re filled with overwhelming fear? Is it possible that you allow your fears to impose limits on you and your life? If you’re a survivor of narcissistic abuse, chances are you can relate to the feeling of being paralyzed by your fear and unable to take action. And it makes sense if you think about it.

After all, narcissists work hard to manipulate you, psychologically destroy you and tear down your self-esteem. They need you to feel worthless and not good enough. They use gaslighting to make you feel crazy and doubt yourself. All of this keeps you feeling scared so you will be easier to control. And it creates a trauma bond that prevents you from leaving them.

Maybe you stay(ed) in that toxic relationship that holds (held) you down because you think you lack options. Maybe you have dreams that go unfulfilled because you doubt your abilities and hesitate to take risks.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Fear that develops as a result of narcissistic abuse can really paralyze you,and it can stick with you for life, if you’re not careful to intentionally heal.

Narcissistic abuse causes long-term psychological damage that often leads to C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder).

That means:

  • Your emotions have become dysregulated due to the abuse, meaning that you’re always feeling panic and/or depressed – often in alternating patterns. You might even feel like you can’t function like you used to – you’re not getting things done.
  • Your hormones and brain chemistry have been thrown off-course by the constant roller coaster of emotional abuse and intermittent reinforcement that kept (or keeps) you hooked to the narcissist in your life.

Essentially, narcissistic abuse rewires your brain

What happens to your brain when you deal with narcissistic abuse?

You begin to live in a constant state of fear, and you become hypervigilant. You’re so worried about how the narcissist will react to things that you stop concerning yourself with your own needs and desires. You push people who might support you away, intentionally or otherwise. And while you feel like this is your choice, in reality, you’ve been manipulated into isolation by the narcissist. You live in perpetual fear of rejection.

Naturally, your stress is high and so are your cortisol levels. This leads to potential weight gain, blemishes on your skin, slowed healing, physical weakness and a serious loss of self, among other major physical and psychological issues.

If you don’t make an intentional effort to heal, the symptoms can continue to appear for years. In addition to the debilitating fear you’re dealing with, your symptoms may also include:

If you weren’t already dealing with a fear of abandonment due to childhood issues, you’ve most certainly developed one now. This video explains in more detail why that happens and how to manage.

Powerful Ways You Can Heal Yourself After a Toxic Relationship

A Simple Formula for Overcoming Fear After Narcissistic Abuse

You can break out of your comfort zone. Follow this 3-part formula for accepting your fears and dealing with them effectively.

Overcoming Fear Through Acceptance:

  1. Increase your awareness. To figure out what you’re really afraid of, it’s important to confront your fears. Pay attention to physical signs like your heart beating faster or your voice shaking when your boss criticizes you or you’re preparing to speak in public.
  2. Avoid judgments. Try to understand your fears instead of blaming yourself for having them. Speak to yourself in a gentle and reassuring way. Give yourself time to calm down.
  3. Think rationally. Fear can make you exaggerate the consequences in any situation. If you have trouble being objective, imagine what you would think if the same events happened to someone else.
  4. Choose deliberately. Remember that you’re in charge of your life even when you feel frightened. Keep your long-term interests in mind when you’re tempted to run away from circumstances that scare you.

Overcoming Fear Through Confidence:

  1. Breathe deeply. Use your breath to relax your body and mind. Broaden your chest with each inhalation and release tension with each exhalation.
  2. Remember your achievements. Visualize some past accomplishments that you’re proud of. If you can plan a wedding or buy a house, you can handle making small talk with strangers.
  3. Keep practicing. Anxiety grows when you live in denial. On the other hand, your fears diminish each time you face them directly. Start out walking in the shallow end of the pool if you’re afraid of water. Once you complete enough swimming lessons, you’ll be ready to dive in with no hesitation.
  4. Acquire skills. Genuine confidence is based on competence. Pursue the education and training you need to reach your goals. Use your leisure time to study foreign languages or master a new sport.

Overcoming Fear Through Courage:

  1. Care for yourself. It’s easier to feel brave when your body and mind are strong. Cultivate healthy habits like eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and sleeping well.
  2. Seek support. Surround yourself with family, friends, and colleagues who provide encouragement and assistance. Ask for help when you need it and welcome honest feedback.
  3. Repeat affirmations. Affirmations are a simple tool for changing your mindset and focusing your efforts. Tell yourself that you are brave, and you refuse to let your fears rob you of success.
  4. Focus on gains. Motivate yourself to try new approaches by thinking about the rewards. If you’ve been procrastinating about asking your boss for a raise, imagine how the extra money would help your family. Whatever the outcome, you’ll also gain experience with advocating for yourself and negotiating.
  5. Practice your faith. Many believers rely on their spiritual faith when they feel threatened. Your trust in God or your own personal principles may sustain you when you’re going through a divorce or lose your job.
  6. Consider therapy. If you need additional help with overcoming your fears, you may want to see a counselor. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and other techniques can be very effective. You may discover that your fears are connected to past events that you still need to resolve.

Fear can be your teacher and friend rather than an obstacle. Accept yourself for who you are and develop the courage and confidence to tackle challenges head-on.

Additional Articles That Might Help You Discover, Understand and Overcome Narcissistic Abuse:

When You Feel Like You’re Not Really Here: Overcoming Dissociation and Emotional Numbness After Toxic Relationships

Narcissistic abuse leaves many survivors feeling completely numb – like they are seeing life through a bubble or as a movie. They feel like they’re not really “here.” Does this sound like you? Watch this video and see if it resonates.

Here is your free cognitive dissonance toolkit.


  • Angela Atkinson

    Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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