“What fascinates me about addiction and obsessive behavior is that people would choose an altered state of consciousness that’s toxic and ostensibly destroys most aspects of your normal life, because for a brief moment you feel okay.” ~Moby
So, you have ended a relationship with someone you believe is a narcissist. Whether you ended the relationship or they did, you’re probably feeling pretty confused right now – especially, if like many people who have been abused in toxic relationships, you are finding that you’re missing the person who abused you. Logically, you know you shouldn’t do things that are bad for you – like drugs. And toxic people who are bad for our lives, whether or not they’re actually diagnosed narcissists, are more dangerous at times than you’d expect. While we all know we need to get and stay away from these people by going no contact, everyone has different life circumstances, and it’s just not always so easy.
See, what people don’t always realize is that we are sort of addicted to the abuse we’ve suffered abuse from the narcissists in our lives – and when we don’t do anything to manage our addictions, we might find ourselves falling back into our old habits, right?
How do you become addicted to an abuser?
Depending on who you ask, there are a couple of different theories here. One is that you’re dealing with something we call “love addiction.” The other is that you’re dealing with trauma bonding. Let me explain.
What is Love Addiction?
Love addiction, simply defined, is the feeling of not being able to live without the idea of love. Someone who might be considered a love addict is someone who carries on with a pathological behavior involving the feeling of being in love. Unfortunately, someone who is a love addict will often tolerate unacceptable behavior from unacceptable people due to their own apparent codependency. Being a love addict can be incredibly dangerous for a victim of narcissistic abuse as it makes it even more impossible to leave when trauma bonding is a factor.
What is Trauma Bonding?
Narcissistic abuse victims in toxic relationships often experience trauma bonding during and after the relationship. Similar to Stockholm Syndrome, trauma bonding is a condition that causes abuse victims to develop a psychological dependence on the narcissist as a survival strategy during abuse. It is often referred to as “narcissistic abuse syndrome,” but that isn’t considered an actual diagnosis by psychologists and isn’t listed in the DSM-V. Trauma bonding is also known to make recovering from a toxic relationship significantly more difficult than recovering from a “non-toxic” relationship.
The Narcissist Becomes Your Drug of Choice
As you can see, whether it’s due to the trauma bonding or the love addiction, the narcissist almost literally becomes your “drug of choice.” It’s just like when you’ve been a lifelong smoker and one day you quit cold turkey. You KNOW the cigarettes were killing you, but they tasted SO good and made you feel so relaxed…and because you’re currently trying to quit, you feel like just one could relax you and take the edge off – and maybe you think you can handle it.
But before you know it, you’re back to your 3-pack-a-week habit and your brief freedom from them is but a memory.
Same deal with the narcissist. This is why I entitled one of my books Your Love is My Drug – because the narcissist’s so-called “love” is like an actual drug for you. Speaking of which, there’s something else you should know.
Romantic love actually stimulates the same area of the brain as addiction.
Yes, you read that right: any sort of romantic love is known to affect the same part of your brain as addiction to a drug would. In other words, your addiction to your narcissist is not really your fault – your body sort of goes into survival mode. Your primitive mind tells you that you NEED the narcissist.
Why? According to scientists, we’re biologically programmed to behave that way. There’s an evolutionary spin here – the loss of a potential baby-making mate would be bad for us as a species. On top of that, humans are hard-wired to develop bonds with other humans – another survival urge.
Add together your biological need to bond and the need to keep your mate (or to feel great distress in the loss of him/her), and what do you have?
It affects you like a drug, your relationship with this toxic person. And when you’re not getting the sweet poison, you might just miss it. A lot like a crack addict might miss his fix.
And, just as much as your body wants to protect you from losing your narcissistic love, your brain wants to lie to you about it and offers up only selective memories in times of great stress.
Let Go of the ‘What Ifs’ If You Ever Want to Heal After Narcissistic Abuse
Anyone who has found herself alone in the world has, at one time or another, reflected back on an old love and wondered “what if?” – whether we admit it or not, am I right?
But when the “what if” is geared at a toxic and painful past relationship, sometimes your memory can be a bit selective – especially when you’re feeling weak and vulnerable in your life.
For example, if you recently left your narcissist and you have managed to get a job, save up enough money for a down payment on a new home and get the paperwork going on a nice little place you can call your own, it would seem like everything should be good.
But on the other side of that coin, there’s the natural trepidation that anyone experiences in the face of big life changes – and of major life purchases. That kind of feeling – of being on the precipice of personal evolutionary shifts – it can leave you feeling vulnerable, scared, and in desperate need of some familiar-feeling comfort.
And it is in those moments of weakness that we pick up the phone and we make the call, or we text the message that we’re desperate, and we need him, and we miss the “good” old days.
It is those moments in which we forget about all of the gaslighting, the name-calling, the painfully awkward silences that almost hurt your ears more than the screaming and excruciatingly personal insults.
These are the times when we need to remember why we left. The time when educating ourselves on narcissistic abusers can help to increase our resistance to their tactics and behaviors.
When we are armed with knowledge and understanding of the patterns and typical behaviors and motivations of narcissists, we can better resist and protect ourselves from them, and from falling for their tricks.
How Narcissistic Abuse Causes You to Feel Addicted to Your Abuser
So, let’s start here, shall we? Watch this video to learn more about why you miss the narcissist who abused you.
Useful Info to Get You Up to Speed on Toxic Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- How to Identify a Toxic Narcissist (NPD)
- Diagnosis Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder
- Symptoms and Risk Factors of NPD
- Toxic Relationship Recovery FAQ: What Causes NPD?
- How Can You Tell If You’re Being Abused by a Narcissist?
- The Difference Between Healthy Romantic Love and Narcissistic Love Bombing
- Take my new free 5-day email course that will help you start to create the life you really want – check it out.
Related articles on narcissism & narcissistic abuse recovery
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Find the Light at the End of the Tunnel and Be Brave
- This is the Only Way to Communicate With a Narcissist Effectively
- Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury: What You Need to Know
- The Narcissist’s Soulmate Scam: Identifying a Love Bomber
- Get Unstuck After Narcissistic Abuse: Your Personal Passion Plan
- Secrets and Self-Loathing: Identifying a Covert Narcissist
- Are you married to a narcissist? 12 easy ways to spot
- Narcissists in Relationships: The Shocking Truth on Who’s the Drug and Who’s the Addict
- Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Why Narcissists Love to Rage
- How to Use NLP and EFT for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
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 QueenBeeing.com 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 QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.