Your Anxiety and Depression May Have Been Caused by Narcissistic Abuse, Study Says

Your Anxiety and Depression May Have Been Caused by Narcissistic Abuse, Study Says

Until the last decade or so, I rarely felt super happy. My life seemed to alternate between feeling stressed and anxious and feeling depressed. Sure, there were occasional bouts of feeling ALMOST happy, and there were a few high points I could share. But in general, my resting state was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus.

Dissociation as a Symptom of Narcissistic Abuse

I was so dissociated that I struggled to even feel like a real person. But when I learned about how my toxic relationships with narcissists had affected me on some fairly profound levels, I also learned how to choose my own perception and eventually managed to switch it up. These days, my resting state is usually at the very least calm, if not actually happy.

And while my life wasn’t so great back then, it turns out that I’m not unusual in this way. See, living with constant anxiety, depression and stress is a common problem for people who are or who have been involved in longterm relationships with narcissists – whether they’re your spouse, partner, parent or someone else. And, according to a study I’m going to share with you today, we’ve been right all along: narcissistic behavior in toxic relationships literally causes anxiety and depression – even after the relationship ends.

In this video, I’ll explain all of that and give you tips on how you can manage and resolve it in your own life.

(See video on YouTube)

You might already know that the feeling of being anxious is something we’ve inherited from our ancestors, but did you know that anxiety developed early in our evolution in order to help prehistoric humans survive in their unstable and dangerous environment? It’s true!

Defined as an overall feeling or sense of nervousness, worry and general unease, humans of today are still plagued with anxiety, though it isn’t necessary in our current world since, for the most part, we’re not fighting to stay alive every day.

So then why is it that we still struggle with it to the point that there are a number of officially diagnosed anxiety disorders? And how is it that going through a toxic relationship and dealing with common narcissistic behaviors causes these disorders, along with clinical depression and various forms of PTSD? Well, this is where that study I mentioned comes in.

If you were raised by a narcissist, you won’t be surprised to learn that a study published by the National Library of Medicine reports that being raised by narcissistic parents can cause anxiety disorders and major depression.

But just to summarize it for you, the study collects a number of academic psychology reports and scientific research papers that point to the issue: the anxiety orders of today all seem to indicate that any sort of psychological or emotional trauma in childhood is the culprit.

How Narcissistic Abuse Leads to Anxiety and Depression

It turns out that going through what the study authors termed “early life stress” can profoundly affect the central nervous system (CNS). In layman’s terms, that means that your nervous system becomes almost disabled, compared to that of someone who didn’t experience such traumas. That’s because these kinds of traumas and the levels of stress you experience during narcissistic abuse will lead to high amounts of inflammatory hormones being dumped into our systems. And even when we’re not actively being traumatized – and this is the worst part – our bodies begin to release these same hormones even at the memory of these traumas. Essentially, we become overloaded with emotional stress.

Study Confirms That Narcissistic Abuse Causes Lifelong Mental Health Issues

The study confirms what I’ve been saying for years: going through narcissistic abuse, whether as a child or as an adult, is now considered a major risk factor that can contribute to anxiety disorders, depression and PTSD. And, going through psychological abuse can be equally and even more profound on its effects on your mental health when compared to experiencing physical abuse and aggression.

Surviving Trauma in Childhood Doesn’t Doom Your Mental Health, BUT…

On the plus side, psychologists say, going through this as a kid doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll absolutely develop anxiety in your lifetime. Still, traumatic events in childhood – especially while your brain is still developing – can definitely contribute to the supersensitivity seen in the neuroendocrine and stress response systems. That means that going through additional emotional and/or psychological traumas as you get older can trigger anxiety, depression and other psychological disorders.

Because of the increased stress and the fact that in time, most sufferers of narcissistic abuse experience adrenal fatigue, this can be the most dangerous kind of abuse.

When the adrenal fatigue hits, you’re going to be dealing with several possible outcomes – again, including an anxiety disorder, clinical depression, or both.

What Makes You More Susceptible to Narcissistic Abuse?

Worse, feeling anxious and depressed means you’re more susceptible to narcissistic abuse and therefore less likely to be able to extricate yourself from a toxic relationship, which explains why so many of us struggle to leave or go no contact with the narcissists in our lives.

Narcissists tend to target sensitive, empathic and compassionate people. People who are wired to always see the best in other people and who by nature are helpers or fixers. People who make an effort to understand the narcissist, and who often see their glaring flaws and choose to love them anyway. People who will put the narcissist’s needs above their own at nearly any cost.

This of course leads to the narcissist’s initial recognition that this is someone they want to keep around – so they begin to create the web of crazy that we end up stuck in during these toxic relationships. They begin to try to make you emotionally, physically and/or financially dependent on them. And they do it by whatever means necessary.

But how do they accomplish it?

How do narcissists take control of you?

They start by devaluing you – at first, maybe with little jabs and undercutting comments. Later, it becomes more direct and aggressive, and before you know it, they’re deep into gaslighting. That’s where they intentionally and willfully psychologically “game” you by making you doubt your reality and question your own perception.

They start to make you feel crazy, and while some part of you KNOWS that you’re perfectly sane, deep down, the constant repetition eventually wears you down and you find yourself wondering if you really ARE crazy.

Adrenal fatigue and its effects in narcissistic abuse

This part is exactly where you begin to experience adrenal fatigue. You start to feel foggy and confused, and you question your very sanity. You doubt your morals and your ethics and honestly; you don’t even know who you are anymore.

You are living in a constant state of stress and a complete lack of self=confidence. This, of course, leaves you feeling lost, confused and alone in your relationship and in your life. You avoid your friends and extended family members. You start to feel uncomfortable in any social situation. You forget how to talk about yourself. You start to dissociate.

You might even get physically sick. It’s like you’re not even there sometimes.

This makes it feel impossible to free yourself sometimes, and many unfortunate people find themselves feeling completely stuck with literally no options.

Narcissistic abuse isn’t your fault

You might blame yourself for being in this situation. But you shouldn’t – instead, you should recognize that while the narcissist dragged you down, and while a coach, therapist or support group can help, only YOU can ultimately pull yourself out of it.

The question of the day is: are you as unshocked by this study as me? Have you experienced this kind of relationship? Share your thoughts, share your ideas, share your experiences in the comments below this video, and let’s talk about it.

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support & Resources

If you feel you need additional help and support in your narcissistic abuse recovery, look for a trauma-informed professional who is trained in helping people who are dealing with overcoming narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships. Depending on your particular situation, you might benefit from Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching, or you might do better with a therapist. You have to decide what to do from here – if you’re not sure, start with my free Narcissistic Abuse Recovery quiz. With your results will come recommended resources for your situation. It’s totally free.

More Free, Helpful Information & Resources to Help 

Related Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Narcissistic Abuse in Childhood: What Adult Survivors Need to Know

Narcissistic Abuse in Childhood: What Adult Survivors Need to Know

Guest Post Written By Ivy K.

I’m a narcissistic child abuse survivor. This type of abuse is nearly impossible for a child to explain. I’m an adult, and I still cannot explain it to a person.

How do you explain narcissistic abuse to ‘outsiders’ or other people who don’t understand?

This is what it sounds like; this is an example of why it’s impossible to tell another.

  • An 11-year-old Ivy says, “I don’t want to be like them when I grow up.” (Ivy knows she can’t tell anybody her parents are mean because they are so charming in public.)
  • Another teenage girl with normal growing pains says, “OMG, I can’t stand my Mom. I hate her. I hope I’m never like her.”

Think about those two quotes; they are very similar. However, only one is coming from a child who is being abused.

Related: Why Being Raised by a Narcissist Could Cause You to Marry One

“But why didn’t you tell someone?”

I tried. When I did voice to another about the abuse, I only sounded like a whiny little brat. Here’s a couple of lines I’ve said as an adult:

“They act differently when people are around.” and “They are putting on a show for you.”

I can easily see how the comments wouldn’t stick and fly over somebody’s head.

“You could have asked a counselor for help!”

Professionals such as social workers, guidance counselors, etc. – just don’t get it. They do not understand that No Contact is the only way to handle narcissistic abuse. I have been asked to speak to my abusers repeatedly, only to open the door to more abuse because these professionals have no training.

Related: How to Find a Therapist Who Understands Narcissistic Abuse

This is one reason why children don’t speak up about the abuse – because there’s always a push for children to interact with their parents. I’m sure professionals with no training on this type of child abuse see the parent “doing everything they can” (when they cry victim as a manipulation tactic) and “the child is just making a mountain out of a molehill.”

No One Believed Me

I tried to tell people I was being abused at age 16. But, unfortunately, because of the nature of a narcissist, nobody believed me. So, by the time I was 17, after many years of enduring the abuse, I had a nervous breakdown and was sent to a mental health hospital.

I missed a lot of school. I shouldn’t have graduated with my class.

Why I Am Sharing This Story NOW

I’m sharing this for one reason, so that, as Pearl Jam sang in Why Go, “MAYBE SOMEDAY ANOTHER CHILD WON’T FEEL AS ALONE AS SHE DOES, it’s been two years and counting, since they put her in this place, she’s been diagnosed by some stupid f**k, and mommy agrees. Why go home?”

Yes, before anything else, I had Pearl Jam lyrics to let me know I wasn’t alone. Their lyrics seemed to zero in exactly on this unexplainable invisible abuse. I knew something was wrong when I was very young. …. I’m talking age 7.

And then, Pearl Jam came along, and a lot of their early lyrics validated my feelings. However, I didn’t know the abuse had a name until much later.

What Narcissistic Abuse Feels Like to a Child of a Narcissist

When the abuse is at its worse, it feels like they secretly want me dead, and they’ll do a real good job of nearly killing me without laying a single finger on me. On a good day, I know their script. I know exactly what they will say before they say it, and I’ll have to concentrate hard to keep from rolling my eyes and/or busting out in laughter.

When you’re a child, you learn not to have an identity. If you do discover yourself, you know darn well you had better hide it from your parents. (*Cindy still describes our mother and daughter relationship as the Two-Headed Monster. Because in her eyes, I’m an extension of her. I am Cindy, not Ivy.)

The setup is backward when it comes to toxic parents. The adults are to be the center of the child’s world – not the other way around. You are to know what they want before they know.

The moment you stop making them the center of your universe, they no longer have any use for you. If you wait it out, they’ll forget about you altogether.

Neglect is easier than abuse. You want to be neglected by your parents. To borrow from Dr. Phil, your parents are not A Safe Place To Fall. Meaning you know not to go to them for advice or for life skills, such as what to do when your car battery dies or how to replace a clapper in the toilet, etc.

Something simple turns into a stressful, dramatic ordeal because of their need to make it about them.

I’m assuming many who have survived narcissistic child abuse don’t know how to build a healthy and safe circle of support to go to when simple life advice is needed.

Related: Get support in our free online support group for narcissistic abuse recovery. 

Narcissist Parents and Victim-Playing

There’s another part to this. Because the narcissist’s inner voice is so toxic, they truly don’t feel comfortable until they believe they are the victim in a real-life situation. Then, they have to make real-life matches their toxic inner voice.

Their need to play the victim is so intense that they create situations that make no sense to anybody else.

As the narcissist creates these situations to ensure they’re the victim, the problem is easily forgotten about amongst the chaos. Playing the victim is a manipulation tactic used by narcissists.

Two of the most important things to know about narcissists is they lack empathy and will put themselves first in any given situation.

What to know about narcissistic child abuse: it is invisible, nearly impossible for the victim to explain, and is handed down from one generation to the next. It is a toxic legacy. 

Terms to know:

*Names changed in the interest of privacy

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.

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