The viewer who wanted to know what if the person they were dealing with was very religious and raised to not lie. They noted that everyone says covert narcissists lie a lot. I can only assume they had found that the person they’re dealing with otherwise fit the bill for a covert narcissist.
What happens when a toxic person doesn’t fit every symptom of a narcissist? Does it mean they’re not one, or does it mean something else?
This is what is so perplexing about narcissists in relationships of any kind. Their manipulation and control tactics can be so pervasive and confusing. They are subtle and sort of hard to detect, especially if you have not been taught to watch for this stuff.
If you’re anything like I was when I first recognized that I was dealing with a narcissist in a relationship, it will be kind of a slap in the face. You probably thought you were the problem, thanks to months or years of conditioning from the narcissist telling you that you were always wrong, directly or indirectly.
You may have had a sort of sneaking sensation that something was going on, that something wasn’t right. But you were taught to believe the worst about yourself and taught to see the narcissist as nearly infallible. This is especially true if you’ve been raised by a toxic parent or otherwise closely influenced by a narcissist in childhood.
Since narcissistic abuse can be so hard to detect from the inside, and since gaslighting (the narcissist’s most-often employed manipulation tactic) involves causing you to question your reality and even your own thoughts and perceptions, it makes sense that you might miss it – and that you’d question yourself and the validity of your assessment once you do figure it out.
So this leaves us with the question the viewer asked: Are they still a narcissist if they don’t lie? Well, that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – can someone be a narcissist if they don’t lie, and if they can, how’s that possible and what does that look like? Let’s get started.
Covert narcissists, for example, defy the typical narcissistic profile by appearing to be shy and introverted. And some narcissists don’t cheat. Some narcissists are wealthy, controlling workaholics while others are lazy parasites who seem to do nothing but drain you dry. Some are obsessively clean while others don’t shower for weeks. Some are neat-freaks and others are hoarders.
And despite what most people think, there are some narcissists who don’t seem to be pathological liars.
It doesn’t even seem possible, but very often when you’re dealing with an altruistic narcissist or a communal narcissist, they’ll seem to be very ethical and morally bound. This is especially true when they’re using their religion as part of their plan to control you, but it doesn’t always involve religion.
Still, while these so-called upstanding citizens may seem to be above reproach, they still control, devalue, manipulate, and demoralize the people closest to them. They still seem to suck all the energy and air out of every room, and they could still be called narcissists and abusers.
And it’s true that they may never outright lie to you. However, they do pull a little trick that might be considered dishonest or at least manipulative, sort of like finding their own little “lie loopholes.”
Lie Loopholes: How the narcissist uses honesty to control you
Some narcissists will tell you they’re the most honest person they know and really seem to live up to that claim. You literally can’t think of a single time they lied to you. You trust their word, despite the way they otherwise treat you, and most likely, you blame yourself for anything that goes wrong in the relationship.
But, while that may be technically true, there’s something else going on here. They’re still abusing you on so many levels. Rather than lying, they use a tactic I like to call a “manipulated shift in perception,” meaning that they heavily influence your thoughts and feelings using manipulation and gaslighting.
How Narcissists Can Manipulate Your Perception Without Lying
1. The Brutal Truth Statement
At some point in your relationship, this kind of narcissist makes it clear they don’t lie. They will say it has to do with religious or moral reasons, or they’ll say they were hurt in a previous relationship and they need to be themselves. Or you may have told them in the beginning of your relationship that you were hurt by lying in the past, so they’ll take this as an opportunity to be completely uncensored with you. You may appreciate the honesty at first, or feel like you should, anyway. Or, in some cases, they’ll just straight up tell you they’re brutally honest and if you don’t like it you know where the door is. Now, they feel like they never need to concern themselves with your feelings, and like you’ve given them permission to do so.
2. Implied Permission to Insult and Belittle You
They use this whole brutal honesty thing as an excuse to insult and belittle you. They might tell you that you’re unattractive or that an outfit looks bad on you. They might openly criticize everything from your cooking and housekeeping skills to how you are in bed or how you raise your kids – anything that crosses their mind will come out of their mouths without consideration for how it makes you feel. Not only is their lack of empathy painfully clear, but so is their apparent disdain for everything you are. Then, they wait for your reaction.
3. Your Reaction is Rejected
This kind of disrespect and constant unfair criticism upsets and confuses you, as it would anyone. You confront the narcissist or at least question them about what they’ve said to you, about the way they treat you. You’re angry or you’re sad or you’re feeling otherwise negatively, and you ask the narcissist to be nicer to you. You ask them how they’d feel if you spoke to them the way they speak to you. But rather than offer you any validation or reassurance of their love for you, they laugh or scream in your face. They absolutely reject your reaction to their abuse. They say you don’t have the right to be angry. They say you can’t be sad. They say you asked for this honesty or that you knew they were like this from day one.
4. You’re Put in Your Place
The narcissist continues to minimize your feelings and treat you like you’re unimportant. They remind you that your feelings aren’t valid and that you don’t have the right to feel anything about this situation. And, whether directly or indirectly, they communicate that you really shouldn’t feel anything because only the narcissist has feelings that matter. They imply that you’re stupid for not being already aware of this unwritten rule by now.
5. They Justify Their Behavior
“Well,” they’ll say. “You always say you don’t want me to lie to you. You claim you want the truth. But obviously, you are the liar here because you can’t handle the truth.” No matter how horribly they’ve treated you, they will never admit any wrongdoing or take any responsibility for hurting your feelings. Everything they’ve done up to this point, they’ll swear, has been in the name of being honest with you and everyone.
6. They Play on Your Fears to Keep You in Control
This is where it gets really sneaky. See, when you don’t just agree that you’re the total piece of poo that the narcissist wants you to believe that you are, they’ll really dig deep and begin to play on all of your biggest fears. And if you keep feeling upset or angry at them for being so rude and disrespectful to you, or if you refuse to agree with their assessment of you, they’ll start the threats. They’ll say things like,” Well, if you’re going to be mad at me every time I tell you the truth, I might as well just start lying to you.”
7. You Are Triggered Into Submission
This is where the narcissist will exploit your fears and push your buttons to trigger you and get you deeply enmeshed with them and under their control. So, basically, they are manipulating and controlling you by presenting themselves as upfront and brutally honest. If this is a non-parent relationship, you’d have initially found this quite refreshing, since other people in your life have hurt you by lying and playing games.
Your history of trauma in relationships is exactly what makes you vulnerable to being triggered when they threaten to lie. And since your behavior during a trigger moment is less rational and more self-protective, the narcissist accomplishes 3 things that help them get you to submit to them.
You’re feeling scattered and confused. This means that you are easier to control and manipulate because of the stress and the sort of primal mode you are in when you feel triggered by one of your biggest fears. You feel crazy and begin to doubt your perception once the full effect of the gaslighting kicks in. You might even feel dependent on the narcissist to tell you what you see and think in some cases, and now not only are they controlling your actions but also your thoughts and feelings.
Your fears are used to keep you in place. The narcissist has established that you can and will be moved by your fear of losing them or of being alone. If you’re anything like I was, one of your biggest fears is being the last one to know your relationship is over. You are afraid of being humiliated in a situation where you’re the only one who doesn’t know what’s happening in your own relationship. And another biggest fear is that some toxic person in your life was right and you’re actually doomed to being not good enough (or otherwise deficient) forever. And then there’s the most common human fear that we are all a little embarrassed to talk about out loud – that fear of having no one. The fear of abandonment.
You get deeper and deeper into the trauma bond. You’re enmeshed with the narcissist. They control you through the active infliction of their own perception. They teach you and make sure you don’t forget, that their needs are always more important than your own. They make you feel like you’re not a real person and that your feelings and thoughts and ideas aren’t relevant or worth expressing – not to mention worth actually hearing or implementing. That prevents you from ever reaching your true potential as you lose yourself a little more each day.it changes you and could limit you forever if you allow it.
If you’d like to learn more about how trauma bonding works, as well as how you can start to heal, be sure to take a look at these videos.
So, does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you should definitely take a look at the playlist I’m going to leave for you in the pinned comment and description as it will help you learn how to stand up for yourself and begin the healing process.
(Prefer to listen or watch? See video on YouTube)
You know that old saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” right? We all know that isn’t true – certain words really can hurt us. And we all know that narcissists have some pretty unrealistic standards, one of which basically asks us to actively censor ourselves when we speak to them so as to avoid triggering their fragile egos and sending them into a spiraling narcissistic whirl – basically a meltdown.
And if you know me, you know that this has often been a problem in my own life. See, I am one of those people who can’t shut up sometimes. It’s a real issue. For example, if I hear someone saying something that is just an outrageous lie, or misrepresentation of me in some way, I cannot not tell them. I have to say the truth. For years, it was almost like I couldn’t help it, and even if I tried to stay silent or to go along with the lie, the words would still almost involuntarily spill out of me.
Now that I’m an adult, and since I’ve done the work of healing from my toxic relationships, I’ve gotten better in one way: I don’t bother to argue with anyone who won’t hear me. I have learned it’s a waste of breath. I’ll tell someone the truth once, and if I can see that they’re intentionally not receiving the message, I’ll stop trying to make them understand.
But, as you might imagine, when I was a kid, I got in trouble a LOT for the words I used. Not because I cursed or said things that were extra mean, but because I couldn’t shut up and go along with the various lies that were thrown at me. For example, if I did a chore wrong, my parent might ask me to agree that I was lazy and worthless. And if I refused to agree, which I inevitably did for some ridiculous reason, this would lead to a really bad day. My little brother would pull me aside and ask what was wrong with me: why didn’t I just say whatever they wanted me to say so I would stay out of trouble? I wanted to, I really did, but something in me just wouldn’t stay silent. I’d go on to do the same thing during my marriage to a narcissist – that dang word vomit thing would get me in trouble every time.
It’s funny how much of an impact words can have on us, isn’t it? This is true for narcissists too, and there are certain words and phrases that you can say to a narcissist that will positively destroy them. And while it might be tempting to use this information to hurt the narcissist, that isn’t the reason I’m sharing it with you today. In fact, while we all know that the ideal answer to dealing with a narcissist is to go no contact, there are certain situations where we have to continue to deal with them – either we can’t leave right away or we’ve got kids with them, or some kind of business we need to accomplish with them. In any case, if you’re dealing with a narcissist, then you know you have to tread very carefully. This means to avoid using certain words around them. That is because if you use certain words, they will destroy the narcissist. And as tempting as it is to do that (because they had it coming), the consequences of facing the narcissistic rage is far from pretty.
If you can relate, stick with me because that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – words that destroy a narcissist, what you can say or do instead of using them, and if you watch till the end, I’ll fill you in on the number one word you can never say to a narcissist without completely destroying them.
1. ‘I know the truth about you’ or ‘I see right through you’
Narcissists cannot stand to have their masks unceremoniously removed and their true selves called out. So, if the narcissist claims to be something that you know for sure they are not, it would really hurt them to hear you say you see through them. For example, if the narcissist is always talking about how they’re a genius, you might point out that you saw a copy of their IQ test and the score was average, at best. Or if they claim to have won some big beauty pageant 20 years ago, but you know they were really the third runner-up, pointing this out will only upset them. If you want to avoid drama, you’ll have to keep pretending that you believe they are the false self they pretend to be.
2. ‘I don’t remember that’
Narcissists have this way of expecting their sources of narcissistic supply to go along with their lies, no matter what. So, if you’re with a group of friends and they tell a completely made-up story, you better go along with it, or you’ll hurt their feelings, eliciting narcissistic injury at the very least (and probably risk dealing with their rage later). For example, one client told me a story about how her narcissistic father would always tell made-up (or at least, heavily altered) stories that featured him as the hero. She instinctively knew to go along with them, “or else.” But one day, she’d finally had enough. So when he told yet another tall tale at a family gathering, he turned to her and said, “Remember that?” She said, “No, actually, I don’t remember it that way at all.” She said he gave her the “you’re dead to me” look in the moment, and when they got home, she got in big trouble. To avoid the drama here, you’d have to pretend that you do remember whatever story they’re telling – even when it makes you look bad. Not worth it, in my opinion.
3. ‘I’m busy and don’t have time for you right now’
Narcissists, especially those of the more overt nature, will need every moment of your time, or at the very least, they will expect you to drop whatever you’re doing when they want or need your attention. Their inflated sense of entitlement and lack of an actual self makes it impossible for them to spend any time alone. They can’t stand the idea of having to fend for themselves and might have to face themselves if you leave them alone for too long. So no matter if you’re at work, or taking care of your kid or doing anything else at all, if they want your attention and you don’t dole it out as requested, they’ll crumble into a big old pile of narcissistic injury. As always, when that doesn’t work, the rage will soon follow. Why? Because they feel like you don’t feel like they’re important if you don’t drop everything when they need you. To avoid drama here, you can try saying, “I’ll be right there,” or “We can talk at this time,” but even that won’t be good enough for most of them. Many narcissists will even go so far as to sabotage your job and push away all of your friends in order to monopolize your time.
4. ‘You are a failure’ or ‘I am so disappointed in you’
Telling a narcissist they’re a failure or that you’re disappointed in them in any way sort of tugs at that false self – the mask they hide behind for most people. And even if they already know that you know who they are, acknowledging that they’re anything less than perfect will only enrage and offend them. Side note: even if someone else shares this kind of sentiment with them, they’re likely to take out their negative feelings on you – a sort of emotional garbage dump. For example, if their boss at work gives them a bad review or points out a mistake, they may come home and ruin your night as a result of it. To avoid drama in this case, you’d need to take their side in every situation and agree that it isn’t their fault somehow – which brings me to number five.
5. ‘It’s your fault’
You probably already know that narcissists refuse to take responsibility for their behavior, at least when it comes to anything they feel makes them look bad. They will blame everyone but themselves for their failures and screw-ups. On top of that, they’ll expect you to go along with their delusion. So, using the example from number four, if you don’t agree that the boss is at fault for the bad review or mistake they pointed out, the narcissist will have another reason to go after you. Oh, and this will even be the case if YOU are the person being blamed – if you don’t agree that it’s your fault, they will make you pay. To avoid the drama, or at least minimize it, you’d need to agree that someone else is responsible – even if that means you have to admit to something you didn’t do.
6. ‘I Don’t Believe You’
You know that narcissists are pathological liars and of course you have learned to take anything they say with a grain of salt, right? And with good reason. But if you tell them that you don’t believe them, watch out. They can’t stand it. If you want to avoid drama, don’t bother pointing out their lies. Not only will they never admit the truth, but you can use this to your advantage if necessary. For example, let’s say you find out they’re cheating and you confront them. They’ll deny it, even if you have actual proof and are showing it to them. As infuriating as this will be, pretend to believe them. Yeah, that’s right. Go ahead and let them lie – they will assume you believe them. And since they also have a tendency to underestimate you, they’ll get sloppy when they think they’ve got you snowed. This will allow you to do what you need to do to deal with the cheating (which, for the record, I hope means you’ll be getting your ducks in a row to leave them) without having to deal with their drama.
This is the ultimate way to destroy a narcissist. See, narcissists need narcissistic supply to function – like a vampire needs blood and darkness. If you’re one of their sources of narcissistic supply, they can’t stand the idea of not having you around to dump all that emotional garbage on, not to mention to give them the attention, praise and admiration they demand. If you say goodbye and leave, and then you go no contact and stick with it, they will, at least temporarily, be destroyed. Of course, they’ll also use this narcissistic injury as a way to gain attention from other people and often to find a new source of supply, playing the poor me game and engaging in various smear campaigns about you with anyone who will listen. But if you hold out, and you use the gray rock method – as in, you don’t react emotionally – or you just remain fully no contact and don’t react at all – they’ll eventually move on and stop torturing you. As difficult as this can feel, it is ultimately the best outcome of a relationship with a toxic narcissist.
Bottom line: remember that in the end, while you can certainly temporarily destroy a narcissist using words such as the ones I’ve shared here, the very best revenge you could get on any narcissist would be to simply live your life well without them. To find true happiness and peace in your life, despite the fact that they exist. Not only would learning you’re happy without them and living like they don’t exist destroy a narcissist, but it would make them feel like you’ve won the relationship. Not that you need such a trophy – but you do deserve to be happy and to not live in fear of triggering the next episode of narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury. No one should have to live like this. Walking on eggshells is both difficult and painful and it can change you in some pretty profound ways. If you’d like to learn more about how narcissistic abuse changes you, check out this video.
When you think of the term codependency, you may think about someone who is relying on substance abuse. But that isn’t always the case.
What is Codependency?
Codependencyis a toxic emotional and behavioral condition that makes it nearly impossible to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form and stay in relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive, and/or abusive.
In layman’s terms, codependency is being too dependent on others to the point that they cannot function on their own. It happens often in relationships whereas two people are too invested in one another to the point that the one who is too dependent on the other struggles to be independent.
Contrary to Popular Belief: Codependent and Empath Are Not Synonyms
Are all empaths codependent? Are all codependents empaths? I’m helping to clear up a common misconception in the narcissistic abuse recovery community in this video. See, while some codependents are empaths, not all empaths are codependents. In other words, they are two separate concepts that some people have mistaken for synonyms.
How to Know If You’re Codependent in a Toxic Relationship
So, if you have a codependent personality, you are highly likely to end up with someone who is dominant for that obvious reason. You’ll struggle to think and do things on your own without your partner. Are you codependent? Let’s look at the 5 signs that point to the possibility that you could be.
1. You Don’t Trust Yourself
If you are codependent, you struggle with trusting yourself. You don’t think you can make decisions without someone else backing you up. This is a sign that you have low self-esteem and seriously impaired self-confidence. This combined with the fact that you might not believe in yourself anyway can lead to a lack of trust in your own intuition and even perception of the world. This can lead to learned helplessness that makes you fear taking action without the approval of someone else. This can take you to the point that you have to rely on others to tell you what to do, say think, and feel in extreme cases.
2. You Need Validation: The Approval Of Others Means More Than Your Own
It could devastate you if you did a creative project and worked very hard on it, but you didn’t get the approval from others that you wanted or expected. It’s normal to want others to acknowledge your work, but someone who is not codependent will realize that everyone’s taste will not match their style and the approval of others has no effect on what they do. That is just one common example of codependency. If you don’t value yourself, and you do things to gain the approval of others, you’ve got a problem. Stop being a people-pleaser and try focusing on what really makes YOU happy!
If you are not sure how you are feeling whether you are sad, happy, excited, or bored, that can be a sign of codependency. In other words, your feelings are based on the way that your partner feels. If they are angry, you may be as well, but you will not know why and you will not be able to identify why. You might dissociate from your own feelings and no longer be able to identify them. You might also struggle with regulating your emotions.
You are terrified of being abandoned because you don’t believe you will be able to function on your own. The idea of being abandoned is no different than a part of your body disappearing which can render you not being able to function at all.
It’s important to understand that the fear of abandonment is a normal human fear. Often, narcissistic abuse survivors suffer from emotional abandonment during and after their toxic relationships. Emotional abandonment is an emotional state caused by someone making you feel undesired, left behind, insecure, or discarded.
When you feel emotionally abandoned, you often feel lost. It happens when you are essentially cut off from a crucial source of affection (such as a significant relationship with a parent or spouse), or financial or emotional security that has been withdrawn, either suddenly, or through a process of erosion over time.
You may be in an abusive relationship but you will not think of leaving because you feel like you have to be with that partner, no matter how abusive they are. You cannot fathom the idea of being alone, and you doubt your ability to function alone. Unhealthy relationships may also be referred to as toxic relationships.
You may be dealing with trauma bonding if you’re in a longer-term toxic relationship of any kind. Similar to a dysfunctional relationship, but less repairable, this kind of relationship involves more negativity than positivity, and it doesn’t emotionally support one or both of the people involved. An abusive, toxic relationship often involves resentment, contempt, communication problems, and varying forms of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.
“We all come from dysfunctional families. The issue is not whether our family was dysfunctional but whether we can put meaning to the experience of our lives.” ~ Stephen Porges, author of the Polyvagal Theory
I had a narcissistic abuse recovery counseling client who was really struggling with deep childhood trauma combined with a psychopathic ex who had horribly abused her since she was a teen. Now that she was free, she was feeling anything BUT. In fact, she felt frozen in fear, nearly all the time.
Are you living in a constant state of fear?
Can you relate to living in a constant state of fight or flight, or worse, freeze? That was this woman’s reality. She had tried traditional therapy and spent thousands of dollars on various doctors, practitioners, and even alternative medicine. Yet, she was still at a complete standstill in her recovery and she still felt fearful and miserable every day. I deeply felt for her, and I really wanted to help. So, I started digging to help her find a solution to overcome her C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms so she could heal.
That is what led me to Dr. Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory. My client found significant relief, and I learned new ways to help people in narcissistic abuse recovery.
What is Polyvagal Theory?
According to Porges, “The polyvagal theory describes an autonomic nervous system that is influenced by the central nervous system, sensitive to afferent influences, characterized by an adaptive reactivity dependent on the phylogeny of the neural circuits, and interactive with source nuclei in the brainstem regulating the striated muscles of the face and head.” Read more about Polyvagal Theory in Porges’ 2009 paper, here.
In this brief video, Dr. Stephen Porges explains offers an explanation of his Polyvagal Theory and how it works.
How can we use Polyvagal Theory and vagus nerve stimulation to help us heal from narcissistic abuse and trauma?
Going through a toxic relationship often leaves victims feeling fearful to a debilitating level. For most of us, it affects our nervous system in profound ways. In some cases, survivors find themselves living in a constant state of anxiety based on the feeling that they need to be constantly on guard – hypervigilance. This makes it almost impossible for them to relax or even to feel “normal.” They feel FROZEN or STUCK.
Through the use of vagus nerve stimulation as described by Dr. Porges in Polyvagal Theory, many survivors find relief of their C-PTSD symptoms. Even better, these exercises can be done by almost anyone from the comfort of their own home – or anywhere they happen to be.
Self-Help Exercises for CPTSD Symptoms Based on Polyvagal Theory
In THIS VIDEO, I talk about a theory developed by Dr. Stephen Porges that could change the way we heal trauma, and once I’ve given you a brief overview of the theory, I’m going to share some self-help exercises that you can do at home to help you get through the hard times.
As I mentioned, one of my clients found herself stuck, afraid and feeling frozen, and she had tried everything but struggled to find relief. After discovering what I’m going to show you today, she began to find some relief. As I learned more about the theory, I shared some of its ideas with other clients in similar situations.
In the majority of these cases, they were able to find some relief all on their own by doing surprisingly simple at-home exercises. Several reported that they felt these simple exercises made a significant difference in their ability to feel safe enough to recover.
The Role of the Vagus Nerve in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Porges proposes in his polyvagal theory that the vagus nerve has more function than previously thought and that the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous systems are only part of the equation in how people react to the environment and trauma. Because the theory is very complicated, I’m only providing a very high-level overview and focus on the parts that will specifically help us as survivors. The Polyvagal Theory says that the parasympathetic nervous system is not only associated with relaxation but also symptoms of PTSD.
Porges developed the theory to help us understand this dual function of the parasympathetic nervous system. It points to a human survival mechanism in which the parasympathetic nervous system leads us to FREEZE or “faint” in the face of a life-threatening event. Most importantly, the polyvagal theory teaches you to engage your social nervous system to consciously slow down your defensive system.
This allows you to finally find freedom from CPTSD symptoms and to feel safe. In other words, Porges’s theory makes us look beyond the effects of fight or flight and put social relationships in the forefront so we can understand our symptoms better.
Additional Resources for Learning About Polyvagal Theory
The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. 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, as well as 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.
If you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship with a narcissist, you might have found yourself avoiding social situations and feeling a lot of anxiety when you’re forced to go out into the world. And if you consider yourself an empath, this could be magnified by your ability to sort of “feel” everyone around you. I know that’s been the case for me in the past. Whether you could be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder (SAD) or you just struggle with social situations, it could be a result of your toxic relationship.
Also called “social phobia,” social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes you to have an extreme, unrelenting fear of being watched and especially judged by people, including not only strangers but also people you know. This crippling fear can affect your ability to function in the world – whether at work, school, or any of your other daily activities. Many sufferers of SAD report that it is difficult for them to make and keep friends.
What does SAD have to do with narcissistic abuse recovery?
Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships can cause you to feel overwhelmed and isolated on their own, but they also cause what psychologists call a “toxic internal environment” that can lead to stress, depression, anxiety, and a wide variety of other physical health problems. Social anxiety can be a side-effect of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) as well – and many survivors of narcissistic abuse suffer from C-PTSD.
Consider this: a 12.2-year study that launched in 1985 and followed more than 10,000 people found that people who reported being in unhealthy or negative relationships were far more likely to develop heart problems, including a fatal heart attack or cardiac event, than study participants who had healthier, less negative relationships.
And on a more practical level, since narcissists are so likely to isolate and control us in these relationships, we become hypervigilant of their moods and behaviors and this can leave us not only exhausted emotionally but also unwilling or unable to deal with other people during the relationship. This could be because we are too overwhelmed by the narcissist’s need for attention and supply or because we grow tired of trying to behave “correctly” in public (so that the narcissist doesn’t further abuse us when we get home). It could also be for a number of other reasons (or a combination of reasons).
What are the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD)?
According to NIMH, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:
Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
Be very afraid that other people will judge them
Stay away from places where there are other people
What does social anxiety disorder (SAD) feel like?
One of the worst aspects of suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder is the feeling that you are entirely isolated and alone in the world – even (and sometimes especially) if you’re in a room full of people. It can feel as if you are cut off from the world and your inner self. Worse, it feels like you have no control over the bad feelings and that you’re trapped forever in feeling anxious and alone.
It may be helpful to hear that even if you’re feeling alone, there are some symptoms that therapists have noted are the hallmarks of SAD and just about everyone suffers from them.
The feeling that no one understands you.
When you’re in the grip of social anxiety, it feels like you are cut off from everyone and that no one can understand what it feels like inside your head, not even your therapist or your best friend.
You’re trapped forever in anxiety
SAD transcends time and space. It feels as though you’re stuck in a cycle of perpetual anxiety, even though part of you knows that SAD doesn’t define you and that no matter how severe your current flare-up is, it will pass. Anxiety tells you that you are stuck and can’t move out of the trap you’re in, even if your rational mind understands it’s not like that.
You feel like a fish out of water.
Chronic anxiety feeds on negative messages that tell you over and over that you don’t belong, you don’t fit in, that there’s something wrong with you. The deeper you get into this negative mindset, the more isolated and alienated you feel, and you withdraw from friends and family. A vicious cycle sets in to keep you apart and deepen the feeling of alienation.
A negative mindset takes over
When you’re suffering from anxiety, you tend to look at the world through very gray-colored glasses. Your brain’s default setting becomes irrational and negative. You can misinterpret things people say or do, even kindly-meant advice from your therapist or counselor.
That can spill over into feeling like a failure. You can fall into a spiral of self-criticism and self-loathing, raking over perceived mistakes and failures from the past.
Social anxiety can make you feel as though you have a layer of psychological skin missing. You feel self-conscious like everyone is looking at you and judging you. You worry over every little detail of your behavior, your clothes, what you say and what you do.
The self-loathing and stress that comes with chronic social anxiety can make it virtually impossible to live in the moment and get on with enjoying life.
Note: Because this issue is so prevalent for narcissistic abuse survivors, I’m working on a new course on the subject over at Life Makeover Academy. I’m currently searching for people to beta-test the course. While it’s normally a $99 course, I’m offering it to people who are willing to beta-test it for half-price. If you are interested in testing the course and sharing your thoughts with me, you can click here to get lifetime access to the course (and all future updates/additional material) for just $49. Please note: the beta testing period will close at the end of July, when the course will be ready to roll out at full price, so get in there now if you are interested.
You might also enjoy this video I made on the topic.