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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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? 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.
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.
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.
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach 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 relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in 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. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.