Having a narcissist in your life can be very traumatizing. Their abusive tendencies and manipulation tactics can cause you to develop a tremendous amount of painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Narcissists typically make you feel an overwhelming amount of helplessness, powerlessness, confusion, self-doubt, loneliness, fear, depression, shame, grief, irritability, fatigue, and anxiety.
The painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that narcissistic abuse makes you feel can prevent you from healing. The information in this article is going to help you understand the impact that being abused by a narcissist has on your well-being.
The Feeling of Helplessness
Being with a narcissist can make you feel an overwhelming amount of helplessness.
Helplessness is a belief that there is nothing that anyone can do to improve the bad situation that you are in.
One of the most common reasons narcissistic abuse causes helplessness is because narcissists are insatiable.
Meaning that they can’t be satisfied. Because of this, there is nothing that you can do to improve the relationship that you have with them.
It does not matter what you do or how hard you try, nothing will ever be good enough for them.
Unfortunately, many people who have a narcissist in their life don’t realize this until it is too late.
They spend months, years, sometimes even decades, exhausting themselves trying to improve the relationship that they have with the narcissist, but nothing ever works.
They are always met with invalidation, devaluation, humiliation, manipulation, and abuse.
Over time, this dynamic can create an overwhelming sense of helplessness for those being abused by a narcissist.
The Feeling of Powerlessness
Being with a narcissist can make you feel an overwhelming amount of powerlessness.
Powerlessness means being without the power to do something or prevent something from happening.
This is probably one of the most common feelings that those being abused by a narcissist have because of a narcissist’s insufferable need for power and control.
You see, the manipulation tactics that narcissists use are designed to put them in a position of power and control in your life.
They know that being in a position of power and control allows them to turn you into a reliable source of narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic supply is the validation, admiration, reassurance, power, and control that narcissists get from their surrounding environment.
They use narcissistic supply to develop a positive self-perception and to regulate their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Feelings of powerlessness are very common in a narcissistic environment, but also very dangerous.
They can keep you physically and/or psychologically trapped in the narcissistic abuse cycle for years.
It is very common for narcissists to make you feel confused.
Confusion is the inability to think as clearly or quickly as you normally do.
When you are confused you may feel disoriented and have difficulty paying attention, remembering, and/or making decisions.
Narcissists want to keep you confused for as long as possible because it helps them stay in power and control.
One of the manipulation tactics that narcissists use to keep you confused is gaslighting.
Gaslighting is when a narcissist says or does something that doubts or denies your reality.
For example, if you confronted the narcissist in your life because they hit you, “When you are angry you need to keep your hands off of me.”
And they responded with, “I barely touched you, stop being so dramatic.”
This would be considered gaslighting. If you would like to learn more about the six types of gaslighting, click here to download our free guide.
Confusion is to blame for the continuation of many narcissistic relationships.
Being with a narcissist can make you feel a tremendous amount of self-doubt.
Self-doubt means feelings of uncertainty regarding one or more aspects of the self (i.e. abilities, opinions, decisions, perception of reality, feelings, emotions, needs, self-worth, etc.)
Much like confusion, narcissists want to keep you doubting yourself because it helps them remain in power and control.
One of the manipulation tactics that they use to do this is stonewalling.
Stonewalling refers to a narcissist’s refusal to participate in the communication and connection of the relationship.
For example, if you tried confronting the narcissist for lying to you by saying, “Hey. I know that you aren’t being truthful. Where did you put my keys? I am late for work.”
And they responded with, “You are a f*cking mess. I didn’t touch your keys” then proceeded to give you the silent treatment, this could cause self-doubt.
You could start thinking to yourself, “Maybe I did misplace my keys. Now I have blamed him/her for no reason. Gosh I AM a mess.”
The manipulation tactics that narcissists use all work together to get you to doubt yourself.
If left unchecked, self-doubt can lead to anxiety, depression, procrastination, and/or lack of motivation.
Stonewalling is often equated with the Gray Rock Method. They are two very different things. Our article “Do Narcissists Use the Gray Rock Method?“ will help you understand why.
Being with a narcissist can make you feel extremely lonely.
Loneliness is the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met.
The reason that it is so common for those being abused by a narcissist to struggle with loneliness is because narcissists isolate the people that they abuse.
You see, narcissists know that they can remain in power and control of you for a long time if they isolate you from your support lines.
This could be your friends, family, or even your coworkers. A common tactic that they use to do this is gaslighting.
Remember, gaslighting is when the narcissist says or does something that doubts or denies your reality.
A simple example of a narcissist using gaslighting to isolate you could be the following:
Imagine that you introduced the narcissist in your life to your family for the first time. From your perspective, everything went really well and your family liked him/her.
But the second that you leave the meeting and get in the car to leave, the narcissist turns to you and says, “I can’t believe that you brought me here knowing that they hated me.”
You see, what is happening here is the narcissist is trying to create a divide between you and your family.
As the relationship progresses, this type of manipulation can cause you to become isolated from your family and feeling terribly lonely.
Our article “What Does Gaslighting Do to the Victim?“ has a lot of helpful information that will help you understand the impact that gaslighting has on others.
Being with a narcissist for an extended period of time can make you feel afraid of being alone.
There are two primary reasons for this.
First, the manipulation tactics that narcissists use trick you into attaching your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs to the narcissist.
You begin to see them as the perfect person for you and believe that in order to be the best version of yourself, you have to have them in your life.
Second, narcissists are very good at forcing you to believe that your life has no value if they aren’t in it.
One of the most common ways that they are able to do this is through dehumanization and financial abuse.
For example, imagine that you were in a narcissistic marriage where the narcissist had full control of the finances.
For years all they did was tell you that you were a gold digger and incapable of surviving on your own.
They even got your own children to refer to you as a gold digger instead of their mother or father.
When someone reduces a human being to a single characteristic, for example, a gold digger, it is called dehumanization.
Over time, the combination of attaching yourself to the narcissist and feeling like you have to have them in your life for your life to have meaning can cause you to be afraid of being alone.
The mere thought of distancing yourself from the narcissist or cutting them out altogether can feel terrifying because it creates a massive void in your life.
This fear can, and often does, hold those being abused by a narcissist back from becoming the best version of themselves.
Our articles “The Three Types of Financial Abuse That Abusers Use to Control Others” and “34 Signs of Financial Abuse That You Need to Know!“ have a ton of helpful information about financial abuse in narcissistic relationships.
Having a narcissist in your life can make you feel depressed.
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.
While there isn’t a definitive cause to depression, there are many things that can increase the chance of depression such as:1
When you are in a narcissistic environment, you will experience abuse, conflict, loss, major events, and other personal problems.
So, it is very common for those being abused by a narcissist to feel depressed.
We’ve put together a list of psychological, physical, and social symptoms2 (see below) that you should read through.
If you identify with several of the symptoms below, it is important that you speak to a mental health professional who understands narcissistic abuse as soon as possible.
You can click here for a list of professionals that we work with who understand narcissistic abuse.
It is very common to feel a tremendous amount of shame when you are with a narcissist.
Shame is the painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the belief that there is something inherently wrong with you.
The reason many people being abused by a narcissist feel ashamed of themselves is because of the narcissist in their life.
You see, narcissists have many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions suppressed within themselves.
However, their low emotional intelligence prevents them from being able to manage these thoughts, feelings, and emotions through healthy forms of regulation.
As a result, narcissists project them onto the people that they abuse.
Projection is a defense mechanism that occurs when someone takes parts of their identity that they find unacceptable and places them on others.
For example, a man who has cheated on his wife accusing his wife of cheating instead of taking responsibility for his infidelity.
Now, the parts of a narcissist’s identity that they find unacceptable are their painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
After months, years, or even decades of being with a narcissist, it is very common for their projections to cause you to develop a negative self-perception and become ashamed of yourself.
Narcissists want this to happen because it allows them to look at you and think to themselves, “I’m not the unlovable, unwanted, inadequate, worthless, and weak one, they are.”
This is projection and is the reason those being abused by a narcissist often struggle with feelings of shame.
Our article “Why Do Narcissists Use Projection?“ has a lot of helpful information that you can use to understand the role that projection plays in the emotional stability of a narcissist.
It is very common for the abuse that narcissists put you through to create intense feelings of grief.
Grief is the emotional suffering we feel when something or someone we love is taken away from us.
When you are dealing with a narcissist and the abuse environment that they create, it is very common to grieve about:
Now, it is important to note that grief is an important part of the healing journey. To heal from narcissistic abuse, you will have to go through a grieving process.
Well, grieving helps you to ‘free-up’ thoughts, feelings, emotions, needs, wishes, goals, and aspirations that you have connected to the lost person, object, or experience in your life.
Grieving is not forgetting, it is letting go of the past and re-investing that energy elsewhere.
Over time, being around a narcissist will make you feel very irritable.
Irritability is the quality or state of being irritable. Meaning having or showing a tendency to be easily annoyed.
It is important to be aware of feelings of irritability because when you’re irritable, you can be short and impatient with others, you could lash out at others, and you could project your negativity onto others.
If left unchecked, irritability can lead to isolation, self-doubt, and shame.
Well, narcissistic abuse gives you a very negative self-perception.
When this is combined with being irritable and the narcissist’s projections, you could find yourself slipping into a very negative state of mind because you feel like you are no better than the narcissist.
As a result, you could want to isolate yourself from others because you don’t want to put them through the same trauma that the narcissist put you through.
As you can imagine, this dynamic can lead to feelings of self-doubt and shame.
Now, if you are irritable, you shouldn’t equate your irritability with the narcissist’s irritability.
Your irritability stems from being in a stressful, manipulative, invalidating, devaluing, and degrading environment.
The narcissist’s irritability stems from their low emotional intelligence, fragile ego, and their abusive tendencies.
It is very common for people who are being abused by a narcissist to feel fatigued
Fatigue is feeling severely overtired.
Being invalidated, devalued, degraded, humiliated, belittled, ignored, manipulated, controlled, and dehumanized on a regular basis is exhausting.
You spend months, years, sometimes even decades, trying to fix the relationship but nothing ever works.
As you try harder and harder it gets harder and harder to get up in the morning, go to work, do your usual activities, and to make it through the day.
You have an overwhelming urge to sleep but when you do sleep you wake up feeling just as tired.
Fatigue is an awful side effect of narcissistic abuse.
When you are fatigued in a narcissistic environment, painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions such as self-doubt, self-blame, confusion, helplessness, powerlessness, and fear intensify.
Because of this, you develop a constant tiredness and weakness that can be physical, mental, or a combination of both!
That’s not all…
When a narcissist senses that you are fatigued, they will increase the amount of abuse and manipulation they subject you to.
They will send flying monkeys to bother you, start arguments before you go to bed so you can’t sleep, triangulate you with others, go into a narcissistic rage, bait you, and so much more.
They will even use your fatigue to try to justify, rationalize, and normalize their abuse.
They will say things like, “Well the only reason I cheated on you was because you don’t spend time with me anymore. You are always pretending to be too tired for me.”
Interactions like these can make you feel even more fatigued.
Narcissists can make you feel anxious.
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Due to the sheer intensity of narcissistic abuse, it is very common for those being abused to struggle with anxiety on a daily basis.
For example, they might feel a tremendous amount of anxiety when faced with a difficult problem at work, when interacting with other people, or even before making an important decision.
The reason for this is that when you have a narcissist in your life, it is like living under a microscope.
They pay close attention to your every move because they are looking for an opportunity to invalidate, devalue, degrade, dehumanize, or humiliate you.
In addition to this, narcissists use narcissistic rage to manipulate you into feeling like you have to constantly be walking on eggshells around them.
If you didn’t know already, narcissistic rage is an unpredictable, unjustifiable, and explosive response that narcissists have to narcissistic injuries.
For example, imagine that you posted a family photo on social media and the narcissist didn’t like the way that they looked in it.
They could go into a narcissistic rage by hitting you, throwing furniture around, emotionally abusing you, or some other terrifying response.
Being in an environment like this could cause you to struggle with a tremendous amount of anxiety.
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.