can you get ptsd from emotional abuse

Military Brainwashing Tactics of the Narcissist

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If you found yourself a prisoner of war, would you lie dreamily about in your holding cell and consider yourself lucky?  If you found the gate open one day and no guard on duty, would you stay inside?

Of course not.

Yet, we often allow ourselves to be imprisoned by an abusive partner.

Emotional abuse in a relationship is a covert form of abuse.  In fact, it’s the same psychological warfare that’s used in military prison camps. Guards at POW camps know that physical compliance is difficult.  It requires physical exertion and, besides, it’s messy.  So, they often choose the easier path…one in which the prisoner not only accepts, but complies with every demand.

How do they do this?  Through emotional manipulation and abuse, which is used to control, degrade, humiliate and punish.  It’s meant to cause the victim to question their every thought and behavior. It includes using acts, threats of acts or coercive tactics to cause emotional distress. This is the same method the Narcissist uses.  What does this look like to the unsuspecting victim?  Here are some common tactics used, along with what they look like in real-life application (this is by no means comprehensive):

Isolation from friends and family

This tactic is used to deprive the victim of social support, weaken their defenses, and cause the victim to depend on their abuser.  At first, this may seem innocent.  Some common comments by the Narcissist include:  “I get lonely when you’re not here”; “I wish you would spend more time with me”.  “I don’t have a good feeling about your friend, _____.”; “Your friend, ____, doesn’t seem to like me.”

These comments later turn into:  “Your friends are bi**hes and whor*s”; “You’re a prostitute, just like your friend, ____”; ‘Everyone knows that you and your friends are trash”; “Are you having a lesbian relationship with your friend, ____?”

These aggressive statements usually result in your withdrawing from your circle of friends, or worse, you might begin to believe there is some truth to them.


Humiliation is when a person uses words, silence, or actions to threaten or belittle another person. The purpose is to instill fear or to intimidate; the goal is to control.  It can happen when you are alone or in the face of company.  Common phrases used by the Narcissist include:  “I think we need to go on a diet”; “How come you don’t take care of yourself like you used to?”; “Why don’t you fix your hair like your friend, ____?”; “Have you ever thought about plastic surgery?”

Later, more hurtful comments will be used, such as:  “You’re fat and I can’t stand to look at you”; “I’m not attracted to you anymore”; “You can’t do anything right”; “I knew you weren’t intelligent”; “You’ll always be a loser”; “Even your own family doesn’t want you”; “People tried to warn me about you”

The purpose of these harsh comments is to destroy your confidence and self-esteem.  It’s a form of conditioning that usually results in the victim believing themselves to be worthless.

Occasional Rewards/Treats

Random crumbs given out by the narcissist give the false appearance that they are pleased with you and also give the illusion of a normal relationship. 

This tactic is used to provide positive motivation for continued compliance.  This may come in the form of praise:  “You look great today”; “That dinner was really nice because I was sitting across from you”; “You’re the only person I want to spend my life with”; “I know I hurt you and I’m sorry”; “Let’s go to that new restaurant downtown”

Later:  “You’re lucky I put up with your crap”; “No one would tolerate you as I do”; “It’s no wonder none of your relationships have been successful”; “The only reason anyone would want you is for sex”; “You owe me because I ____”; “You have no dignity”; “You deserve what happens to you”

Victims of narcissistic and emotional abuse don’t realize it, but their abuser throws in small moments of kindness and affection in between the chaos for a reason.  In the victim, it creates an unhealthy attachment to the abuser.  It’s called trauma-bonding, and narcissists are masters at it.

Failing to Meet Emotional or Other Needs (especially if the victim is in a dependent position)

Are you a stay-at-home mom?  Does your partner or spouse try to convince you that you don’t need to work and insist on your staying home? 

This maneuver is used to make you fully reliant on your abuser and allows him/her to withhold important resources such as a cell phone, gas money and access to transportation, internet/computer access, and other common conveniences.

Silent Treatment


The silent treatment is used as a form of punishment when the victim has attempted to establish a boundary.  The intended result of the silent treatment is to manage down your expectations so that you expect less and less and the narcissist gets away with more and more.  Its message is, “Compliance, or else”. This can last from a few days to several weeks with the narcissist often leaving the communal home.

During this time, they are typically grooming the new supply.

When to Consider Leaving

Emotional abuse robs a person of their self-esteem, the ability to think logically, confidence in themselves and their identity.  If your partner’s actions or words have caused any of the following feelings it is time to consider leaving:

  • Isolation from others, you rarely see friends and family.
  • Excessive dependence on him/her.
  • You constantly think about saying or doing the right thing so that your spouse does not become upset.
  • You simply survive day-to-day, unable to plan an escape from the sheer mental exhaustion.   Any action you take is criticized unless it is one of compliance with his/her desires.
  • You’re depressed and anxious most of the time.
  • You tolerate behaviors that you never imagined you would.
  • You hide your partner’s abuse from friends and family.
  • Anything you do or say is met with anger or indifference. Your feelings and desires just don’t seem to matter to your spouse.
  • You’ve become suicidal.

If you’ve tried therapy and setting boundaries and are still being abused, it’s time to leave the relationship.  At this point, the prison you see is based on the delusion that you need your abuser in your life.  Break all ties with the Narcissist, hire an attorney, contact a Domestic Abuse shelter, and start making plans for your new life without abuse. 


Check out the course here.

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Mary says January 7, 2016

I had no clue what was happening to me or what type of person I was involved with. By the time 9 years had passed….I was fighting for my life…against suicide being the only way out of “my” crazy head. It was me, after all, who ruins everyone and everything, no on could stand me. A short, simplified paraphrase of his words. When I began to lift my head out of the darkness and fight back…he instantly let the world know HE was suddenly being abused , could they even dare leave me alone with my children…

The best way for me to survive now….is as far away as possible. Which isn’t far. We have kids. But I won’t even go out to the car…being near him and vulnerable….at any moment he will slip certain words into a conversation, so I have to remain vigilant at all times.

Someday…I’ll never have to see him again. And he will never find me. Or call. Or text. Or tell my children things. Or the town. Or our family members. Someday…I will be free.

A Covert Narcissist's Wife says November 8, 2015

Reblogged this on A Covert Narcissist's Wife.

Summer says May 17, 2015

so i know this article is for spouses of a narcissist and i feel that quite a few of these relate to my dad and how my mom has been to him, but oddly enough all these can be applied to me with some changes made to the details, i am the daughter. is it possible though for a narcissist to have more than one scape goat, my dad is definitely scapegoated all the time, and i am begginnign to see i am most likely the golden child mostly and scape goat a lot but not as much. i am an olnly child so i could be both i think, also since i was set agains my dad and made to team up with my mom from an early age i ashamedly admit i could have been her flying monkey as well.

still wondering though, im not sure. i would often be yelled at forr the littlest things and made to feel stupid only for her to apologize later. be she also lavished much seeminly self esteem boosting praises for my intelligence and how i am better than most other people especially Dad. and as for Dad, well occasionally (VERY occasionally) she will say something nice about or or perhaps too him, but forr the most part she always told me how selfish lazy and uncaring and a liar he is. i believed this blindly most of my life and now i am finally opening my eyes and looking at this from my own perspective instead of hers.

oddly enough she will often tell me to be more independant, not think so badly of myself and how smart and capable i am……in between times i make mistakes, forget something or dont do something fast enough then i am yelled at and wrung out (without being told outright i am stupid so when later i tell her how i feel she can honestly say i never told you that you were stupid i always tell you how smart you are) but she will make me feel stupid and useless. she will tell me not to pay any attention to what she says when she is like that she is just stressed and wasnt thinking and she is so sorry and feels horrible. but when shes mad she will say not to ask her later if she meant what she just said because she means ever word of it. sometimes i would think of her as being two different people, but i always thought of it as stress. but she also always told me that i should not move out when im older even from a young age, always having me affirm that i will stay with her. also she would threaten me with not leaving me her house one day to make me do the chores. i wont leave this house to you if you wont take care of it.

she is extremely sensitive to public embarrassment (even in our own backyard she will chew me out if she thinks i am embarrasing her in front of the neighbors) very vain about her looks, and will teach me how to put up a front for other people so i can look better and perhaps make her look better. i was told if i dont wear certain clothes to school and behave a certain way i will be embarrasing her and people will think badly of her parenting skills and i will get yelled at for it.

i think she might be narcissistic but i feel guilty for just thinking that. also i have very fuzzy memory of my life before 5 years ago (when i graduated) i remember lots but cant pinpoint when any of it happened and i feel i should be able to remember more. i feel maybe i am blowing this out of proportion, maybe im not remembering things right. she can be so nice to me that i dont know if she really was as mean as i remember. i cant count her yelling and belittling of me now since 4 or 5 years ago since her health is not so good now and she is in a lot of physical pain so she may have a valid excuse for her behavior. and when i try to rremember if this was something that went on before when she was healthy i feel it did, but then i actually leave my room and am around her and shes nice and i start doubting my memory. im so confused now : am i being whiny, did she really belittle me as much as i seem to feel she did? i know no one else but me and maybe my Dad would have the answer but if anyone can give me an opinion going by what i have written that would be great. please be honest. surgar coating wont help me either.

great i got carried away, sorry to the extremely long post i hesitate to post but i feel a bit better getting this out in writing. i should trim this up a bit but i will post it as is i hope that is ok….um feel free to delete it if you feel it is obnoxiously long maybe i should find a forum to really vent or share my story in instead of dumping it all on a random articles comment section : i will but maybe i could get a little help here too,

Narcissistic Abuse = Prison Camp Effect | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says November 6, 2014

[…] often refer to the psychological tactics of the Narcissist being similar to those of prison guards.  It’s not a metaphor, it’s not an analogy, and it’s […]

Anonymous says September 17, 2014

Wow…those little sayings that they use could have been taken verbatim from my husband over the years. I think I have him pegged as a cerebral covert narcicissist…he recently had a few sleepovers at another woman’s house and lied to me about it. The thing is, he has never escalated those comments to the next level nor has he ever laid a hand on me. He keeps it at the ….have you ever thought of plastic surgery or we need to go on a diet level….very innocuous sounding but I always thought I was being unreasonable by feeling angry at those comments. It has been 7 months since the other woman thing….I am trying to just detach and observe for awhile and clear my head before I decide to stay or go. Several things are compelling me to stay…we have 4 children…one is a 6 month old baby. He is in the military and I am thousands of miles from family….we just moved, I have been a stay at home mom since 2008, and I just don’t know what would be best for the kids…to stay and keep family intact or leave. He mostly just thrives on compliments, which don’t cost me anything to give but the relationship is one-sided to say the least. All conversations are about how he looks in the mirror, how frustrated and overworked he is, how tired he is, movies he likes, and what shoes he should buy….ugh. I have deeper conversations with the neighbors 🙂
After the incident with the cheating…he still says he didn’t sleep with her…..I returned home and he treated me well…like a normal husband should for about 6 weeks…I liked the good treatment but felt like I didn’t have a legitimate reason to still be angry since things were going so well….I guess I should find a good therapist

Ray Rice and the Pregnancy of Emotional and Verbal Abuse | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says September 10, 2014

[…] ← Military Brainwashing Tactics of the Narcissist Sep 10 2014 […]

silkred says September 10, 2014

This sort of thing happens in a social group too – comments made with the implied assumption that the victim is somehow deranged or acting crazy – a sort of non plussed denial when ever this was questioned – such a poisoning of the social space around the victim that the whole group starts to take a step back leaving the victim isolated and without any affirmation or stabilising opinion – reframing of the abuse as coming from the victim seeing the groups circling round the abuser viewing the abuser as the abused – a deep sort of debilitating depression in the victim inspiring a terrible anxiety that acts to stop the victim from taking part in something he loves – the narcissist abuser can now be seen bouncing around as if nothing has happened like he is the most enthusiastic nice person anyone ever had the pleasure to meet… its amazing to me that people regularly survive this as it is about the most difficult experience I have ever had to endure… made more difficult by it being so silly to refer to directly – how do you get someone to understand when its things like – he ignored me on that message when he congratulated everyone other than me – or whatever…. try explaining the things that happened and you seem like a petty minded nutjob deserving of social exclusion… and I think its this adoption of the sense that you deserve it that is the things this post is warning us is most pervasive among all the confusing feelings we have as we stand up against after abuse of this sort… I struggle with it when I am down – find it easier to start to feel it was my fault… but…. I catch myself now more and more…. help myself by seeking nice people and doing nice things – enjoy simple little moments and feed my soul with love… writing out my thoughts too – that helps form thinking and affirm ideas that all help stand that little bit taller… Thanks Kim this is a great post.

lilacs says September 9, 2014

It is an interesting article. For me it has been less a prison and more of a concentration camp. I read the International Declaration of Human Rights, and he has violated all 30 articles. It hurts a lot that he has done these things to me. I feel bad that he took so much of my life away from me. It has been twenty four years now. I tried going to the police several times but it never did any good, the police were not interested and would not even take a report. The brain washing he did, one of them was sleep deprivation. I went out of my mind. He would terrorize me at night in the middle of sleep while I was dreaming. One time my heart was pounding so hard inside I thought I was going to have a heart attack. The suffering was so severe that an ambulance came for me many times. I was so fortunate to survive those moments, and on a couple of occasions I had two beautiful nurses who held me while I just sobbed so fully and completely the pain he was inflicting on me. He has had just a blast tearing my life apart. I have felt very alone, sad and on the throes of death. I still do. He has lied so much about me to everyone around me that I have no relationships or friendships of any kind. I either get scowled at or removed from a market I use to shop at. He shows me all the time, he is the boss and in total control. He breaks in and steals my things and then calls the police on me to assert that I have victimized him in some way. He has poisoned my food around 5 times giving me such a terrible sickness and weakness. It requires lots of bed rest, lots of medication and loss of accomplishing anything. I have given up so many times, wishing I were dead. Its just to horrible to survive under such a brutal dictator. I have also been driven to the extreme of wanting to kill him, but with my bare hands. He just will not leave me alone or any part of my life. I never met anyone so thoroughly cruel and hateful, and what seems so absolutely evil. I could not have imagined in all this life I would have to live like this. I have asked that a request for the F.B.I. look into the matter and investigate, I am not sure they will. I do feel how difficult it would be to go out and start another relationship with another man. What if I miss a step, overlook something, was not paying attention? It has been one of the worst things I have ever gone through in my life. If I had any advice to give – I would tell people to be cautious, check again and try not to feed into your own lonely feelings. Choosing mistakenly someone like this has been a nightmare of epic proportions. It is hard to imagine that I could give myself permission to become involved intimately again. I do not have a sense of making it through this, but I came a long way with a soul destroyer. God gave me a lot of strength to carry around all that burden for so long, hopefully they will imprison him eventually so that he can never take another persons life.

    Kim Saeed says September 10, 2014


    I am so sorry to learn of your situation. Do you have any Domestic Violence centers in your area?


Izzy says September 9, 2014

My ex had all the signs of NPD expect for the abusive verbal and physical behavior. Do you think it was because we were primarily a long distance relationship? In person, we did fight twice. It resulted him screaming and becoming nasty. It left me with a very bad feeling and I still recall that feeling as I type this out. Once he grabbed me aggressively but let go immediately. I can only imagine that this would get more severe if I was actually present next to him day to day.

    Kim Saeed says September 10, 2014

    Hi Izzy,

    It’s a little hard to say, but based on what information you’ve shared, he could have been covert (closet Narcissist). The closet ones are often like a volcano that can erupt at any time…good thing you’re not in that relationship anymore.

    Thank you for reading my article and for commenting <3

Tothineownselfbetrue says September 9, 2014

My ex used to accuse me of being in a lesbian relationship if I became close friends with someone! Every time I read one of these articles it solidifies that he is the crazy one and I’m the survivor!!! Thank you!!!!

    Kim Saeed says September 10, 2014

    Been there, got the t-shirt.

    I’m so glad you’re coming to realize you’re not the crazy one, and also that you consider yourself a survivor. You rock <3

Looking for the Light says September 9, 2014

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Thank you for stopping by my site. I hope you found something meaningful to read. Thank you for following me and I’m following you. I know several people who will enjoy and benefit from your post. Have a great day.
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    Kim Saeed says September 10, 2014

    Thank you for the lovely, personalized welcome 🙂 You have a great blog. Looking forward to reading more of your articles and checking out your blogroll <3


KarinKateriKei says September 9, 2014

This is exactly the technique that was employed with me. It’s beginnings were subtle and insidious and I didn’t recognize them until a dear friend told me that I was exhibiting all the symptoms of Battered Wife Syndrome. The therapist I saw initially was useless (she could barely understand Facebook!). I think it’s essential that professionals learn more about this and in particular, how Narcs use the internet as just another tool in their kit to perpetrate abuse.

Carrie Reimer says September 9, 2014

excellent post Kim! It happens so subtly that I didn’t even realize it was happening until it was too late. I was always an extremely independent woman and didn’t think I would ever allow myself to become dependent on any man. The thing victims fail to realize is the lengths the narcissist will take to ensure you are dependent, like my ex sabotaging my vehicles so they never ran. I couldn’t fathom someone doing that, and other people tend to question your sanity if you mention that you think he is doing that and once you are without a vehicle you are dependent on him.
When he talks you into moving away from friends and family to a place in the country where, he can get a better job, the kids will grow up with fresh air, where homes are cheaper (whatever excuse he uses to get the victim to move) the victim has a vehicle and isn’t concerned. Once out there the vehicle starts acting up and she can’t go far for fear of being stranded on the side of the road. She loses her job because her vehicle leaves her stranded. Then the car stops working at all and he keeps saying he is going to fix it but there is never the money (after all she lost her job) or the time (if he is a mechanic) and viola! she is now his prisoner and never even saw it coming.

    WritesinPJ's says September 9, 2014

    Carrie, that’s an excellent example to show how subtly and gradually the unhealthy shift happens!

Narcissistic Abuse = Prison Camp Effect | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says September 9, 2014

[…] often refer to the psychological tactics of the Narcissist being similar to those of prison guards.  It’s not a metaphor, it’s not an analogy, and it’s […]

Dear Kim…Why Can’t I Leave Him? | Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed says September 9, 2014

[…] Military Brainwashing Tactics of the Narcissist […]

theinfiniterally says September 9, 2014

Reblogged this on gambolinthegrammar and commented:
I need my therapist to start reading this blog!

    Kim Saeed says September 9, 2014

    Thank you, theinfiniterally! I do believe there are a lot of therapists out there who are gravely inexperienced in helping patients overcome Narcissistic abuse. You wouldn’t believe the stories I’ve heard. There are some good ones out there, but they’re very difficult to find. Another drawback is that depending on one’s insurance, if you switch therapists, most claims under the new therapist(s) are denied.

      theinfiniterally says September 9, 2014

      You’re very welcome and thank you!

      The oft cited misunderstanding of Narcs within the mental health community resonates with my very limited experience. They just aren’t encountered very often in an honest clinical setting, I guess. I still think I’ve got a great therapist, though, so I feel fortunate.

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