how to overcome fear after narcissistic abuse

How to Overcome Fear After Narcissistic Abuse

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Understanding how to overcome fear is a crucial part of narcissistic abuse recovery.

As you wander out into the world free from the narcissist’s chains, you might feel, well, off.

You probably find yourself second-guessing every decision you make. Maybe you’ve noticed your behavior is more impulsive than you remember.

This is normal.


Narcissistic abuse – especially long-term abuse – rewires vital areas of the brain. You were living in a state of fight-or-flight during your abuse. Now, the threat is gone but your brain has been programmed to live in fear as its baseline state.

Here’s what’s going on in your head and how to heal.

Narcissistic Abuse Inflicts Long-Term Trauma Leading to PTSD

You’re probably already familiar with the link between emotional abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. Emotional and verbal abuse can produce psychological consequences just as devastating as one-off violent events.

When you survive a terrorist attack or car accident, however, it’s easy to identify the incident as a one-off traumatic event. Healing and coping with the aftermath are certainly not easy – but it’s obvious that you were exposed to trauma.

Narcissistic trauma is different.

(Read:  Why Narcissistic Abuse is So Damaging)

It’s not a one-off event. In fact, narcissistic trauma creeps in very slowly and can occur over many months, years, or even decades.

At first, you might think it’s just a cute quirk that your partner gets sad when you spend too much time with your friends. Next, you might get annoyed when they want you to check in with them every ten minutes. Until finally, they demand to go through your phone every night and question you about each and every benign message, Facebook like, and comment.

Before you know it, the controlling, manipulative, and abusive behavior has become normal.

But it’s NOT normal and your brain knows this – even if you can’t consciously admit it. As a result, your brain rewires itself to survive in this state of chronic trauma and fear.

That’s why it’s important to understand how to overcome fear in your quest to heal from narcissistic abuse.

How Narcissistic Abuse Rewires the Brain

You may not realize it, but you’ve been living in a constant state of fear.

You worry about how the narcissist will react and respond to everything you say and do. This creates an extremely high-stress environment that produces significant changes in the brain.

For starters, exposure to stress causes your cortisol levels to rise. Over time, high levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain, acne, slow wound healing, muscle weakness, and a broad range of other physical symptoms.

Chronic exposure to cortisol can also shrink the hippocampus: the part of your brain responsible for processing and storing short-term memory. Researchers from the University of New Orleans and Stanford University noticed that subjects with the highest levels of cortisol and PTSD symptoms had the smallest hippocampi.

The cognitive dissonance, confusion, and memory loss you experienced during your narcissistic abuse was no coincidence – your brain just adapted to the chronic fear and stress.

Are You Addicted to Trauma?

When you consume a drug, like an opiate, for example, your brain gets used to receiving dopamine and stops producing the chemical on its own.

Believe it or not, you can become “hooked” on damaging hormones like cortisol as well.

Over time, your brain gets used to the flood of cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones you receive from trauma. As a result, your brain starts to believe that this is normal, and you literally become addicted to the trauma itself to obtain these hormones.

That’s why it’s so difficult to leave narcissistic abuse: the narcissist gets their ego fix from degrading you and your brain receives its fix of cortisol and adrenaline from the constant fight-or-flight environment.

How Narcissism Hijacks the Amygdala

Once you finally leave the chronic trauma of narcissistic abuse, it’s natural to beat yourself up.

How could you let this go on so long?

How did you not see how toxic and messed up the situation was?

Don’t be hard on yourself, because it’s not your fault. After months or years of chronic abuse, your brain and body adapted to this constant state of fight-or-flight – it felt normal to you. Maybe you started to believe that this is just how relationships work whether it be family, romantic partners, or coworkers.

The truth is, narcissistic abuse hijacks your amygdala. This is the part of your brain responsible for regulating basic functions – like breathing and heart rate, as well as primal emotions. This is your impulsive “reptilian brain” that tells you when to feel anger, fear, love, lust, and hate.

If the other parts of your brain didn’t run smoothly and keep the amygdala in check, people would behave like animals.

But the amygdala has another important task: it regulates your fight-or-flight response.

As a victim of narcissistic abuse, you constantly lived in this state of fear. You were constantly responding to abuse and trauma. Since your hippocampus has shrunk and isn’t functioning properly, you can’t respond to external stressors constructively.

It’s a vicious cycle that keeps you locked in for the long haul.

You’ve been living in constant fear for a long time – that’s why it’s so important that you understand how to finally overcome the fear.

What Do the Effects Look Like?

Identifying the symptoms is extremely difficult when you’re in the throes of narcissistic abuse because you will do anything to justify your situation as normal due to the addiction you’ve developed. Also, the symptoms look different depending on whether you’re still experiencing the trauma or trying to move on with your life.

While you’re suffering from abuse, symptoms might include the following:

  • Denial: Making excuses and believing your toxic relationship is normal.
  • Compartmentalizing: Brushing the abuse aside and focusing on the elusive “good times.”
  • Projecting: Imagining the narcissist has positive qualities that you possess yourself.

Once you’re out on your own, figuring out how to overcome fear, you might notice symptoms crop up at unexpected times:

  • Responding to people’s questions defensively
  • Behaving irrationally or impulsively
  • Over-apologizing
  • Paranoia and feeling like everyone is watching your every move
  • Feeling depressed, lost, or without a purpose

These feelings are very standard. You’re going through exactly what so many other survivors of narcissistic abuse have gone through. The narcissist controlled you for a long time, and you need to allow yourself time to truly heal from both the physical and mental trauma.

How to Overcome Fear from Psychological Narcissistic Abuse

Healing from the psychological damage from a narcissist takes plenty of time and dedication. And, you may still experience some symptoms years down the road when people, places, and things trigger memories of the trauma and abuse.

The good news is that you’ll be stronger than before, and you’ll have the ability to spot narcissistic traits before another abuser weasels their way into your life.

In order to truly heal yourself from narcissistic abuse, you need to understand how to overcome fear and develop some tactics and coping tools:

  • Meditation: According to research from Harvard, eight weeks of mindfulness meditation can rewire the brain to encourage empathy, resilience to stress, better memory, and a sense of self.
  • Therapy: Group or one-on-one therapy can help provide you with a fresh third-party perspective. This is something you desperately need after years of narcissistic abuse warping your perception of yourself and the world around you. Just be sure to find someone who is familiar with emotional abuse and trauma.
  • Support: If your friends have good relationships with the narcissist, they can’t provide you with the support you need. These are relationships that must be severed. You’re better off leaning on friends who will validate your feelings and won’t blame you for any of the abuse you experienced. Support groups are also a great idea if you can find any in your area.  However, be aware that local Meetup groups may not be the best route as many times, they feature people who masquerade as healers when they’re really narcissists out to exploit you.
  • Generosity: Helping someone is a tremendous way to get yourself outside and develop a fresh, yet realistic perspective of your place in the world. This can be something as big as volunteering at a charitable organization on the weekends to helping your mom or dad around the house.
  • Gratitude: Addicts in recovery are always encouraged to identify things they’re grateful for on a daily basis. Focus on the positive aspects in your life now that the narcissist prohibited you from experiencing in the past, such as basic privacy and relationships with others. What do you love most about your newfound freedom today?
  • Keep a Journal: You don’t need to log every moment of every day – but when something knocks you off your base, write it down. This will help you notice trigger patterns and areas you can work on.
  • Self-Care: This sounds pretty basic but in reality, it’s anything but that. You spent so long giving your whole life and identity to the narcissist – it’s time to make time for yourself. Do something the narcissist always said you couldn’t do!

Set Yourself Free from the Patterns of Narcissistic Abuse and Fear!

The key is to develop a personalized healing plan that works for you which helps you develop your relaxation response and learn to self-soothe. Everyone suffers from PTSD differently, so your treatment needs to create an environment where your mental health can flourish.

Ready to overcome fear after narcissistic abuse once and for all? Check out The Break Free Bootcamp to start your journey on the path to recovery.

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Leave a Comment:

D-Intreatment says December 17, 2021

So where do you start, if it can be done at all, with repair/strengthening the hippocampus & amygdala from the physical damages done by the depression/anxiety developed from the narcs assault on your psyche? I never found speech difficult until after my ordeal with a narc. Not even related to the trauma I can be talking & stop mid-sentence or even word because I’ve forgotten suddenly what I was saying. I forget what was just said to me even after repeating it to myself. This has got to be something more than normal brain aging I’m not that old.

Colleen Finley says July 12, 2021

And it would be good to mention “love” – these people actually find “love” to be a negative emotion, and stay away from it at all costs. Yes, they are superb at convincing people they are expert lovers. They can’t get intimately close to anyone any other way!

Colleen Finley says July 12, 2021

Victims need to know NOT to tell abuser they know. Took me a few years of intense research to find the ex is a Sociopath. I told him, which of course made the abuse much worse. Their GOAL is to take what they need and run – without anyone noticing their mask. After several years and thousands of dollars of therapy, I’ve almost got ME back. When you think you are being abused, you are. So RUN RUN RUN as fast as you can!

Anonymous says July 8, 2020

My son’s are 16 & 20. Neither one could do well in school because of all the screaming, slamming, throwing and threatening going on. Also the constant disappointments, let downs of empty promises. Not ever having anything fun to look forward to. Everyone else’s family going on trips and so on. Our lives consisted of dad going to play golf spring through fall on day off and nothing with us or them. It’s now 8 months separated. My older son is displaying excessive over the top fear. I don’t know how to help him without making him think that I am blaming his dad. Dad has brainwashed them to think I am the one who is just miserable and breaking up the family. He did the most disturbing verbal abuse to me right in front of them. I do not want this having them feel like its him or me.

Angela says March 24, 2020

Hi Kim

I removed myself from the 2 narcs in our family. However how do set 100% no contact! .. I dont want to lose my other loving family members which narcs try to use as flying monkeys.

Looking foward to your response.

    Danielle says April 19, 2021

    I had to walk away from 3 narcs in my family and my ex narc … they all hated eachother but when I started to recognize all their toxic behaviors and stand up for myself they banded together and slander me, call me crazy and on and on. I did the best thing to walk away because I tried everything to get along and realized they just want to abuse.

Jennifer says December 16, 2019

Hi Kim. Thank you very much for this article. This is a question I’ve asked myself and others for quite some time now. I have been involved in divorce litigation with my ex for 4-1/2 years and it is still not completed yet. It your opinion, do you believe it is possible to not be afraid any more when you are still involved in family court? I would greatly appreciate you sharing your opinion. thank you in advance for your consideration.

    Susan Ann Johnson-Raine says August 26, 2022

    Hi I got a Facebook page up when I was reading things to do with Narcissists, it was an ex Judge I think but he is a lawyer by the name of Anthony Bompiani he was saying about divorcing a narcissist and if you have children etc he might be able to help put his name in Facebook and see if you can find him. Hope it helps xx

Michelle says November 20, 2019

It has been over 90 days no contact since the convenient circumstance of prison. It makes it so much easier to not give in to tricks or lies. I am using this time to learn how to overcome this for good. In the background I do fear his release as I have some of his belongings and want him to have his things back without contact. I have to be honest though, I cannot get it through my head for good that he doesn’t really love me. This is aggravating for me, as i really do believe all Kim’s truths.

    Samantha Nelson says September 26, 2021

    Michelle, please. Take it from me… If his family won’t take his zhit n his friends won’t either… Dump it. Trust me, it will only be used against you either way and it only keeps you connected to him longer. Been there. It’s not fun. Please don’t make my mistake. They don’t deserve it. And no, they never loved us. But we learn to live ourselves if we do the work inside to get there and that makes all this so worth it once you do.
    Sending lots of love and light!

    Susan Ann Johnson-Raine says August 26, 2022

    Hi it is hard to believe they don’t love you but it was fake from the beginning, I had to come to terms with it all and that was hard for me, after 17.5 years the last 4.5 years living under his roof. But when I realised I had spent 17.5 years of my life in love with him and he not with me. I realised I had wasted all that time, then I realised if I think like that, then I might as well be dead. But I am still here because I realised how could I love a fake persona from the beginning – I can’t and am not. So I have taken that time as a learning curve. And realised eventually when I meet someone who is deserving of me and me of him – my love will be pure not tainted by that jerk of a narcissist. I realised everything he said from our first phone call was a lie a fake. They are incapable of love – remember that when you think of it, you fell in love like I did with someone who does not exist, he was an illusion but think if you need to that you loved the fake one he was perfect a dream and that is what that fake one was a dream. But then for me so is Colin Firth and a dam site better looking no contest who I dream of especially when he swam the pond in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. x

Joan says October 12, 2019

My narc has us all walking around on eggshells. I believe I have PTSD. I jump when he walks in from work. The anxiety is awful. The entire atmosphere of our home changes when he’s here. We never know what will set him off. Most of the abuse is directed at ME , behind closed doors, of course. I wish I could get to the point of indifference with him, but I feel I am trauma bonded.

    Susan Ann Johnson-Raine says August 26, 2022

    You do have PTSD and you are trauma bonded but please I beg you to follow the exist plans that a lot of people have published and I think that Kim has also done one. You say us – so there are children involved, they too are being damaged. YOU and THEM need to leave if it’s dangerous for you then find someone he doesn’t know or a family member who you can trust ask them to help you with an escape plan. or research how you do it but if you or the children are in danger – then please contact your local police unless he is friends with someone from that station, then you need to use the domestic abuse helpline – good luck xx

Rick says June 25, 2019

Hi Kim I had a friendship for 22 years with this guy. Never new he was a narcissist. We met 1987 to 2009. In 2010 he had property of mine to hold for me because I was moving to another city. He left a voice mail on my phone saying. I have your property I am not going to sell it. I believed him. Two weeks later I was looking in the recycler for apartments because I was planning to move again to be closer to my job where I worked at. I was curious at looking at the music section under electric guitars. I was a guitar player in a band called Mournblade with the narcissist who was the vocalist in the band. My equipment was in the recycler for sale. This guy sold my equipment behind my back. I found out and wrote a letter to this guy. I said in the letter. You said you we not going to sell my equipment. I said in the letter that he is a %ucking liar. After that he ghosted me and then disappeared from 2010 to 2018 By this time I had done my research on the internet about Narcissistic abuse and the narcissist. He came back after 8 years later so now I know he discarded me like a piece of trash. He abandoned me and left me for dead and then he comes back and acts like nothing happened. Now I know everything about the narcissist the enablers and the flying monkeys. He does not know that I know. I told him I am moving on with my life. I did not call him out on him being a narcissist. After I left. Now he was stalking me on facebook so I blocked him. I have a good reliable source that he is coming to visit me sometime in July. I have been narc free for 8 months now and I have healed from this and I am feeling happy again. This was a blessing in disquise. It lead me to the woman of my dreams. I met my soulmate in 2018 and we are going to be building a life together. It was love at first sight for both of us. We are planning in the future to settle down and start our own family. We want to get married in the near future. Ps. I know the narcissist has a false self and the friendship I had with him was a lie for 22 years. Kim I wanted to share my story with you. I know I will never go back because It was all a lie and this person was in the army national guard for 20 years he went to 3 deployments and comes back as a hero. You can’t be a hero by day and be a narcissist and you are destroying people’s lives behind closed doors. This hero is a disgrace to the uniform.

Tiffany Greenhalgh says May 12, 2019

Hi it is so great to have somewhere to go for more knowledge my hell I’ve thought I have had a delusional life until finally I was able to get a little proof I’m not crazy now k need to get out and that is scary I’ve trusted everything to him physically financially mentally so I feel pretty screwed right now so that you for any help you can give me

How To Overcome Fear After Psychological Narcissistic Abuse, by Kim Saeed | AMother'sHeartSongsUnsilenced says April 11, 2019

[…] “Understanding how to overcome fear is a crucial part of narcissistic abuse recovery.  As you wander out into the world free from the narcissist’s chains, you might feel, well, off.  You probably find yourself second-guessing every decision you make. Maybe you’ve noticed your behavior is more impulsive than you remember.  This is normal.”  How To Overcome Fear After Psychological Narcissistic Abuse […]

xyreneah says February 14, 2019

ive been in a life of lies cycle/narcicssistic world the past 17 years of my life. as what i am now, i am totally destroyed and lose evrything coz of him. im a singer in a band ive been travelling around asia since year 2000 until january 2013 and i have nothings left even my voice to speak, my children has taken away from me. all i see is he has to always have incontrol and the power over me. his way or no way at all. ive been through all kinds/ types of painful and so hurtful behaviour with him. learned to manage deppression, post narc stress disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, to stop my perfect lover illussion just to be okay and happy to get through the next day after i learn what and who they really are and what is really going on. i am not sure what has god plan for me but i am on my way to make things right, get evrything back, be true to myself and go back to what i am. it is never easy to heal its never easy to start back to zero and chose the hardest decision. were married and have 2 children. to those who suffered/ still there suffering with these type of toxic individual. all i can say is be strong, you need an extra ordinary bravery to get out of this. you have to fight for yourself and save your children if you have children, its a hard choice but its never too late to make things right. they will never stop behaving that way, they will never change. they are who they are in their head and you have nothing to do with that. all you can do is to save yourself and the children to get get out of their delusional world/ life of lies/ illussions. also be careful with the trap, trap is evrywhere, they will always use all their advantages to get you back 🙂 i call it “exhale hoovs hoovs” because after you say no like a boss they will become so lovely and a only perfect one for you that ready to die and give the whole world to you just to let him back after they feel you are back to their world again.. evrything is all the same so evrytime he tries to put up a trap i remind myself to “exhale xy, its hoovs hoovs” lol and ofcourse i wanted to say thank you so much to miss kim for all the help i just hope she knows how she made me strong. 🙂 lots of love.. xyreneah here.. from phillipines 🙂

Catherine Wilson says February 9, 2019

How does one free oneself from toxic abuse,when other parties can speak to each other using mental telepathy where one party seems to be in the others body abusing her physically with pain , because she is an imperfect person and needs to completely take over her life and judges her every move he even knows I’m writing this email too you, he is constantly Here knowing every move I make I might even be abused for writing this!

    Suzie says February 19, 2019

    Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and make a get away plan. Then just do it. Run, hide. Get mad, don’t be afraid. Pray and get the strength if I could do it so can you!

    Robin says September 24, 2019

    Omg I feel the same way you do. He knows everything I do. He has had me followed, reads my texts , checks phone calls, etc. he had left me stranded, when suffering depression he would tell me how worthless I am. If another man looks at me, he punishes me and I get ignored again. He has done this silent treatment for months on end. Every friend I’ve had he hates, tried to keep me away from my family, every vacation ruined, won’t show me any affection even though I’ve asked for him too. Recently, I fell and broke two ribs. Yelled for help and he finally came all pissed off. He tried to pull me up but I screamed in pain and he was going to leave me there. I asked him to get me to the sofa. It was just awful. And he didn’t care!

    Donna says October 10, 2019

    Just block the person. I have the skill of telepathy. You can psychically protect yourself. They can only get in if you allow it.

    Just Google it. Under psychic protection

Ruth Louis says January 27, 2019

Hello Kim, my name Is Ruthy jaye! I was in a narcisstic friendship and believe me it has been a long journey. I love him BUT I KNOW h is no good for me i pray to God everyday to break the hold that he has on me. I have had dreams that he was trying to kill me. I am sometimes scared of what he can do to me

Renee says January 23, 2019

Sincerely thank you Kim,
Your emails help me tremendously, I’m so grateful for your kindness, understanding/empathy and highly educated informative guidence. I’m also genuinely sorry that you had to experience your own trauma from a toxic relationship with a narcissist. Words don’t even cut it but I know I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, not even the narcissist themselves.
Thank you Kim & I look forward to my next session tomorrow night.
Kindest regards Renee

    Kim Saeed says January 26, 2019

    Renee, thank you so much for your kind praise. I am thankful to know my emails are helping you. Wishing you all of life’s blessings as you continue to heal.

    Kim XoXo

Anonymous says January 22, 2019

Great article and so helpful!!! Thank you Kim.

Beverly says January 22, 2019

Thank you again Kim for your spot-on, EXCELLENT support! I hope it is ok to list you as a source in my book that I am writing, which will be out this year. You are helping thousands of us ‘survivors’. Bless you sweetheart!!!!!!

    Kim Saeed says January 22, 2019

    Wow, thank you, Beverly! That would be an honor! Best of luck with your book. Wishing you great success!

    Kim XoXo

    Les says January 24, 2019

    Hello Beverly, How will I find out when you publish your book ( title, author’s name ) this year. Thank you, Les

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