narcissistic victim syndrome

14 Signs You’re Experiencing Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

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If you’ve ever been with a narcissist, you understand the first-hand struggle of feeling disrespected and manipulated. At the same time, you know what it’s like to desperately hope that they will change their ways. 

Narcissistic victim syndrome can occur when you’re in a relationship with a narcissist. This relationship can be either familial, romantic, or platonic. Many times, people don’t recognize they’re in this whirlwind until they’re completely immersed in it. 

Insight is key. It’s important to know if you’re in the midst of this vicious cycle. Let’s review some of the telltale signs.

1 – You Keep Hoping Things Will Get Better 

The narcissist declares all those convincing promises. They assure you that they’re going to change and be the person you always wanted them to be. And you want to believe them- of course, you do!

This fantasy isn’t just irrational, but it can also be dangerous. You’re allowing the narcissist to mistreat you under the pretense that it won’t last that way forever. Additionally, you’re disregarding your emotional safety based on what could happen in the future.

Make no mistake about it- Narcissists aren’t dumb. They know what you want. 

They spend a great deal of time and energy learning your interests and desires. But this is all part of their calculated approach. They don’t want to know these things to make you happy. They want to know these things in case they need to use them against you. 

2 – You Make Comments Like, “That’s Just The Way They Are”

Some people might argue that they have accepted the narcissist’s behavior. This can happen whether you’re in a narcissistic friendship or trying to make amends with a narcissistic ex. 

And even if you have accepted their behavior, are you assuming that they have no accountability for their actions? Is it fair to embrace their personality, even if it hurts other people?

Many times, people struggling with narcissistic victim syndrome try to convince themselves that they need to be more accepting. Often, narcissists reinforce this notion by trying to make you feel sorry for them. They may exaggerate traumas or difficulties just to gain your sympathy and approval. 

3 – You Lie To Other People About What’s Going On

Do you downplay the stress at home? Do you make it sound like everything is just peachy?

This lying aims to serve several purposes. First, you might not want others judging you or your relationship with the narcissist. You also don’t want others feeling sorry for you. Subsequently, you might be trying to convince yourself things aren’t that bad. 

4 – You Question Your Reality (Often)

  • I never said that. You must have misunderstood me.
  • I think you’re overreacting. Nobody else would think that way.
  • This is crazy. You’re being irrational.

Narcissists are experts in gaslighting the people around them. Gaslighting occurs when the narcissist makes you “feel crazy.” Instead of taking personal responsibility over their actions, they shift the blame onto you.

Over time, the gaslighting becomes so common that you naturally do it to yourself. In other words, you guilt yourself before they even say a word.

5 – You No Longer Feel Like You Have an Identity

Narcissists can seem larger than life, and their energy often zaps the people around them.

When you’re caught up in their drama, it’s easy to lose sight of your own needs, preferences, and desires. This is especially true in romantic relationships, where the narcissist’s priorities always come first. 

After a few months or years in this pattern, you may just start giving up altogether. It feels more comfortable to just do what they want without making a fuss. 

6 – You Keep Numbing Yourself 

Whether it’s with drugs or alcohol, compulsive shopping or food, many people numb themselves to escape their feelings. If you’re struggling with these habits, it could be a sign of narcissistic victim syndrome. You may feel so helpless that you choose to escape yourself rather than cope with the distressing emotions. 

Unfortunately, narcissists tend to recognize this behavior quickly. However, they can then use it against you in statements like, You’re an alcoholic! You’re spending all my money. I can’t believe you’ve gained this much weight- you’ve really let yourself go. 

Of course, these putdowns trigger immense shame. And the shame then encourages you to engage in those numbing behaviors even more!

7 – You Feel Exhausted All The Time

It’s no secret that being with a narcissist can be downright tiring! They require so much energy and attention- even if they’re just sitting in the same room as you.

Additionally, you’re always “on alert” around them. At any given moment, their mood may shift, and they expect you to respond.

Or, they may change plans suddenly and want you to go along with them. It can feel like you’re running on a treadmill and getting nowhere. 

8 – You Start Picking More and More Fights With Them

Sometimes, victims want to “prove themselves” by arguing with the narcissist. At first glance, this seems like a step in the right direction. It may even feel empowering!

But when you’re arguing with a narcissist, you aren’t on the same playing field. In fact, you aren’t even playing the same game in the same state! You’re in their world, and they make the rules (and then change them whenever they want).

It’s almost like arguing with a toddler, except we all know that toddlers eventually grow up! The narcissist stays the same. 

9 – You Keep Trying to Make Changes to Impress Them

Are you on another diet? Have you decided you’re going to keep the house immaculate 24/7? Are you committing to becoming a more patient wife or mother? 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself. You deserve to feel happy and healthy, and achieving goals can boost your confidence. But keep in mind that the narcissist is gifted in making you seem like the problem. Therefore, it’s no wonder that victims often blame themselves for the distress they feel. 

Of course, your intentions to prove yourself may be virtuous. You want to make them happier, so you focus on something that you assume will bring them happiness. But it doesn’t work the way you intend. They may be impressed for a few moments, but it’s never enough. They find something else to feel angry about. 

Additionally, they may try to sabotage your success. Narcissists tend to feel threatened when their victims feel more empowered. They can sense that you’re starting to change. 

10 – You Replace Them With Another Narcissist 

You may think you’ve freed yourself from one problem. Unfortunately, you may find yourself in the exact same dynamic with someone else.

On a subconscious level, we tend to seek familiarity. This desire speaks to why so many children of narcissists grow up to be narcissists or date narcissists. It’s a way to recreate what they already know.

Additionally, the narcissistic behavior isn’t always apparent. Many narcissists work extremely hard to charm and intrigue their victims. Or, they may tone down their attitude and convince you that they are normal and unassuming. Either way, you may think you’re in the clear until their true selves emerge.

11 – You Are Indecisive About Everything

Forget important life-changing decisions. Of course, those can feel challenging. However, sometimes, it can feel impossible to choose what you want to eat for dinner. 

When you’re stuck in narcissistic victim syndrome, you’re used to someone else making the decisions for you. The narcissist calls the shots. Even when they ask for your opinion, you may feel like you’re constantly guessing and hoping you satisfy them.

12 – You No Longer Have Meaningful Relationships With Other People

Everything is centered around the narcissist and their needs.

On the one hand, you may feel too exhausted to enjoy emotional intimacy with other people. On the other hand, the narcissist often wants to separate victims from their support systems. They fear exposure and don’t want other people to be too close to you. If they’re too close, they might understand the severity of the narcissist’s dysfunction. 

13 – You Convince Yourself to Be Grateful 

  • He works hard and supports me financially!
  • She’s my mother and raised me alone.
  • He’s a good dad, and the kids love him.

Do any of these statements sound familiar? If so, they may be your methods of rationalizing the narcissist’s cruel behavior. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, you try to distract yourself with reasons why you should appreciate them more. Additionally, if the narcissist senses tension, they tend to become more aggressive in proving how lucky you are to have them.

14 – You Fantasize About Their Death or Other Morbid Events

Although this may seem dark, many people struggling with narcissistic victim syndrome feel like a catastrophe is their only way out of the madness.  You may believe something tragic is your only answer. 

This response can happen when you don’t feel confident enough to leave. It can also occur when you feel worried about the consequences associated with leaving. 

Of course, death is the ultimate solution. But how long do you really want to wait for relief? And even if they do die, that doesn’t necessarily absolve you of your feelings. 

Breaking Free From Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

Even if you’re struggling with narcissistic victim syndrome, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to this destiny forever. You can restore your sense of control. You can embrace a healthier way of living and loving.

Whether you’re just discovering you are dealing with narcissistic abuse or are trying to heal from a narcissistic relationship, here are a couple of helpful resources:  

1 – The Break Free Program – Explore techniques derived from behavioral therapy (vetted by the psychological and neuro-psychological communities) to finally heal your life.

2 – The THRIVE program – THRIVE starts with nurturing the most important relationship you’ll ever have – the one with yourself. We’ll dive into practical exercises and strategies to boost your self-worth, confidence, and appreciation for the amazing person you are.

The Bottom Line

Everyone has the innate capacity to heal themselves. But, it’s likely you will need external support to heal the traumas that get in the way of your ability to tune into this gift.⠀Helpful tools and resources can assist you in developing effective ways to break free from narcissistic abuse. 

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Pamela Africa says December 1, 2023

I definitely suffer from narcissistic victim abuse syndrome and I am struggling emensly just to survive from day to day with this man. (My husband) I know i should have left him a long long time ago, but I have suffered many tragedies in my life and i don’t know if i can survive leaving him. I am so exhausted with down and lack the strength, energy, and faith that i will succeed. Im so scared. I hate the thought of having to go through with a no contact break up, but i also hate the thought of staying in the relationship. I am damned if i do and damned if i don’t. It’s taken a real toll on my health which continues to deteriorate. HELP ME!!!… PLEASE!!! 😭🙏💔

Karen says November 24, 2021

Only just today our daughter visited her brother and partner . I finely admit he is getting just as nasty as her and stubborn. I am now ashamed of our son they are a pair together. Our sons partner still having digs sarcasm and snooping for info about our daughters new house. We thought it odd that our son contacted our daughter first this he never does!. Our daughter turns up and she is treated to question after question about her new house plus knowing our daughter did not buy a cottage asked constantly is it a cottage knowing it wasn’t. Our daughter worked so hard with a bad heart condition to buy and put a deposit down when our sons partner hasn’t ever worked from leaving school she lives on our son. They already have a great big xmas tree up but our son never really bought us anything but gives her a real tree and it will be our second Christmas not seeing our grandson after I had a breakdown. He has been suspended from work but thankfully found another job which she bragged stated far more money!. Why are narcs complete bitches are daughter has not seen her brother for months but was question all about the house with a big scar down her chest never asked how she was doing or her parents (us) I am on meds and can only eat certain foods) his dad ill also ileostomy bag life intensive care op along with his sister and on lots of meds all three of us at risk. They only gave her a drink no food biscuit, cake nothing yet bragged about money and the big tree yet these two and I include my son only offered her a drink. They spend all their time and money on themselves. . We helped them move and she complained that she wanted the money for her and not to waste it on us. We were dirty tired and worked including me who is ill and our daughter with a illness and her partner broke a rib but she did not want to feed us, son did but that was a one off with him. all about them so selfish. Todays visit mentioned her best friend who has been nothing but nasty to me and my daughter so why bring her up. Frankly that is all she talks about almost an obsession . Our son starts his new job on my birthday pleased for him but I bet the bitch is happy another excuse to stay away. I will state and I want to get this off my chest the woman is a bitch and will never change no wonder I snapped I just lost it to much patience and for what, a woman who is greedy and an un caring bitch and frankly our son goes along with it. It hurts so much I feel I have failed I have not treated either o f our children different his father and me also tried and been loving but at school our daughter was treated different to him so I wonder if this made a difference. Our partners son has cut her family off rivalry she says her mum favored her sister and not her and stated her dad is an alcoholic I feel sorry for her and tried to be kind but just kept getting knocked back along with our daughter and my husband and every time she is rude our son sticks up for her behavior and has almost become her sadly. It hurts it really hurts and I feel responsible for our son and his behavior but they only contact when they have something to tell us or they want to know something about us to criticize. Our daughter feels she has had enough they have their little world and do not care about others all totally about them . I feel like at the moment I want to go to bed and shut the world out but then again I must be improving because like our daughter states nothing has changed they haven’t changed.

Carrie Cantone says January 19, 2021

I’m a big fan! Bent, not broken 3 years out of abuse still fighting for custody. Haven’t seen kids in 2 years. I have the bootcamp, can’t seem to stay with it! I’m struggling with WHY I can’t stand up for myself against his attacks & lies? I have the ammunition, just huge anxiety to use it. I need to get info to my GAL to help my boys but yet I struggle. In your story it seemed so easy for you to document, organize, stand up for yourself & fight back. I have to get past this for the sake of my kids. Every day he continues to have them they suffer from his control & abuse. Any insight on this self sabotage & how to overcome?

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