Though less recognizable than physical abuse, emotional abuse can be significantly damaging to individuals who experience it. Emotional abuse can leave lasting psychological and mental health scars that need healing just as physical abuse does. One form of emotional abuse comes from those with a narcissistic personality disorder. Those who suffer from these abuse experience problems, such as post narcissistic stress disorder (PNSD).

Post narcissistic stress disorder is a specific form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  This disorder derives specifically from emotional, mental, and psychological abuse that takes place over a period. Many mental health professionals consider it more complicated than other forms of PTSD.

It is difficult to identify and can be challenging to heal from. However, once someone knows the red flags, it is easier to address the root cause of the symptoms. Thus, people can begin to heal from the emotional abuse.

What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

A narcissistic personality disorder is a rare personality disorder characterized by an individual’s inflated sense of self-importance and the behaviors that derive from that. As a result of the individual’s perception of self, the narcissist is likely to have difficulty with healthy relationships and have a deep need for excessive admiration and attention. Some symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Exaggerated perception of self-importance
  • An exaggerated sense of entitlement
  • Excessive need for admiration and attention
  • Belief about own superiority
  • The expectation of behaviors from others that adhere to an inflated sense of self
  • The belief that others envy them
  • Envy of others, hidden or disguised to appear superior.
  • Behave in a proud, vain, or arrogant manner due to inflated sense of self
  • Be unable or unwilling to recognize and act on the feelings and needs of others.
  • Presenting self with superficial symbols of success, such as the best technology, cars, etc., to align with the sense of entitlement and inflated ego

While this personality disorder does not mean that a person will be emotionally abusive, many narcissists can be prone to treating others poorly because of the way they perceive themselves and their relationships with others. The abuse that comes from narcissists is often different, including more covert than what occurs in other relationships.

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What is narcissist abuse?

While not all narcissists are mentally or emotionally abusive, many are. This is due in large part to the way they view themselves and others. Since those with this personality disorder are unable or unwilling to recognize the feelings and needs of others, their behaviors put themselves first.

As a result, they often manipulate others to get what they want, including making them feel bad if they do not comply. Some narcissists can be more overt in their emotional abuse, using name-calling and other tactics.

However, most narcissists are more covert. Since narcissists use manipulation tactics to get what they want, it can be hard for victims to recognize the behaviors as abusive until they are out of the situation or have loved ones who help them identify the negative reactions.

Besides, this type of emotional abuse can be particularly insidious because those with a narcissistic personality disorder can behave like chameleons, adapting their behavior based on the people they interact with.

As a result, they may be utterly charming with certain people and emotionally toxic to others. This changing behavior means that people may not believe the survivor of narcissistic abuse when they try to reach out for support and help.

Six Signs of Post Narcissistic Stress Disorder

Recognizing signs of PNSD can make a big difference in helping identify the effects of emotional pain and abuse from a narcissistic personality can be an excellent place to start in healing. It is important to remember that PNSD manifests differently for each person.

Survivors exhibit signs that depend heavily on the emotional abuses sustained, the individual’s personality, and many other factors. However, there are red flags that are common among most people.

Understanding these red flags, and their potential long-term effects can help people begin to recover from abuse from a narcissist.

post narcissistic stress disorder

1. High, continued anxiety

Those who experience emotional pain and abuse due to a narcissist typically experience high levels of continuous anxiety. Emotional abuse often leaves the survivor feeling off-balance because of the way the abuser manipulates situations to achieve their ends.

They worry about the abuser’s reaction, doing or saying the wrong thing, and attempting to keep the peace. This hyper-vigilant state can lead to chronic anxiety, even after the narcissist is no longer abusing the individual.

Individuals can even develop anxiety disorders due to PNSD, such as social anxiety disorder or specific phobias.

2. Avoidance behavior

Avoidance behaviors also often arise when a narcissist emotionally abuses an individual. Specifically, those with PNSD avoid actions that cause anxiety or remind them of the experiences they had with narcissists in the past.

In severe cases, avoidance behaviors can lead to struggles with daily living, such as being unable to leave the house. It may also lead to an individual not setting healthy boundaries to avoid negative experiences, which can result in further emotional pain and abuse.

For many, the more certain experiences are avoided, the harder it is to return to regular daily routines. As a result, what begins as a way to cope with negative emotions can become a severe problem.

3. Overwhelming feelings of shame or guilt

Since narcissists often manipulate and use people to get what they want, those with post narcissistic stress disorder experience feelings of shame and guilt. The reasons behind these feelings vary based on what individuals have gone through.

Some feel guilt and shame because of the way their abusers treat them and speak to them. Others feel this way because they allowed themselves to be treated that way without realizing the damaging effects until much later.

The longer an individual is in a relationship with a narcissist, the worse these feelings of guilt or shame can become. These feelings can also lead to symptoms of depression and a sense of being a failure.

4. Inaccurate perceptions of self, past, and relationships

One of the ways a narcissist manipulates victims is through a method called gaslighting, which is a way of causing someone to doubt their perceptions of events and their memories. This is a way for the narcissist to maintain control over their victim.

After going through this, particularly over a long period of time, someone with post narcissistic stress disorder will likely doubt themselves frequently, including in other relationships.

This can make it difficult for survivors to overcome their insecurities; they may need frequent reassurances from loved ones that they remember things correctly or that their perceptions of events are accurate.

5. Avoidance of intimate relationships

Post narcissist stress disorder often occurs in intimate relationships, such as spouses or parent-child relationships. This can significantly impact an individual’s ability to engage in successful, healthy intimate relationships.

Survivors of narcissistic abuse are afraid that they will be treated the same as they were in their toxic relationship. As a result, they may be more closed off emotionally. Plus, they find it difficult to be happy in a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships and support systems are essential for recovery from PNSD. Therefore, further abusive behavior slows down the healing process.

6. Nightmares, flashbacks, and reliving past experiences

Post narcissistic stress disorder is similar to PTSD. And some common signs of PTSD are nightmares, flashbacks, and reliving past experiences. Survivors of narcissistic abuse may be triggered by conversations, events, sounds, or any number of things, even a smell that is familiar.

The triggers for these flashbacks or nightmares vary based on the individual and what they went through the abusive narcissist. These flashbacks can lead to panic attacks, avoidance behaviors, and other symptoms of PNSD.

It is very difficult to control these symptoms except through a treatment program that addresses the causes of the symptoms, such as therapy.

post narcissistic stress disorder
Final Thoughts on Managing Post Narcissistic Stress Disorder

Narcissist abuse can be insidious and painful for anyone who experiences it. Over even a short period of time, emotional abuse can lead to serious emotional and mental problems. Indeed, one such result is post narcissistic stress disorder.

The signs of this disorder, which primarily focus on how the survivor adapts based on their interactions with the narcissist, vary based on the individual, with common signs that occur for most people.

Most often, individuals who experience narcissistic abuse experience multiple signs that point to post narcissistic stress disorder. However, if you are unaware of narcissistic abuse or PNSD, it can be hard to recognize the danger of your negative situation.

Indeed, you might not even recognize the help needed to get out of it. But by recognizing these red flags of PNSD, you can start to see your situation as it is. From there, you can seek help and begin to heal from the emotional abuse.