What is Post Narcissist Stress Disorder (PNSD)?
Much like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PNSD is a disorder that comes about after one has been living in close proximity to a narcissist. Living with a narcissist can be extremely taxing on a person. Narcissists tend to be extremely manipulative and abusive. They will often gaslight their victims and make everything about their own feelings.
After getting free of a narcissist’s influence, people can often experience a period of helplessness, anxiety, anger, or depression, much like what happens after a traumatic event. People with PNSD react much like people who have PTSD. There are three major signs for someone who is suffering from Post Narcissist Stress Disorder.
Here Are 3 Signs Someone Is Suffering from Post Narcissist Stress Disorder
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive.” – Danielle Bernock
Much like PTSD, PNSD can also cause the survivor of the narcissist to have flashbacks to their time with them. This can happen for any reason. There are things called “triggers”, which can be any range of things. These triggers cause a person to “flashback” to their time with the narcissist.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists Public Education Committee, “You find yourself re-living the event, again and again. This can happen both as a ‘flashback’ in the day and as nightmares when you are asleep. These can be so realistic that it feels as though you are living through the experience all over again.” Triggers can be certain smells, certain places, certain behavior, or even certain sounds or words.
Many people who suffer from PNSD may have a hard time dealing with other people’s emotions because a narcissist will often fly into a rage at the drop of the hat. Someone suffering from PNSD may be triggered into a flashback when they perceive someone as being upset or angry with them. The survivor may also get flashbacks to periods of manipulation from the narcissist.
This may lead to extreme paranoia, where they wonder if the people around them are manipulating them. It may feel like they’re playing a game they just can’t win, even if no one around them has an ulterior motive.
Someone who is suffering from PNSD may become avoidant of any number of things. This avoidance may manifest in an avoidance of people, places, things, activities, or even emotions. Narcissists tend to control their victims, using manipulation and anger to keep someone under their control. Even once the survivor is free from the narcissist’s power, they may still exhibit PNSD in the form of avoidance.
Often times, the survivor will avoid things that remind them of the narcissist’s anger or things they weren’t allowed to do while under the narcissist’s influence. They may also become emotionally avoidant. People who are victims of a narcissist will often be gaslighted into believing that their emotions are damaging to the narcissist. This may lead to someone with PNSD to be distant from their emotions because they had to learn not to feel anything to survive the narcissist.
3. Difficulty returning to normal life
One of the major symptoms of both PTSD and PNSD is an extreme difficulty returning to normal life. For a person who is trying to return to day-to-day life after living with a narcissist, this may include anything from paranoia to panic attacks, to depression. Living with a narcissist can be extremely overwhelming, and someone who does so has to shift their expectations of day-to-day life.
They often have to learn to adapt to a “new normal.” Afterward, when they’re removed from the narcissist’s influence, the survivor may find it difficult to adjust to life again. They may have panic attacks or question their own memories and observations.
But there’s good news. According to Mayo Clinic, “Most people who go through traumatic events may have temporary difficulty adjusting and coping, but with time and good self-care, they usually get better.”
How to Help Someone Suffering from Post Narcissist Stress Disorder
Knowing the symptoms of PNSD can be incredibly helpful, especially when you’re trying to figure out what can be done to aid a survivor of a narcissist. Here are some ways to make the life of a survivor easier and help their transition from living with a narcissist to living their lives again.
Survivors will want to tell their truth as they remember it. Allow them to speak. Listen to them and validate what they’re saying. WikiHow states, “Use active listening. Don’t interrupt but try to repeat what you hear in order to make sure you understand. Let the conversation end if it becomes too intense.”
Make sure they know that you hear them. It can be incredibly valuable to the healing process for a survivor to be heard.
2. Validate their emotions
They may be feeling all over the place, but the important part is they are feeling. Emotions aren’t “good” or “bad”. They’re neutral and important to our survival. If a survivor tells you that they’re feeling angry, or hurt, or afraid, listen to them and validate how they’re feeling. Even if the emotion isn’t appropriate for the situation, survivors often have to relearn how to use their emotions.
3. Support them
People who exit a relationship or living situation with a narcissist often have to build their support system from the ground up. “You can gently encourage and empower your loved one to start healing the rift by interacting with people and the world. Again, don’t push. Your loved one might resist, so simply promise to be there,” adds WikiHow.
Being there for them will mean more than you can imagine. Sometimes, all they need is someone to be there when things get rough. Even if you’re just there to offer a listening ear, you’ll make a world of difference.