Narcissistic abuse is primarily inflicted emotionally but can become physical, and both forms can cause long-term pain for the victim. The abuser often suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), a disorder that allows the patient to feel omnipotent by creating a false self-worth that is ultimately superior to everyone else. Those closest to the abuser undergo the most extreme forms of mental and emotional torment. Relationships and family members suffer the most because it is the gradual change in personality that masks the underlying problems.
At first, a narcissistic spouse, family member, co-worker or friend appears conceited but later on, the superiority complex that causes the person to lash out far exceeds simple arrogance. The narcissistic abuse begins because the abuser needs to gain control over others, and in order to succeed, he or she must belittle the victims by making them feel emotionally and mentally incompetent. The narcissist might repeatedly tell the victims that they are worthless or humiliate them in public. He or she feels that by withdrawing his or her approval, the victim will fall further under his or her power in hopes of achieving acceptance.
The abuser uses methods of insult, embarrassment and punishment to destroy the victim's self-esteem, which eventually leads the victim to actually believe that he or she is worthless. The repeated narcissistic abuse can become brainwashing and exhaust the victim to the point of hopelessness. The narcissist can become violent and feel little remorse because he or she believes that this type of behavior is appropriate. The abuser feels that his or her actions are justified because these are actions of a superior being, no matter whether it is harmful or illegal.
The mental deterioration of the victim is a sign that he or she needs help. There is an extensive recovery process for narcissistic abuse that begins with self-education. The victim and abuser should seek guidance and treatment separately, because the process is different. The abused should become well informed on the disease that inflicts the abuser in order to understand that it is not his or her fault as the victim. There are numerous recovery groups for victims of narcissistic abuse, and individual therapy is available.
The sufferer of NPD should also seek counseling in order to better understand the disease and evaluate the severe underlying problem that stimulates the disorder. The variety of support and information available on narcissistic abuse is a good starting point because it assists the victim in regaining control over his or her own life. The support groups allow the abused to communicate with others who are undergoing similar trauma and can relieve the stress of feeling hopelessly alone.