If you have been in a toxic relationship with a Narcissist, then here are some things you may need to know. PTSD and CPTSD can be the Aftermath of Narcissistic Abuse. These acronyms stand for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Complex PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder. PTSD is generally related to a single event, while complex PTSD is related to a series of events, or one prolonged event.
The symptoms of complex PTSD can be more enduring and extreme than those of PTSD.
A doctor may diagnose complex PTSD when a person has experienced trauma on an ongoing basis.
Most frequently, this trauma involves long-term physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
There are a lot of experiences that can cause someone to suffer with PTSD, such as:
- experiencing childhood neglect
- Historical childhood sexual abuse
- experiencing domestic violence
- experiencing human trafficking
- being a prisoner of war
- living in a region affected by war
- Being raped
According to the medical news, a person with complex PTSD may experience symptoms in addition to those that characterise PTSD.
Common symptoms of PTSD and complex PTSD include:
- reliving the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares
- avoiding situations that remind them of the trauma
- dizziness or nausea when remembering the trauma
- hyperarousal, which means being in a continual state of high alert
- the belief that the world is a dangerous place
- a loss of trust in the self or others
- difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- being startled by loud noises
People with PTSD or complex PTSD may also experience
- Number 1 – Negative self-view. Complex PTSD can cause a person to view themselves negatively and feel helpless, guilty, or ashamed. They often consider themselves to be different from other people.
For example – I used to work for a couple of years in an agency that specialised in historical childhood abuse. In general, if a child was sexually abused, let’s say by his/her parent. Because the young child idolises their parents, they have to for survival. So, when something bad happens to the child, they don’t believe that their parents are bad – they can’t. They look up to their parents – and so instead the young child believes that THEY are bad.
However, as the child grows older and recognises, they have been sexually abused; they feel a great sense of shame. This is because their abuser was shameless, and the adult victim is now left to carry the shame. The shame, however, is misplaced, and was never theirs to carry.
As an adult, the aftermath of this is that the child may then believe they are damaged goods, or are unlovable, or not good enough for anyone, and this potentially will have a large impact on their romantic relationships. The good news is working with a Counsellor can help you to turn this completely around. And if you can’t afford to see a counsellor there are some really good self-help books available regarding this topic. Because you are NOT the damaged one, you are loveable and you certainly are good enough.
What you need to know is this, your negative view of yourself is a script that you have had on repeat about yourself that simply isn’t true. Once you learn how to get rid of this false script, or false story, that you have been telling yourself, you can re write a new script and start to live the life you were meant to live.
Alongside historical childhood abuse, being in a relationship with a narcissist can also give you a negative view of yourself. So, let’s just say, if you have had a childhood in which one, or even both of your parents where highly critical of you. This would of already have had such a large impact on you as a child and provided you with a highly negative view of yourself.
Then you leave home and get into a relationship in the hope of finding true happiness for the very first time. Only to find yourself in a relationship with a highly critical narcissist. The narcissist almost mirrors your childhood (in the sense of the continuous put downs & always has you feeling you are not good enough) And because you have already been conditioned since a small child into accepting this behaviour from your parents – then when your partner treats you in the same way, you feel it is almost normal and acceptable – it has simply become (not what you like – or what you want) but it is almost what you expect. Your narcissists appalling behaviour towards you helps to reinforce your already negative self-view.
If this is where you are right now – please know that working with a professional counsellor can help you to recognise the truth and help you to move forwards to a place of self-acceptance, by helping you to find the real you.
Because if you have suffered from some form of childhood trauma then ended up in a relationship with a narcissist – you may of never had the chance to discover the REAL you, because you will have spent a lifetime walking around on eggshells and probably being a people pleaser.
That is just you, being who you think other people need you to be, instead of you actually being who you are. It’s all those times you say yes to helping others, when you find it over whelming to so, because you have a million things of your own to do and never find time to do it. People pleasing is when you’re in a perpetual habit of casting your own needs aside, in order to spend all of your life meeting the needs of others.
If this is you, let me ask you my friend who is it RIGHT NOW in your life that is meeting your needs? I’m imagining there isn’t anyone. Because, as people pleasers, we often get trampled all over and taken advantage of. This is because on an unconscious level we have a need for approval, or a need to be needed or liked. What we tend to do is spend all our time being who we think other people need us to be instead of us being who we are. & because of this, people often tend to be taking advantage of us, BECAUSE of our inability to say no or because of our need to avoid conflict.
This is why people pleasers are like a hand going into a glove for the narcissist. We give, give, and give more of ourselves – and they take, take and take some more.
This is why being able to understand why we do WHAT we do and having the right techniques in place to change our automatic responses can literally change our lives.
When you get to a place in life where you can say NO to the people pleasing, it is knowing what you’re saying yes to, because everything in life has a cost. So far you have been saying yes to others and no to yourself. So, my friend, if you want to start moving forwards in life begin saying YES. Yes to being the real authentic you, that you were meant to be all along.
- Number 2 – PEOPLE WITH PTSD & CPTSD may experience Changes in their beliefs and worldview. People who suffer in this way generally hold a negative view of the world and the people in it, or lose faith in previously held beliefs.
So perhaps you have left your Narcissistic partner, and you may have come to the conclusion you’re better off staying single, right?
So, many months or even years may have gone by, and your fear of meeting up with another narcissist, and being in yet another toxic relationship scares you to death, holy shit, I totally 100% get you. I felt EXACTLY the same after leaving my Narcissistic partner.
But here is the thing. Your ex-partner may well have destroyed the past for you. He or she may have led you to suffer with both PTSD and CPTSD right now (even though you have split up) because of the effects of the gaslighting.
The false smear campaigns, alongside all the other tactics induced that fuelled your phycological terror and emotional manipulation, and after you find yourself emotionally drowning in this toxicity, you have every right to distrust others right now.
But, let me help you here, my friend. Ask yourself, is this really true?
Is every potential partner really going to treat you this way?
Holding on to the belief that everyone will be the same, is a lie that you are telling yourself to keep yourself safe.
You see, we have roughly on average around 66,000 thoughts per day, and how on earth could they all possibly true?
Your narcissist may have destroyed your past in certain ways, but holding onto thoughts like that is a sure way of destroying your future. It is almost like your ex-partner is walking alongside you, standing between you & any potential relationship you could have. Are you going to give your ex that power of your life?
Holding onto a belief that like that is preventing you from moving forwards. Could you end up meeting another narcissist – potentially yes, of course you could?
There is so much information out there on Narcissists right now – educate yourself as much as you can – and hopefully you will be able to spot a Narcissist in the future from a mile away. It is defiantly easier to spot an overt narcissist than a covert narcissist.
- Number 3 – Emotional regulation difficulties. These conditions can cause people to lose control over their emotions. They may experience intense anger or sadness or have thoughts of suicide.
I always explain to people when I first begin counselling or coaching with them, that our thoughts and emotions are like a cork on the ocean – we can go off one way with our thought, and then off another way, with our emotions.
Most people react to whatever thought or emotion comes their way in that moment, if this is you, what you don’t realise is you don’t have to be the cork on the ocean drifting meaninglessly side to side, you really can grip hold of the steering wheel and head off in the direction you truly desire.
With a little help, and a lot of practice, you really can control your thoughts and emotions, and by doing so completely turn your life around. When you are finally able to start doing this, you will be able to go from a place in which you are reacting to everything that comes your way, to a place of responding.
When you can control your thoughts and emotions, instead of them controlling you, you become the master of your destiny. You suddenly begin to realise that your future is a blank canvas & and you suddenly get to design your life the way you want it to be.
So when I am coaching, or counselling a client, this is what I help them to do, in order for them to get the outcome they desire.
If you are suffering with CPTSD or PTSD and are feeling suicidal, then please contact your GP, or mental health team if you have one, or go to your local A&E department.
- Number 4 – Relationship issues. Relationships may suffer due to difficulties trusting and interacting. A person may have a pattern of entering unhealthy relationships because they are what the person has known in the past.
Oh boy, I have so worn this T-shirt with this one. In fact, I used to question myself on if I had some kind of invisible sign on my forehead that I couldn’t see. I imagine it read, ‘Scum bags, cheats, women beaters and Narcs walk this way’.
I realised that entering one bad relationship after another was some kind of crazy making unfortunate habit; I seemed to have that was stuck on repeat. I didn’t want that habit to be mine. No matter how hard I tried to pick the right one, the same thing just appeared to happen to me happen, again and again and again.
I mean no one would EVER consciously chose to put themselves in this situation, right? And that statement for me was the key. When we find ourselves in situations that don’t even make sense to us, then very often the answers may lie within the unconscious. And for me, this was my light bulb moment, because unconsciously, all the chaos and the drama that came from my highly dysfunctional relationships, were unconsciously very familiar to me.
If this is you, and you have an unconscious bad habit like mine that is stuck on repeat, working with your counsellor may help you to understand the role of your unconscious and the impact it has had within your relationships.
So here is an example of how the unconscious is at play – say a client comes into my office to see me, and they are unhappy because they feel stuck in a relationship that appears to be going nowhere. They tell me how their partner is emotionally unavailable.
I may then explore my client’s childhood, and they will tell me (more often than not) it was fine. They lived in a lovely house and had all the best toys and plenty of pocket money.
However, when we begin to pull back the layers of the onion and get right in at the core, no one (it appears) was ever emotionally available to them. Hence, as an adult, this has become a pattern that is stuck on repeat – unconsciously they keep choosing partners who are emotionally unavailable to them.
A parent may have been emotionally unavailable for a whole host of reasons. Maybe a parent suffered with addictions, or suffered with depression. Maybe a parent was widowed and spent years grieving. Or maybe both parents worked and were out of the house a lot and where too tired when they got home to talk to you in any meaningful depth.
We tend to repeat patterns unconsciously until we are consciously aware of them. When we finally become aware of our unconscious at play, that is where the power is, because it is then that we have a choice.
- Number 5 – Detachment from the trauma. A person may dissociate, which means feeling detached from emotions or physical sensations. Some people completely forget the trauma.
When you detach from your emotions, you may feel like you’re an actor in your own life. It’s almost like watching things happen to you and feeling like you’re just a character in a play. Nothing feels real. It’s a feeling of just being on the outside looking in.
I know for me personally – I certainly felt like this after being attacked at home with a meat cleaver by one of my crazy ex partners. When I came back to my home (from hospital) the blood was just everywhere.
The blood was all up my path towards my front door; it was literally all through my house, where he had been chasing me everywhere trying to kill me (because I didn’t have enough money left for him to buy more alcohol).
My hands where bandaged where I had been protecting myself, I had a concussion and a perforated eardrum, and when the bruises came out a few days later I was black and blue all over from his punches and kicks where he had badly beaten me.
But I was so detached from the trauma at the time. It almost felt like it had happened to somebody else. I was totally running on empty and felt emotionally numb.
The outcome of this was I finally left him.
My hope is that by sharing part of my story with you, it helps you to understand the impact trauma can have on you.
- Number 6 – Preoccupation with an abuser. It is not uncommon to fixate on the abuser, the relationship with the abuser, or getting revenge for the abuse.
I think this is so true when it comes to victims of NA.
After the final break up, you know logically, on every single level of your being, this person is ABSOLUTLY no good for you. FULL STOP. And yet you can’t stop thinking of them. And a lot of this may be in relation to the trauma bonding.
Unfortunately, for many people, when they try to leave these relationships, they are so bonded to their abuser that they return. Others don’t try to leave at all and are only freed from the clutches of the abuse when they are finally discarded by the Narcissist.
People with PTSD or complex PTSD may exhibit certain behaviours in an attempt to manage their symptoms. Examples of such behaviours include:
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
I work with many people with addictions and always say, its never the drugs or the alcohol that is the real issue. The real issue is the reason lies underneath – and is the reason to avoid reality.
- Avoiding unpleasant situations by becoming “people-pleasers”
If this is you, you may have spent a lifetime walking around on eggshells (for whatever reasons) and trying to avoid conflict may have become your life mission.
However, how this pans out is, you have a total inability to say no to people (because of your unconscious need to seek others approval, or need to be needed) which will mean you often get taken advantage of by others, and treated like a doormat a lot.
I certainly know how this feels, being an ex-people pleaser myself. Ironically enough, people with this type of personality do have a tendency to end up in relationships with narcissists.
People pleasers are over giving of themselves & put everyone else’s needs before their own. And narcissists just take, take, take.
So the more the pleaser gives, the more the narcissist takes, this relationship dynamic is like a hand going into a glove. This is why I work individually with clients & also run groups in order to help people pleasers have a healthier style of relating to both themselves and others.
- Lashing out at minor criticisms
Maybe if you have left your Narcissistic partner, and like a pendulum, you have totally swung the other way. You may have tolerated so much abuse that you have now decided not to tolerate to any form of criticism, no matter how minor.
However continually lashing out at others maybe your way of realising your past hurts and anger at your ex-partner onto the person stood in front of you. This may be because you are reliving the trauma over and over again.
These behaviours can develop as a way to deal with or forget about trauma and emotional pain. Often, a person develops them during the period of trauma.
Once the trauma is no longer ongoing, a person may begin to heal and reduce their reliance on these behaviours. Or, the behaviours may persist and even worsen with the passage of time.
Friends and family of people with complex PTSD should be aware that these types of behaviours may represent coping mechanisms and attempts to gain some control over emotions.
To recover from PTSD or complex PTSD, a person can seek treatment and learn to replace these behaviours with ones that are more positive and constructive
If you feel are currently in a relationship with a narcissist – or even if you have split up from your narcissistic partner & you recognise, you have some of these symptoms please seek some form of professional help – see your GP or get counselling or coaching with somebody who has in depth knowledge of narcissistic abuse and its effects on the victim.
In my next blog I will be looking to provide you with tools and techniques that may help you to deal more effectively with PTSD, CPTSD and self-harm and anger.
And please remember there really is hope, and there really is help out there, and not only can you really can recover, but really thrive, after narcissistic abuse. Although that may be really hard to believe where you are right now.
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If you are a victim of NA, don’t forget to visit my website & join my FB group for victims of narcistic abuse. Or contact me for counselling or coaching.
Thank you so much for being a part of my day, and a part of my life, and thanks for allowing me to be a part of yours.