According to Sandra L. Brown, MA, over 60 million people in the US only, might be affected by a narcissistic relationship.
Narcissistic abuse is often hard to spot, but the impact can be long-lasting on your mental and physical health.
While physical abuse leaves bruises and scars and can be easily proved, other forms of abuse, such as emotional, can be seen through manipulative actions, frequent arguments, and insults.
Narcissistic abuse can simmer just below the surface. This kind of abuse can be difficult to identify and discuss openly, especially when it happens to men. It may not even occur to a person that they are experiencing abuse from a narcissistic partner. As a result, statistics on how common narcissistic abuse is in the United States are hard to come by.
The effects of this abuse can seriously impact someone’s sense of self-worth and mental health.
If you or someone you know is experiencing narcissistic abuse, there is hope for healing. Some important tools for processing narcissistic abuse include:
- Ability to recognize the signs
- Learning new coping mechanisms skills for healing
- Asking for help (professionals, family, and friends)
What does Narcissistic Abuse Look Like?
Generally, narcissistic abuse refers to emotional, psychological, and mental abuse.
In other words, a narcissistic person sees their partner as an object, or a “supply” considering only what they can offer them to either elevate or gratify themselves.
Narcissistic abuse tends to involve the other person lacking empathy, guilt, and even remorse for their partner. A narcissistic person typically isn’t held back by the pain they cause someone else. They are literally unaware of it.
Primary symptoms of narcissistic abuse
Because studies and statistics are harder to come by with narcissistic abuse, it can be difficult to define what all of the symptoms are or how they present in relationships.
A 2020 study measuring subjective statements of people related to pathological narcissism found that their narcissism negatively impacted those around them.
Also, the study determined that while grandiosity and strong self-worth were present in narcissistic people, 69% of participants also reported vulnerabilities that indicated their high self-esteem often relied on others to lift them.
While more research is still needed, here are some common effects of psychological abuse as a way to potentially identify narcissistic abuse. Signs of psychological abuse may include:
- verbal insults, frequent criticisms, or put-downs
- being screamed or yelled at often
- threats of physical harm or to remove something you hold dear
- controlling your routine, like when you eat, sleep, or see family and friends
- forcing physical or emotional isolation
- invasions of privacy, such as checking your phone or reading private text messages
- gaslighting – technique is employed to make another person question their reality
- hoovering – when an abuser feels that they are starting to lose control, they may go through a cycle of trying to make things better, and when they gain the trust, they go back to abusive techniques
- disregarding boundaries
- excusing the abusive behaviors and lack of responsibility
- uncontrollable jealousy
- making the other person “walk on eggshells”
Narcissistic abuse in the United States
Narcissistic abuse is hard to identify. Additionally, people may not always feel comfortable coming forward about their experiences. Currently, there are only general estimates of how many people in the United States are in narcissistic relationships.
Sandra L. Brown, the founder of the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education, wrote an article titled “60 Million Persons in the US Negatively Affected by Someone Else’s Pathology” that provides an estimate of the prevalence of this type of abuse.
In her article, Brown stated that about 1 in 25 people in the United States have some type of personality disorder, such as antisocial personality disorder. Brown estimated the U.S. population to be about 304 million people. When divided by 25, that works out to over 12 million people who could have a personality disorder.
Based on these numbers, Brown estimates that if each of these people had approximately 5 partners or close relationships throughout their lifetime, over 60 million people might be affected by a narcissistic relationship.
So, while these numbers are just hypothetical estimates, it shows the widespread potential for this type of abuse. And for someone currently in a narcissistic relationship, it illustrates that they are far from alone in their experiences.
Who can be affected by narcissistic abuse?
According to Brown’s article, these estimated numbers may even be on the lower side. That’s because narcissistic abuse isn’t just limited to romantic partners — it can also impact family members and their children. It can an employer, a colleague, or a friend.
Ultimately, anyone in a relationship with a narcissistic person may be at risk for this kind of abuse, especially if the narcissistic person views the relationship as strictly beneficial to them.
I personally know many men and women who have been affected by narcissistic abuse. And so have their children.
For certain people, working as first responders or leading corporations it’s sometimes even harder to open up about the emotional and psychological abuse. Some of my best friends have been targeted by narcissistic women. These women were very well aware of the powers that they had over men and they used manipulative and abusive tactics that have harmed and ultimately destroyed the mental and physical health of their partners.
Manipulation is the need to control things. The manipulative person can be your sister, your friend, your mother, your daughter, and your friend.
Society and mass media encourages and promotes women to use different tactics how to manipulate men to get what they want. There are so many “how-to” articles out there for women, and usually, they say something like this: “How to make your man listen to your needs?”; “How to make your boyfriend jealous!”; “How to make him miss you like crazy…” and so on.
I would like women to be more direct, but they aren’t. Many of them, unfortunately, resort to unorthodox tactics to get what they want. I am not saying every woman is manipulative. But the reality is they do exist and quite often women are more encouraged via media outlets at a young age to use manipulative techniques to get what they want from men.
How to Heal from Abuse
If you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse, you are not alone and there are resources available for recovering from abuse.
The first step is often to recognize that you actually went through — or are currently experiencing — abuse. Next, try to remember that healing is possible. You can survive and thrive beyond the abuse you experienced.
Harnessing the power of affirmations may help you deal with harsh criticisms. Using positive affirmations may also help train your brain to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Exercise can be a powerful healing tool for stimulating your brain and body. Consider taking daily walks or trying out a new form of exercises such as yoga, pilates, or jogging.
Making time to engage in hobbies you love can be incredibly healing after experiencing trauma from abuse and control.
Getting help from a qualified professional can be helpful in navigating healing. Consider speaking with a professional therapist or counselor who can help you sort out your feelings and process trauma.
In an emergency call 911 — or your local emergency number, law enforcement agency, or contact:
- Someone you trust. Turn to a friend, relative, neighbor, co-worker, or religious adviser for support.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233). The hotline provides crisis intervention and referrals to resources.
- Your health care provider. Doctors and nurses will treat injuries and can refer you to other local resources.
- A counseling or mental health center. Counseling and support groups for people in abusive relationships are available in most communities.
- A local court. Your district court can help you get a restraining order that legally mandates the abuser to stay away from you or face arrest.
How Partners in Men’s Health can Help You
At Partners in Men’s Health, you can contact us via email or the form below and seek support, and guidance from our trauma-informed Transformational Confidential Concierge Coaching services that will help you get “out of the fog and into the light.”
PMH is run by Dr. Jamie, the Clinical Conductor of this Transformational Team. He is a trauma-informed Psychologist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Certified Compassion Fatigue Therapist. For 30 years, he has been helping people overcome their traumatic, degrading experiences using a comprehensive trauma-informed approach that lifts the mind and spirit in difficult situations when dealing with Toxic Abusive Relationships.
I am changing in positive ways. I am making peace with my past and accepting myself. I forgive myself.Dr. Jamie