What is Narcissistic Abuse Complex PTSD?

One of the most interesting things I find with people battling Narcissistic Abuse Complex PTSD is that they’re not aware that they’ve suffered any trauma at all. Most abuse survivors believe that trauma cannot occur if the abuse is emotional, verbal, or financial. However, all forms of psychological abuse can leave deep wounds that are very difficult to heal. Over a prolonged period, this type of abuse takes its toll on the human psyche, and in many cases, leaves its victims in the state of not being able to recognize themselves anymore. And bouncing back from such trauma is easier said than done.


Most people think narcissists these days are obsessed with themselves. They keep on clicking numerable selfies or they constantly look at themselves in the mirror, but that is just one type of narcissist. There are a whole slew of other types and the abusive or toxic ones are more like wolves in sheep’s clothing. The ironic thing about narcissistic abuse is that the perpetrators of such behavior are people who have suffered abuse themselves and are reliving their childhood pain. Their emotional growth has been stunted and they will go to any extent to portray a fake image of themselves to get the gratification they need and to avoid being hurt in the process. As a consequence, they often end up hurting other people emotionally, physically, mentally, financially, psychologically, or sexually.


Because most people believe that a narcissist is only a grandiose type person who is overtly into themselves, many people fall prey to the toxic version of a narcissist that flies beneath the radar. These types of narcissists still have grandiose ideas of themselves, but they hide it from the outside world…. that is until you get into a relationship with one or hang around one long enough for their mask to slip. Unfortunately, if you end up in a relationship with a toxic narcissist, you will eventually encounter abusive behavior. The most frustrating thing I hear from people who have never experienced this type of abuse are the age-old questions ‘Why did you stay so long?” or “Why don’t you just leave?”.

These questions anger me more than any other questions because they just don’t understand or care to understand how manipulative these relationships are. It’s hard to explain to friends and family the effect that Love Bombing, Mirroring, and Future Faking have on someone. They don’t understand that the Toxic Narcissist has created a fake persona that feeds right into your empathy, your low self-esteem, your belief system, and then overwhelms your system like a giant dose of heroin until you’re hooked on them like an addiction. And once a victim is hooked, the toxic narcissist will start to devalue their partner, but the partner finds it difficult to leave, even though they know better, and that’s because of the first phase of the relationship which gets them addicted. And the longer a person stays in a relationship with a narcissist, the more of a chance that they will eventually deal with narcissistic abuse complex PTSD.

When it comes to growing up with a Toxic Narcissist as a parent, many outside the family will have no idea what type of abuse is happening within the household walls because Toxic Narcissistic Parents like to keep up an image to the outside world. For most children of toxic narcissists, they have no frame of reference for how a normal household should function, so they do their best to navigate the rough waters by creating whatever survival tactics they can figure out for their well-being. In the process, and unbeknownst to these children, compounding traumas are being inflicted upon them as narcissistic abuse complex PTSD begins to set within their mind, body, and soul. And their lives going forward are soon to become more difficult as they have no idea that most of their actions and reactions are being run by this affliction.


Narcissistic abuse is a kind of psychological abuse that leaves its victim with lasting feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, incompetency, and not deserving of love or respect. The harm that narcissistic abuse can inflict on the victim can be crippling and lifelong. Toxic narcissists generally abuse slowly and unrelentingly until they gain complete control over the minds of their victims.

Toxic narcissists use language in a specific way and so subtly that the victims often fail to realize that they are at the receiving end until it is too late. They feel they are walking on eggshells and living a life feeling numb and unworthy. Those at the receiving end of narcissistic abuse usually go on to suffer from narcissistic abuse PTSD or CPTSD.

Individuals subjected to narcissistic abuse often find it difficult to share their problems with others for fear of looking crazy. This is usually because the narcissist wants to be portrayed as the victim and keep the facade of this going to further bring down their partner.

To control their victims, narcissists use emotionally destructive techniques, like gaslighting, hoovering, and manipulation. They use these techniques to control the reactions of their victims, distorting their sense of reality and leaving them emotionally disorientated. They force their victims to think, believe and act the way they want them to. In fact, narcissists do not feel any regret, guilt, or apathy for their victims. If you are waiting for a narcissist to apologize, you will be waiting forever.


Narcissistic abuse complex PTSD survivors can endure trauma in both childhood and adulthood. Unlike PTSD (one event), C-PTSD is a compounding of multiple traumas, which are connected in some way.

Most people think traumatic events can only be qualified as such if they involve physical abuse or sexual abuse or being held captive against their will. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Narcissistic abuse complex PTSD isn’t just caused by physical or sexual abuse. Emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse can cause traumas that take a huge toll on one’s self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, and self everything. The compounding of these non-physical attacks over time can cause depression, anxiety, psychosis, and may push some people to suicide.

Here are symptoms of PTSD that people with narcissistic abuse complex PTSD also experience.

1. Flashbacks

The person with PTSD continues to experience terrifying memories in flashbacks and nightmares. Anything can trigger these horrific memories. Any place person or a particular time in the day can make them remember those difficult times. People with PTSD are in constant fear of these distasteful events.

2. Avoidance

People with PTSD might avoid certain situations such as someplace, or some person, etc that might remind them of their trauma. They usually keep themselves preoccupied to avoid their traumatic events.

3. Low Self-Esteem

The narcissistic partner in the relationship destroys your self-esteem and often makes you question your sense of reality. As a result of these repeated traumas the person suffering from Complex PTSD might lack confidence in themselves. They prefer to live in isolation.

4. Hyper Vigilance

PTSD sufferers are often on alert. They might show an exaggerated response to some very normal situations such as a loud noise, accidental touch, opening of a door, etc. They also find it very difficult to sleep or concentrate on their work.

5. Lack of Control Over Emotions

People with complex PTSD usually lose control over their feelings. They might exhibit a long-time sadness or sometimes a wave of explosive anger.

6. Dissociation

People with complex PTSD to forget the traumatic events usually feel detached from their body or their emotions.

7. Altered Self-Perception

They may feel a strong sense of shame or guilt. This feeling of shame and guilt might extend to such a limit that they feel that they are a completely different person.

8. Difficulty Forming New Relationships

PTSD sufferers usually avoid being in a relationship with other people. They don’t usually easily trust others. Complex PTSD sufferers find it very difficult to interact with the people around them. In some extreme cases, people suffering from complex PTSD might get into a relationship with a narcissist to get a similar feeling.

9. Preoccupied Perception of the Abuser

Narcissistic abuse complex PTSD sufferers have a distorted perception of their abusers. They might give their abuser complete power over their life.

10. Loss of Faith

Narcissistic abuse complex PTSD sufferers might lose their faith in their religion or beliefs and they may develop a strong sense of hopelessness.

In addition to regular PTSD symptoms, narcissistic abuse complex PTSD sufferers may experience these issues as well.

1- Emotional Regulation Issues

Complex trauma survivors can struggle with feelings of depression, suicidal ideation as well as extreme rage.

2 – Consciousness

Those who have endured complex trauma may relive traumatic events, feel disassociated from the trauma, their bodies, the world, and/or have problems with accessing their memories of the trauma. This is not surprising, considering that trauma interferes with parts of the brain that deal with learning, decision-making, and memory. What’s interesting is that complex trauma survivors can endure not only visual flashbacks of the trauma but also “emotional flashbacks” that cause them to regress to the emotional states of hopelessness where they first encountered the original wounds.

What treatments are there for narcissistic abuse complex PTSD?

There are many treatment modalities for complex Post-traumatic stress disorder that can help a patient suppress their symptoms and lead a normal life.

1. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy includes consulting a therapist. This therapy uses cognitive behavioral therapy. It helps in the recognition of the dreadful thoughts and teaches to restore those traumatic thoughts with more healthy and positive thoughts.

2. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that helps a person suffering from Complex post-traumatic stress disorder to overcome the stress more peacefully.

3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

It is the most common treatment method used for patients suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder. It has also been used with success in complex PTSD sufferers. The patient is asked to think of their traumatic events for a short period while moving their eye from side to side. While others may be asked to pinch their fingers instead of rolling their eyes. In this way, EMDR helps the complex post-traumatic stress disorder patients to desensitize to their traumatic thoughts.

4. Medication

Anti-depressants are used to treat depression that is associated with narcissistic abuse complex PTSD sufferers for a long time. They show the best results when they are combined with another treatment modality such as psychotherapy, or EMDR. Antidepressants that are commonly prescribed for complex post-traumatic stress disorder are-

  • Fluoxetine
  • Paroxetine
  • Sertraline

If you are a narcissistic abuse complex PTSD sufferer:

  • Talk to people who are willing to hear your thoughts and fears.
  • Consult a therapist.
  • Minimize unnecessary stress.
  • Keep in mind that the triggers are due to past events and are unrelated to your present time and space.
  • Last but not least, remember that narcissistic abuse complex PTSD is not your fault.

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