5 Ways To Spot Narcissistic Abuse!

5 Ways To Spot Narcissistic Abuse!

By Alyssa Bombacino & Joelle Maletis

What Is Narcissism?

Narcissism consists of selfishness, a lack of empathy for others, and an inflated sense of self-importance. Those with narcissism tend to idealize themselves to others in order to avoid the feelings of inner shame that they experience. Narcissists have trouble acknowledging the needs of others and often cultivate toxicity within their personal relationships. Although narcissism is a trait, it can also be a part of a larger issue like Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Not all individuals with narcissism will develop Narcissistic personality Disorder, but those who score higher on the spectrum for narcissism are most likely to be diagnosed with this personality disorder.

What Is Narcissistic Abuse?

Narcissistic abuse is a type of abuse perpetrated by narcissists where they distort reality and attempt to gain control within a relationship. It’s common for people with narcissism to behave in cruel and often subtle manipulative ways and to be unaware of the negative effects that their behavior has on other individuals. Lancer (2016) describes, “a narcissist uses defense mechanisms that are destructive to relationships and causes pain and damage to their loved ones’ self-esteem”. Their abuse can be emotional, mental, physical, financial, spiritual, and/or sexual; and, has life-long lasting effects. Narcissistic abuse can often lead to C/PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety and depression in those that have suffered in these types of relationships.

If you are experiencing a relationship that sounds like this, you are not alone. According to the CDC up to 50-80% of adults experience 1 relationship in their lifetime with an abusive partner including parents, siblings, intimate partners, bosses and friends.

Narcissistic Parents = Trauma Bonding

Trauma bonding happens from experiencing narcissistic abuse: often parents blame their children’s behavior and responses as being “victims” in order to deny their own horrific behavior. Narcissistic parents often use gaslighting to rewrite their interpersonal history and to rationalize their abusive behaviors, regardless of the damage and trauma ensued. This trauma is then transferred on to their children which leads them to struggle with why the love of their abusive parent isn’t enough and to seek validation within the trauma they’ve experienced. This lends itself to failure in adult relationships both interpersonally, emotionally, intimately and biologically as the abused find it difficult to tolerate their physical responses while in relationships. Even when confronted, narcissistic parents will blame their children for picking fights, poor behavior, narcissism, and making them angry enough to justify continued abuse. These are at best projections of how that parents sees themselves. Yet, these parents lack self-reflection, empathy and boundaries. The child experiences love through trauma learning that they themselves are never enough. Children from narcissistic homes rarely learn the skills necessary to understand how to self-regulate and sooth their own emotional responses. Therefore, it takes concerted efforts as adults for narcissistic abused children to break this cycle and begin to heal the guilt and shame from years as being led to believe that the abuse was their fault. These types of parents rarely, if ever, take responsibility for their actions, make amends, ask for forgiveness, or seek professional help. The onus falls on the child. This cycle of narcissistic abuse perpetrates trauma; and, becomes the foundation for trauma- bonding and potential abuse within future adult relationships. 

5 Warning Signs For Narcissistic Abuse

  • Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse used by many narcissists to “undermine a person’s perception of reality” (Gordon, 2022). By creating a false narrative it often leads victims to question their own thoughts and what the truth really is, giving the perpetrator the power. Gaslighting may sound like, “Why are you acting so crazy”, “You’re always a victim” and “That never happened, you’re making it up!”.


  • Trivializing is a type or verbal abuse that narcissists use to deny or demean a victim’s emotions. This is done by making a large amount of the victim’s actions seem insignificant. A narcissist might diminish an individual’s career, emotions, or opinions, leading to poor self esteem. Statements like “As an expert, you should know better”!


  • Grandiose View of Themselves, narcissists overstate their own importance and “crave praise and admiration” from others (Patterson & Troy, 2022). This large concern that narcissists have with themselves and self superiority leads to a lack of empathy and can make victims feel that they are alone. Narcissists will often say things like “Why do you always have to pick fights with me; I know what I’m talking about?”


  • Lying  is central to most narcissists and used for impression management or to avoid responsibility. Narcissists often present false images of themselves for admiration, to hide their flaws, or to make a victim question their own sense of reality. 


  • Blaming is often used to twist the truth and blame the victim to deflect or avoid responsibility. They do this by refusing to accept responsibility for their actions and instead making the victim feel that it’s their fault. Finger-pointing and deflection cause serious self-doubt in victims and allows narcissists to shield themselves from taking ownership of their bad behavior by being that they in fact are the victims.


Narcissistic abuse typically starts in more subtle forms but can escalate over time and become more severe or life threatening. Those who are in relationships with narcissists may often feel angry, frustrated, confused, and alone. Being in a narcissistic abusive relationship can feel emotionally and physically draining. Medcircle (2022) describes, “At times, you might even question your own reality and wonder if you’re the crazy one.” These emotions are common and are oftentimes important signs of narcissistic abuse.


Watch Joelle’s NEW YouTube Live on Trauma Bonding and How To Get Out Of Toxic Relationships!


If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, or if you are in immediate danger, call 9-8-8 or 9-1-1. For anonymous and confidential help, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233).

At JRM&A we lead with compassionate, trauma-informed therapeutic models that are personalized and solution-focused to help support our clients’ needs and attain their personal goals. 

You can reach us at (650) 386-6753 or info@joellerabowmaletis to share your comments, ask questions or schedule an appointment.




Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/

Darlene Lancer, J. D. (2016, April 24). What is narcissistic abuse? Psych Central. Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-narcissistic-abuse#1

Gordon, S. (2022, July 25). Ways to tell if someone is gaslighting you. Verywell Mind. Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/is-someone-gaslighting-you-4147470

MedCircle. (2021, June 8). Narcissistic abuse: What it looks like and what to do. MedCircle. Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://medcircle.com/articles/narcissistic-abuse/

LPC, W. by: E. P., & MD, R. by: B. T. (n.d.). What is grandiose narcissism? Choosing Therapy. Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://www.choosingtherapy.com/grandiose-narcissism/


Read More