If you are spending time with someone who is leaving you feeling somehow less than and somehow drained after your interactions with them then you may be dealing with someone with narcissistic personality disorder or perhaps someone with another kind of pathological mental health issue.
I am finding many more clients impacted by people with narcissistic personality disorder. I have heard the term 'emotional holocaust' used for how people sometimes feel after being close to one of these characters. Whereas in my Counselling I firmly believe that everyone has the capacity to grow and change for the better a key thing in that is that the person must have at least the inkling that something is not right in them. A key characteristic of fully developed narcissistic personality disorder is that they believe that they are 100% correct. It is currently quite a dilemma in therapy to find a way to deal with the perpetrators themselves should they have this disorder diagnosed.
In therapy I regularly work with the victims. These are people who have some level of codependency (or we can also call it co-narcissism). This is the main target for the narcissist as like vampires they are able to detect weak spots in individuals. In romantic relationships a love bombing phase often occurs followed by discarding leading the victim with a sense of confusion and wondering what they did wrong. The truth is often that nothing was done wrong and the person you thought the person was actually never existed. Narcissists are like chameleons and thrive on narcissistic supply. This can be in the form of admiration or sadly your pain and suffering. In 'friendships' it can similarly just involve a roller coaster of your emotions which they gain pleasure from.
It can be hard to admit that someone you cared about likely never did. However, as we come in touch with our feelings and step off the emotional rollercoaster that you have no doubt been on the process of recovery is more rewarding that the relationship ever could have been. Some articles speak about relationships with narcissists as being like a cleansing process. This is a hard stage to get to but ultimately the goal whereas you are able to see that going trough this pain has lead to you developing the sense of self you always knew you were underneath and I feeling that without that you would never be as strong as you have become. The quote by Neitzche comes to mind here of 'whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger'.
The following is the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (DSM 5)
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy and behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
- has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
- is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
- believes that he or she is 'special' and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- requires excessive admiration
- has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- is interpersonally exploitative, i.e. takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes.
In the male form this disorder plays out in the way of a dysfunctional alpha male seeking control and domination at all costs. In the female form it plays out as the woman playing the role of victim and the martyr. I have counselled many women recovering from Narcissistic abuse and also men recovering from female abuse (which is notably on the rise). I also help people dealing with Narcissistic or otherwise disordered friends.
I have personal experience, counselling skills and much knowledge around this area to be able to support you on your recovery journey. Please contact me if you require help and support with this issue.
New Beginnings Therapy now sponsors a support group for victims of narcissistic abuse. Feel free to join by clicking below.