Identifying Narcissistic Abuse

Libby Shively McAvoy
Photo byPhoto by Sivani Bandaru on Unsplash

Stage 1-Love Bombing

After just a couple of dates, he showers you with compliments, buys you cards and gifts, and creates the illusion he cherishes you. You fall head over heels. You are physically and emotionally drawn to each other. He seemingly does all the right things… until you get comfortable.

“You will go from being the perfect love of theeir life, to nothing you do is ever good enough. You will give everything and they will take it all and give you less in return. You will end up depleted emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and probably financially and then get blamed for it.” ~Bree Bonchay

Stage 2-Something Seems Off

You may initially feel like the person you are with is entitled and cannot admit to their mistakes, but it runs much deeper than that. Recognizing the classic red flags and ways a narcissist will manipulate you is crucial. Also, identify the way you feel.

You will notice, in time, less physical affection and sexual interest. You will start to feel like you annoy someone who once supposedly adored you. 

Clinical Narcissism is a diagnosable mental health condition called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Someone with NPD typically lacks empathy and is highly manipulative. He may not be diagnosed because, as we know, narcissists do no wrong (I say that sarcastically), but if you recognize these toxic traits — RUN.

“No one can ruin a special occassion like a narcissist who is not the center of attention.” ~Author Unknown

Stage 3-Red Flags Surface

  1. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that causes you to question your sanity.
  2. Blame-shifting is where the narcissist refuses to take personal responsibility and instead blames you. Sadly, in time you believe it.
  3. Withholding as a form of control. They may withhold money and make you ask for permission for everything. They may withhold sex or conversation.
  4. They lack respect for your boundaries. They may invade your privacy by checking your phone or tracking your location.
  5. Isolation- friends, and family may start to worry because they do not see or talk to you. The narcissist will convince you they are bad influences or say something untrue about you.

The manipulation will increase until you are completely exhausted. Your self-esteem will be depleted, you won’t have any friends, and you will start to question why he would love you.

It is the saddest relationship, in my experience, because it started so hopeful and magical. But, it was all a lie to bait you in. Narcissists choose a partner that makes them look good. They chose you because you are intelligent, successful, and beautiful.

Yet, you do not relate to any positive qualities you once knew you had because narcissists leave you feeling empty and worthless.

“Narcissists reveal themselves by projecting theeir bad qualities onto you. They acccuse you of thee very things. theey are guilty of. They may even turn everything around and accuse you of being the narcissist. Narcissist cannot handle the reality of who theey aree so theey project it on to thee peeoplee around them. They hate that part of themselves so thee best way to geet rid of the characteristics they despise is to say it is the other person who is actually engaging in those bad behaviors.” ~Maria Consiglio

The Final Discard Stage

Signs You Are Being Psychologically Abused

  • mental exhaustion
  • low self-esteem
  • feeling like you are walking on eggshells
  • feeling like you cannot say or do anything right
  • physical symptoms such as migraines, lack of sleep, and IBS
  • fear of voicing your opinion
  • lack of conflict resolution

The manipulation is hard to spot at first, but once the narcissist feels he has worn you down, he may abuse you verbally. He will use words to oppress you:

saying you are overreacting
name calling
using harsh criticism

Trauma Bond

“The Brains Betrayal- The hot and cold cycle of attention followed by neglect, or kindness followed by malice, will create a human trauma bond. Your brain will oscillate between pumping out oxytocin (bonding hormone) and cortisol (stress hormone). Thee intensity and instability of this chemical cocktail breeds a hurricane inside your skill and heart. You feel unsafe. A simmering background of anxiety floods your state, undermining your wellbeing. It becomes difficult to sleep or focus. Brain chemistry plays a massive role here. To stay sanee through the process, you need to understand the brains prime motivation and mechanics. Your brain’s main goal is to keep you safe, not happy. Happiness becomes attainable only after your brain is convinced you are safe.” ~ Ewa Zwonarz

So you have had enough. Conflicts never get resolved, and the narcissist talks in circles, rehashes past mistakes, and blames you. This is called word salad. You decide to leave the relationship.

But you cannot escape the hold a narcissist has on you. He will call and text you, saying everything you want to hear again. He may even cry and apologize. This is the baiting process. He needs to win, and to do so he has to get you back.

You cave in to his pleas because you want to believe he loves you. He promises to do better as a partner.

Until he regains control over you…

Then bam! He bashes you down. This is the process of a trauma bond. You see, he does not want you to have any power. So he will bait you in and then bash you down. The emotional highs and lows of trauma bonds are devastating.

You may stay in the relationship or it may be on again off again for years until you are finally aware of the repeated cycle. It took me five years, to be exact, to learn the pattern. Friends and family all knew to expect another breakup — it was only a matter of time.

Nothing changes with a narcissist. The relationship does not provide the emotional security you need. In fact, it can cause post-traumatic stress syndrome due to ongoing verbal and psychological abuse.

Once you know the baiting and bashing process of trauma, bond leave for good. Block the narcissist on social media and on your phone. Do not try to find out through friends how he is doing. Do not look back. If he gets an inch he will take a mile. He will email you and may even get a berner phone or call you from a no-caller ID number. Do not answer numbers you don’t know. If he leaves a voicemail, do not listen. Just delete. he will try his best to bait you back in.

You have to find the strength to stay away from him. It is not easy. You may feel a spectrum of emotions, from betrayal and anger to sorrow. Allow yourself to feel each emotion as it surfaces. Experts say the trauma bond is equally as challenging to break as quitting opioid use.

It may help to journal, say positive affirmations, and even join a support group. Therapy or coaching will also help build your self-esteem back up. You lost a large part of your identity in the narcissist through his manipulation. Find a hobby or interest to get involved with and connect with yourself again. Surround yourself with supportive people.


If you are awakening to the possibility that the person you love is a narcissist, it is okay. Awareness is the catalyst for change. Be gentle with yourself. You may or may not be ready to leave the relationship, which is okay.

When you have had enough and see the pattern of trauma bond, you will know. It is heartbreaking. I feel for you. Take your time and grieve. Forgive yourself.

You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. When the time is right, you will find the perfect mate. Set boundaries and practice self-acceptance.

Comments / 16

Published by

Libby is a Personal Development and Relationship coach specializing in emotional intelligence. By blending motivational speaking, leading yoga and wellness retreats, and writing, she has mastered the art of living her best life while helping others.

Cincinnati, OH

More from Libby Shively McAvoy

Comments / 0