PTSD Narcissism and The Pathology of a Narcissist

​PTSD narcissism is, unfortunately, much more prevalent than we might think.

There are certainly no excuses for abuse. It might be helpful, though, for you to understand some of the reasons why someone might become an abuser.

Your character was shaped by the experiences you went through, the support or lack of support you received, and the duration of those experiences.

You made choices out of survival to deal with the challenges that were present in your life. Those choices decided your direction and outlook on life, and in many ways shaped your character.

Your characteristics aren't set in stone. Your patterns, which are set in motion early in life, do seem to be hardwired and they take considerable time to loosen up, rewire, and to disidentify from.

Your character was shaped by the experiences you went through, the support or lack of support you received, and the duration of those experiences.

At the time of the abuse, the choices you made were more necessities than conscious decisions; nonetheless, they influenced your direction in life.

For example, if you grow up with a verbally and physically abusive mom or dad and your way of dealing with this was to avoid conflict (flight) and anticipate your parent’s moods (please) in order to keep the peace, that will contribute to an overall lack of boundaries, suppressed anger, and likely a continuance of seeking approval from others into adult life. Moreover, as long as the trauma related to your past has not been worked through, your patterns will stay in place.

The patterns that a narcissist falls into are a very different category from those described above, though trauma is still the main ingredient.

PTSD Narcissism in Society

There are many ways of looking at narcissism and PTSD. Both from a personal point of view-- of what the individual went through—and from a collective point of view—of what is transpiring in society on the whole.

Narcissism is widely promoted and encouraged, unfortunately. The values of society are to look up to those who are successful, ambitious, and can dominate others. Regardless of our reasoning, our animal instincts of the alpha male or alpha female still prevail.

What this profoundly ingrained and biologically hardwired mindset does is that it encourages narcissism, conflict, being selfish, and having disregard for others.

What might start out as a mild form of narcissism in an individual can grow out of proportion in an environment which nurtures it. For example, the many corporations, academic environments, and team sports cultures that have a dog-eat-dog mentality.

If a faulty pattern goes unchecked and even gets applauded, the self-righteousness and sense of accomplishment of a narcissistic individual is further enhanced.

The Pathology of and Dealing with a Narcissist

This brings us to the driving force of a narcissist and how narcissism can cause PTSD.

Regardless of whether the trauma was neglect or abuse, whether it was mild or severe, a narcissist can be born. The main driving force of narcissists is feeling inadequate, incompetent, and not worthy. Their sole occupation in life is to prove to themselves and to others that they are worthy, adequate and competent.

This strive and ambition are what makes narcissists very clever, elusive, and accomplished people. They are always on the lookout to gain dominance, control, and a sense of achievement, regardless of whether they hurt others in the process. As long as they can hold onto their sense of being special, competent, and in control, their self-indulgent narcissism can thereby continue to cover up their wound-- their initial self-image of lack of confidence, inadequacy, and incompetence.

Considering narcissism and PTSD, it is not hard to imagine how narcissists can become psychopaths in positions of power. Narcissists are rewarded by society through prestige, power, and money.

In the end, though, behind all the facade, narcissists are like clever little children who refuse to grow up.

  • Sara says:

    I belong to many online support groups that support survivors, many of the group members relate to their family members as narcs, I understand this as abuse can be understood as labelling the person as a Narc, I can’t help this is misunderstood as there are approximately 2 %of our population are narcissistic .. people unable to regulate and have unresolved trauma can potentially abuse their kids due to not ever getting treatment this can be people from a spectrum of disorders although to belong groups which frame it for victim’s of narcs I believe my abusive mum was BPD , nevertheless extremely abusive

    • Lorrie Eubanks says:

      less than 2% of the population is diagnosed with NPD, that does not mean that only 2% have NPD. People with NPD typically do not seek therapy or a diagnosis because they are content with the person they are. As for your mother, BPD is also a cluster b personality disorder, more women are diagnosed with BPD more men are diagnosed with NPD.

  • Michael says:

    I have found this to be very true, through personal experience. It is just a label though as we all carry narcissistic tendencies. I feel empathy for this person/s as they appear to act unconcious of the pain and fear they cause to their chosen victims. Be it a lack of self-awareness or a inability too acknowledge the trauma that caused the pain and fear in them, it is what makes them what they are. I have observed that they seem to get relief from their anxiety by dominating or belitteling their victim’s. Stress and anxiety seem too trigger the worst of the narcissistic tendencies and the cycle of abuse continues, seemingly without remorse.

    • Gina says:

      I beg to differ Michael – being the survivor of several myself. They act unconsciously through their pain? Have you actually ever been abused or terrorized by one, or just sitting back in observation of said opinion? Meet a true predator who invades comes into your life to premeditatedly do harm, and see how much empathy you then have. I was raised by one of the best, but even after decades of therapy this one still took me by storm. His modality and his entrance ever so slight, I did not see him coming – and he devoured my life. I am nothing like them, I’ve fought my whole life not to be. I have a heart, compassion, empathy, feelings and care about the welfare of humanity. Pain can be overcome if the coward has the guts, the problem lies in the courage they lack to face their fears, and grow up, and do what it takes. I’ve overcame more than four people, and I’ll survive him too – he will not break my spirit, with his nastiness and impish abuse. I’ve already forgiven him, it has little to do with him anyway — it’s my peace that is has to be restored. I have a great deal of compassion towards my fellow man, but make no mistake, there are monsters out there that fully know what they are doing and do it over and over again. Feel sorry for them if you choose, and excuse they’re behavior away. That’s part of what is wrong with our society — no one is held accountable for anything anymore. He’s in prison now, but I know he’ll be back, he enjoyed what he did to me to much – they always come back for more.

      • Mary says:

        That sounds like a terrifying experience Gina, my heart goes out to you xx you sound really traumatized by what you have been through. I am praying for you this minute, sending you the best of strength and calm xx that person who is now in jail – you do not need him, he may need you – but strange thing is (and even though you have forgiven him the harm he did you) be assured that you will not be doing HIM any favours by allowing him the opportunity to hurt you again. Maybe he will be a better person, a changed person, when he comes out of jail? Maybe he won’t have changed? Important thing is – YOU have already changed. Your paths crossed but they are not hopelessly entwined. Gina… Be careful xx. Ask your guardian angel to guide you through this. God bless xx Mary

      • WebMistress says:

        New to responding. Gina I hear you loud & clear. When a Narc tells you things didn’t happen. What you see is wrong eg: pic of ex & narc. They deny what you see, feel, hear. 12 years of a narc & unless you have lived with someone as an adult who enjoys driving you crazy. Then you can not imagine the sufferings. CPTSD I have had since 25. It was all used against me. If I hadn’t have taken notes, screenshots, recorded conversations etc Then I would be in a nut house. They do believe their own lies. They will stop at nothing to destroy a person. All while smiling at you & they’ve everyone trained in advance that your crazy. God forbid you call them out. I am nursing bruises after showing facts. They don’t leave you. They destroy anything you have. They enjoy watching you go crazy & exploit all weaknesses. To them we are weak.
        As an observer I do agree on why they become narcissistic. I have numerous traits myself of controlling environments to protect self. Being in a fight mode is narcissistic as Roland has explained well.
        Are Narcissistic people suffering? Yes. There is no pill for this disorder. Gina, I totally validate your situation. No I also will not be beaten down when I’ve survived so much before.
        Please note, when we meet a narcissist, they are the nicest people ever. You are Swept off your feet. Once they have you hooked the games begin. THESE PEOPLE DIN’T CARE FOR ANYONE BUT SELVES AND HOW THEY APPEAR TO OTHERS.

        Run as fast & far as you can.
        I am afraid I have become more narcissistic after being stuck in Fight-anger & controlling all encounters after disassociation for over a year at a time.

        Gina do not give up your fight. No most people do not understand how a narcissistic person can impact your sanity. It’s rare to escape one intact.

        • Scared says:

          I live this hell every day. You have given me so much strength to continue on with my life. I am the blame for everything that happens to him. I am stupid, I am weak. NEVER WILL I BE WEAK. NEVER WILL I BE STUPID. The name calling. I pray for him every day. And it gets worse every day. I am at a loss.

  • Ruan says:

    Agreed absolutely. An excellent book on the causes, prevalence, and overcoming of narcissism is A H Almaas’s “The Point of Existence”. What we see, understand, and overcome in ourselves help us to deal with effectively outside ourselves. What we don’t tends to confuse us.

  • Ruan says:

    I feel now my previous comment was incomplete and therefore potentially misleading, cannot edit so adding here:
    Some people’s issues are so severe and deep seated, and their connection with their inner essence so minimal, as to make them truly predatory and cruel and dangerous and very unlikely to respond to empathy or humanely. They sometimes have a deeply entrenched dynamic of defenses avoiding anyone or anything appealing to their better nature.
    Any inkling of empathy would force them to face their own pain and they are determined not to.
    Please don’t underestimate the challenge of changing someone’s deep seated patterns and where possible leave that to professionals.
    Please always stay safe or get help or do what is necessary to get help.

  • Anonymous says:

    I worked for one and apparently I was somehow a threat to be eliminated. They abuse power and will stop at nothing short of destruction. They are a handful to deal with and so manipulative with threads of truth spun into outrageous lies. They suck up and kick down. They are the opitimy of evil!

  • Anonymous says:

    I had to recently cut off a relationship with a narcissist. This person caused me serious PTSD. I felt so fearful of them – his behavior really pushed me over the edge. I am okay now but I had to threaten him with getting a restraining order if he did not leave me alone. This person was very manipulative and damaged by his childhood. He did not respect my boundaries. Though we were just friends, his narcissistic behavior really triggered me, reminding me of something that happened in the past.

    • StalinSwag3481 says:

      How did he cross your boundaries, examples? I was dating a woman who would cycle through these chaotic silencing, distant, breakup cycles only to get back together and then have it repeat the following week. I admit that when she would text me or call me and freak out on me that I would always calm her down and say this isn’t you. My energy levels were decimated and always told her that she was hurting me…as soon as she knew that she would stop and come back to me.

      In the end, she left me via a note blaming me for everything. Going as far as saying that she didn’t like the person she was when around me and that I brought out her poor behavior towards me. It was never her fault. I should have ended it when she told me, “I can be manipulative if I want to be, bit I choose not to be!” The next 4 weeks were pure manipulation, projection, gaslighting, lies, stonewalling, silent treatment, and more…all intermixed with kindness and generosity. I knew what she was doing, I just didn’t realize how attached I had become until she discarded me.

      The next two weeks after this discard, I contacted her stupidly, she would Hoover only to cancel and become cruel then nice then cruel…until she said she was taking me off this rollercoaster. But, the next day she was nice again…I ignored…she became mean and cruel and left a terrible voicemail to which I called her out on her narcissistic abuse and extreme insecurities. Well, that pissed her off, and I apologized to which she called the police on me…the ultimate in power, control, silent treatment, and being a fucking coward who can’t handle the truth and conflict.

      You lose time to these people, they suck you dry, and once you expose them, they’ll do whatever they can to break you even if it means filing a false police report. They are adults with child emotions, and they will never take responsibility unless the law steps in.

      Oh, and she’s studying to be a social worker…abuse of power!

  • Larry says:

    Yes, all true.

  • CPTSD and NPD says:

    I have noticed the signs of NPD in me through lack of empathy and disregard for others and I have blamed it all on my PTSD. I have dissociated so much and allowed myself to fall into abusive reactions towards those that really love me and want to help me. I have pushed people away and refused actual love because of the trauma. These last few months I have seen it first hand as I finally found some medication that has worked to bring down at least some of my symptoms. I am terrified that I have allowed my trauma and unhealed emotions hurt other people in my life who were only trying to help. I don’t understand it all but I am determined now to change this pattern in my life. I do not ever want to abuse or use another because of my trauma. I used to consider myself an empath, but now I am seeing how my hypersensitivity and trauma hasn’t helped anyone and I have only used situations to gain some sort of control over my surroundings. Yes I have been a victim to many traumatic events but that does not mean that I am meant to hurt or project onto any one else, especially those that have loved me through this. Thank you for this blog post because it has brought me to a realization that I needed to see. I have been a complete asshole to people who never deserved it and I pushed people away because I thought I was protecting myself. I am determined now to heal these part traumas so i never hurt another innocent soul ever again.

    • JSue says:

      Really well said… your prospective brought me so much clarity. I have CPTSD and disassociate but I do not lash out. I can go inward and just be gone. My boyfriend lashes out more. He is refusing to get help. He is stuck in a very immature loop. He is not evil, he is just stuck. Though it feels quite cruel. There is just no way to move forward together if this continues to be the case. I think if you get out of control like this there is a lot of shame and some would just rather stay in denial and that creates a cycle of outbursts, blame, shame and denial & if a significant other cannot roll with that same cycle the relationship just can not work. I agree. Not getting help is cowardice.

  • Rhonda S. says:

    How much is the trauma meditation series?

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