Chronic Self-Doubt, Confusion, Anxiety, and Despair | Signs of Narcissistic Abuse

Are you experiencing:

  • Confusion and self-doubt in your relationships?
  • Anxiety and depression that weighs you down?
  • Isolation and a sense of being unseen or unheard?

If these resonate, you might be encountering narcissistic abuse, a hidden form of emotional manipulation that can leave lasting scars. This WNAAD (World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day), let's shine a light on this critical topic.

Narcissistic abuse, unlike physical abuse, leaves no visible bruises. It's a subtle yet potent form of emotional manipulation that erodes your self-esteem, distorts your reality, and leaves you feeling isolated and confused.

But you're not alone.

This blog post:

  • Explores the signs of narcissistic abuse, including chronic self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and isolation.
  • Offers insights into the formation of narcissism and its impact on relationships.
  • Connects you with valuable resources for healing and support, including experts like Dr. Ramani, Daniel Shaw, and Julie L. Hall.

Traits and Formation of Narcissism

My take on narcissistic behavior comes from several sources. As a trained professional in developmental trauma, I view narcissism as a survival strategy for children who had to completely abandon their own sense of self to fit into the role and the image that served their caregivers. I believe that narcissists raise narcissists - people who cannot see their own humanity and cannot see the humanity in others.

Narcissists do have empathy, but it’s intellectual, not emotional, and is only reserved for their own idea of how people should be around them and how they should serve their needs. Narcissists build transactional relationships because that’s how they have been raised - they had to fulfill a function within a family or community. So everybody does, on their own map of the world.

Narcissists do not self-reflect. There is nobody “at home” to reflect on. They’re disconnected from their own internal experience. Their attention and sense of self are often outwards oriented. They perceive themselves in relation to other people’s roles with comparisons in power dynamics - who’s on top of me and who’s below me now? They adapt different roles and force others to play in theirs so that narcissists can preserve control over their idea of the world.

People in relationships with narcissists often feel not seen. No matter what they do or how much heart they pour into the relationship, narcissists cannot take it in (because there is no one inside to take it in).

Generally, you are only good or can do something right when you fit into the narcissist’s image for you in their life. When you violate their expectations, you shall be punished by coercion and manipulated back into serving your role, just like narcissistic parents did to their child.

Shame is the underlying, most present emotion in narcissists. And they do everything, absolutely everything, to avoid feeling shame. The sense of shame is unbearable because they built their whole life on a constant effort to fit in that environment that was not attuned to them, so they had to work hard (secretly, they want acknowledgment for the hardship).

That’s why grandiose narcissists are proud and demand respect from other people, and covert narcissists are constantly resentful and jealous of others’ success as a way to not look at their own sense of inadequacy and the detrimental feeling of shame.

Without therapy or education, people do not know that the shame they’re experiencing is reflecting poorly on the environment that failed them as human beings.

Narcissists internalized shame because they entirely depended on the caregivers who didn’t see them. A child that internalizes shame has no space for protest or agency. That’s how trauma develops. A child has no choice but to submit to a controlling environment even if it completely denies their humanity.

It’s a very cruel form of abuse. It’s also invisible and can only be noticed when you know what to look at (see the signs below).

Perfectionists, overachievers, workaholics, burt out CEOs of companies, and flawless family members are the people who had to deny their own human needs in order to survive in high pressure, high-performance, high-demand environment. Therefore, they chose professions where those needs aren’t required to succeed.

Unlike physical abuse, emotional and psychological abuse doesn’t leave bruises. It’s invisible.

Thus, people go through life recreating narcissistic abuse without knowing about their impact. How can you point at something that you do not see? That’s why we now have WNAAD to remind people about the invisible bully in the room - unwillingness to see and acknowledge human beings as vulnerable, fallible, dependent, and needing connection, compassion, validation, and deep recognition for the beings they are.

As well as the lack of understanding that we primarily develop our sense of self from healthy interdependent relationships with people who can attune and relate to us with care and dignity.

5 signs of narcissistic abuse

Here are the signs that you or your friend might be experiencing narcissistic abuse (or have had it in the past and are still suffering from symptoms):

  1. Confusion. Cognitive dissonance is a very pervasive and difficult to point at experience. “How can he say that he loves me and then do the very thing he knows will hurt me?” Victims of narcissistic abuse often say conflicting things, like “No, she’s a good mother, but she loses her temper, and I have to leave the house for a few days with the kids,” or “They usually don’t talk about this way about women and manipulation, they’re pretty high integrity people. But of course, there are a lot of manipulation techniques that they’re sharing”. When the things narcissists say don’t match what they do, it’s manipulation and designed to confuse people, and it works!
  2. Chronic self-doubt. When you are constantly put in a position where no matter what you say, do, or decide is ever good enough, you internalize your critic, deny your own sense of self, and question your agency. The need for connection with the narcissist, who often creates a toxic dependency on them, overrides rational thinking. In addition, constant stress dysregulates the nervous system in a way that you cannot think clearly due to the fear of punishment.
  3. Anxiety about seemingly frivolous things, such as "Am I good enough? What happens if this relationship ends? What happens if I stay in this relationship? Did I wash the dishes as he likes them? Should I plan our next trip? " There is constant angst about never knowing how to get it right in relationships and life. This anxiety is often paralyzing due to double binds and other coercive control tactics that narcissists use to have you in their lives.
  4. Depression. Eventually, living a life in relationships where your needs don’t matter and your being is not being seen, and there is nothing you can do right, the sense of despair creeps in… because what’s the point in living, trying, doing? Depression indicates chronic self-neglect and relational hostility that the chronic misattunement caused. Behind the self-neglect is a log of anger, rage, hurt, and shame about not being seen, acknowledged, and related. Depression varies from person to person and is a sign of the need for professional support.
  5. Self-isolation. Narcissists outsource their sense of shame to other people. You might notice thoughts of I’m not enough, what’s wrong with me, I need to do better, around them. Humans are relational and empathic beings who pick up on each other’s expectations because that increases connection and chances for survival together, but the expectations of a narcissist are unrealistic. Often abuse victims withdraw from their friends and family to protect themselves from the cognitive dissonance and shame that comes up when talking to people outside of abusive relationships.

If you notice your friend disappearing from their social life, see them doubt themselves a lot, feel angst, and hear them talk about themselves as if they can never do anything right but their partner is perfect, flag that conversation. If you notice they contradict themselves while speaking about their relationship, sending them some psychoeducation about narcissism and narcissistic abuse might be a good idea.

Here are some resources. My absolute favorite expert on narcissistic abuse, with an extensive video library on youtube, is Dr. Ramani.

Daniel Shaw is a world-renowned expert on narcissism and systems of subjugation (cults).

And my recommendation for this month is "The Narcissist in Your Life" book by Julie L. Hall (link to her Psychology Today blog).


  • Knowledge is power. Understanding narcissistic abuse can help you identify it, set boundaries, and prioritize your well-being.
  • Healing is possible. With the right support and resources, you can overcome the effects of narcissistic abuse and reclaim your sense of self.
  • You are not to blame. Narcissistic abuse is never your fault.

Take action today:

  • Share this blog post to raise awareness about narcissistic abuse.
  • Reach out for support if you suspect you're experiencing it.
  • Educate yourself on the signs and resources available.

Together, we can break the cycle of narcissistic abuse and empower individuals to heal and thrive.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as professional medical advice. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please seek professional help from a qualified mental health professional.

Written by
Jura Glo

I’m a certified NARM Practitioner and a former Radical Honesty Trainer with over 9 years of experience working with individuals and couples globally.

I specialize in addressing trauma-induced relationship dynamics and am known for my ability to cut through superficial issues to focus on what truly matters.

My efficiency in identifying core problems and implementing solutions, coupled with my commitment to psychological and emotional safety, underscores my approach, characterized by full transparency and authenticity in my work.

Where to start?

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