Examples of Narcissistic Abuse: The Hidden Dangers in Toxic Relationships

Narcissistic abuse, a deeply insidious and often concealed form of emotional and psychological manipulation, is typically inflicted by individuals exhibiting a stark lack of empathy. The subtle nature of this abuse often masks its presence, making it challenging to identify. In this post, I will shed light on the most common examples of narcissistic abuse, so that next time you come across such behavior you will know what you are up against.

Understanding Narcissism and Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissism manifests in two distinct ways.

On the one hand, there are individuals who display strong narcissistic traits. While it is normal for people to have some narcissistic traits, in these people the traits are so pronounced that they can significantly disrupt interpersonal relationships.

On the other hand, there is a much more severe and damaging form of narcissism, which is recognized as a mental health condition. This is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association.

Individuals who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder harbor grandiose perceptions of their own superiority, are captivated by fantasies of success, beauty, or power, and demonstrate extreme sensitivity to criticism.

In addition, they routinely exploit and manipulate others, without feeling any form of guilt or remorse, to achieve their objectives or maintain their inflated self-image.

Narcissistic abuse refers to the harmful behaviors perpetrated by individuals who either exhibit strong narcissistic traits or have NPD.

This type of abuse can manifest in a multitude of ways, spanning emotional, psychological, financial, physical, and even sexual dimensions.

The following are the most common types of narcissistic abuse that everyone needs to be aware of.

1. Examples of Narcissistic Abuse – Love Bombing, Devaluation and Discard

Narcissistic relationships often follow a predictable and damaging cycle, transitioning from the intense affection phase called ‘love bombing’ to the harsh stage of ‘devaluation’.

This cycle is a manipulative strategy employed by narcissists to gain control over their victims. Below, we delve into each stage for a deeper understanding of this cycle.

Stage One: Love Bombing

Love bombing is the initial stage in a relationship with a narcissist. It’s marked by an overflow of affection, compliments, and gifts targeted at the victim.

Overwhelming Affection: During this stage, the narcissist showers their target with affection and admiration. They may use grand gestures, extravagant gifts, and sweet words to make the victim feel cherished and special.

Rapid Progression: The narcissist tends to rush the relationship, pushing for a quick commitment or creating future plans prematurely. They create an illusion of a perfect match, leading the victim to believe they’ve found their ideal partner.

narcissistic love bombing - examples of narcissistic abuse

Transition Phase: From Love Bombing to Devaluation

Once the narcissist feels they have secured the victim’s attachment, the relationship dynamics shift dramatically.

The adoration is abruptly replaced with criticism, neglect, and devaluation.

This sudden switch can leave the victim feeling confused and emotionally destabilized.

Stage Two: Devaluation

In the devaluation phase, the narcissist systematically degrades their victim to maintain power and control in the relationship.

Devaluation involves constant criticism, belittlement, and invalidation, aimed at diminishing the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth.

The narcissist instills a sense of worthlessness and inferiority in their victim by dismissing their achievements, undermining their appearance, or comparing them unfavorably to others.

broken heart - examples of narcissistic abuse

Tactics Used in Devaluation

During the devaluation stage, narcissists employ various manipulative strategies:

Criticism and Belittlement: The narcissist constantly criticizes or belittles the victim’s accomplishments, ideas, or appearance, creating feelings of inadequacy.

Gaslighting: The narcissist will deny or distort reality during the devaluation phase, leading the victim to question their memories, perceptions, or sanity.

Withholding Affection: Narcissists intermittently withhold emotional or physical intimacy as a form of manipulation, leaving the victim feeling rejected and unlovable.

Silent Treatment: Narcissists often use the silent treatment as a punitive measure. By refusing to communicate, they create a power dynamic where the victim feels desperate for their attention and approval.

The devaluation stage can have severe emotional and psychological impacts on the victim.

They start to believe the narcissist’s cruel words and begin to see themselves as worthless, unlovable, or incompetent.

This erodes their self-esteem and can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

low self esteem - examples of narcissistic abuse

Stage Three: Discard

Narcissistic discard” is a term that describes a common phase in the narcissistic abuse cycle.

This phase typically occurs after the devaluation stage, when the narcissist begins to degrade, belittle, or ignore their partner.

The discard phase is characterized by the sudden and often unexpected ending of the relationship by the narcissist.

This could involve the narcissist abruptly cutting off contact, moving on to a new relationship swiftly, or even spreading damaging rumors about the discarded individual.

The abruptness and severity of this phase can leave the discarded person feeling confused, betrayed, and emotionally devastated.

heart broken narcissistic discard - examples of narcissistic abuse

The purpose of the discard phase for the narcissist is twofold.

First, it serves to reinforce their sense of power and control over the relationship.

Second, it allows them to avoid any responsibility for the breakdown of the relationship, instead placing the blame entirely on the discarded person.

It’s important to note that the discard phase doesn’t always mean the end of the relationship.

Many narcissists engage in a pattern known as “hoovering,” where they attempt to suck the discarded individual back into the relationship, often with promises of change or displays of affection.

This cycle can repeat multiple times, causing further emotional harm to the victim.

heart broken narcissistic discard - examples of narcissistic abuse

2. Examples of Narcissistic Abuse – Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a potent form of psychological manipulation frequently employed by narcissists. It’s a tactic that revolves around distorting or denying reality, with the aim to sow seeds of doubt, confusion, and insecurity in the victim’s mind.

The Nature of Gaslighting

At its core, gaslighting is about control and maintaining power in a relationship.

It involves the abuser persistently denying or twisting the truth to disorient their victim.

By manipulating the victim’s perception of reality, the narcissist can make them question their memory, judgment, and sanity.

This erosion of self-confidence and self-trust makes the victim more dependent on the abuser for their understanding of reality.

narcissistic gaslighting - examples of narcissistic abuse

The Impact of Gaslighting

The effects of gaslighting can be devastating.

Over time, the victim may start to question their every thought and memory, leading to severe confusion, anxiety, and depression.

They may feel constantly on edge, unsure of their own perceptions and decisions.

In extreme cases, victims of gaslighting may even lose their sense of identity.

Examples of Gaslighting

Let’s explore some examples to better understand how gaslighting might manifest in a relationship:

Denial of Conversations or Events: A narcissist will outright deny a conversation that took place or insist that certain events occurred differently, leaving the victim questioning their memory.

Trivializing Feelings: The abuser will belittle the victim’s feelings or experiences, insisting that they’re overreacting or being too sensitive. This can make the victim feel guilty for expressing their emotions.

Diverting and Twisting: The narcissist avoids taking responsibility for their actions by changing the subject, questioning the victim’s thoughts, or turning the blame onto the victim.

Inducing Fear and Doubt: The abuser makes veiled threats or ominous predictions to keep the victim in a constant state of fear and self-doubt.

2. Examples of Narcissistic Abuse – Triangulation

Triangulation is a common manipulation tactic that involves the use of a third party to create tension, jealousy, competition, or insecurity in the narcissist’s victim.

The Purpose of Triangulation

The primary purpose of triangulation is to maintain power and control. By creating an atmosphere of competition or jealousy, the narcissist diverts attention from their actions and behavior.

They also use this tactic to confuse and destabilize the victim, making them more susceptible to further manipulation.

triangulation - examples of narcissistic abuse

Examples of Triangulation

Triangulation can occur in various contexts and relationships. Here are a few examples:

In Romantic Relationships: A narcissist introduce an ex-partner into conversations frequently, suggesting they still have a close relationship. This can create feelings of insecurity and jealousy in their current partner.

In the Workplace: A narcissistic boss pits two employees against each other, creating strife and competition. This allows the boss to maintain power by ensuring that the focus remains on the conflict rather than their leadership.

In Families: A narcissistic parent favors one child over another, creating rivalry and conflict among siblings. This gives the parent control and creates a dynamic where their children compete for the parent’s attention, in the process providing a steady stream of narcissistic supply to their parent.

The impact of triangulation can be devastating for the victim. It can lead to insecurity, low self-esteem, and confusion. They end up constantly on edge, unsure of their standing in the relationship.

3. Examples of Narcissistic Abuse – Flying Monkeys and Smear Campaigns

Narcissists also employ other manipulative strategies, recruiting and deploying an army of minions known as ‘flying monkeys‘ to do their bidding and orchestrate abusive tactics such as smear campaigns, designed to isolate the victim and damage their reputation.

Flying Monkeys

Flying monkeys are allies recruited by the narcissist.

They are usually friends or family members, and the narcissist manipulates them to believe their distorted narrative, leading them to act out against the victim.

Smear Campaigns

One of the most common tactics used by the narcissist when using flying monkeys is the rollout of smear campaigns.

The flying monkeys help the narcissist to spread a litany of lies and half-truths aimed at discrediting the victim.

This serves to protect the narcissist’s image while simultaneously damaging the victim’s.

narcissistic smear campaign false accusations

Tactics Used in Smear Campaigns

During the smear campaign stage, narcissists use various strategies to tarnish the victim’s reputation.

Overall, these tactics allow narcissists to maintain a façade of innocence and righteousness, while their victims are left dealing with the fallout of their lies and manipulations.

Spreading Lies

Narcissists create and spread false stories about the victim, causing others to question the victim’s character or behavior.

This strategy is particularly prevalent on platforms like social media, where information can spread quickly and widely.

Character Assassination

They project their negative traits and behaviors onto the victim, accusing them of actions or intentions that are actually reflective of the narcissist’s own behavior.

This twisted form of projection allows them to shift blame and responsibility away from themselves, further manipulating the perception others have of them and their victims.

Playing the Victim

Narcissists are adept at twisting narratives to make themselves appear as the aggrieved party.

They portray themselves as innocent victims, garnering sympathy from others while further isolating the actual victim.

This not only serves to validate the narcissist’s distorted view of reality but also helps them maintain control over their victims and those around them.

4. Examples of Narcissistic Abuse – Narcissistic Rage

Narcissistic rage is a term coined by psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut in the early 1970s.

It refers to an intense and disproportionate reaction that narcissists may have when they feel their sense of superiority or entitlement is being threatened.

This reaction can be triggered by various situations, including constructive criticism, perceived slights, or failure to meet unrealistic expectations.

Narcissistic rage can manifest in various ways, ranging from passive-aggressive behaviors to explosive anger and aggression.

Some narcissists engage in manipulative behavior, such as giving the silent treatment or spreading rumors, while others may resort to yelling, insulting, or even physical violence.

examples of narcissistic abuse narcissistic rage

It’s important to note that the root of narcissistic rage lies in the narcissist’s fragile self-esteem.

Despite their outward display of confidence and superiority, narcissists are typically insecure and have a deep fear of being seen as inferior or flawed.

When their grandiose self-image is challenged, they respond with rage as a defense mechanism to protect their inflated ego.

Dealing with narcissistic rage can be challenging and emotionally draining. If you find yourself on the receiving end of such behavior, it’s crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being, and remove yourself from the situation if necessary.

examples of narcissistic abuse narcissistic rage

4. Examples of Narcissistic Abuse – FOG (Fear, Obligation & Guilt)

The term “FOG” is an acronym that stands for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt – three emotional states that are often systematically induced by narcissists in their relationships.

These emotions can serve as powerful tools for manipulation and control.


A common tactic used by narcissists is to instill fear in their partners or loved ones.

This could be a fear of angering the narcissist, fear of abandonment, or fear of reprisal.

The constant state of anxiety keeps the victim off-balance and more susceptible to manipulation.

fear - examples of the effects of narcissistic abuse


Narcissists strive to create a sense of obligation in their relationships.

They may frame their needs as being of utmost importance, making their partners feel obligated to fulfill them.

This could involve taking on responsibilities that aren’t theirs or tolerating unacceptable behavior.


Guilt is another potent weapon in the narcissist’s arsenal.

They use guilt-tripping tactics, such as playing the victim or blaming their partner for their own shortcomings, to manipulate their partner into acting in certain ways.

The FOG of narcissistic abuse clouds the victim’s judgement and makes it difficult for them to recognize the abusive dynamics of the relationship.

It can also contribute to the victim feeling trapped and unable to leave the relationship.

love trap

Healing and Moving On After Narcissistic Abuse

Recovering from narcissistic abuse can seem like an uphill battle, but with the right support and resources, it’s entirely possible to heal and move forward.

Here are some key steps to aid in your recovery journey:

Acknowledge the Abuse

The first critical step towards healing is acknowledging that you’ve been a victim of narcissistic abuse.

This involves recognizing the signs of such abuse and accepting the reality of your situation.

It’s a tough step, but it’s vital for starting the healing process.

Seek Professional Help

Recovery from narcissistic abuse often requires professional help.

Therapists or counselors with experience in dealing with psychological and emotional abuse can provide invaluable guidance.

They can help you understand the nature of the abuse you’ve endured, process your emotions, and develop effective coping strategies.


Establish Boundaries

One of the most crucial aspects of healing from narcissistic abuse is learning to set firm boundaries.

This could involve limiting or completely cutting off contact with the narcissist to protect yourself from further abuse.

It might be difficult, especially if the narcissist is a family member or a longtime friend, but it’s an essential step for your wellbeing.

Prioritize Self-Care

Engaging in self-care activities can significantly aid in the healing process.

This could include physical exercise, pursuing hobbies that bring you joy, spending quality time with loved ones, or practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

These activities can help you regain balance and promote emotional healing.

personal wellbeing

Rebuild Your Self-Esteem

Narcissistic abuse can cause significant damage to your self-esteem.

Part of the recovery process is working on rebuilding your sense of self-worth.

This can be done by focusing on your strengths, celebrating your achievements, and affirming your worth daily.

Remember, you are more than the abuse you’ve endured, and you have the strength to rebuild your life after narcissistic abuse.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, while the impact of narcissistic abuse can be detrimental, it’s important to remember that recovery is possible.

With appropriate support, self-care, and resilience, victims can heal and rebuild their lives.

It’s important to remember that the recovery process is not linear and everyone heals at their own pace. Be patient with yourself and remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narcissism

Frequently Asked Questions about Examples of Narcissistic Abuse

What is narcissistic abuse?

Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional and psychological abuse perpetrated by individuals with strong narcissistic tendencies or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

It involves manipulation, gaslighting, belittling, and control tactics to maintain power in the relationship.

What are some examples of narcissistic abuse?

Narcissistic abuse can take many forms, including verbal insults, emotional manipulation, gaslighting (making you question your own reality), excessive criticism, and isolation from friends and family.

In some cases, it can also involve financial control or physical aggression.

What does gaslighting mean?

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic where the abuser denies or twists the truth to make the victim question their own memory, perception, or sanity.

This technique is often used by narcissists to create confusion and uncertainty, making the victim more reliant on them for “truth” or validation.

How can you tell if someone is a narcissistic abuser?

Some signs of a narcissistic abuser include a lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement, constant need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, exploiting others for personal gain, and frequent lying or manipulation.

Can narcissistic abuse lead to trauma?

Yes, prolonged exposure to narcissistic abuse can lead to complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), a condition characterized by feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, depression, and difficulties with trust and relationships.

How can one recover from narcissistic abuse?

Recovery from narcissistic abuse often involves cutting off contact with the abuser, seeking professional help such as therapy or counseling, joining support groups, self-care, and rebuilding self-esteem and trust in one’s own perceptions.

Can narcissistic abusers change their behavior?

While it’s possible for anyone to change, narcissists often lack the self-awareness or desire to do so.

Effective change usually requires professional help and a genuine commitment to self-improvement, which many narcissists may resist due to their deep-seated defense mechanisms

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