Can You Get PTSD From Narcissistic Abuse? The Toxic Impact of the Narcissist

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who was emotionally abusive and manipulative? If so, you may be wondering if your experience has the potential to cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The answer is yes. It is possible to get PTSD from narcissistic abuse.

Narcissistic abuse often involves gaslighting, manipulation, belittling comments, and other forms of devaluing behavior. These types of experiences can be traumatizing for the victim, especially if they are prolonged or severe. When someone experiences narcissistic abuse they may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) due to the traumatic stress they have endured.

In this blog post, I will explore the toxic impact of the narcissist on their victim’s mental health and discuss the symptoms of PTSD.

I will also offer tips for getting better if you are currently struggling with the aftermath of narcissistic abuse.

What is PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can occur after someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Common causes of PTSD include combat exposure, serious accidents, natural disasters, or physical or sexual abuse.

The symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks to the traumatic event, difficulty concentrating, intrusive thoughts and nightmares, depression and anxiety, hyper-arousal and startle responses, avoidance behaviours and intense feelings of guilt or shame.

The symptoms of PTSD can be divided into four main categories:

Re-experiencing the trauma: This can include flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts about the abuse.

Avoiding reminders of the trauma: This may involve avoidance behaviours such as staying away from people or places that remind you of the narcissist.

Negative changes in mood and thinking: This can manifest as depression, anxiety, or feeling detached from others.

Changes in physical and emotional reactions: This can include insomnia, hypervigilance, and anxiety.

The Link between Narcissistic Abuse and PTSD

Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional abuse that is characterized by manipulation, control, gaslighting, and other toxic behaviours. The narcissist will often use these tactics to try to get their victim to doubt themselves, question their reality, and wonder if they are going crazy.

Victims of narcissistic abuse often report feeling isolated, confused, and worthless. They are constantly walking on eggshells because they can never be sure what will trigger the narcissist’s anger.

The relentless barrage of narcissistic abuse, from belittling comments to emotional manipulation, can cause the victim to live in constant stress and anxiety. This persistent state of fear can lead to the development of PTSD or CPTSD.

How Narcissistic Abuse Changes the Brain

When an individual is subjected to prolonged trauma, such as narcissistic abuse, it can cause changes in the brain. It has been shown that stress from this type of situation can lead to a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and emotion. This can then lead to problems with memory, concentration, and emotional regulation.

People who are exposed to long-term trauma often experience difficulty in forming new memories and have trouble concentrating. They may also find it harder to regulate their emotions due to the changes in their hippocampus. Other cognitive issues include poor decision making skills and an inability to remain focused on tasks.

Additionally, the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response) can become oversensitive. This means that the victim may startle easily, have trouble sleeping, and be constantly on edge. They may also have difficulty controlling their emotions and may experience outbursts of anger or crying.

The Linen Cupboard Metaphor – Understanding Traumatic Memories in PTSD and CPTSD

If you are struggling with the aftermath of narcissistic abuse, know that PTSD is not a sign of weakness – it is your brain’s reaction to the stress that the narcissist has inflicted upon you.

The Linen Cupboard Metaphor is an illustrative way of understanding how traumatic memories are stored in the brains of people with PTSD or CPTSD. In this metaphor, these memories are compared to linen stored in a disorganized cupboard.

The metaphor suggests that traumatic memories are not properly stored away like other long-term memories. Instead, they are kept close to the surface, as if they were ready to be accessed at any moment. This means that these memories can be triggered easily, often leading to intense emotional reactions such as flashbacks or panic attacks.

The Linen Cupboard Metaphor helps us to understand why it is so difficult for those suffering from PTSD or CPTSD to manage their symptoms. With proper treatment and support, however, it is possible for individuals to learn coping strategies and store their traumatic memories in more suitable ways for more effective management.

Overcoming PTSD after experiencing Narcissistic Abuse

If you are struggling with PTSD after experiencing narcissistic abuse, it can be difficult to know where to start in order to feel better. However, there are a few steps that can help you start the healing process.

Firstly, it’s important to create a safe and supportive environment for yourself. That could mean creating physical boundaries such as avoiding contact with your abuser or establishing emotional boundaries by setting clear limits on how people can interact with you.

Secondly, reach out for help from professionals such as psychologists or counsellors who understand narcissism and its effects on survivors. They will be able to provide tailored advice and support which will be invaluable in helping you overcome your trauma.

Thirdly, practice self-care techniques such as mindfulness exercises or writing in a journal – basic activities can help improve your mood and reduce stress levels.

Finally, find a good support network of people that understand what you’re going through who can offer an ear when needed.

All of these steps may seem daunting but they all contribute towards promoting healing and wellbeing. Healing will take time, but step by step you will get there.


Narcissistic abuse can have devastating consequences on a survivor’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. It can also lead to the development of PTSD or CPTSD, with all the symptoms that these conditions bring with them.

However, all is not lost. Recovery from narcissistic abuse and PTSD is possible with the right strategies and resources. These include creating boundaries, seeking professional help, practicing self-care techniques, and finding a support network.

With patience and a willingness to take positive steps for change, survivors can begin the journey towards healing.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links. When you use one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me. At no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission, which helps me run this blog and keep my in-depth content free of charge for all my readers.

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