If you’ve just learned that your ex has a narcissistic personality disorder, or you strongly suspect they do, you’re likely dealing with a lot of emotions. You might wonder how you could have ever dealt with someone so uncaring and what attracted you to someone like that in the first place. You might also wonder about what sort of mental health treatment is available for you and your ex.
Don’t fret. There’s a lot about dealing with those diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder that is hard to know about before getting involved. Getting the correct mental health treatment for yourself and encouraging your ex to do the same can go a long way to right the wrongs that happened during your relationship.
Learning more about narcissistic personality disorder, how it can manifest, and how individuals assume control in relationships can help you gain some of your power back. Keep reading to learn how you can heal from the damage done during your time with your ex.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissism involves more than just being a jerk. It is a diagnosable personality disorder plagued by an inflated sense of self and a deep need for attention. Those with this personality disorder also tend to have troubled relationships and often lack the skill of empathy.
Here’s a more detailed list of symptoms of this personality disorder.
- An exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Feeling entitled to attention and constantly requiring it
- Expecting recognition of being superior, even if their achievements don’t warrant it
- Exaggerating their own talents and achievements
- Preoccupation with success and power
- Believing in their own superiority and only seek to associate with others who are superior
- Belittling those they see as inferior
- Expecting favors and compliance with expectations
- Taking advantage of other people to get what they want
- Unable or unwilling to recognize the needs or feelings of other people
- Envy other people and believe that others envy them
- Feel slighted easily
- Come across as arrogant and pretentious
- Insisting on the best, no matter the price
- Don’t handle criticism well
- Getting angry or impatient when they don’t get what they want
- Have difficulty adapting to change
- Don’t react well to stress
- Often feel moody and depressed because they aren’t perfect
- Hiding widespread feelings of shame and insecurity
Sadly, rarely do individuals seek personality disorder treatment for narcissistic personality disorder. Rather, they may find their way into care for depression or other mental health issues. However, if they do receive mental health treatment, they might see treatment recommendations as insults and are unlikely to follow through.
Different Subtypes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by clinicians to make formal diagnoses, only a singular type of narcissistic personality disorder exists. However, the American Journal of Psychiatry published an article in 2015 denoting the rich literature supporting the existence of different subtypes in a clinical population.
According to Well and Good, there are six different subtypes:
Bullying Narcissist Type
The bully builds themselves up by putting down other people. They’re obsessed with winning and aren’t above threatening others to get what they want.
The closet type is hard to spot as they tend to be more codependent. These people will pretend they are selfless while associating themselves with high achievers to look better.
The exhibitionist is the polar opposite of the closet subtype. They let everyone around them know who they are and what they believe. They don’t try to hide their self-centeredness and feel the need to be in the spotlight.
While some might argue that all those who demonstrate narcissistic tendencies are toxic, this subtype is continuously causing drama and pain. They demand unreasonable amounts of time and attention from those in their lives and do not reciprocate. If your ex has caused extreme issues in your life, such as forcing you to lose your job or physically abusing you, then they are this subtype.
The psychopath is unstable and aggressive and can be considered an even more specific subtype. Serial killers often demonstrate this kind of narcissism.
Finally, we have the seducer. This subtype makes you feel great as they win you over as their latest conquest. They first admire you and then leave you when they don’t see you as having any use anymore.
What Kinds of People are Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder Attracted To?
Ultimately, those displaying narcissistic tendencies are attracted to people who can do something for them. Four qualities attract someone with this personality disorder. They include things like someone who will make them look good, such as success in work or someone with impressive talents.
Another quality these kinds of people look for is someone who makes them feel good via compliments and grand gestures or displays of affection. They also want someone who will validate their feelings and overlook their flaws. Someone with these characteristics can be easily controlled and prevented from leaving during abuse.
The Scars of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
At first, they may have attracted you because of their charm. As the latest target of their infatuation, they drew you in by their seeming likability and charm. You allowed them to sweep you off your feet.
It’s common to feel that during the entire relationship, you lacked emotional safety. Narcissists see you as an extension of themselves instead of as your own person. Talking about your feelings probably felt frustrating because you either felt the need to tread carefully to avoid an argument or because they never seemed to value your input.
When you’re continually tiptoeing around your ex’s feelings, you avoid talking about things that bother you. Instead, you learn to hide your feelings, which means you internalize things that cause you stress. If left unattended for long enough, this can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.
Ties Between Narcissism and Addiction
Narcissism and addiction have a lot in common. Addiction involves a cycle of cravings, building tolerance, and then withdrawal when the effects wear off. Narcissism involves attention cravings and seeking conquests. When they cannot satisfy their desires, they exhibit their own version of withdrawal symptoms via distress.
Both disorders involve someone looking to fill their internal void with external stimulation. Those with a narcissistic personality disorder’s need for attention only grow with time, similar to how those who live with addiction ramp up their use.
Overlapping symptoms include:
- Black and white thinking
- Emotional avoidance
- Low self-esteem
- Minimizing others
- Normalizing toxic behavior
A dual diagnosis of addiction and narcissism is common. The best outcomes occur when mental health treatment is going through rehab and personality disorder treatment at the same time. Proper assessment is the first step in identifying narcissistic personality disorder and learning more about it.
Often, because this personality pattern is so destructive, it’s difficult for them to form lasting bonds with other people. Without meaningful connection, this can lead to them developing an addiction to cope with their inner turmoil and loneliness.
How Codependency Comes Into Play
Codependency is a type of reliance on someone else to fulfill physical, emotional or mental needs. Most codependent relationships involve a taker and a giver. They are an unequal power dynamic that favors the taker’s demands.
Codependency presents in two ways in relationships where narcissism is also present. Both in your behavior towards them and theirs towards you, patterns of codependency likely exist.
Signs of codependency include:
- Feeling like you’re walking on eggshells to avoid conflict
- Requiring excessive check-ins and affirmation of your worth
- Feeling the need to ask permission to do things
- Frequently apologizing
- Feeling sorry for the other person all the time
- Trying to change or rescue under-functioning people
- Doing anything for the other person, even when it makes you feel uncomfortable
- Putting that other person on a pedestal
- Needing others to like you before you can feel good about yourself
- Struggling to find personal time
- Feeling like you’ve lost yourself to your relationship
How to Heal from a Relationship Plagued by Narcissism
The first step in healing is acknowledging that you’ve been in a toxic, abusive relationship. Admitting this is one of the most challenging steps because your ex has conditioned you to accept blame in the relationship. Learning to put the responsibility where it belongs can help you recognize the reality of what happened.
Once you can do that, you’ll learn how to set and stick to boundaries. Often, this means cutting off contact, no matter the grand gestures your ex does in an attempt to win you back. Remind yourself that you deserve a relationship built on mutual respect.
Recovery from this type of relationship is complex and involves sorting through complicated emotions. Normal breakups are painful and involve grief, anger, and sadness. But ending a relationship with someone abusive often means experiencing emotional distress compounded by anxiety and shame.
Another critical aspect of healing from your past relationship is reclaiming your identity. Because your ex was so controlling, you may not know who you are without them. Be patient, and take time to explore yourself.
If you’ve just left a relationship with someone you suspect has a narcissistic personality disorder and you’re feeling hurt and betrayed, you don’t have to go through this alone. The Ranch has a personality disorder treatment program that can help you or your ex get the help you need to live a rich and fulfilling life again.