Personality disorders are serious mental illnesses that are said to affect up to 10% of the population of the USA, or 1 in 5 people (statistics vary). Chances are that you or somebody you know has been affected by a close encounter with a personality disordered person. Oftentimes, the nature of the problem goes unrecognised, yet you can be sure that the impact of such a dealing is profoundly felt (accompanied by a great deal of bafflement). In most cases, personality disorders are completely invisible to the untrained eye, with the vast majority of affected people being able to mask their symptoms to a large degree in public, only revealing themselves fully behind closed doors to their immediate families and within select close relationships. Those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, for example, tend to have elaborately constructed and very convicing “social faces” that are a world away from what their actual character is like in reality, and have been known to fool even the most highly intelligent of people.
This also means, very unfortunately, that the catrastrophic damage that is often caused to loved ones affected by a personality disordered parent, partner, colleague, friend or family member, is for the most part almost invisible too, and the overwhelming majority of those who’ve been affected by a situation involving a personality disordered individual struggle in silence and isolation, unable to access the support that they need. They is in part due to tactics used by disordered individuals to obscure the truth of the situation (to maintain their public appearance and to avoid culpability, among other things), and in part due to lack of public awareness and education.
Generally speaking, most who’ve been on the receiving end of the chaos induced by a disordered individual face the issue of not being believed as to the reality of their experience, as for a healthy person, unless one has had direct experience with a disordered person, it’s just too bizarre to comprehend how one person could possibly cause so much destruction, oftentimes deliberately, and often to their own family. The level of destructiveness (destructiveness to self and to others) is one of the key features of personality disorders of all types. Anti-social behaviour (destructive to social order and to the process of inter-personal bonding) is also a key feature.
Cosmically, we’re reaching a time where secrecy and suffering in silence are coming to a complete end for all beings. We’ve seen this approaching over recent years with the unveiling of huge amounts of previously hidden information pertaining to government operations, the secret activities of politicians, religious orders and various prominent figures being unveiled, and so many other examples. Look in your own life and you will see there have been copious examples of this phenomenon as well. This means that for those who have suffered in silence and been sworn to lives of secrecy as a result of abuse are now free to step into the full light of self-actualisation in a truly liberated way.
Abuse involving a disordered individual, such as in narcissistic abuse, has cataclysmic consequences for those who have been on the receiving end, ranging from mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical (including financial) damage. One would think that physical damage would be easier to detect, but in the case of narcissistic abuse for example, an NPD sufferer is a master of covering up the trail of what has actually happened, making it incredibly difficult to discern the real cause of physical chaos that ensues in their wake, with the blame often successfully being directed towards those whom they were abusing. In the case of all personality disorders, abuse of some kind is always present to varying degrees of extremity, as disordered individuals are incapable of maintaining normal healthy relationships without inappropriately using in some way the ones they share their lives with.
The mental, emotional and psychological damage sustained in cases of abuse, is what could be called “invisible” damage. Invisible in that it’s not apparent to the naked eye, but on closer inspection is very clearly present if one were to pay attention. Unlike somebody with an obviously physical ailment, the finer nuances of the human being that are less tangible and more abstract (mind, emotions, psyche, etc) are largely not understood by mainstream society, and even the medical, scientific and other more “advanced” communities. As such, so little support and understanding for those deeply suffering from the impact of such abuse is available, and many never make a full recovery. My intention is to provide additional resources that may assist those approaching this subject from a more spiritual-psychological angle.
Author’s personal note: I personally don’t believe that disordered individuals are necessarily “bad” or “evil”, despite the unbelievable atrocities that they have been known to commit, I feel, rather, that they are mentally ill and thus extremely dangerous characters, due to their unstable and destructive nature. Mental illness is a serious condition that doesn’t excuse behaviour, however I take a broader and more rounded slant on the typical approach of simply singling out individuals to blame, and am more interested in the study of the phenomenon as a larger picture and how exactly one comes to be so unwell (objectively, so as to not inadvertently take pity on those who cause such damage to others in a seemingly insatiable way).
In the most extreme of cases, personality disordered individuals within the general populace cause widespread chaos, confusion and breakup of their families, separating and isolating family members, often pitting them against each other, and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake that is very tricky to pinpoint due to the complex nature of how it has been unfolded. In less extreme cases, involvement with them causes mental, emotional and psychological damage of a relatively less (but no less meaningful) degree, that certainly requires some attention to resolve the impact of. There is said to be very little that can be done to treat most personality disorders, largely because those who experience them (particularly in the case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder) very rarely admit there is a problem or are willing to seek out help.
In cases of long-term abuse by a disordered individual, particularly in the instance where children have grown up with a disordered parent or caregiver (especially NPD), or in the instance of long-term spousal abuse, it’s highly common for Complex PTSD to develop. Even in cases of shorter-term abuse, the development of at least some degree of PTSD is likely due to the absolutely destabilising and sanity-eroding nature of such a relationship. C-PTSD is particularly intricate and nuanced, and may require many years of dilligent therapeutic care to fully unravel.
“Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C–PTSD; also known as complex trauma disorder) is a psychological disorder thought to occur as a result of repetitive, prolonged trauma involving sustained abuse or abandonment by a caregiver or other interpersonal relationships with an uneven power dynamic.” – Source: Wikipedia
C-PTSD in relation to narcissistic abuse, is a highly challenging experience to overcome without the incredibly patient and tender care of a loving support system, with loved ones willing to understand the truly multi-dimensional nature of the damage that has occurred to body, mind, emotions, spirit and psyche of one who has experienced long-term narcissistic abuse, and sadly many sufferers are denied such a support system due to imposed isolation within the abuse cycle, at at time dues to their own erratic behaviour as a result of the trauma. Until healed, abuse often produces a toxic cycle of damage, wherein damaged people inadvertently go on to damage others unintentionally during the course of their healing process without appropriate resources and understanding, sometimes ending up being labelled as disordered themselves.
A study at Stanford University has suggested that long-term narcissistic abuse can actually cause physical brain injury, impairing the functioning of the hippocampus (the area of the brain responsible for short-term memory and related to learning) and producing chronic swelling of the amygdala, which freezes an individual in perpetual fear and fight/flight response (inducing chronic stress and associated symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, etc). A slew of related health problems (physical and otherwise) can result from this. Further sources of information: Stanford News; Psychology Today; Hackspirit; Ur Health Experts; Self Growth; Psych Central
Common symptoms that remain after narcissistic abuse are the following:
- Shattered self-confidence
- Eroded sense of self and of one’s own reality
- Overwhelming self-doubt
- Low self-esteem
- The impulse to apologise for one’s own existence, and to apologise constantly for everything
- The impulse to “take back” every expression of one’s truth or assertion of a boundary, as if imminent danger of backlash is present
- Fear of abandonment (due to psychological trauma of the “discard” phase)
- Constant questioning and second-guessing of self
- Constant questioning and distrust of others
- Fear of taking up too much space, or repercussions for affirming self
- Questioning own’s own stability and sanity, when one is not actually unstable (due to gaslighting)
- PTSD and C-PTSD
- Low level constant anxiety (related to PTSD)
- Digestive issues including IBS (related to anxiety and PTSD)
The purpose of this initial article was to address some of the immediate considerations, and further articles and video resources will expand on additional angles. For now, the following section details resources that may be useful to explore. The below video is the first in a series addressing this subject, with more to be added later.
Empaths and Narcissists – A Recipe for Disaster (How to Not be a Narc Magnet)
A video exploring the very basics of the Empath/Narcissist relationship and how to overcome the tendency to be prey for narcissistic types.
Out of the Fog is an excellent resource detailing more information on various different personality disorders to help with recognition of them, and includes suggestions of what to do and what not to do in situations involving personality disordered loved ones, based on what has been found to work, and what clearly isn’t helpful. This resource was created to assist families, friends, colleagues and associates of loved ones affected by personality disorders, and is well worth a read for anyone who is curious.
FOG = Fear, Obligation, Guilt – the toxic pattern of entrapment that keeps one bound to the experience with personality disorders individuals, and that must be dissolved to experience true freedom and wholeness, and the ability to live one’s true unique potential unhindered.
The next blog post will feature information on how those with narcissistic wounding (particularly from childhood narcissistic abuse) can sometimes exhibit narcissistic type tendencies due to parts of the psyche remaining frozen in a childlike or infantile state, producing self-centredness when the person is not actually narcissistic by nature. Recognition of this without self shaming/blaming or self-imposed guilt is key to full healing. Subscribe to my mailing list to be informed directly of new postings.