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Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
December 24, 2023 ·  10 min read

Studies Show Anxiety Disorders May Be Caused By Exposure To Narcissistic Abuse

If you experience anxiety, including chronic episodes of nervousness, fear, sweating, trembling, sleeping difficulties, and more, you should know you are not alone. Anxiety is the most prevalent mental illness in the United States. Each year, approximately 40 million adults, which accounts for 18.1% of the population, suffer from various anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to current scientific literature, anxiety is believed to have multiple intricate yet well-known causes. These include imbalances in brain chemistry, the consumption of anxiety-inducing foods, personality disorders, and traumatic experiences in life. I personally remember those anxious moments in a bad previous relationship where I had to check myself regularly. Knowing things weren’t right. It took years to figure it all out.

Narcissistic abuse: an overlooked contributor to anxiety

Narcissistic abuse refers to the harmful actions, both mentally and physically, inflicted by individuals who exhibit extreme self-centeredness and a lack of empathy for others. Narcissists have a grandiose self-image and seek admiration, but they cannot genuinely care for others.

Initially, they may come across as charming to win admiration, but as time passes and attention shifts away from them, they can become demanding and manipulative. Narcissists only reciprocate feelings when it benefits them—leading those close to them to feel neglected, guilt-tripped, unworthy of love, and highly anxious.

Research has shown a strong connection between abuse in adulthood, such as domestic violence and abuse from a narcissistic partner, and various physical and mental health issues, including anxiety. However, the impact of narcissistic abuse during childhood is equally significant. Recent studies indicate that childhood narcissistic abuse can contribute to developing anxiety disorders both in youth and later in life.

Narcissistic Abuse comes in many forms
Image Credit: Kat Smith / Pexels

Narcissistic abuse experienced during childhood can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health. Both in the short-term and long-term. Bullying behaviors and the systematic abuse of power, such as verbal abuse, threats from narcissistic parents, or even traumatic physical abuse, can profoundly affect the child’s well-being. The child may internalize and externalize their emotional pain. Leading to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), both in the short term and during adulthood.

Physically, the child may exhibit delinquent behavior, substance abuse, anxiety, and aggression as a result of narcissistic abuse, both during their youth and later in life. In essence, narcissistic abuse, whether experienced in childhood or adulthood, can significantly contribute to developing and exacerbating anxiety disorders.

Identifying narcissistic abuse can be challenging due to factors like denial, self-victimization, and emotional manipulation.

By recognizing the signs, you can gain insight into whether you have experienced narcissistic abuse and take appropriate steps toward healing and seeking support. It’s important to review the signs below to recognize if you have experienced narcissistic abuse. Whether in your childhood or, more recently, from people close to you:

Abuse and manipulation: The abuser consistently belittled or bullied you. Asserting their superiority and making you feel responsible for their unhappiness.

Blackmail: The abuser harshly criticized you if you didn’t comply with their desires. They used love or friendship as conditional rewards to control your behavior instead of providing them unconditionally.

Gaslighting: The abuser frequently undermined your self-confidence or made you feel inadequate by comparing you to more accomplished individuals.

Exploitation and isolation: The abuser took advantage of your emotions and generosity for their own benefit. They disregarded your personal boundaries and isolated you from supportive friends or family members.

Lying and cheating: The abuser consistently lied or cheated to avoid accountability, boost their ego, or fulfill their selfish desires. They may have also spread gossip and falsehoods about you.

Neglect: The abuser was only supportive when it suited them. Failing to reciprocate your friendship, love, or respect when you genuinely needed it.

Projection (in the case of a narcissistic parent): The abuser sought to live through you and expressed love only when you mirrored their desires and behavior. They relied on you for emotional or mental support and wanted you to depend on them. Ensuring you would never leave.

Narcissistic Abuse is not love
Image Credit: Anete Lusina / Pexels

If you have experienced the aforementioned symptoms in your childhood or are currently going through similar experiences, it is important to consider the following tips

Remember, prioritizing your well-being and seeking the necessary support is crucial in recovering from narcissistic abuse and managing anxiety effectively.

Seek professional help: If you are in immediate physical or emotional danger, or if leaving the abuser seems challenging, reach out to the police, medical professionals, helplines, or local shelters for assistance. If you are not in immediate danger, consider seeking therapy to address any mental traumas from the past or present.

Cut ties with the abuser: In many cases, the most beneficial approach is to distance yourself from the abusive individual as much as possible. Minimize contact and prioritize relationships with positive and supportive individuals in your life.

Maintain a positive outlook: Understand that the abuse was not your fault and that the abuser’s opinions of you were inaccurate. You possess inherent value, and there are numerous ways to overcome the effects of abuse.

Educate yourself: Learn more about narcissistic abuse through resources such as Psychology Today. This knowledge can help you better understand the dynamics of abuse and provide insights into your own experiences.

Regarding anxiety, it is advisable to consult with a doctor or medical professional if you are experiencing severe anxiety that persists over time. They can provide appropriate guidance and support tailored to your specific situation.

Read: 4 Signs That Your Anxiety Isn’t Yours

If you prefer to explore alternative treatment options or make lifestyle changes before seeking medical professionals, you can consider the following tips:

Eat a healthier diet: Focus on nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, and good fats. Avoid sugary and processed foods. A diet rich in healthy fats and low in added sugar can help prevent and reduce anxiety. Incorporate anxiety-reducing foods into your diet.

Reduce alcohol and drug use: Substance abuse and heavy alcohol or drug use have been linked to the development of anxiety disorders. Cutting down on these substances can have a positive impact on anxiety.

Engage in regular physical activity: Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise or physical activity every day. Exercise has been shown to help prevent and reduce anxiety. Even light activities like stretching or walking can be beneficial.

Prioritize quality sleep: Strive to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Sleep difficulties are closely associated with anxiety disorders. Seek guidance from medical professionals or try various techniques to improve the quality and duration of your sleep.

Practice meditation and mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness exercises, such as yoga stretches, into your routine. Mindfulness meditation has been proven to reduce anxiety.

Seek social support: Spend time with supportive friends and family members. Building strong social networks can help reduce anxiety and increase resilience to stress.

Manage your time effectively: Develop an efficient schedule that provides structure to your life and allows for dedicated time to practice anxiety-reducing mindfulness. And lastly, Educate yourself. Learn more about dealing with anxiety from reputable sources such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

It’s not easy, but dealing with narcissistic abuse is manageable and you can heal

Remember, dealing with anxiety, especially when it arises from narcissistic abuse, can be challenging. It is important to recognize the need for help and support. By taking proactive steps and surrounding yourself with caring individuals, you can move forward, heal from past experiences, and cultivate a better and healthier life.

Keep Reading: How Narcissists Play the Victim and Twist the Story


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