According to The National Institute of Mental Health, “PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous event.”
Well, lets face it, living with a narcissist can be a dangerous event. Even if your narcissist was not physically abusive (many are) the emotional abuse, humiliation and undermining of your self-confidence can all be crazy-making.
Having PTSD results in feeling stressed or frightened, even when you are not currently in direct danger. Symptoms of this disorder include having nightmares, panic attacks and flashbacks (if there was an inciting event).
Individuals that have had prolonged exposure to the emotional abuse of a narcissist may find that they are easily startled, are often agitated, have difficulty sleeping and may experience angry outbursts.
Unfortunately, all of these symptoms can further undermine your self-confidence and sense of well-being making it more difficult to recover from the abuse even after you have removed yourself from the relationship. If your relationship is on-going these symptoms have the potential to give the narcissist more ammunition against you and your sanity.
“To be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have all of the following for at least 1 month:
• At least one re-experiencing symptom
• At least three avoidance symptoms
• At least two hyperarousal symptoms
• Symptoms that make it hard to go about daily life, go to school or work, be with friends, and take care of important tasks.”1
The way that these symptoms would appear in everyday life could be that you would have sudden memories of an event that scared you or you would suddenly feel unsafe, in danger or unglued.
There may be places or activities that you completely avoid. These are avoidance symptoms. For instance, if you used to bowl and you were humiliated in front of everyone at the bowling alley, you may change your drive to work to avoid the street that the bowling alley is on and you would never want to bowl again. Other avoidance symptoms might include refusing to speak about certain topics, wear certain clothing, eat certain foods or do certain activities. There is often a sub-conscious connection between the trauma and the item that you are now avoiding. You may not be aware of the connection on a conscious level.
Hyperarousal is the term used to describe having trouble relaxing, sleeping and being agitated. You may also have trouble getting your “to do” list done. It may be difficult for you to venture outside or to see friends and loved ones. It is possible that you are dealing with this inability to relax by relying on legal or illegal drugs. There is also a possibility that you have convinced yourself that there is another reason that you don’t wan to go out.
The good news is that once this condition is diagnosed you can get better. A huge amount of research is currently being done on this condition and the treatment outcomes are improving.