The Narcissist and Emotional Abuse

Narcissists employ a variety of techniques to abuse their victims in order to control them. For that is the purpose of abuse- to control the other person. A narcissist may use emotional abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, or physical abuse. Verbal and physical abuses are straightforward-they are verbal and physical aggression directed at another person. Mental and emotional abuse is discussed as one and the same (often lumped together as “psychological abuse”) in many articles, but mental abuse is different from emotional abuse.

Mental abuse refers to the abuse of mental processes. Mental abuse is sometimes called “crazy making”. For example, when a narcissist tries to make their partner feel they are ‘crazy’ to cover their own guilt about something they want to hide. If they succeed in making their partner feel irrational and over-emotional, they may also lead other people in the family or community to believe their partner is unbalanced or ‘crazy’ too.  The narcissist may do this to gain sympathy while hiding his or her own bad behavior. Instead of admitting responsibility for his or her failings, the mental abuser will attempt to put the blame on someone else.

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is a form of abuse that affects the victim’s emotions; it is characterized by a person subjecting another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, poor self-esteem or post-traumatic stress disorder. Such abuse is often associated with situations of power imbalance such as in abusive relationships, bullying, and abuse in the workplace. Dominating behaviors are emotionally abusive (e.g., preventing someone from having contact with their family or jealous behaviors such as accusing a partner of maintaining other parallel relations).  Another emotionally abusive trait includes causing fear by: intimidation, threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends, destruction of pets and property, forcing isolation from family, friends, or school or work. Rejecting, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting/exploiting and ignoring/silent treatment are also characteristics of emotional abuse.

A narcissist responds to their partner’s emotions in inappropriate ways.  They may get grouchy when their partner is happy or they may act happy (or ignore them) when their partner feels angry, depressed or upset. They may even become aggressive and nasty when their significant other feels vulnerable, hurt or sad.

Another form of emotional abuse occurs when narcissists use their emotions to try and force their will on another person, e.g., insisting their partner obey them because they are angry, or expecting them to drop everything and ‘cheer them up’ if they are depressed, angry, sad or upset.

Emotionally Abusive Behaviors

The following are all behaviors a partner may experience from an emotionally abusive partner:

Withholding – Withholding love, affection, empathy, and intimacy

Countering – This is when the partner expresses a thought and the abuser immediately counters that view with his/her own without really listening to or considering it.

Discounting – When the abuser discounts the partner’s views or thoughts, tells the partner those ideas are insignificant, incorrect, or stupid. The abuser may even discount the partner’s memory about the abuse itself.

Blocking and diverting – When the partner wants to discuss a concern, the abuser changes the subject and prevents any discussion and resolution.

Accusing and blaming – The abuser will accuse the partner of some offense. The abuser may well know the partner is innocent of the supposed offense, but this tactic serves the purpose of putting the partner on the defensive rather than seeing clearly the behavior of the abuser.

Judging and criticizing – This serves to weaken the partner’s self-esteem and increases their looking to the abuser for validation.

Trivializing – This is when the abuser minimizes something that is important to the partner, such as a concern about something the abuser has done.
Undermining – When the partner wants to do something positive in her/his life, the abuser becomes threatened and tries to stop the partner. It may be an overt command, or it may be trying to subtly convince the partner why it’s a bad idea.

Threatening This can include threats of divorce, of leaving, of abuse, or other threats of actions that would hurt (not necessarily physically) the partner or someone the partner cares about.

Forgetting – This includes the abuser ‘forgetting’ about incidents of abuse, which undermines the partner’s reality. The abuser may also ‘forget’ about things that they know are very important to their partner.

Ordering – Treating the partner as a child or a slave; denying the independence of the partner.

Denial – Similar to discounting, although here the abuser outright denies his/her actions. This discounts the reality of a partner.

Abusive Anger When the abuser becomes enraged to the point of frightening the partner. This rage often is caused by incidents that a non-abuser would consider insignificant.


No matter which of the forms the narcissist uses, they are all abusive. Whether one labels what a narcissist does as verbal abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or economic abuse- some or all of these tactics are used to diminish their partner in order to keep them under his or her control.

Indeed, sometimes it is difficult to delineate what specific behaviors should be labeled what. How do you differentiate verbal abuse from emotional abuse when the abusive partner uses words to create the emotional pain?  Labels don’t matter –not when you get right down to it. When you’re dealing with a narcissist, and you know his or her behavior has resulted in an abusive relationship, labeling each behavior he or she engages in isn’t important. What is important is that the narcissist is an abusive man or woman and that abuse is harming their partner.

*Emotional abuse can be just as (if not more) damaging as physical abuse.*






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About Alexander Burgemeester

6 Responses to “The Narcissist and Emotional Abuse”

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  1. sara says:

    So accurate it is scary. I left an abusive marriage and the emotional and mental abuse did not end. The domestic violence just changed form and now our two children have been abused and he is twisting things around trying to blame me. I have been seeing a counselor for my PTSD as a result of long term domestic violence yet my abuser has fooled so many people and he is so powerful and charming, persuasive, he is a doctor and people do not want to believe how cruel he can be. I am still afraid of him and we have been divorced for years.

  2. Melissa says:

    I met a man 3 years ago nearly to the day and I wish more than anything I could go back and not let him come in and destroy my life as he has being my first boyfriend at 24 I realise now that was the whole reason he wanted to take my innocents zest that I had for life at the start he was so loving caring never met anyone like me I’m perfect he was overbearing sometimes always wanting to know what I’m doing validation that I loved and cared about him but it was all an act it started with little things checking up on me ‘spying’ then telling me I look at other men then saying if I continue with my studies I won’t have time for him and break up then it was to get me pregnant to leave me to do everything on my own come back after months saying he’s sorry he loves me our baby he will be different of course all lies he then started to go on about what’s his money ect at the same time pretending to be broke to note support his child at all living 80miles away rarely bothering with his child causing arguments to go go off for days weeks months to do as he pleased then blame me for it I’ve learnt that’s how narcs are loving caring one minute cruel cold callus the next the caring but doesn’t last long as it’s an act and no one can act 24/7 soon it’s all about luring you in to a false sense of security that their changing and want to mean while planning how they can hurt you the most discard you and their child and live happily ever after saying to anyone it’s your fault even though they treated you badly they love sympathy from others now I look back that’s what he did to me told me the girl he was with treated him bad he did nice things took care of her and she cheated now I realise it was probably the other way around,everything I fell for was not real what I don’t understand why go to all the trouble to hurt someone that’s never done anything to you love you and do everything to make you happy but that’s the problem I think they need people that are like them cold loveless uncaring kind hearted good people will only ever get hurt by them,My ex goes around saying I’m crazy I won’t let him take care if his child probably that I cheat even though I only had him as a partner stupid me thought he was my life partner all nasty vindictive lies the last conversation we had he told me it all happened quickly even though that was how he planned it and wanted it like it was my fault that so what I was a virgin and he told me all lies happy family all the works at the end of the day p**** is p**** and that’s that I was nothing special having his child was nothing major him coming to see me and his child on the rear occasion broke looking less than he used to designer this and that pretending all so he doesn’t have to provide for his child, it’s one thing loving giving yourself to someone like this but when you realise that they are so disgusting they would trample over their own child and not have one ounce if love or care for them it’s just heartbreaking,what do you say as your child grows up? All the red flags being too attentive at the start lying about family they don’t care for them ect wanting to rush things saying they love you after a month all signs to run for the hills,unfortunately my ex is not only a narcissist he’s a pretend Muslim to boot so righteous while being a despicable human being if you can call him that.

  3. Louise Squires says:

    This site is so informative. I was married to a man with full blown NPD for 5 years (in the relationship for 13 years in total) Alarm bells should have rung that he’d been married before and, of course the break up of his first marriage was all his ex wife’s fault.
    When he met me, he treated me like a princess and said I was his soul mate and us meeting was fate. I was only 22 at the time and he was 38. Within 12 months I started to see glimpses of his personality disorder. Over the years they became more and more apparent, finally the complete Narcissist was uncovered just after our son was born 4 years ago. Everything was ‘my fault’ his rages were down to ‘my hormomes’. To cut a long story short, I found out he’d been cheating on me with a woman at his workplace and various others on dating and swinging websites he’d also been advertising himself on gay dating websites. I left his sorry ass and it’s the best thing I ever did.
    I realised how much he’d eroded my confidence over the years, made me feel ugly and worthless. The sad thing is, he’s moved onto his next victim who is a girl half his age. I think he prays on younger women because they’re less wordy wise than older women. He’s practically moved her into his home within 2 weeks and he’s still calling and texting me saying he wants me back!!! Part of me feels I should warn his new girlfriend about him, but i also think it will fall on deaf ears as ‘sour grapes’. I’m sure she’ll see the evil NPD before long and if she has any sense she’ll get out ASAP

  4. Tammy says:

    I am living in a horrible marriage, didn’t know what NPD was, I have been treated like a slave or Stupid child as he calls me, for 7 years. It started out wonderful he showered me with affection and romance and we only dated a year then married. Extremely attractive man very intelligent & educated, the day we married it turned off like a switch. No more sex or intimacy,,,,as I asked about it he would turn into fits of hatred or rage. I also noticed (should have been red flag) when we were dating he had porn all over his home then he said he didn’t need it anymore because he had me, but after he got rid of it i caught him masturbating to porn almost daily basis and he wouldn’t touch me. I wrote him letters and tried to talk to him about the hurt and harm and belittlement he was causing me and instead of trying to work it out he became enraged and finally I just gave up on sex or lovemaking with him ever again. It went on and on. Then he spent all of our savings on all these hair brained get rich quick schemes which I desperately tried to talk him out of each year. And of course its all my fault, he blames everything on me. Always me. Belittles me in public talks to me like a dog in public, threatens my life, threatens me with divorce. I have been trying to stay to avoid divorce but this is crazy! I am so heart broken. Don’t know what I did to deserve this. Have put all my money into his life, cook everyday for him, have helped him promote his businesses. All he wants is to treat me like a slave, withhold intimacy and go into fits of rage daily now. I have to leave home everynight and either drive around for hours or hide in my car to avoid calling police again as I have already had to put him in jail once before. The other night I had to sleep in one of our cars in freezing cold because I was terrified to return home. I suffer mental as well as physical abuse from him now as it has escalated. He blames everything bad on me financially or otherwise. He’s list all his friends due mistreatment and all of them have had enough as well. I know I must leave. I stupidly still believe he’s going to change back into “Prince Charming” again the way he was 7 years ago. Wishful thinking. Trying to find the courage as I am now over 50 years old but still have my looks even though he tells me otherwise and is cruel and had hatred in his heart I feel he has taken my “soul” and stomped it!! God help me and all women who have lived with a narcissist. They have no love to give Or a soul.

  5. laili says:

    My sister is about to go through a very messy divorce. Her husband is using Facebook to accuse her of all sorts of things. He is the abuser but he just posted this article to imply that my sister is the abuser. He has a great public persona. If only most people could see what he is doing for what it really is.

  6. Carol says:

    A Narcissist is a vampire that feeds on souls.

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