Researchers estimate that 1 % of the general population are narcissists. The number of narcissists who become parents is also extremely high.
Narcissistic parents look at their children as objects to control. They have little interest in nurturing them or tending to their needs. Instead, they look to children to validate their distorted sense of self.
Instead, they look to children to validate their distorted sense of self.
Signs of Narcissistic Parents
Narcissistic parents cause lasting damage to their children. Children of people suffering from classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder may exhibit certain symptoms. Symptoms range from anxiety, panic, and narcissism themselves.
These children are also likely to experience problems in adulthood. Their personal relationships may especially be impacted.
Below are five ways in which growing up with narcissistic parents affects children.
A child in a narcissistic household learns many things quickly. For instance, a child learns that his or her self-worth depends upon the narcissistic parent’s reaction.
The child learns quickly that everything they do is a reflection of the parent. They adapt their behavior to please the parent, and they place their own needs last. Unfortunately, these parents are rarely satisfied. The child’s efforts to make them happy are constantly thwarted.
Children will react by feeling that they are unworthy. If their parent is acting irrational or demanding, children will believe they are at fault. Narcissists also feel unworthy, and they pass these feelings on to their offspring. They often use degrading terms like “stupid” and “worthless.” Narcissistic parents may blame their children for their own low self-esteem.
The unreasonable demands of narcissistic parents cause high anxiety in children.
These children are subjected to constantly changing standards. Failure to achieve impossible goals leads to anxiety and even panic attacks. Childen of narcissists are raised to believe that it is their job to make their parents happy. When they fail in this mission, their entire existence falls into question. Narcissists may also be unpredictable. One day they act, and the next day they are depressed.
This kind of instability also creates great anxiety in children. Children in these types of homes may try to please their parents by overachieving in school or sports. When they inevitably fail in “curing” their parents, their feelings of failure may be overwhelming.
Unhealthy Adult Relationships
Childen of narcissists are more likely to form attachments to other narcissists later in life. They often feel more comfortable with abusive, manipulative partners. It’s familiar.
They gravitate to relationships which mirror the homes of their upbringing. They are more likely to have chaotic, rollercoaster relationships with lots of fighting and drama. Because children of narcissists have low self-esteem, they may believe they do not deserve to be happy. They may not think they deserve to be treated well by their spouse. This low self-esteem can lead to domestic abuse.
Other children of narcissistic parents may go in the opposite direction by avoiding intimacy and close personal relationships. Because of the unhealthy dynamic in their childhood home, they may be wary of being close to anyone.
They can also become obsessive caregivers. They can only satisfy their own needs by vicariously satisfying the needs of others.
Narcissism may be seen as an inherited condition. Children of narcissists are likely to become narcissists themselves. With a narcissistic parent as a role model, children acquire many of the same characteristics.
Children may compete with the narcissistic parent to be the center of attention. They may begin to manipulate their friends in ways that they are manipulated by their parent. They may also mirror their parent’s abusive language and lack of empathy. They learn to lie, to evade responsibility, and project.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Growing up with narcissistic parents may eventually lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Living with an unpredictable and manipulative parent may cause an individual to become constantly fearful and anxious. The effects of long-term stress may include distorted memory or memory blocks. The individual may also become hopeless or even suicidal.
There is Hope
Children who grow up in narcissistic homes may have a tough road to travel. However, there is hope.
Narcissists can get better. First, the narcissistic parent needs to realize that he or she has a problem and agree to get help. Psychotherapy may alleviate the toxic environment of the household. Family counseling may help all members of the household if everyone is willing to engage.
Education is key to learning how to live with narcissism. It is a psychological disorder, and the family will benefit from collecting information about the condition. Support groups also exist which can provide assistance to the narcissist and his or her family.
Establishing boundaries is an important component to peaceful co-existence with a narcissist. Sometimes, the only option for children of narcissistic parents is to leave. If the narcissist becomes physically abusive, the child may require assistance from other family members or social services.
Ancillary and Similar Conditions
There are other psychological conditions which can be confused with narcissism. Borderline Personality Disorder includes many symptoms. Theses symptoms resemble the symptoms of narcissism.
People suffering from these disorders may engage in reckless behavior. They may also show signs of superiority. However, specialists differentiate the two conditions.
Borderline Personality Disorder relates to unstable moods and relationships.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a mental condition in which people exhibit unstable emotions.
Alcoholics also exhibit many behaviors associated with narcissism. Traits include selfishness, superiority, and an unwillingness to take responsibility.
Psychopaths also engage in behaviors associated with narcissism.
Treatments for these conditions vary. If you think someone in your family is suffering from one of these disorders, contact a mental health professional.
Help is Available
If you are suffering from the aftereffects of living with a narcissistic parent, there is hope. Psychotherapy for individuals and families provides many tools. These tools can be used for coping with effects of living with a narcissist.