Health Dangers Narcissist | Natural Health Blog

Date: 02/16/2019    Written by: Hiyaguha Cohen

Health Effects of Spending Time with a Narcissist

Last week, I paid a visit to an elderly relative whom I hadn’t seen for a while. Aunt Elaine spent the entire two days complaining and criticizing, without taking a breath. She offered scathing criticisms of people dear to me, and when I disagreed with her assessments, her voice got louder, her mood grew darker, and I wasn’t permitted to finish my sentence. In fact, she cut me off constantly, even during normal conversation. Later, she wanted me to make her an ice-cream soda and insisted I also have one.  When I said I’d make hers but didn’t want one for myself, she told me I’ve “always looked gaunt and sickly in the past” and an ice-cream soda would help me put on weight. She expected to be served three meals a day plus whatever snacks she craved, without offering thanks. And as mentioned above, she never stopped talking.

My husband and I left her house reeling, unsure of what had hit us. A little research made clear we had been witnessing Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in full swing. In contrast to popular understanding, NPD isn’t about a moment of selfishness or even about a general pattern of self-involvement. Rather, it describes an entire complex of hostile and self-serving behaviors so well outside the norm that those living with an NPD individual can develop psychological problems in response. In fact, mental health practitioners describe a condition called “Narcissistic Victim Syndrome” common among those who live with, grew up with, or work for a narcissist. If you’re wondering if someone in your circle qualifies for NPD, here are some common traits:1

  1. Narcissists constantly talk about themselves, with little patience for what you have to say. If you disagree with the narcissist, your comments will likely be ignored or dismissed. If you do manage to get the floor, the narcissist will probably interrupt you mid-sentence, always trying to dominate the conversation.
  2. They expect others to serve them and generally display a sense of entitlement.
  3. They enjoy breaking rules and violating social norms. They’ll cut in line, steal office supplies or hotel amenities, and break laws they deem irrelevant.
  4. Narcissists try to project an image of power and influence that may have little to do with reality. They will invent stories or overplay real events in order to impress others and prove their superiority.
  5. They feed on negativity. Narcissists enjoy arousing hurt or pain in others so that they can feel powerful and superior. They can be insulting, negative, hurtful, and at the same time become inordinately angry if criticized.
  6. Narcissists often believe they are special and may have an exaggerated sense of their own importance. They use people to feed their own desires and have no qualms about violating others’ privacy or making decisions for others without consulting them.
  7. Lack of empathy. This is perhaps the key trait all narcissists share. If you find yourself shocked that someone in your life dismisses your hurt, fear, discomfort or depression about something traumatic that you experienced, can’t offer comfort or abandons you in the midst of your crisis, you may well be dealing with a narcissist.
  8. Triangulation, which means turning people against each other. For example, Aunt Elaine criticized her son when he felt uncomfortable reconnecting with his ex-wife Doris—who had exploited him and had an affair that caused him great pain. Aunt Elaine blamed her son’s attitude on his “new wife” of 20 years, badmouthing her constantly, and at an event they all attended, she made a point of sitting with her former daughter-in-law (instead of her son) and even resting her head on Doris’s shoulder. This caused problems between Aunt Elaine’s son and his current wife, a situation Aunt Elaine exploited by badmouthing the current wife to her other children. Ironically, when her son was married to Doris, Aunt Elaine treated her like she was the devil.
  9. Charm. Narcissists can be extremely charismatic and loving, until they have no more use for you, at which time you’re tossed away without a second thought.

Not all narcissists have all of these traits, but if someone you know displays a handful, they probably qualify for the diagnosis. Keep in mind that sometimes it can be difficult to spot a narcissist, at least at first, as narcissism varies in intensity and some may have just a touch while others have a more toxic version. Also, narcissists tend to “love bomb” those new or useful to them in order to gain the support and admiration they crave, meaning they overwhelm their target with displays of affection, gifts, compliments, etc. It can be easy to fall prey to all that attention and ego-stroking, so narcissists often have many admirers. In order to garner that admiration from others, narcissists can put on a good act in the community, becoming the head of charities and clubs, buttering up important people. They do a great job covering up their abusive behavior in order to appear exemplary. They continue to love-bomb those useful to them, but when the usefulness declines, the NPD individual turns cruel, sometimes flip-flopping from loving to abusive in minutes and apparently for no reason.

How common is narcissism? A 2008 study in Journal of Clinical Psychology puts the rate at 6.2 percent of the general population, and slightly higher for men.2 The worrisome thing is that by all measures, the disorder seems to be on a sharp upswing. A 2009 study found that narcissism had doubled in the US within 10 years and that one out of every 16 individuals had been NPD at some point in their lives. Young people, in particular, seem to be increasingly narcissistic, with an astonishing 30 percent scoring an NPD diagnosis when administered a standard psychological test.3 Those in their 20s are three times as likely to score an NPD diagnosis compared to those older than 60, although rates of narcissism are increasing within all age groups. Experts blame the self-esteem movement, spending more time on media than on the direct human interactions necessary to develop empathy, and societal emphasis on individualism instead of the collective.

Warp Speed from Baseline Nutritionals

Those unfortunate enough to have an NPD individual in a central position in their lives typically develop certain symptoms that, as mentioned above, have been labeled Narcissistic Victim Syndrome by mental health professionals. While narcissists often resist therapy because they believe they’re better than fine, victims seek it out. Those who’ve been subject to abuse from a narcissist often suffer symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—including insomnia, a penchant for reliving traumatic incidents, avoiding places and things that cause anxiety, and being easily startled and overly sensitive to emotions such as anger and panic.4 They tend to be anxious and fearful, with low self-esteem, loss of interest in life, and limited hope for the future. They also may be prone to dissociation--in other words, not seeming fully present--and they may somaticize (i.e., turn mental states into physical conditions).

Healing may require separation from the NPD person. If the NPD individual is a boss, it means quitting the job. If a spouse or partner, it’s quitting the relationship. It’s a bit more difficult if the NPD is a parent or child. Leaving probably won’t be enough. The wounds inflicted by a narcissist run deep, and counseling is usually necessary to help victims understand what they’ve been through and to recover a realistic sense of self untainted by the narcissist’s projections.

  • 1. Fay, Mary Jo. “Narcissism Victim Syndrome: A New Diagnosis?” 17 July 2004. Medical News Today. 29 January 2019.
  • 2. Ni, Preston. “10 Signs that You’re in a Relationship with a Narcissist.” 14 December 2014. Psychology Today. 29 January 2019.
  • 3. “What is the Prevalence of Narcissism?” 19 May 2014. The Narcissistic Life. 30 January 2019.
  • 4. Taylor, Jim, PhD. “Narcissism is Alive and Well in America.” 16 May 2011. Psychology Today. 29 January 2019.

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    Submitted by Suzanne on
    February 28, 2019 - 7:53am
    Hatboro , Pennsylvania

    I'm surprised that this article ran on your site, not because it isn't valuable information that many people need to know, but because the effects of narcissistic abuse have been largely overlooked as a health concern. I can tell you from personal experience and that of other survivors that those effects are serious and far-reaching, and separation from the narcissist is only the first step in healing. I hope that future articles will address the strategies we can use to fully recover from the physical damage that results from a relationship with a narcissist.

    Submitted by BaselineFoundation on
    February 28, 2019 - 4:52pm

    Thank you, we agree!

    Submitted by Deborah on
    February 28, 2019 - 9:23am
    Arcadia , California

    I am going through absolute HELL with a narcisstic psychopath. Jeffrey Brown is pure evil.

    Submitted by Scott on
    February 28, 2019 - 10:12am
    Columbia , South Carolina

    Thank you, I've dealt with quite a few of individuals like this, thankfully am able to minimize interactions with them! Do you know if there are any physical/biological correlates with this, ie: is it how they are from birth?

    Submitted by Karen on
    February 28, 2019 - 10:18am
    San Diego , California

    Great article in its information but as I read this and the articles in one of the links provided and I think there is no hope to be in healthy relationships and a healthy society. But it explains a lot to this 60 year old woman who has always struggled with society and relationships. My mother who is in her 90s seems pretty adjusted socially but no so much many others whom I know. I wonder what it takes to build a better person.

    Submitted by Sarah on
    February 28, 2019 - 11:05am
    San Francisco , California

    The description above also sounds like Borderline Personality Disorder. I had a relative with that and the relationship with this person had major ill health effects on everyone around her. Subsequent research taught me that there is a high rate of suicide among people in relationships with people with this disorder.

    Submitted by S. Williams on
    February 28, 2019 - 12:02pm
    San Jose , California

    Thank you for describing our current POTUS. I believe the whole world is subject to Narcissistic Victim Syndrome and, unfortunately, may result in a continued increase of NPD behavior.
    Hopefully, we will learn this man represents everything humans must evolve beyond or become extinct.
    I sincerely appreciate all of your healthy articles you share.
    Thank you

    Submitted by Cedar on
    February 28, 2019 - 1:20pm
    Nevada City , California

    Thanks for spelling this out. I think our whole nation has the victim syndrome since it seems incredibly obvious to me that our current president is a full blown narcissist.

    Submitted by Charles Foley on
    March 1, 2019 - 6:16am
    Canberra, Australia ,

    I'm reading "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President" edited by Bandy X. Lee (a Thomas Dunne Book, St Martin's Press, New York)". We are all living with what one of the writers terms "pathological narcissism". This easy to understand and read book has essays by others to help us understand the trauma many of us are witnessing in pour lives as the abnormal becomes the new norm. These authors responded to Yale University's "Duty to Warn" Conference. If we can get a clue from POTUS' daily observed mis-behaviour and cult like following we can better appraise the relatives and "friends" in our own lives.

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