Children affected by narcissistic parents or caregivers are often subjected to years of emotional manipulation, neglect, and abuse which goes unnoticed by outsiders. These children are often not even aware of the abuse they are experiencing until it manifest later in life as difficult to diagnose mental health issues.
But before we can understand how the narcissistic caregiver abuses a child, we must first understand what narcissism is and how the disorder presents.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a psychological personality disorder, defined by The DSM-5, characterized by an inflated sense of one’s own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
Because we’re not diagnosing anyone in this blog, we won’t go into the lengthy definition of this disorder. What we want to focus on, however, are the key traits, because they do an excellent job illustrating how this disorder applies to the abuse that narcissistic caregivers can cause children.
· Lack Of Empathy
This is probably the single biggest defining trait of a narcissist. The inability to identify with and/or unwillingness recognize the experiences and feelings of other people.
In other words. The narcissist neither cares nor wants to understand how other people feel.
· Grandiose Sense Of Self-Importance
These people exaggerate accomplishments, talents, connections, and experiences. These do not have to be actual experiences.
Grandiose people often have a preoccupation with fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. They live in a fantasy world of their own creation. One where they are the center of attention and the most important person.
This belief they are unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions bleeds into their everyday interactions with the real world.
· Need For Excessive Admiration
These people are often covering for some deep emotional wound, and in order to avoid the pain of it, they constantly need praise and approval to keep their spirits up. With this trait, the person with NPD will surround themselves with others who constantly boost their ego. They do not; however, reciprocate.
· Sense Of Entitlement
Living in a fantasy world of their own imagining, these people consider themselves to be special and act accordingly. They expect favorable treatment. Those who do not meet their expectations are treated with aggression and outrage.
· Exploitative Behavior
The need for admiration, coupled with the sense of entitlement, and their inability to empathize with others, means the person with NPD will only surround themselves with people who do and say what they want. This becomes their standard. Their circle exists to serve them, and they do not think twice about using their people to get what they want.
· Envious Of Others
Narcissists feel threatened whenever they encounter someone who appears to have something they lack - confidence, popularity, better looks, or possess skills they do not. Their defense mechanism is contempt. They may patronize or dismiss the value of others whom they are secretly envious of. Or they attack with insults, bullying, or other forms of character assassination to neutralize the threat.
Children exposed to complex trauma, especially when originating from someone they know and trust, is a risk factor for nearly all behavioral health and substance use disorders. The impact of childhood trauma, whether single instances or long-term abuse carries impacts that can last well beyond childhood.
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