Understanding Narcissistic Abuse

Intimate partner and child abuse can take many forms. Abuse does not have to be physical to cause severe harm. Emotional abuse, including narcissistic abuse, is alarmingly common in romantic and parent-child relationships in the United States. Psychology Today reports that more than half of all adults in the U.S. experience emotional abuse in their lifetimes, and about 11 percent of children suffer from emotional abuse.

If you have experienced narcissistic abuse from a family member or partner, Leigh Daniel Family Law can help. Founding attorney Leigh Daniel has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in Huntsville, AL. She is a certified narcissistic abuse specialist committed to helping abuse victims move forward and find justice. Our tight-knit family law attorneys can handle every detail of your case so that you can focus on your future. Contact our office today for a confidential consultation.

What Is Narcissistic Abuse?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by an excessive need for attention and admiration and a lack of empathy for others. Despite their desperate need for attention, people who have narcissistic personality disorder often experience low self-esteem. Narcissists meet their need for admiration and affirmation by focusing solely on themselves while putting others down.

Not all people with narcissistic personality disorder are abusive. However, when narcissists become abusive, the effects on family members, intimate partners, and others can be severe. Narcissistic abuse typically involves emotionally abusing a victim to control the victim’s behavior, which feeds the narcissist’s sense of entitlement. Narcissists may target vulnerable individuals who are naive to the narcissist’s abusive tactics, possibly luring them in through charm or manipulation.

Signs of Narcissistic Abuse

Some common signs of narcissistic abuse include:

  • Gaslighting – Gaslighting uses tactics or phrases to distort a victim’s views of reality or make them feel mentally unstable. Gaslighting is a common technique narcissistic abusers use to make their victims easier to control or manipulate.
  • Emotional abuse – Emotional abuse can include belittling, bullying, criticizing, making demands or threats, or using sarcasm to control a victim.
  • Projection – Projection is when an abuser dumps their problems or issues onto a victim rather than accept responsibility for their own actions or behavior. In some cases, abusers will accuse their victims of engaging in the same harmful acts or conduct the abuser has committed, creating confusion in the victim’s mind.
  • Lying – Narcissistic abusers often lie to avoid responsibility and confuse or manipulate their victims.
  • Sabotage – Narcissists will sabotage a victim’s relationships or endeavors to keep the victim under their control.
  • Emotional blackmail – Narcissists use anger, threats, intimidation, and other techniques to manipulate their victims and make them feel fear, guilt, or doubt.
  • Financial abuse – Financial abuse is when a narcissist controls a victim’s finances without regard for the victim’s well-being. Narcissists may financially abuse victims through theft, gambling, and other manipulative tactics.
  • Invasion of privacy – Because narcissists lack empathy for others, they have little regard for personal boundaries. They may access a victim’s phone, emails, or personal belongings. They may also stalk or follow their victims.
  • Playing the victim card – Narcissists may “play the victim” to avoid accountability for their actions or behaviors, gain sympathy, and further control their victims.

Common Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

People who are the victims of narcissistic abuse may experience devastating symptoms that are damaging to their sense of self and ability to cope. Common symptoms of narcissistic abuse syndrome include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Reduced self-confidence
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Confusion
  • Disillusionment

Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

Narcissistic abuse may follow a pattern that continues because of a power imbalance in the relationship. Psychologists often refer to this as a cycle of abuse. A narcissistic abuse cycle may include the following:

  • Idealization – Sometimes referred to as “love bombing,” idealization often occurs at the beginning of an abusive relationship. The narcissistic abuser will shower the victim with praise and affection to seem like the ideal partner. The abuser may become infatuated with the victim during this stage.
  • Devaluation – Once the relationship is established and the narcissist has begun to assert dominance, the signs of abuse may slowly appear, often through controlling behavior.
  • Rejection – If a narcissistic abuser feels their needs are not being met or the victim asks for compromise or understanding, the abuser may reject the victim.
  • Possible re-engagement – If the victim decides to leave or tries to assert their independence, the abuser may pretend to feel remorse for their actions. They may attempt to reestablish the relationship and return to the idealization stage, starting the cycle of abuse again.

Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

Healing from narcissistic abuse can be challenging, but it is possible. The best place to start may be finding a therapist with experience working with victims of narcissistic abuse. Recognizing the abuse can legitimize the victim’s experience and allow them to identify the cycle of abuse. While leaving the abusive relationship is the ideal solution, it is not always possible for some victims to immediately end the relationship. A therapist can help a victim who cannot leave develop healthy coping mechanisms and set boundaries with the abuser.

For a victim who does manage to leave the abuser, a therapist can help them resist the urge to return to the abuser and discuss how to avoid partners who are narcissistic in the future. It may take a long time before a victim of abuse feels like themselves again, but healing from narcissistic abuse is possible with time and a strong support system.

Contact Our Narcissistic Abuse Specialist in Huntsville, AL

If you have experienced narcissistic abuse, the family law attorneys at Leigh Daniel Family Law can support you by developing a strategy to move forward with your life. Our compassionate Huntsville narcissistic abuse specialist focuses on creating positive change in our clients’ lives and giving them the confidence they need to navigate difficult times. Contact our firm today for a confidential consultation with a narcissistic abuse specialist.


A respected Huntsville family law attorney with more than 20 years’ experience, Leigh Daniel is known for her positive attitude and her skills in the courtroom. She prides herself in the care and compassion that she and her team put into every case. Her goal is to instill a sense of confidence in her clients so they know success is on the horizon. As an author, inspirational speaker, coach, and founder of Project Positive Change, Leigh stays focused on the positive impact she can make on every client’s case.