What is narcissistic abuse, and what is coercive control

Most victims have trouble articulating the exact nature of the abuse they’ve suffered due to the covert and insidious nature of the abuse, and of course the lack of understanding in society by even well-meaning mental health professionals. The common symptoms that my clients report include being on constant alert, or hypervigilant (which they tend to describe as ‘walking on eggshells’), not being able to trust others, not being able to trust their own judgement (also known as second-guessing themselves), difficulty making simple decisions, physical symptoms that may include headaches and insomnia, feelings of anxiety, fear that any success will be sabotaged (which can result in self-sabotage and isolation), symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and feeling numb or in shock.

What is narcissistic abuse?

I define Narcissistic Abuse as the psychological and emotional abuse of another individual with the intent of stripping that individual of a sense of identity, a sense of self-worth, their self-esteem, their dreams, their goals, and to make them dependent upon their abuser. In a nutshell, the narcissist seeks to dismantle and erode their victim’s personality and create a new one, one that will consistently boost the narcissist’s ego. This is achieved by creating an environment of immense confusion where the victim is conditioned to blame themselves for the abuse. The victim is conditioned to ‘tolerate’ the abuse through the use of intermittent ‘nice’ treatment, which provides relief, and distracts from the abuse.

Coercive control and narcissistic abuse go hand in hand. The narcissist needs to control their victims to feel powerful, and one of the best ways to maintain dominance over another person is through coercion. They use fear to control their victims, and the coercion tactics create confusion for the victim that will normally begin under the guise of caring. Eg. They ‘love’ you so much they want to dictate what sort of clothes you wear.

Using these manipulative techniques and more, the narcissist distorts their victim’s reality to such an extent they no longer trust themselves to make simple decisions. To the narcissist, a divided mind is a conquered mind. And who does the victim turn to for reassurance as to what their reality is? The very person who distorted their perceptions in the first place. Their abuser. This definition is based on my own personal experience, and the experiences of the thousands of victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse that I have counselled over the last 10 years.

What is narcissistic abuse victim syndrome?

The term that is commonly accepted by experts in narcissistic abuse recovery to describe the symptoms a victim experiences is Narcissistic Victim Syndrome. Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS) is not currently recognised as a diagnosis in the DSM-5. (It is, however, recognised by many narcissistic abuse recovery experts who acknowledge the severe and long-term destructive impact such abuse can have on a victim’s mental health.) This is reflective of the lack of support and understanding in the professional world. As a victim of narcissistic abuse, you are more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD or CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) by a professional due to the ongoing symptoms and behaviours resulting from your trauma.

Nova will help you to understand the dynamics of narcissistic abuse, and validate your trauma by looking at the reality of Narcissistic abuse Victim Syndrome.