Narcissism, the Newest Buzzword
"Narcissist” and “narcissistic abuse” have become buzzwords. I see them everywhere. This has happened with other mental health concepts too, like self-care, boundaries, and mindfulness.
We need to resist this impulse to reject something just because social media has gotten ahold of it. These concepts are important and we can’t allow popular usage and misuse to rob them of their true weight.
Understanding boundaries is essential to having healthy relationships. They’re powerful.
Self-care, self-compassion, and self-love is at the root of all emotional healing we do in this lifetime. It’s powerful work. It’s not flippant. It’s not something to roll our eyes at.
Ok, on to why I’m writing this blog in the first place: narcissistic abuse.
Narcissism, Narcissistic Abuse, and the Impacts of Narcissistic Abuse Are Very Real
I see the same thing happening with the concept of narcissism. It’s been overused and misused and thrown about mindlessly, and now when we hear or see the word narcissist our natural inclination is to think sarcastically, “Everyone’s a narcissist nowadays.”
But no. Not everyone is a narcissist. Just like having difficulty regulating your emotions doesn’t mean you’re “borderline,” and being focused on cleanliness and having quirks doesn’t mean you’re “OCD.”
Why Do I Care About the Word Narcissism Losing its True Weight?
Narcissism seems out of place when discussed alongside boundaries, self-care, and mindfulness, I know. But I care because I want those who've been negatively impacted by narcissism and narcissistic abuse to be able to use these terms to label their experience, and I want them to be believed. I don’t want them to be dismissed as having simply jumped on the most recent psychobabble bandwagon.
Being in a relationship with a personality disordered individual—whether the person’s symptoms be clinical/diagnosed or subclinical/undiagnosed—is often incredibly isolating.** Being introduced to the terminology “narcissism,” “narcissistic abuse,” and information about personality disorders in general, can life changing for those who have experienced it.
High Conflict Personalities—Beyond Narcissistic Personality Disorder
I like using the catch all category “High Conflict Personality” (HCP) when discussing people who meet the criteria for a personality disorder but who don’t have a formal diagnosis. That way we aren’t flippantly assigning clinical diagnoses to people.
While Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a popular topic right now, there are actually ten personality disorders listed in the DSM. The term “high conflict personality'' typically encompasses the behavior associated with Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Paranoid Personality Disorder. These are the personality disorders that are most commonly associated with the abusive dynamics colloquially referred to as “narcissistic abuse.”
Personality Disorders Often Go Undiagnosed
There’s a reason why personality disorders are a category all their own in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the primary diagnostic tool used in the US). Personality disorders are based on long term, far-reaching patterns in behavior that encompass the entire personality. For this reason, it can be difficult for therapists to diagnose someone with a personality disorder when seeing them for no more than one hour a week in therapy. On top of that, in individual therapy, therapists rely solely on the self-reports of the personality disordered person which are often quite skewed—and that’s in the rare instance that they end up in therapy at all! It’s rare for people with personality disorders to seek out treatment on their own.
Most people who meet the criteria for a personality disorder will never get a proper diagnosis, so no need to wait around for official confirmation of your suspicions. It’s ok to speculate, hypothesize, and make informed decisions from there regarding how to protect yourself.
It’s often actually the people who are closest to personality disordered individuals who are the best equipped to decide if they exhibit disordered traits. This is because it’s often only in the context of intimate, ongoing relationships that these abusive dynamics take place. So, I would encourage you to trust yourself and your perception. If it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a duck… or however that saying goes.
If You've Experienced Narcissistic Abuse
The specific flavor of abuse that is perpetrated by High Conflict Personalities is something that many people—therapists included—often don't understand unless they’ve experienced it firsthand and/or have gone out of their way to specialize in this area. So, if you're seeking therapy to recover from what you suspect to be some form of narcissistic abuse—whether that be from a partner or a parent—make sure you look for a therapist who specializes in this kind of work.
Because narcissism/narcissistic abuse have become buzzwords, some mental health professionals might write you off. Don’t allow this to happen. If you believe your partner or parent may have had a personality disorder, don't allow yourself to be invalidated or shamed for trying to understand and put words to your experience. Keep looking until you find someone who understands what you’ve been through—you deserve that.
Looking for an Online Therapist in Kansas?
Do you suspect (or know) that you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse and want to heal? My Lawrence, Kansas counseling practice specializes in providing therapy for codependency, therapy for anxiety, therapy for self-esteem, therapy for Highly Sensitive People, and grief and bereavement counseling. I help people overcome shame and the fear of being their true selves. Breaking the cycles of people pleasing and self-abandonment is possible, and I'm here to help.
I offer online counseling throughout Kansas. Reach out today to schedule your free 15 minute phone consultation. I'd love to hear from you!
Other Services Offered by Maggie
In addition to providing online therapy anywhere in Kansas, I’m also a professional astrologer, and offer Birth Chart Readings anywhere in the United States, as well as abroad.
Astrology is a powerful tool for gaining self-awareness, finding meaning in and understanding of our difficult experiences, and for receiving validation regarding our own unique life path. All of which supports our mental health in a positive way!
Interested in getting a Natal Chart Reading? Book a free phone consultation and let’s get started!