Narcissism has turn out to be a derogatory word over time, but research has consistently shown it to be harmful to interpersonal relationships.
Traits of narcissism, which might also overlap with the diagnostic criteria for full-fledged personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, may include a scarcity of empathy, an excessive sense of entitlement, excessive fantasies, pathological jealousy, and benefiting from others.
The influence of those traits on interpersonal interactions can include aggression towards others. for instance 2021 meta-analysis of 437 independent studies found that each grandiose and vulnerable narcissism were significantly correlated with many types of bullying and each reactive and proactive aggression, including unprovoked aggression.
Researchers have distinguished these two subtypes of narcissism. Magnificent narcissism it’s related to higher self-esteem, less susceptibility to emphasize or depression, extraversion and striving for power. Vulnerable narcissism (or informally called “hidden” narcissism) is related to lower self-esteem, fearfulness, higher neuroticism, hypersensitivity, and introversion.
The relationship between narcissistic partner traits and post-traumatic stress disorder
Among the numerous concerns about narcissism is how your partner’s narcissistic traits can affect your mental health. It has long been suggested that being in a long-term romantic relationship with a narcissist could potentially cause PTSD symptoms. However, such a relationship has not been studied empirically to date.
in mine 2022 study 1294 participants conducted at Harvard University and published within the journal Personality and individual differencesI discovered that narcissistic traits, particularly grandiose narcissism, predicted PTSD symptoms in individuals who were in romantic relationships with partners high in these traits.
This is the primary large-scale study to indicate a link between a partner’s narcissistic traits and PTSD symptoms. Psychopathic traits also predicted PTSD symptoms in these relationships, but just for the subgroup of people that were still in a romantic relationship on the time of the survey.
This study highlights the powerful influence of grandiose narcissism, which most strongly predicted most clusters of PTSD symptoms and was a stronger predictor than vulnerable narcissism or psychopathy for individuals who left the connection. This could also be because grandiose narcissism is related to greater self-aggrandizement and will result in increased self-blame and intrusive thoughts in individuals who experience abuse by a more confident and ruthless person with these characteristics.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a disorder characterised by maladaptive changes in cognition, memory, arousal, reactivity, and interpersonal functioning after exposure to a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.
According to the DSM-V, PTSD includes 4 major categories of symptom complexes, including symptoms of intrusion (e.g., and mood (e.g., inability to benefit from the belongings you love) and changes in arousal and reactivity (e.g., hyperarousal, irritability, recklessness).
Traits of grandiose narcissism were predicted on this study intrusion and evasion the strongest symptoms of PTSD. Partner characteristics generally also explained the best variability within the clusters of intrusion- and avoidance-related PTSD symptoms.
Given the aggression related to narcissistic traits and the impact of manipulative behavior related to narcissism, it is sensible that those in relationships with narcissistic individuals often experience post-traumatic symptoms comparable to intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of triggers and thoughts about traumatic situations specifically related to with the connection.
The role of manipulation tactics in PTSD
The study also examined the correlations between these traits, PTSD, and manipulative tactics comparable to blocking, jealousy, and love bombing. Significant positive correlations have been found between narcissistic and psychopathic traits and manipulative tactics comparable to love bombing, blocking the wall, and inducing jealousy.
In particular, manipulation tactics comparable to inducing jealousy and love bombing also significantly predicted PTSD for the group that had already left the romantic relationship, although they were weaker predictors of PTSD than narcissistic traits alone.
The insidious nature of manipulation tactics related to narcissistic traits further agrees with this finding, as such tactics are deliberately used as weapons to instill fear and anxiety while confusing the goal. For example, induction of jealousy or more informally called romantic “triangulation” involves bringing one other party into the dynamics of a romantic relationship so as to intentionally induce jealousy.
Previous research with Tortoriello and associates (2017) in addition to Massar and associates (2017) indicates that individuals with narcissistic or psychopathic traits may engage in jealousy so as to gain power and control, exact revenge, test relationships, or compensate for low self-esteem.
According to this research, grandiose narcissists and primordial psychopaths (psychopaths who’re said to be “born” relatively than made from their environment) use jealousy induction primarily for power and control (and within the case of psychopaths, also for revenge). Vulnerable narcissists and secondary psychopaths (psychopaths shaped by their environment) may use this to compensate for low self-esteem.
For participants in my study, those in romantic relationships with narcissistic partners described how jealousy induction was used to instill in them insecurity, make them “compete” for the narcissist’s attention, provoke a response, and portray them as “controlling” or “crazy” once they reacted. This included behaviors comparable to infidelity, constant references to other former partners or current prospects, flirting in front of partners, in addition to demeaning comparisons.
Love bombing is one other manipulative tactic that may influence post-traumatic symptoms. It is the usage of excessive flattery, attention and early contact to “prepare” an individual for a romantic relationship. According to the previous one testsit’s positively correlated with narcissistic tendencies and is generally related to greater use of media and text in romantic relationships.
In my study, participants noted that the love bombing often included gifts, holidays, and romantic dates, in addition to constant phone calls and text messages. Their partners tended to mirror their hobbies, interests, and personalities and referred to them as “soul mates.”
Love bombing also involved rushed inhabitation or marriage, guarantees for the long run (also generally known as “falsifying the long run”) that didn’t materialize, and a sudden phase of “devaluation” where abuse and mistreatment became more frequent.
According to many participants, this devaluation normally occurred in the course of the next breakthrough, comparable to after marriage or while pregnant – at a time when individuals were already significantly involved in the connection, so that they felt that somebody was pulling the rug out from under their feet.
Past studies found that individuals in relationships with partner traits comparable to narcissism or psychopathy are inclined to feel a strain on their mental health, nevertheless survivors are sometimes ignited with gas in therapeutic conditions about your experiences.
Going forward, future research should deal with interventions that can best help survivors of such relationships heal and get well from the impact of partners’ narcissistic traits and their hidden aggression.
Arabi, S. (2023). Narcissistic and psychopathic traits in romantic partners predict symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: Evidence for a singular effect in a big sample. Personality and individual differences201.
Day, N., Bourke, M., Townsend, M., and Grenyer, B. (2020). Pathological narcissism: a study of partner and family burden. Personality Disorder Diary, 34(6), 799-813.
Kjærvik, S. L. and Bushman, B. J. (2021). The link between narcissism and aggression: a meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 147(5), 477–503. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000323
Leedom, Andersen, D., Glynn, M.A. and Barone, M.L. (2019). Counseling survivors of intimate partner abuse: effective and unsuccessful interventions. Journal of Guidance and Development, 97(4), 364–375. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12285
Massar, K., Winters, C. L., Lenz, S., and Jonason, P. K. (2017). Green-Eyed Snakes: Relationships Between Psychopathy, Jealousy, and Jealousy Induction. Personality and Individual Differences, 115, 164–168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.01.055
Strutzenberg, C. C., Wiersma-Mosley, J. D., Jozkowski, K. N., and Becnel, J. N. (2017). Love Bombing: A Narcissistic Approach to Creating Relationships. Discovery, The Student Journal of Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, 18(1), 81-89.
Tortoriello, G.K., Hart, W., Richardson, K., and Tullett, A.M. (2017). Do narcissists deliberately attempt to make their partners jealous? Investigating the motives for intentionally inducing jealousy amongst subtypes of narcissism. Personality and Individual Differences, 114, 10-15.