Harmful Myth of “Narcissistic Abuse” in Domestic Violence

New Leaf Counseling Group - Diverse Counselor & Therapist Team - Charlotte, NC


Have you heard about a popular new phrase called “Narcissistic Abuse?” The idea of Narcissistic Abuse is actually a very popular one recently, with TONS of use in blogs & popular psychology forums. What if we told you that “Narcissistic Abuse” is actually a harmful MYTH does NOBODY any favors – for either the Perpetrator OR the Victim of Domestic Violence?

narcissistic abuse
Here we have our founder Logan Cohen speaking with a local leader in the domestic violence intervention efforts in North Carolina, Bea Cote, LCSW, LMFT. Together, they discuss 3 distinct problems created by using the phrase “Narcissistic Abuse” - ready for change in Charlotte, NC?

Yeah, we said it – “Domestic Violence.” The phrase “Narcissistic Abuse” is just too nice & blocks both the Perpetrator & Victim from healing & moving forward from those dangerous behaviors & resulting traumatic experiences.

“Narcissistic Abuse” is NOT a clinical diagnosis or syndrome, as identified by the Diagnostic Statistic Manual (DSM), or the American Psychology Association (APA). Rather, “Narcissistic Abuse” is just a clever sounding phrase that creates some unique problems of it’s own – in ADDITION to the abusive behavior & resulting trauma from Domestic Violence.


Here we have our founder Logan Cohen speaking with a local leader in the domestic violence intervention efforts in North Carolina, Bea Cote, LCSW, LMFT. Together, they discuss 3 distinct problems created by using the phrase “Narcissistic Abuse” for both the Victim & Perpetrator:

Harmful Myth of Narcissistic Abuse in Domestic Violence

#1 Harmful Myth of Narcissistic Abuse in Domestic ViolenceSugar-Coating “Domestic Violence”


The phrase “Narcissistic Abuse” manages to avoid use of the phrase “Domestic Violence” completely. This makes it more difficult for the Perpetrator of the power & control tactics to be held accountable. This is not only DANGEROUS for the Victim because there cannot be adequate focus for changing the abusive behavior that escalates in intensity over time until becoming physical for 10 million Victims every year, but even rationalizes the Perpetrator’s behavior because, “they are sick.”


Narcissistic Abuse
Here we have our founder Logan Cohen speaking with a local leader in the domestic violence intervention efforts in Charlotte North Carolina, Bea Cote, LCSW, LMFT. Are you ready to get help when "Narcissistic Abuse" is on the table in Charlotte, NC?

Research from Duluth Model shows clearly that a Perpetrator uses power & control tactics to manipulate the behaviors of the Victim. There are many different reasons that a perpetrator will provide for WHY they believe they are entitled to behave with power & control tactics, but the expressed conscious intent is consistently to control the behavior of their victim.


narcissistic abuse
Research from Duluth Model shows clearly that a Perpetrator uses power & control tactics to manipulate the behaviors of the Victim. The phrase "Narcissistic Abuse" does NOT do these experiences justice.

The first order of clinical focus with a perpetrator of domestic violence is to ensure there is adequate accountability & safety for all community members impacted. Until there can be an adequate level of accountability for the Perpetrator’s behavior, it is NOT safe to begin addressing the underlying mental health issues of the Perpetrator.


In fact, this will only “stir things up” and increase the likelihood of acting out with power & control tactics – even violently with physical aggression - resulting in escalated risk of harm for the Victim and even other community members.


narcissistic abuse
The myth of "Narcissistic Abuse" often involves abusive & manipulative behavior that makes it HARD to get to the truth. Are you ready for help in Charlotte, NC?

Once the Perpetrator is willing to be accountable for their behavior, make a plan for changing the problematic patterns, and show some regular follow through – it is appropriate to begin a clinical plan for intervention of the underlying mental health issues for the Perpetrator.


NONE of this is supported by using the phrase “Narcissistic Abuse” to sugarcoat experiences of Domestic Violence.

Harmful Myth of Narcissistic Abuse in Domestic Violence

#2 Harmful Myth of Narcissistic Abuse in Domestic ViolenceAssuming “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”


When People use the phrase “Narcissistic Abuse”, there is an automatic assumption that the perpetrator has Narcissistic Personality Disorder – a mental health condition that has been identified by the DSM from research & practice since the first edition of the DSM 50 years ago, as well as a main focus of the original school of talk therapy named “Psychodynamic Theory” by Sigmund Freud.


narcissistic abuse
In order for someone to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they must first complete a mental health assessment with a licensed mental health clinician - several of which are offered at New Leaf Counseling Group in Charlotte, NC. "Narcissistic Abuse" is NOT a mental disorder or syndrome.

In order for someone to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they must first complete a mental health assessment with a licensed mental health clinician. Oftentimes, the perpetrator has not completed a mental health assessment with a licensed mental health professional but rather, the victim has researched their experiences on their own, maybe even shared their experiences with a counselor or therapist who mentioned that the controlling & abusive behavior in question “sounds Narcissistic,” as per report by the victim.

Of COURSE this type of controlling & manipulative behavior by someone who is treating another Human Being as an object could be seen as being characteristic of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder!”


narcissistic abuse
Controlling & manipulative behavior by someone who is treating another Human Being as an object could be seen as being characteristic of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” but that does NOT mean this is an experience of "Narcissistic Abuse."

Someone with this mental health diagnosis (research suggests could include anywhere from 1-5% of the population) is generally willing to manipulate resources & People around them for their own benefit, even if it means harming other People.


This could also be said for MANY other types of disorders, like PTSD, bipolar disorder, addiction, and even Antisocial Personality Disorder (the one for serial killers) that MUST be addressed by a clinical professional – NOT the person getting bullied by the perpetrator.