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?

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.”


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.


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.


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.


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!”


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.

Harmful Myth of Narcissistic Abuse in Domestic Violence

#3 Harmful Myth of Narcissistic Abuse in Domestic ViolenceVictim’s Healing Process

In order to heal from the trauma that commonly results from Domestic Violence, the Victim must process the experiences they survived. This is REALLY hard to do because remembering the experiences – directly or indirectly – results in a distortion of reality designed by the Brain to keep the Victim as safe as possible through the event – relatively speaking.


When we use the phrase “Narcissistic Abuse”, the experiences of the Victim are framed around an assumed diagnosis of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” for the Perpetrator. We have a diverse counselor & therapist team at New Leaf Counseling Group in Charlotte, NC to help.

It is common that a timeline of the events & important details get confused, even forgotten by a Victim of Domestic Violence.


This only makes it more difficult to make personal meaning, heal, and move on from the whole experience. The importance of personal meaning CANNOT be understated when it comes to moving forward and THRIVING, rather than merely surviving an abusive relationship and holding onto a “victim mentality” to make meaning of those experiences of Domestic Violence.


When we use the phrase “Narcissistic Abuse”, the experiences of the Victim are framed around an assumed diagnosis of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” for the Perpetrator. This is problematic for the Victim’s healing process because the typical personality of someone who is likely to create a romantic relationship with someone who uses power & control tactics is likely to get a HIGH sense of personal worth from pleasing other people.


When we use the phrase “Narcissistic Abuse”, the experiences of the Victim are framed around an assumed diagnosis of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” for the Perpetrator. this further separates the Victim from their reality. Are you ready for help in Charlotte, NC? New Leaf Counseling Group has you covered.

This type of “people pleasing” mentality is more likely to “over-function” in the relationship with the Perpetrator & either identify with “enabling” their behavior, or even get scared of leaving the relationship due to the Perpetrator’s possessive & controlling behavior.


This leaves the Victim in a position where they are more likely to hold on more stubbornly to the habit of focusing on the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of the Perpetrator, rather than their own Mind & Body that needs healing.


A Victim of Domestic Violence MUST begin their healing process from a position of their OWN personal integrity in order to create an internal sense of safety through the physical response (fight/flight/freeze) characteristic of a “trauma response” commonly experienced after the survival of prolonged exposure to abusive & controlling behavior.


Would you like to know more about the “Cycle of Abuse” that is characteristic of Domestic Violence? As stated earlier in this article, it can all get VERY confusing, so we put together this short video to make sure to provide a clear picture:


The number one thing that Victims want for their Perpetrator is not punishment or incarceration; not at the very beginning. What they want is for someone to help the Victim get SAFE - to escape the abuse!


The Victim often believes if they can find someone who can just "figure them out"and then explain to the Victim how the Perpetrator is "broken"; because they MUST be broken or they wouldn’t have treated the Victim so terribly. And if the Perpetrator is broken, then this means it wasn't abuse out of their personal desire - it's because they are broken and there must be a cure.


Very few Perpetrators of Domestic Violence would actually meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder - yet they often want to diagnose themselves! Due to hiding behind a diagnosis, the phrase "Narcissistic Abuse" often does more harm. New Leaf Counseling Group has a diverse counselor & therapist team trained to help in Charlotte, NC.

That’s where the latest blame-or-explain trend comes in. "They are a narcissist! That’s it! The Perpetrator isn't capable because their character is broken! They can’t help but not think about the Victim, because he’s focused on himself!"


The secret thought - especially in newer Victims..."eventually the Perpetrator will realize the horror of their actions and regret them, and the Victim will be vindicated and will finally know what they suspected all along: that there was a little kid inside of the Perpetrator yearning for love, but ________ (fill in the blank: childhood trauma/bullying/ex-wife/rejection/mental illness/addiction/church/cult) damaged them SO badly that all he could do was protect Self , and that’s why they are a narcissist!"


Unfortunately this revelation, even if accurate, doesn’t help a victim or survivor heal. Focusing on the Perpetrator: understanding THEM; THEIR childhood; why the Perpetrator hurt the VIctim; what is wrong with THEM - just means that the Victim is STILL doing the Perpetrator's work - NOT their own. As we tell all Perpetrators: abuse is selfish. A Perpetrator abuses because they feel entitled to do so. And it doesn’t have to be any deeper than that -


In order to heal from the trauma that commonly results from Domestic Violence, the Victim must process the experiences they survived. The phrase "Narcissistic Abuse" blocks this from happening.

Very few Perpetrators of Domestic Violence would actually meet the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder - yet they often want to diagnose themselves! Why? For the exact same reason their Victims want a diagnosis: to not have to deal with the fact that they are dealing with a case of Domestic Violence.


And what do we tell Victims? “Make your decisions about the future of this relationship based on the Person they have been; not the Person you want them to be.” Oh, and leave the diagnosing up to the mental health professionals.


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. Are you ready to get help? The diverse counselor & therapist team at New Leaf Counseling Group & intervention services from IMPACT in Charlotte, NC have you covered.

Would you like to keep learning about Domestic Violence to make sure you have all of your angles covered? If you are uncertain about your experiences, feel free to review this article for answers.


Would you like to learn more about how the diverse counselor & therapist team at New Leaf Counseling Group can help you in Charlotte, NC? Or would you like to pursue appropriate services for someone who is struggling with Domestic Violence with Bea Cote at IMPACT Charlotte?


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