Uncover the Three Warning Signs of a Toxic Narcissist

Narcissistic abuse is far more than lies and controlling behavior

Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi on Unsplash

Growing up, I had a narcissist in my life. They reigned pure terror over me with a vast array of belittling tactics. I was constantly fed lies to preserve whatever secret they were hiding.

The narcissist in my life was a family member. A narcissist is not confined to a romantic role — Narcissists can be in any relationship. For many people, it seems as though narcissists are typically family members.

But regardless of this person’s role in my life, I was unfortunate enough to experience who they truly were. This person never laid a finger on me and never physically hurt me — but they were emotionally manipulative and psychologically abusive.

They controlled every part of who I was and who I wanted to be.

The narcissist in my life was a liar. I would find myself constantly questioning my reality because of the lies this person would feed me. The narcissist taught me never to question them or get in their way.

I always did, which never ended well for me.

I have spoken about this topic before on narcissists and gaslighting. I will always share my truth and spread awareness of this type of behavior.

Although I may never know the true extent of their lies and secrecy, I’ve learned to understand the specific behaviors of narcissists.

Narcissists go towards self-serving behavior. Meaning, everything that a narcissist does is ultimately for their benefit. Every narcissist will present their narcissism differently, but the behavior pattern is usually the same.

So what are the signs of narcissistic abuse that we can start to pick apart and understand?

1. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that causes the victim to question the validity of their reality, thoughts, and even memories.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone, and something doesn’t sit right with you? If you try to address your feelings, the person will likely say, “I was only joking” or “you’re too sensitive.”

MORE: Gaslighting May Be a Common Manipulation Strategy for a Narcissist

The narcissist will deny and lie their way out of any accountability for their actions. In the process of them deflecting any responsibility, you’re left feeling confused and upset.

According to verywellmind, here are some signs to recognize gaslighting:

  • Lying
  • Creating a distraction
  • Minimizing
  • Denying
  • Shifting the blame onto you

There are many different ways gaslighting can look. But all forms of gaslighting take on at least, one if not all, of the above signs. With my narcissist, I saw them use all five ways to gaslight me.

So why does a narcissist use gaslighting?

Well, gaslighting is the most common sign I have seen among different accounts of narcissistic abuse. Gaslighting is a way for narcissists to make you question reality and eventually distrust your truth.

I’ve noticed that gaslighting often feels like you and the narcissist don’t see reality in the same way. The narcissist is in their world, where anything — even reality — can be changed on a whim.

If you try to question or break down a narcissist’s lies, they will continue to up their behavior to keep you where they want you.

After all, you’re living in their world.

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2. It’s always been about the narcissist

The narcissist is always the one in chargein control, and the center of attention. The narcissist wants to be favored; they want to be seen as the shining star — but that’s never enough for them.

Since everything is always about the narcissist, there is a heavy hand of manipulation that occurs. How else can narcissists get what they want without controlling the people around them first?

To keep their control over you, they have to manipulate you through gaslighting tactics.

When I think back over the years, I try my best to understand what exactly was manipulation with them.

MORE: Keep Your Distance From a Narcissist to Protect Your Peace

Was my eagerness to help the narcissist a sign of love and care — or was it obedience?

The manipulation endured does not span over days, weeks, or months, but rather years. There is manipulation that leads you to doubt yourself and forgive their behavior.

When I knew the narcissist would be around, I would ‘prepare’ to avoid criticism and judgment. My heart would race — I would sit, rigid and afraid, waiting to evaluate the narcissist’s mood.

If the narcissist was unhappy, it wasn’t good for anyone.

It took my entire life, nearly 27 years, to see who the narcissist truly was.

There was always a lack of accountability from the narcissist at all times.

It feels as though you are stuck in the world of the narcissist. Remember that their lies aren’t true, and your reality is real.

3. Reality feels unreal

I’ve always had this narrative about myself that I am an awful person. I have consistently had this belief that I had done bad things in my past.

Yet, I cannot recall one horrible thing that I have done. The only person that makes me feel this way about myself is the narcissist.

According to the narcissist, I have done something awful, and I don’t even know what it is.

If my reality and lived experience show that I am not this awful monster, why do I feel like this?

When the truth is wildly different from the reality the narcissist is pushing — why do we believe them?

Well, to better understand this let’s look at the relationship with my narcissist. The narcissist used gaslighting to help trap me into their fabricated reality. If the narcissist is constantly denying reality and making you feel like you’re going crazy — then they have you where they want you.

MORE: Taking Your Power Back From a Narcissist

Questioning your reality falls in line with gaslighting. Doubting your reality is a product of the narcissist’s gaslighting you. It’s easy to say that the narcissist’s lies don’t bother you, but eventually, they chip away at you.

Narcissists lie and gaslight to keep the spotlight on them — and their image squeaky clean. But now, you no longer trust who you are anymore; you begin to doubt yourself.

Over time, with the constant gaslighting and manipulation tactics, you question your thoughts and beliefs.

When all facts, in reality, are screaming that something isn’t right, it’s hard to act on that thought. My bouts of logic and reasoning are held together with good intentions. But in the eyes of the narcissist, it is a threat to their fabricated reality.

Narcissists want you to play by their rules, but they constantly change them to fit their needs.

Gaslighting, self-centered behavior, and modifying reality all play an intricate role in manipulation throughout the relationship.

MORE: Personality May Be Influenced By Negative Childhood Experiences

When it comes down to it, this person makes me feel like crap about myself. If I care about this person so much, why do I cringe when I hear their car pull into the driveway? Why do I shudder at their caller-ID on my phone? Why are all my memories tainted with poison that I am unable to see?


Narcissistic abuse can take many forms and display more signs than what is discussed in this article. If you are in an unsafe situation, it is okay to get help. If you are unsure and want to talk to someone, I encourage you to visit https://www.thehotline.org/


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