Anyone who has lived through and healed from an abusive relationship with a narcissist can attest to how challenging the journey was. If you are currently working your way through the healing journey after ending a toxic relationship with a narcissist it is important to stay focused and just keep moving forward and seek trauma healing services to support you on your path.
There may be times when you feel particularly challenged and overwhelmed by where you are, how you feel about yourself, and the journey you see ahead to rebuild yourself and your life but know that the investment of time you make to heal will be worth it.
You’ll find that you will have to face the past with issues such as:
⇢ Emotional Abuse
⇢ Financial Infidelity & Losses
⇢ Self Sabotage
Yet, the most important thing to remember as you take this journey is to be kind and gentle with yourself. You’ve been through a lot and the healing process is a journey, not a destination. You need to be patient with yourself as you work your way through the trauma and learn to forgive yourself as you step-by-step go about rebuilding your life.
If you find yourself feeling lonely and isolated now would be a good time to reconnect with old friends and family and rebuild those connections. Having a loving circle of people to support you will be tremendously valuable to you.
Know that you will invariably cycle through a host of emotions from grief, depression, and anxiety to anger, rage, and resentment. Endeavor to make a conscious effort to organically sit with these emotions when they arise and give them the time and space to be seen, heard, honored and accepted so that you can fully heal from the experience. Remember, you must feel it to heal it.
You will also find it helpful to educate yourself about what a narcissist is, how narcissistic relationships impact you, and the best ways to heal and recover after narcissistic abuse. Once you have a solid understanding of the patterns inherent in an unhealthy relationship you want to get clear on what a healthy relationship looks like, so that you can start sculpting a vision for your future.
It would also be advisable to seek trauma healing services, energy healing services, or spiritual healing services to help you to release the trauma that is anchored into your body, to let go of the past, so you can move forward unencumbered from toxic patterns and beliefs.
Energy healing work has a profound impact on your healing because it’s not just ‘talk therapy’ it’s about helping you release the fear, pain, anger, rage, resentment, and despair from your body so you can raise your frequency and learn to open your heart and trust your intuition again, because trauma can close your heart and make you incapable of trusting yourself and others.
So what are some of the most common questions that come up with respect to healing after narcissistic abuse? Let’s get into them now…
What are the long-term consequences to your brain after narcissistic abuse?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder has recently been garnering more attention as researchers explore the impact of narcissistic abuse. It was noted on the website of World Narcissistic Abuse Awareness Day that approximately 450 million people [1} have a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). And, there are of course all those individuals who may not be fully classified as a full blown narcissist but have very strong narcissistic tendencies.
What has come to the forefront on this issue is that long-term narcissistic abuse can cause both PTSD and CPTSD which sadly results in brain damage negatively impacting the person’s hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and amygdala, as noted by PsychCentral.com.[2}
While science has proven that victims of repeated long-term abuse have diminished memory, unclear thinking and decision making skills, and impaired learning, the victims themselves are completely unaware of this and simply beat themselves up for the challenges they experience from these conditions which negatively impact their self-worth, self-esteem, career, finances, and interpersonal relationships.
Having lived in an unhealthy situation for so long, victims of narcissistic abuse have a distorted view of reality and themselves. They have a very difficult time seeing themselves clearly. They’ve forgotten who they are, what their gifts and strengths are, and how much worth and value they have intrinsically — simply for being who they are. Many have spent a lifetime trying to be whoever and whatever their narcissistic parent, sibling, friend, boss, or spouse wanted them to be. Healing after narcissistic abuse is a process of learning to remember who you are again.
What specific damage does it cause to the brain?
Sadly, over time someone who has been the victim of long-term narcissistic abuse will find that their hippocampus has shrunk in size. In layman’s terms this means that the person’s short and long-term memory and learning ability will become dramatically impaired while simultaneously having their amygdala enlarged — which is the storehouse for your primal emotions of fear, grief, guilt, envy, and shame.
As you can imagine, striving to get ahead in life when you can’t remember things and have difficulty learning new information can be a huge barrier for creating the positive changes needed to transform your life. This is part of the reason why victims of abuse stay so long with their abusers. With their impaired mental state and the impact it has had on their sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and sense of self, it keeps them frozen in fear and afraid to make the changes they know they need to make, yet can’t seem to take action on.
In a recent study conducted in a joint study between the University of New Orleans and Stanford University , they were able to prove that patients with the highest cortisol levels and most severe symptoms of PTSD experienced the greatest decrease in the size of their hippocampus, thus the more time you spend in an abusive situation the more severely your hippocampus will shrink as a result.
The Overactive Amygdala
When you live with a narcissist you will find that you are constantly walking on eggshells which triggers your amygdala. Your body goes into a hypervigilant state always scanning the environment for threats to your safety and survival. You constantly monitor your behavior to make sure that you don’t do anything that could possibly trigger your partner, parent, sibling, boss, and etc.
Living in a prolonged state with your fight/flight response turned on severely depletes your body’s reserves. There are long-term consequences to your physical health to remaining in this state for too long. Your adrenals will over-produce adrenaline and cortisol and your body will become acidic which will open you up to degenerative diseases of all kinds.
Sadly, even after your relationship with a narcissist ends, you will likely suffer from PTSD and/or CPTSD as your amygdala remains overactive. Embracing protocols like meditation, sound healing, or energy healing for trauma will help you to shut off your sympathetic nervous system from the fight/flight mode and enable your body to return to a normal state.
How is your prefrontal cortex impacted by narcissistic abuse? Well, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for helping you with planning – it helps you to set and achieve your goals. This is because it is the receiving station from multiple different areas in your brain so that you can process and integrate all that data and then create a plan to respond accordingly based on the data it receives. It also contributes to a number of different executive functions such as:
⇢ The ability to focus your attention on a given subject matter or task
⇢ Assists you in understanding the connection between your actions and the corresponding consequences
⇢ Helps you to effectively manage your impulse control responses
⇢ Enables you to plan accordingly to support your dreams and goals
The prefrontal cortex is impacted by extremes such as excessive anger, sadness, anxiety, despair. This excess stress placed upon your brain results in diminished capacity for mental functioning.
Can brain damage from narcissistic abuse be reversed?
The human body is truly miraculous. While serious damage can result from long-term emotional and physical trauma, thankfully the brain does have the capacity to rejuvenate itself.
Neuroplasticity is the key to healing and recovery after narcissistic abuse. Science has now been able to prove the hippocampus is capable of neurogenesis (the ability to regrow itself). Effective protocols to promote neurogenesis include EMDR, guided meditation, and EFT.
EMDR which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a mental health modality that helps victims of PTSD to heal and recover after traumatic abuse and deeply traumatic experiences. What practitioners of EMDR have been able to show is that the mind has the same capacity to heal from emotional trauma as it does from physical trauma.
EMDR has been shown to create neuroanatomical changes in subjects with PTSD who sought treatment with EMDR. A standard series of sessions is usually to see a practitioner at least 2 times per week for a period of between 6-12 weeks.
The special protocols in EMDR enable the brain’s information processing system to return back to it’s organic state as it was prior to the trauma. Miraculously, it has been documented that some trauma victims (with a single traumatic episode) were able to recover from all their PTSD symptoms with as little as three 90-minute sessions. Victims of long-term abuse usually require quite a few more sessions
EMDR is lauded by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense and is utilized by over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world.
Guided Meditation is a simple, yet powerful healing modality to help victims of trauma, or traumatic abuse to heal and recover their mental faculties and stimulate neurogenesis. The human body is truly magnificent in its ability to regenerate itself.
Harvard University recently conducted a study on the use of guided meditation to help regrow one’s brain matter. What they discovered was that if participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day engaging in mindfulness practices and guided visualization they were able to generate a significant increase in the density of their hippocampus and the amygdala. Once again neuroplasticity is the hero of the day.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique is a powerful, safe, and effective healing modality for those struggling with PTSD. EFT accesses the meridian points in the human body, discovered through the ancient art of Chinese Medicine to harness the brain’s ability to heal and recover from trauma.
The tapping process will organically stimulate your amygdala, which as we discussed above is the ‘fight or flight’ part of the brain) and it will allow it to shut off that response and enable the participant to begin to relax and calm down. EFT is an incredible modality to embrace because within a few sessions an individual will learn how to do this for themselves and be able to self-soothe when they have been triggered by a person or experience.
Gary Craig, the founder of EFT conducted a powerful EFT group healing session for sufferers of PTSD. He called his process “Tearless Trauma Technique.” You can watch the video here.
The most important thing to remember when you are on a journey to heal and recover after narcissistic abuse is that you have to be kind, gentle and patient with yourself as you heal. The trauma didn’t happen in one episode and sometimes your body needs a little time and patience as you bring about this system-wide reset. Healing is a beautiful and sacred journey and you should be proud of yourself for having the courage to take it!
[1} How Narcissistic Abuse Impacts the Family Structure by Brandi Walker
[2} Long-Term Narcissistic Abuse Can Cause Brain Damage by Kim Saeed
 Stressing the Hippocampus: Why It Matters by By Mind Matters on January 8, 2008 / J Douglas Bremner Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit Emory University, Atlanta
 Neuroanatomical Changes After Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Treatment in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder https://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/jnp.2007.19.4.475
 Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) For Traumatic Brain Injury