How To Spot Narcissistic Abuse And Free Yourself

If you find yourself involved with a narcissist, albeit family, partner, or spouse, it is important to take your emotional, psychological, physical, financial, and spiritual health seriously.

Shannon Savoy, Narc Free Living 

Today the term, narcissist, is heard and used more than ever. That is a great thing because it signifies that narcissist abuse is becoming a mainstream topic of discussion. It also means that we must understand what a narcissist is and the patterns of abuse that they follow. Yes, psychologists advise laymen of diagnosing, for fear of misdiagnosis. However, it is important to discern, identify, and pay attention to red flags. Studies estimate that narcissist abuse affects over 158 million people in the United States alone. Roughly one in every 10 people that we encounter lacks empathy and is without a conscience. Those are staggering statistics. With those numbers and the prevalence of narcissists in our society, why aren’t we discussing narcissist abuse even more?  

Before marrying a physically & psychologically abusive sociopathic narcissist, I was like most people. I falsely believed that a narcissist is someone that is vain. Someone that is a little selfish, somewhat self-centered, or maybe takes one too many selfies. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) runs much deeper and is much more insidious than vanity. 

The relationship started like so many that encounter narcissists: full of hope, lots of expensive gifts, and promises of a magnificent future together (future faking). We moved quickly from one stage to the next. What I did not know then was that I was being love-bombed. 

Narcissists and manipulative love bomb as a method of trickery to lure and hook their victims into their web of lies. It is designed to overload the target’s senses. The intent is to overwhelm the “love hormone” oxytocin so that the victim lets their guards down and trusts the manipulator. Oxytocin is released when we believe we are “in love.” It is recognized for its ability to strengthen ties and bonds between two people. So I was a fool, in what I thought was “love.” Oh, was I wrong… 

As the emotional and physical abuse worsened in the marriage, I began to question my sanity. The abuser accused me of being unfaithful, questioned my morals and integrity consistently. He was highly jealous, so insecure, that anytime I posted on social media he became irate and agitated. I was a stable, successful, career and family-driven woman. I was an officer in the military for close to 19 years at the time. I was a strong woman. Abuse does not happen to women “like me”, right? Wrong. Narcissist abuse crosses all demographics, cultural lines, races, creed, and status.

Narcissist abuse is much more common than most people realize. Those that exhibit narcissistic traits are written off as “crazy.” If victims were to take a closer look and were able to examine the abuser’s past and patterns, they too may realize the person exhibits signs of narcissism in the initial stages of the relationship. So what are the signs? 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, 2013) outlines nine fundamental criteria for NPD. A person with NPD possesses at least five of the following nine criteria:

  • Grandiose an exaggerated sense of self-importance; expects to be recognized as superior
  • An elevated sense of entitlement
  • Innate thirst for excessive admiration (known as narcissistic supply)
  • Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited control, power, success, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes they are “special” and unique & can only be understood by other special or high-status people and organizations
  • Interpersonally exploitative; takes advantage of others for their gain
  • A lack of empathy; is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Envious and jealous of others; believes that others are envious of them
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

As I look back, it is crystal clear that my ex-husband met the criteria for NPD and possibly Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  After getting out of narcissistic relationships, if you do your work to heal, identifying someone who has these traits becomes easier to spot. Take note of the signs and how to free yourself if you find yourself in the clutches of a narcissist.

Here are 5 signs to look out for:

  1. They are sweet and charming…initially.

It starts as a love story. The narcissist love-bombs as they mirror you and seem so interested in you. They convey how special you are, how much they love you, and how the two of you are “perfect together” or “make a great team.” However, as soon as you upset or criticize them, you unknowingly cause narcissistic injury. This injury occurs when their fragile, overinflated ego is bruised. The narcissist sees you as less than perfect or ideal and the devaluing phase begins. Once you are hooked, the abuse and devaluing ramps up.

Advice: Take your time to get to know someone. Pay attention to how you feel and the signals that your body is telling you. Trust yourself. Address your feels of inadequacy and rejection so that you do not stay with someone out of fear or loneliness. If someone seems too good to be true, they likely are. 

  1. They love talking about themselves and putting down others.

Narcissists love talking about themselves, telling fabrications, and tall-tales of where they are the victim or the hero. Pay attention to how previous relationships or friendships ended. Are all the exes crazy? Are they still friends with all of their exes? How do they talk and address others? How do they treat those who can do nothing for them? This may not signify a narcissist but it is something to take note of. 

Advice: Listen to what occurs when you achieve a goal or an accomplishment. Are they excited for you? Does the conversation dry up? A true friend, family member, or significant other will genuinely be happy for you and express their happiness for your successes.

  1. They waste your time. Narcissists are huge time wasters. 

They purposely occupy your time, as it is their mission to kill, steal, and destroy anything and everything that touch. Yes, that means you and your purpose. Narcissists, especially in the beginning, text, call, and direct message you excessively to get you used to the rush of oxytocin. Once you are successfully secured as an adequate source of supply, they begin to push and pull, waning between hot and cold. This ensures that your thoughts, time, and resources revolve around keeping them happy. 

Advice: Take note of anyone who attempts to keep tabs on you, especially when you first meet them. Are you staying on top of your goals and life objectives? 

  1. One of the biggest traits of a narcissist is their inability to feel empathy for anyone outside of themselves. 

They may fake or mirror your empathy, but if you stick around long enough, you will notice that they do not possess the capacity to care about others. One of the signs for me was that I found myself explaining basic human decency over and over. 

Advice: Someone who truly loves and cares for you will not hurt you over and over. 

They will do everything (reasonably) to understand and validate your feelings and experiences, even if they disagree. 

  1. Lots of circular conversations that go nowhere. 

When you are with a narcissist or high-conflict person, they thrive off of chaos, discord, and confusion. When you have a disagreement or even a simple discussion, you’ll walk away wondering what just happened? How did things escalate so quickly? 

Narcissists do not like to apologize (unless it benefits them). They cannot take criticism and must surround themselves with people who “go with the flow.” They love people that they can control and manipulate. In a narcissist’s mind, their opinions are the only ones that matter as they see those around them as extensions of themselves. When you attempt to hold them accountable, disagree, or just for no-reason-at-all they do lots of “crazymaking” and gaslighting so that you feel like you are the crazy one. 

Advice: Are you able to convey your thoughts and ideas freely? Are you walking on eggshells to keep the peace? Disagreements and differences of opinion are normal in healthy relationships. Examine patterns. Look at what they do, not what they say.

If you find yourself involved with a narcissist, albeit family, partner, or spouse, it is important to take your emotional, psychological, physical, financial, and spiritual health seriously. Narcissists may become self-aware, however, they do not change. It is not about diagnosing a narcissist or even about them at all. This is about you. How do you feel? How does this person make you feel? Being in a relationship with someone who devalues, discards, projects, gaslights, and criticizes you takes a toll on you in every way. 

How to break free: 

  • Understand that love and abuse do not coexist.
  • Know that you are worthy and that you deserve better.
  • Abuse is not only physical. Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse.
  • Sever the soul tie or trauma bond that was established.
  • Find your tribe of supporters who understand narcissist abuse.
  • Understand that you cannot change a person.
  • Allow yourself time to grieve the relationship. 
  • Address your trauma head-on. Find a therapist who understands narcissist abuse.
  • Trust yourself.

Pay attention to red flags. Believe people when they show you who they are. Do not be so afraid of losing someone else, that you lose yourself in the process. I broke free from narcissist abuse and so can you. 

Let’s break those chains.


Shannon Savoy

Narc Free Living, LLC was founded by Shannon Savoy, a passionate survivor and spiritual warrior. Shannon retired from the U.S. Army in 2017 as a Commissioned Officer, achieving the rank of Chief Warrant Officer Four. She proudly and distinctly served 23 years as an Information Management Officer, specializing in IT Project Management. Shannon who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Management (IT). She is currently pursuing her Graduate degree in Organizational Leadership. With a heart of gold and a love for people, Shannon is walking in her divine purpose and living life well after escaping narcissist abuse & breaking the chains of a toxic family system enmeshed with the Jezebel spirit.

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    1. Hi Carrie. We are happy you found the article useful. Feel free to contact us by email ( in case of any more help. Stay safe and sound!

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