Brain Damage and Bad Habits from Narcissistic Abuse

Stumbled upon an eye opening read this morning… Long-Term Narcissistic Abuse Can Cause Brain Damage by Kim Saaed . In this article, Kim discusses the actual impacts to the brain that are caused by a continued state of high cortisol and constantly living in the fear and anxiety caused by narcissistic abuse.

While it still makes me feel crummy to read that there are actually physical changes that happened to my brain as a result of what I lived through, it was also nice to see that there has been a proven link between using EMDR as a form of therapy and seeing some of those effects reversed. I cannot speak highly enough about EMDR therapy… it was a game-changer for me and I would recommend it to anyone who has trauma to process.

What is also interesting and this article does not touch on at all are the possible effects to the brain from physical abuse that many times also accompanies narcissistic abuse. I’m unsure if I ever actually had a concussion from any of the physical ways that The Narcissist abused me but I certainly experienced my fair share of having my head slammed into things, being slapped and hit in the head, and being choked. I imagine that there are some side effects of all of those things to my brain as well.

The timing of this article is interesting because I have been wondering lately if I have more side effects of the abuse and trauma than I have even realized. This has caught me a bit off guard at 2 years out of the relationship with The Narcissist. I feel like in general my memory is much worse these days than I can ever remember it being before I met The Narcissist. I am particularly bad with remembering names, or retaining new words/abbreviations on the job. I find myself trying to communicate things and missing a word I need here or there pretty often. I also feel like I struggle more with emotional highs and lows now than I ever did before. When something goes wrong… a fight with a close friend or a frustrating experience at work… I feel the effects much more deeply than I think I would have beforehand. Everything feels a little bit more intense than I can remember it being before.

I’ve also found that being in a serious relationship for the first time since the divorce from The Narcissist has been eye-opening in terms of some of the emotional stuff that I still have to work through. For instance, I pretty much immediately jump into fight or flight mode at any sign of conflict or confrontation… and my preferred option is flight… every single time. I mean leave a room, leave the car, leave a restaurant…. leave. I feel safe and secure in my aloneness when I’m facing icky feelings or uncomfortableness and am not the best at actually talking through those feelings and emotions with my person. I also struggle with some anxiety in my current relationship that is definitely a result of the past. If I don’t hear from my person for a few hours I find myself wondering and worrying if they are mad at me, if they are not talking to me, if they are intentionally avoiding me… and I can quickly spiral myself into a crazy train of thought if I am not thinking logically about it all. It definitely takes a bit more work than I realized it would to handle the emotional things that still pop up from time to time.

So while I would love to say that it is all rainbows and sparkles over here… I’m still putting in some solid work to make sure that the leftover ick from The Narcissist isn’t ruining my current life. I hope like with the other things, these effects will also continue to fade over time.

17 thoughts on “Brain Damage and Bad Habits from Narcissistic Abuse

  1. Currently I have been two and a half years no contact -Four and a half, since the relationship effetively ended and like you i am aware of issues; Kim Wilson TV, showed the brain scan of somebody who had experienced narcissistic abuse. The brain looked like somebody who had experienced traumatic brain injury. I was horrified and angry that this had been done deliberately. It is only a matter of time before there are test cases on the damage done by this insidious abuse. EMDR does seem to offer hope though doesn’t it?

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  2. Hey – thanks for sharing. I also feel the same in terms of any new experience or relationship in terms of fight/flight, and the worry when you don’t hear from someone. Seems like rational thought escapes you! I will also look in to EMDR as I’ve not come across it before. Thanks as ever for your helpful and personal thoughts and experiences x

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  3. It can be so disheartening to realize that even years out of an abusive situation, you are still suffering the effects of it. I used to be hard on myself (“For god’s sake, why can’t I get over it? Am I just wallowing in it?”) But no. I have come to accept that the effects of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse are deep and difficult to recover from. I am doing the best I can.

    Just knowing how hard it is to recover makes me more committed to supporting all efforts to prevent abuse (with whatever limited energy I have).

    So glad to hear EMDR is helpful to you. I have tried it a little but haven’t noticed a benefit. I wonder though if I might get more from it working with a different person. I might try it again sometime.

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  4. New events show the next layer to be worked in healing. And yes your wondering on TBI (traumatic brain injury) from the physical abuse is a good one. I suspect there’s a good chance of both. Continuing your therapy–often a booster dose or two of EMDR can be very helpful, and consider an eval on the TBI, someone who has worked a lot with concussion could be helpful in furthering your recovery.

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  5. I suggest working through A Course in Miracles for deep change. Also Byron Katie’s The Work is a real eye opener. Last, Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now ties is all together nicely.

    Thanks for mentioning EMDR Therapy – I’ve looked into this regarding my childhood abuse.

    Please follow me on Instagram @light_healing to join the healing journey. 🙏🦋😊

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  6. I also forget names but my memory about work stuff is sooooo much better – having left 4 years ago. I’m smarter than when I was with him, constantly in a fog. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. Good for you for leaving – even in my darkest moments, I’m still so grateful to be out, whatever the cost.

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  7. Left him start of August last year but I very much feel as you do and it’s terrible lonely feeling to as no one is really there to help bar the Counciller who does understand leaving was best thing done no kids involved thankfully got out before wedding in November and before parents bought us a house he only wanted money I was only an object found out after living with him for 9 months xxxxx

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  8. Inner Integration on YouTube also has a recent entry on brain damage.

    I can’t recommend Jerry Wise Relationship Systems on YouTube enough. He is brilliant with regard to self-differentiation and family of origin and how we can stay interconnected with people without becoming enmeshed or cutting off.

    Also, Vital Mind Psychology is an excellent reference to what is going on with your body after narcissistic abuse.

    If you are on Instagram, please give my account a look at @light_healing. I am doing a Course in a Miracles and it’s been so enlightening to help me heal from abuse. ❤️🙏😊


  9. I’ve been married to my narcissistic for 23 years. I’m not quite sure how I’ve survived those years whilst being constantly moved from city to city with almost zero support whilst raising two daughters and trying to protect them as much as possible from the craziness.

    I’m not the easy going, happy young woman I was. Will I find that young woman again I hope so.

    I’m now in the process of getting divorced and I’m terrified of how difficult he is going make the process.

    I actually left the country for two months in January hoping the divorce would be final by the time I returned. I was assaulted during an attempted robbery whilst walking home and suffered a fractured skull and two subdural hematoma’s….so a TBI. After reading this article, which I 100% identify with I am left wondering how badly my poor brain is affected from the combined abuse and the TBI

    Regardless, I still have hope and faith that I can forge a happy life once this is all behind me.

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  10. Attachment theory reading has been helping me with the anxiety. But man, it is hard to have so many trauma triggers in a relationship. Something as small as a facial expression or a minor hand gesture can subconsciously remind you of an abuse incident. I guess it just means we have to be gentle with ourselves.
    I have found myself in a pattern of both craving and avoiding love. While I no longer choose men who are overtly abusive, I have been choosing men who neglect me and are emotionally unavailable. I have been asking myself over and over, “Why would I be with someone who does not love me?” I have been dating a man for over a year and a half and we have not expressed love for each other. I’m chewing on why this bothers me so much and why I am still dissociating so badly that I will not let love in to my life. Because unless I resolve this, I’ll just find someone else exactly like him. And I remind myself that he is also dissociated and dissociated men aren’t even aware of their traumas. Not my job to change, but I do have compassion.

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  11. I left my narc ex about 8 years ago, and am still experiencing lots of issues with my brain.
    Just reading your observations has helped me as I have many similar issues. It probably is helpful to understand that we experienced traumatic brain injury (as well as the soul rape), and to be more understanding of our struggles.
    I find all it takes is something like a stressful event or bright lights to trigger me, even if I’ve been OK for a while. Then my other issues all become amplified. I’ve had to spend the last three days in my room locked away, doing hours of deep breathing and meditation to calm my heart down and ease the inflammation in the muscles in my chest. I’ve been over-giving for a while and am in burn out now, where its hard to use cognitive mind, very difficult to communicate( I start stuttering from the effort my brain is having to make to listen, process and respond), and any emotional reaction feels like shards of glass sticking in my heart.
    I sleep alone as touch is still an issue, as is trust. One of narc ex’s regular moves was to terrorise me through the night, pulling covers off me, throwing things around, banging all doors and cupboards, forcing himself on me physically, etc… I can’t relax with someone else in my sleeping space- I’m too hyper attuned to the environment and can’t switch off.
    It’s so good to share here, a little of what’s happening for me. The other thing that’s difficult is the loneliness because most people can’t understand or relate to the impact of narc abuse, so I tend not to talk about it, even with my loved ones.
    Sending hugs from one survivor to another!


  12. Fabulous testimony to share, and timely for me, so thank you. I’m learning how to go east on myself as I battle with a mind and body still ridden with the aftermath.

    Liked by 1 person

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