Do You Have PTSD From Coping With Your Narcissistic Parents?
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
If you have grown up in a family where one or both of your parents is a narcissist, it can leave scars that last into adulthood.
The term 'narcissist' is thrown around quite a bit these days in society, and it can seem like everyone's ex or mother-in-law is apparently a narcissist. A true narcissist is someone who suffers from what is called Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Psychology.
When you grow up with a narcissist, it can have a profound effect on your psyche. You likely develop coping mechanisms early in life for living with a narcissist that may not be healthy in dealing with every day life. This can effect your future relationships, your friendships and your parenting.
You may also have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and be suffering from panic attacks, anxiety, hypervigilance, flashbacks or having trouble sleeping.
Learning to heal your inner child wounds from living with a narcissist can go a long way towards having more healthy relationships in adulthood.
Key Narcissistic Characteristics
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by traits such as an exaggerated sense of self-importance, sense of entitlement, and lack of empathy for others.
Growing up with a parent like this can be very difficult. Often, they will treat their children as mini extensions of themselves and their interests.
Narcissistic parents can be perfectionistic, overly concerned with their children's image and accomplishments. They may either micromanage their children at home or neglect them. Many times, even if a narcissist hovers over their children, they will neglect the children's feelings.
If a child doesn't live up to the narcissistic parent's expectations, they may become very angry, withhold love, make threats, or even become violent.
Additionally, narcissistic parents can be very manipulative in order to get their way, and may have a tendency of gaslighting their children.
PTSD from Childhood Trauma
If you have grown up with a narcissistic parent, there are many instances in which they may have traumatized you throughout your childhood. This can lead to PTSD or cPTSD in adulthood.
PTSD can result from overt abuse and neglect, emotional neglect, and gaslighting. A narcissist may also be cruel to children in front of friends and family, which can result in humiliation and trauma as well.
According to Very Well Mind,
An estimated 46% of children experience trauma at some point in their young lives. While kids are resilient, they’re not made of stone. Adults often say things like, "they were so young when that happened, they won’t even remember it as an adult," but childhood trauma can have a lifelong effect.
Even if you were a young child when a traumatic event occurred, you may have psychological trauma into adulthood. This can be the case even if you only vaguely remember an event.
Other times, you can remember clearly what happened, and will often have flashbacks of the scenes that took place, which feel like you are reliving these traumas over and over.
Very Well Mind continues,
When a child experiences a trauma that teaches them that they cannot trust or rely on that caregiver, however, they're likely to believe that the world around them is a scary place and people are dangerous. This lesson makes it incredibly difficult to form relationships throughout their childhood and into their adult years.
Children who experience trauma are also likely to struggle with romantic relationships in adulthood. A 2017 study in the Journal of Family Psychology found that spouses with a history of child abuse tend to have less satisfying marriages, even when still in the newlywed phase.
If this sounds like it describes your experience, it is likely that you may have PTSD from experiencing childhood trauma. However, to get a formal diagnosis, it is best to be seen by a mental health professional.
Healing from PTSD
Even though having PTSD and panic attacks feels debilitating at times, there are ways to heal and move on from your childhood traumas. You can still have a happy and full life with PTSD.
As someone with PTSD myself, I can say that after going through therapy to reprocess my trauma, and inner child work to heal from those childhood wounds, I have finally reached a point where I do feel better most of the time. I am able to live a full and happy life with my family, and you can too!
Although going to therapy may be frightening at first, because of trust issues opening up to another person, it can be very beneficial for your healing. A therapist who is well trained in coping with trauma can be an invaluable ally on your healing journey from PTSD.
In addition to talk therapy, I found Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy to be very helpful. This is a special kind of therapy for trauma that allows you to reprocess your trauma memories, so that you will no longer remember them as if you are reexperiencing them.
After going to EMDR therapy for a while, I realized that prior to starting therapy, I was reexperiencing my traumatic childhood memories as if I was still a child. Therefore, I was reacting to them on a primarily emotional level, as a child would. I felt powerless over those memories, and powerless towards my narcissistic parents as a result.
I felt this way well into my 30's, without realizing that the way I was reacting was abnormal. I still felt like my narcissistic mother was in control of me, although clearly I was an adult and she wouldn't have been able to physically harm me. I still reacted towards her as if I was a hurt child.
As I worked through these memories in EMDR, I was able to observe them as an adult, instead of reexperiencing them as a child. I was able to apply logic and reason to the memories, and understand them with a more critical thinking part of my mind. This gave me a new perspective on what had happened.
Since I am a mother myself, I realized that I would never treat my children - or any child - the way that my mother treated me. What she did was wrong, plain and simple, and it was not my fault. Coming to these realizations helped my healing quite a bit, and EMDR was primarily responsible for being able to better understand these childhood memories that had been haunting me.
If you have PTSD as well, I highly recommend working with a skilled Trauma Therapist, so that you can achieve healing and peace in your life.
If you have grown up with narcissistic parents, you may have experienced trauma, or even repeated traumas over the course of your childhood. If this is the case, you may have PTSD or cPTSD as a result. You can heal from these inner child wounds with the help of a skilled Trauma Therapist.
If you find this information helpful, you can check out my ebooks:
A Narcissist Destroyed my Life: How do I Rebuild?
Trauma Survivor's Guide to Coping With Panic Attacks
Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or if there are additional topics that you would like me to cover in a future blog post.