In my personal experience with narcissistic abuse, I've found that education is my best weapon.
Malignant Narcissist Warning Signs
The malignant narcissist in your life may not be serving time in jail. Technically, this dangerous predator hasn't broken any laws. Or, perhaps she did, but just wasn't caught.
Although it's illegal to harass someone, you'd have a very hard time proving that's what happened. Adult bullies are very good at covering up their misdeeds. This is how they manage to destroy people, and still maintain a mask of saintliness.
They have a number of ways to accomplish their nefarious plans, and they usually succeed. Eventually, their impulsive nature gets the better of them. But, until that happens, they get away with outrageous antics.
How do they do this?
One of their favorite tricks is bullying by proxy. Instead of attacking directly, they recruit a team of flying monkeys. These little primates take turns doing and saying obnoxious things, in an effort to make a target come undone.
Because so many hands are involved, a target can never lodge a complaint. If she tried, it would sound ridiculous, since she'd be pointing her finger at so many people. Anybody who heard this would, naturally, assume she was the one with the personality disorder, instead of taking a good look at the real culprit.
For all of these reasons, mentioned above, malignant narcissists are every bit as dangerous as many of the folks safely locked away. In fact, they are more fearsome because they live and walk among us. Usually, they appear perfectly normal, until you get to know them better.
Malignant Narcissists Ruin Relationships
If a malignant narcissist has infiltrated your social circle, expect some pain if you're her target. Notice I say "her." That's because female bullies use what's known as relational aggression. This involves placing everyone in a very compromising position of either being on her side or not. Not going along with the program will be done under the thinly veiled threat of becoming the next target. Faced with this choice, most people buckle, especially if they have children. That's because they don't want their children left out of the various activities organized by the narcissist.
In a family dynamic, a malignant personality will pit one person against another. This can have very dire emotional consequences for people who grow up in such an atmosphere.
The aftermath of malignant narcissism is a lonely spot. But there's good news too. Once you regroup, you learn how to avoid such situations in the future. If another narcissist enters the picture, you are apt to spot the subtle and sometimes glaring warning signs. Awareness offers protection, as I'll explain next.
Erecting Strong Barriers
Once you realize someone is potentially dangerous, their power over you wanes. That's because most of the damage is done after they gain your trust and you let them into your life. Sharing any personal information, or worse, and deep, dark secrets, gives them all the ammunition they need to blow you off the map.
But if you can smoke out a narcissist beforehand, you know not to do this. Although I am not a mental health expert, I've noticed one thing. Narcissists have an astounding ability to "read" people. So, if you suspect someone is morally bankrupt, such a person also seems to sense that you've caught on to the fact that he or she is much different than the rest of us. This appears to both alarm and confuse them. So they tend to retreat, as if they're somewhat afraid of you. Maybe they are, as over the course of their lives, they've been able to fool most people. Narcissists also seem to possess a deadly fear of exposure.
However, this is only my personal observation. I am not a licensed therapist. My "education" in how narcissists operate comes from first-hand experience.
In the last few years, after the last narcissist left my life, I've seen signs of this disturbing condition in two other women. The first tried to toy with me a bit, but she and I both knew it wasn't going anywhere, so she quit. The other woman I met in a group setting. I am polite and cordial, but keep my distance.
Predators on the Job
An unleashed narcissist is a very dangerous creature in the workplace, especially if you become her target. (About 40 percent of the time, the office bully is woman.) Most people are not aware that we, as a society, are nearly drowning in a sea of character disorders. By one estimate, approximately 1 out of every 25 people meet the criteria for malignant narcissism or sociopathy. Many of these folks have clawed their way into management positions, creating an untold number of casualties along the way.
These morally disordered individuals are responsible for countless days of lost wages and retraining expenses. Once they set their mind to running someone out of an organization, they usually succeed, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, an organization that supports embattled employees.
For some reason, this bad behavior is widely tolerated throughout the United States, where it's not illegal to make life miserable for a coworker.
Of course, this is insane. If someone broke into your house and stole your jewelry, they could go to jail. But if someone bullies you at work, and robs you of your health and livelihood, there are no sanctions, because this behavior is not considered dangerous.
Working for a Bully Can Destroy Your Health
Doctors are well aware that prolonged stress can destroy your health. Spending 40 hours a week, or more, as is typical nowadays, in the company of a bully, eventually takes its toll. Sooner or later, this situation will have a negative physical effect.
Hostile working conditions create a "fight or flight" scenario within our bodies. This means that our brain will make more of a certain hormone called CRH. This, in turn, tells our adrenal glands to produce more cortisol. A certain amount of cortisol is needed in order for the body to run smoothly. But too much will depress the immune system.
Without a properly function immune system, we may not mount an effective response against the malignant cells we all develop on a daily basis. Unmitigated stress may also cause high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.
Everyone reacts differently to pressure. Some people tolerate it out for extended periods of time, before it catches up with them. Others crack under pressure more quickly.
Researchers have found that even after leaving a stressful daytime environment, the effects of the daily grind continue as we sleep. It's been documented that being stressed out translates into higher levels of cortisol, even at night.
Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress
A person suffering from PTSD will experience persistent thoughts of the incident. This may also be accompanied by sweating and other physical symptoms.
Someone may experience anxiety attacks related to the event or events that triggered the PTSD.
This may be accompanied a loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure.
Many people with PTSD are unable to get a good night sleep. Others
Narcissistic Abuse and PSTD
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PSTD, is typically seen in wartime veterans and others exposed to traumatic events. People who suffer from psychological abuse can also experience this anxiety disorder.
It is not uncommon for people who've undergone severe stress, such as what you'd experience with a workplace mobbing, to become anxious, depressed, and unable to trust. They may also experience physical symptoms, such as a racing heart or inability to sleep.
The fact that people who've suffered emotional abuse can experience this reaction has been well documented. Several years ago, Psychology Today quoted Dr. Joseph Carver, PhD., a clinical psychologist as saying that everyone who's been abused develops some form of PSTD.
Dealing with Dangerous People
We need to protect ourselves from malignant narcissists, as much as we need to lock up our homes when a burglar is on the loose in our neighborhood. These dangerous individuals will steal everything they can from you, including your peace and your sanity. These are much more precious than your material possessions, which are easily replaced.
So, what's the best way of dealing with a dangerous person? That would be not getting involved in the first place. Arm yourself with knowledge, so you can spot the warning signs that someone has a moral deficiency. Once you see enough traits, you'll know to quickly maneuver yourself in another direction.
A Discussion of Narcissism Versus Sociopathy
Signs of a Disordered Personality
There is no hard and fast guarantee for identifying a malignant personality, as even the professionals are sometimes blindsided.
Here are a few things to watch for:
- An unrealistic sense of entitlement. A highly narcissistic individual may expect a lot of favors, along with the understanding they won't be returned. Because he or she thinks she's so special, she considers just being in her company a form of compensation.
- Being exploitative. This goes hand-in-hand with a sense of entitlement. Morally disordered people take advantage of others. They are the consummate "users."
- Deceitfulness. Lying comes easy to a narcissist. If you discern a pattern of lies, proceed cautiously.
- Backbiting. I've never known a narcissism who doesn't malign others, either overtly or in a more subtle manner. If she's talking about others to you, rest assured she's saying similar things about you, behind your back.
- Angry Outbursts. Watch for brief flashes of rage. People with personality disorders have a difficult time managing their anger.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.