The little-known reasons why you need to leave the narcissist ASAP!

By Kim Saeed | Contemplating No Contact

Jan 17

The effects of psychological and narcissistic abuse come with many devastating consequences, but there are two that almost no one knows about–unless they’re a doctor or neuroscientist.

In fact, these two outcomes may be the most destructive result of emotional trauma over the long-term and is an added reason why–if you have children with a narcissistic partner–you should try to leave as soon as reasonably possible.

By now, most of us know that repeated emotional trauma leads to both PTSD and C-PTSD, which should be reason enough to leave an abusive partner.  But, what many people don’t realize is that over time, these repeated emotional injuries shrink the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, while enlarging the amygdala, which houses primitive emotions such as fear, grief, guilt, envy, and shame.

Hippocampus basics

The hippocampus, which is Greek for “seahorse,” is a paired structure tucked inside each temporal lobe and shaped, in fact, like a pair of seahorses. It helps to store and release memory. The hippocampus is especially vital to short-term memory, the retaining in mind of a piece of data for a few moments, after which it either gets transferred to permanent memory or is immediately forgotten. Learning depends on short-term memory.[1]

Further, among the many analyses that have been conducted, one in particular shows very disturbing results.  In a study conducted by a team of University of New Orleans and Stanford University researchers, patients with the highest baseline cortisol (a stress hormone) and greater number of PTSD symptoms had the greatest decreases in hippocampal volume over time.[2]

In other words, the longer you stay with an emotionally abusive partner, the more deterioration you can expect of your hippocampus. It can be easily understood how this neurological process may enhance feelings of confusion, cognitive dissonance, and abuse amnesia in victims of narcissistic and psychopathic abuse.

Amygdala basics

Narcissists keep their victims in a constant state of anxiety and fear, which in turn causes their victims to react from his or her amygdala (or “reptilian” brain).  The amygdala controls life functions such as breathing and heart rate and the basic emotions of love, hate, fear, and lust (all of which are considered “primal emotions”).

It’s also responsible for the fight or flight reaction.  Victims of narcissistic abuse live in this state almost daily.  Over time, the amygdalae remember the things we felt, saw, and heard each time we had a painful experience.   Subliminal hints of such stressful events (even photos) will set off the organ’s attack or escape routines–triggering avoiding behaviors or internal turmoil[3] (another good reason to refrain from stalking your ex on social media).

Even after the toxic relationship has ended, victims suffer PTSD, C-PTSD, panic attacks, phobias, and more… due to the triggering of their primal fears by their overactive amygdalae.  Out of these fears, targets of narcissistic abuse often engage in primitive defense mechanisms including (but not limited to):

  • Denial – Victims use denial to escape dealing with painful feelings or areas of their life they don’t want to admit.
  • Compartmentalization – Victims pigeonhole the abusive aspects of the relationship in order to focus on the positive aspects.
  • Projection – Victims project their traits of compassion, empathy, caring, and understanding onto their abuser, when in fact, narcissists and other emotional abusers possess none of those traits.

Narcissistic abuse changes your brain

According to Goleman (2006), everything we learn, everything we read, everything we do, everything we understand, and everything we experience count on the hippocampus to function correctly. “The continual retention of memories demands a large amount of neuronal activity.

In fact, the brain’s production of new neurons and laying down connections to others takes place in the hippocampus” (Goleman, 2006, p. 273). Goleman also stated, “The hippocampus is especially vulnerable to ongoing emotional distress, because of the damaging effects of cortisol” (p. 273). When the body endures ongoing stress, cortisol affects the rate at which neurons are either added or subtracted from the hippocampus. This can have grave results on learning. When the neurons are attacked by cortisol, the hippocampus loses neurons and is reduced in size. In fact, duration of stress is almost as destructive as extreme stress. Goleman explained, “Cortisol stimulates the amygdala while it impairs the hippocampus, forcing our attention onto the emotions we feel, while restricting our ability to take in new information” (pp. 273-274).  Goleman adds,

The neural highway for dysphoria[4] runs from the amygdala to the right side of the prefrontal cortex. As this circuitry activates, our thoughts fixate on what has triggered the distress. And as we become preoccupied, say, with worry or resentment, our mental agility sputters. Likewise, when we are sad activity levels in the prefrontal cortex drop and we generate fewer thoughts. Extremes of anxiety and anger on the one hand and sadness on the other push brain activity beyond its zones of effectiveness. (p. 268)[5]

But, there is hope.  There are reparative activities you can do to restore and rebuild your hippocampus and stop the hijacking of your psyche by your amygdala.

What to do

Luckily, as brain scans have now shown (thanks to the magic of neuroplasticity), it is possible for the hippocampus to regrow.  An effective method includes the use of EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  One recent study showed that 8 to 12 sessions of EMDR for patients with PTSD showed an average of a 6% increase in the volume of their hippocampi.[6]

EMDR is also beneficial for counteracting the hyperarousal of the amygdala, allowing the brain to more appropriately direct what needs to happen rather than remain stuck and unnecessarily trigger problematic emotions.

Other methods that have been shown to repair both the hippocampus and amygdala include:

  • Guided meditationRecent studies from Harvard University show that daily meditation can help repair the brain by actually rebuilding the brain’s gray matter. Study participants who spent an average of 27 minutes per day practicing “mindfulness” exercises showed a major increase in the density of the hippocampus and amygdala and associated reductions in stress, compared to a control group.
  • Aromatherapy and essential oils –Article:  AROMATHERAPY AND MEDITATION: ESSENTIAL STEPS IN RECOVERING FROM NARCISSISTIC ABUSE
  • Performing acts of kindness – simple, daily practice of altruism can dramatically alter your outlook on the world.
  • EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) – helps correct the biochemical short-circuiting that occurs with chronic anxiety.

Of course, the first course of action would be to plan and implement an exit strategy.  It takes time to recover from narcissistic abuse and one short encounter can set you back enormously.

Copyright 2016 – Kim Saeed and Let Me Reach

 The Essential No Contact Bootcamp

[1] Goleman, D. (1995, July 31). Severe Trauma May Damage The Brain as Well as the Psyche. Retrieved January 17, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/1995/08/01/science/severe-trauma-may-damage-the-brain-as-well-as-the-psyche.html?pagewanted=all

[2] Stressing the Hippocampus: Why It Matters. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2016, from http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/news-blog/stressing-the-hippocampus-why-it-ma/

[3] Thomas, E. (n.d.). The Amygdala & Emotions. Retrieved January 17, 2016, from http://www.effective-mind-control.com/amygdala.html

[4] Dysphoria. (2015, November 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:36, January 17, 2016, fromhttps://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dysphoria&oldid=692983709

[5] Effects of Stress on the Hippocampus. (2013, March 19). Retrieved January 17, 2016, from http://drgailgross.com/academia/effects-of-stress-on-the-hippocampus/

[6] Shapiro, F. (2012). Getting past your past: Take control of your life with self-help techniques from EMDR therapy. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Books.

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(50) comments

BONNIE July 26, 2017

I’ve what I believe to married to narrsitic schophathy I’m in the process of getting a divorce had get a protective order I have hard time to finish a sentence because I forgot what I was talking about I’ve been with him 43 40 married I’m a emotional mess I made an appointment with a concounling doctor to help me heAL not sure that is even possible I’ve had breast cancer and I’ve decided that it’s time to take back my life ONE DAY AT A TIME

Reply
Anonymous July 7, 2017

Thank you Kim for sharing all the information you do. I had a stroke 6 yrs ago and worked very hard to learn to walk, read and speak again. I was doing very good. One year with a narc and I can no longer even remember what I have read 5 min later. This is so eye opening and I have been saving to get away from him. Never realized how much damage a toxic person could cause….thank you for opening my eyes.

Reply

[…] Each of us who’ve gone through the ordeal of narcissistic abuse often bewail how we wish someone had told us about the narcissist before we got in too deep.  If only we could go back in time and end the relationship before the damage occurred.  Oh how our lives might be different if only someone had approached us and explained the hazards of being involved with a narcissist. […]

Reply
Anonymous June 20, 2017

Hello new to the site. Still having a hard time getting my head around why I loved someone so cruel. I am still having anxiety attacks. The hard part is not being able to just tell him. I know who you are . No contact since I left. I just want to call sometimes to say .you didn’t fool anyone. I want to just say you didn’t get away with destroying another human being.

Reply
    Alcnarrisist4sure June 20, 2017

    Makes me sad to know… he’ll just keep doing to unsuspecting g women.

    Reply
The BaffledKing May 20, 2017

No wonder I have struggled so mightily! I am the husband, very much an empath and Romanticist…….and she? NOT. About a dozen years ago, once all our kids were finally in school, she started to come after me….criticisms, judgments, cruelties, and a complete withdrawal of intimacy. She told me if I wanted sex she’d be okay with me paying for a prostitute. She had NO physical or health reasons to opt out, she just opted out and didn’t much care what I thought about it. After about six years of that, she asked why I was so ‘down’ all the time…..and I told her yet again I felt like I was living life as a eunuch, or like a 7th grade boy with visual sightings but no hope of contact. She then told me “that’s mutual, so don’t you dare hang that on me!” Gaslight much? I am desperate to leave, I have to. I know if I don’t, and soon, like now, I won’t be able to go on living. It’s really come down to life and death for me. Despite that, I struggle to end it. I struggle with that sentence or two to end it. Why? This article answers a LOT of that question!

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Samuel Vain May 18, 2017

Well well, seems that my brain did not lioke what Barb did all the time and fought the process of degredations discussed here. Makes more sense why I feel so much better after the trauma has worn off. Cannabis really helped! I know that for a fact! Plus I am on disability for PTAD, Panic attack disor. and MDD with death wish since Wife Sheila died in 2003 so I am already EXTREMELY adept at handling much more psychological pain than Barbara could cause. My brain shows tha same as someone tortured for over 10 years in a POW camp! Nothing Barbara did hurt near that much.

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Hurting 2 October 25, 2016

Hi! Kim and everyone on this wonderful site. I just want everyone to know I have been out for 13 months and doing ok. Waiting for divorce to get over with. Yes they do put the blame on you they did nothing wrong. I drove myself to get a lie detector test to prove to him and my grown kids I have been telling the truth. Yes he gave me a gift for the rest of my life but I’ll deal with it. I do alot of reading on many sites and it does help. As for the pain, heartache, trust I feel that will take a long time. Keep up the good work Kim you are helping alot of people 👍😘

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Daisy September 29, 2016

You are most welcome Kim! Even though I have rid myself of the worst narcs in my life, I still have a couple family members whom I can’t divorce! Your blog continues to bless & strengthen me!!!!

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    LL November 27, 2016

    I think I asked — and tried to figure out on the website — how to change my name on this site a dozen times. Can you let me know how to do that?

    Reply
      Kim Saeed November 28, 2016

      Hello LL. We have checked the site comments and nothing is coming up under your name. Hope that helps. Let us know if you need further assistance.

      Reply
Emotional and Physical Abuse Rape of the Spirit by Debra Sutton | Signs of a Gay Husband by Debra Sutton January 29, 2016

[…] The little-known reasons why you need to leave the narcissist ASAP! […]

Reply
Daisy January 26, 2016

I ran across a saying the other day that TOTALLY resonated with me. I changed it up a bit to fit the narcissistic personality!

“Don’t bother reserving a space in your heart for people who do not make an effort to reciprocate, or respect you!”

Treat them as jagged rocks…..they are there, but add NO VALUE to your life! The concept of “gray rock” also is a technique that I have learned with narcs. Become boring, un-interesting as a gray rock. Don’t OFFER anything about yourself, keep your answers one word responses, extinguish their fire, by not adding any oxygen! Once they realize that you are boring, they will opt out of your life a find a new un-suspecting target, because they always need a source to keep themselves alive!!!!!

Reply
    Kim Saeed January 26, 2016

    Absolutely, Daisy! I think ‘Gray Rock’ is wonderful in cases of shared custody or working for the same employer…and then, of course, No Contact for all other scenarios. Thank you for stopping by and commenting 🙂

    Reply
      Clue Bird January 26, 2016

      You are most welcome Kim! Even though I have rid myself of the worst narcs in my life, I still have a couple family members whom I can’t divorce! Your blog continues to bless & strengthen me!!!!

      Reply
    Samuel Vain May 18, 2017

    Must be true because I was starving my narcissist wife for the last month she was still home and she just took off without warning, left me a cruel note to find on the bed later. Every manipulation attampt she made was met with no fuel, it makes sense she would leave but how she did it was a huge blindside since I expected it to happen after she could afford to get back to FLorida.
    Now she is screwing her friend and my former neighbor getting her to house and feed her when Barb can’t. She left her loving husband who took her sh!t to abuse someone else under false pretenses. Typical, huh!?
    At least the daily abuse is gone and it is so much camler without her instigations, I’m sure you all feel/felt the same at some point. HEALING TIME!

    Reply
Hurting 2 January 24, 2016

I left my narc husband after 35 years of marriage 36 years in the relationship. I did everything to keep the marriage together. Have 5 grown children. He would always come home and be mad at me for no reason. If he was out in the public he would come in describing women on their appearance, I use to react but I quit because that’s what he wanted me to do. So my youngest daughter would. I was never told I was pretty, beautiful, etc through out the marriage asked him why he didn’t say anything. He never really sat down and had a conversation with any of us. Except about what he wanted the boys to do. Anyways I started going to counseling when he turned 50 because he started spending lots of money. When it was time for both of us to go all he said was it was his money and he could do what he wanted with it. Than he was selling grain for mad money, giving massage therapist big Christmas gifts. What made me leave almost 5 months ago. He came to my sisters who was dying of cancer. He was told not to come but did anyway. We had sex my bottom started hurting really bad. My brother in law asked us if we had anyone else we both said no. The next day he told me he was paying women to have sex with him for over 2 years. I asked him why the f— did you not get divorced first, he said he felt good that he told me, told my brother in law two days later he had 3 women. So in 8 days I lost the love of my life, my dog and my sister. I loved my husband until he told me he was paying women and the love just left my body. So would anyone give me some very strong encouragement to stop the thoughts I had tonight before I started texting this Please

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    Kimcurci@yahoo.com January 30, 2016

    Hurting2. I’m sorry you are having to deal with this kind of monster after such a long time together he thinks it’s his right to sleep with whores he pays for and subjects you to all sorts of scary diseases NEVER MIND THE MIND F*#K. It’s ugly and he is a true pig who only cares about his sexual escapades and not your health and emotional well being. You DESERVE SOOOOO MUCH BETTER. Your family and friends haven’t been dealing with him like you’ve had to. You are programmed to his liking so you need to find a great life coach who knows how to help you RID YOUR MIND OF EVERYTHING YOUVE KNOWN FOR 35 years because everything has been a huge lie.
    Good luck to you. I’ll be praying for you. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us.

    Reply
      Anonymous December 3, 2016

      Beautiful. A life coach n start rewrite a wonderful future. Thanks also to that i claim.

      Reply
    Hurting 2 January 31, 2016

    Thank you for your comment. Had a long talk with my one child who is behind me 100% . Her and my youngest son heard and seen a lot, the son found his no trace phone he hasn’t told me. I’m just leaving that alone. There’s more to the story but I think I wrote what really told me it was time to leave. I would like to THANK Kim for all the articles and information. It really does help. It’s going to be a long road but it’s called day by day . Keep up the good work Kim ?

    Reply
      Kim Saeed June 26, 2016

      Thank you for your kind praise, Hurting 2. I wish you all the very best in your recovery and healing journey. You did the right thing by leaving.

      Kim
      XoXo

      Reply
    Anonymous December 3, 2016

    Huggs

    Reply
immafighter4sure January 24, 2016

I think this is excellent and I think more things will be found out in relation to the affects of this type of abuse long term that’s even more horrifying than this which is shocking. Sadly I can relate and agree that the effects mentioned can occurs by my own experiences. This sh*t makes you dumb. It begins to tear you down day by day. There’s just one way to curb It and that’s get out. But by now you are not only feeling stupid but you think you can’t make it on your own. They have ruined your credit besides your good standing in the community and even sometimes with your family and friends as they work their charms on your support group in the name of love but really it’s an evil deed done with the hope of total isolation and the victim feeling there’s no where they can go. You start doing crazy things because it makes you do crazy things because no one understands what you are being put through. People think you can just walk out the door and that you are just a complaining weak needy human who is worthless and everything your mate said about you true. Some people are assets and some liabilities. People learn usually from mistakes. Some can get out fairly easy. Yet many will go back and I just can’t understand why if you’re already out??. Sometimes it becomes all you know.

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Debra Sutton January 24, 2016

Reblogged this on Signs of a Gay Husband by Debra Sutton.

Reply
Evelyn Ryan January 23, 2016

Reblogged this on Life, Health, Career Coaching.

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survivednarc January 22, 2016

As a sign of how much I appreciate your blog, and how much it has helped me, I’ve nominated you for the “One Lovely Blog Award”. If you’re interested, you can read all about it, rules, nominations, etc, in my latest post, which you can find here: https://survivednarc.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/holy-hole-in-a-donut-batman-an-award/

Love/SurvivedNarc

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Debra Sutton January 21, 2016

Great Post Kim.

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frozenjanedoe January 19, 2016

Reblogged. Loved this post. I thought I was going mad….thank you.

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    Kim Saeed January 19, 2016

    My pleasure, frozenjanedoe…and thank you for the reblog <3

    Reply
frozenjanedoe January 19, 2016

Reblogged this on Narcissistic & other toxic relationships and commented:
Reblogging – such a good post.

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emergingfromthedarknight January 18, 2016

A really valuable post. Thank you so much for sharing.

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Trish January 18, 2016

There is a part of me that hurts because of this damage wondering if I will ever be the same. The only option is to continue with all the things you listed. After over a year its better but moments of anxiety still prevail.

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    Kim Saeed January 18, 2016

    It definitely takes a while to start feeling comfortable again. Yes, I can say that the methods listed can help tremendously and one for which I advocate with much enthusiasm is guided meditation. I still listen to them to this day <3

    Reply
survivednarc January 18, 2016

Reblogged this on survivednarc and commented:
Amazing Article On How Your Brain is Damaged by Nacissistic Abuse!

Reply
jimmorelli January 18, 2016

This is what I was trying to talk about…peptide overload from amagdala and the chemical grip. Interesting article

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

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Yttrium January 18, 2016

This article makes sense. Over time my memory dulled and learning speed decreased when I was in an (10+ year) relationship with a narcissistic BF. It was one of the things that worried me most — noticing my mind wasn’t quick anymore. I wondered if I’d ever get my mental sharpness back.

I found it extremely relaxing to read through boring 60+ page scientific study reports. I’d usually read them at bedtime. Somehow they felt comforting even though at the time I retained little of their information (which worried me to). In retrospect I think it may have been just the sort of self-care or nurturing my brain was craving.

I’m happy to report I feel closer to my old self now, after nearly 2 years of no contact. But I still don’t have the bear trap memory I used to. Maybe I’ll try some EMDR.

(I also had a difficult time concentrating in school when my narc mother was being particularly terrifying.)

Thank you for taking the time to cite your source material, Kim. So few people bother to do that. I’m reading them next. I appreciate your professionalism! 🙂

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    Yttrium January 18, 2016

    I have to add this: when I was a kid they had a public service announcement with the fried egg and “this is your brain on drugs” message. My brains felt like scrambled eggs after 10+ years with the narc BF. It’s miraculous to feel like the eggs are slowly becoming unscrambled, and there’s hope for more. Your articles give me hope.

    Reply
Cheyenne January 18, 2016

Thank you so much for this, it helps me understand a little more. Even now, 6 months later, I am so afraid..of everything it seems. I’ve lost interest in the things I used to love to do, I wake up in panic during the night, there’s loss of concentration, so much crying, so much pain and desperation, exhausted all the time. And on top of all this is fear. Irrational phobic like fear. It’s a nightmare.
Your blog helps me understand so much of what happened, why and whats happening now…thank you.

Cheyenne

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    Kim Saeed January 26, 2016

    Thank you, Cheyenne. I’m glad to know my article gave you a little boost 🙂

    Reply
Elisabeth January 17, 2016

I’d just finished up a very unpleasant interaction with my narc ex, with whom I have joint custody of our child. I got all anxious afterward and then this post came. I can see how, after a 21 year marriage of sly put-downs and sudden shifts in attitude toward me, and always having to make sure he came first and I came last, I develop terrible anxiety from dealing with him. He was and is a horrible bully, and just getting an email from him sends me right back there. I can see how this is PTSD.

Thank you for these posts. They always seem to cone at just the right moment.

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Michele Private January 17, 2016

Excellent information. Thank you. Your posts are healing, encouraging, affirming, empowering and saving. You are a blessing to me….

________________________________

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Kate Spyder January 17, 2016

You speak of a narcissist as being just one person. Isn’t it possible for a group, a corporation, or even governments to be narcissistic and cause this type of response, not only in individuals but whole groups of people? I am wondering if this is why some people remain in jobs which are unsatisfactory all because a company has built so much fear into their employees that they believe they will not be accepted anywhere else.

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    Kim Saeed January 18, 2016

    Absolutely. In fact, I encountered this very thing in both the banking industry and in my teaching career (of all places). Actually, in my teaching experiences it was higher administration…not necessarily the teachers themselves. While I performed well in both industries, I was completely miserable. So yes, it’s entirely possible and, sadly, alive and well.

    Reply
      Kate Spyder January 18, 2016

      Your post made me realize what I had been working under for well over 20 years. My position was just cut and I’m looking for a new job, hopefully I will not find myself in that same environment again. It is difficult but I’m starting to see the positive side of this situation.

      Reply
        Kim Saeed January 18, 2016

        Something similar happened to me around 2012. It seemed like devastation at the time, but it was really part of a bigger and better path <3

        Reply

[…] Source: Little-known reasons why you need to leave the narcissist ASAP! […]

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    LL November 28, 2016

    In reference to changing my username, it’s my full name, not the initials I am using here. If it could be changed to initials, that would be great. You can find it by searching my full name (see name on email address with middle initial.

    Reply
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