What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?

What is going on?  What in the world am I dealing with?

That was the question I asked myself two years ago.  My pastor had used the word “narcissist” to describe my husband.  I was taking the kids to camp, I was exhausted from the never-ending conflicts we were having, I knew something was terribly wrong and nothing I was doing was working.   So I decided to stay out of town and away from my husband for that entire week.  (I can assure you that really enraged him!)  I spent the whole week researching “narcissist” and “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” or NPD.   What I found shocked me, made me sick to my stomach, and also helped everything make perfect sense.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5),  a narcissist has at least 5 of these characteristics:

  • Has an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Exaggerates achievements and talents
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
  • Believes that he or she is “special” or superior and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special people (or institutions).
  • Requires constant or excessive admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e.,  automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
  • Takes advantage of others to get what they want
  • Lacks empathy- has an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

That’s the official definition.  However, the more I dug into the nuances of these definitions, and read the stories and experiences of others, the more I understood the “real-life definition”.  It made the past few years make sense, and I gained some sanity.  I was married to a narcissist, and his anger, rage, manipulation, lying, twisting of facts, implying that I was crazy, saying I didn’t care enough, and fear of being abandoned behaviors were all symptoms of that personality disorder.   I talked to a trusted friend and expressed my findings and concerns.  Her sweet husband, who is a Staff Psychiatrist at a major university, sat down with me and shared with me more information about NPD and what I was dealing with.  I took copious notes: Continue reading

What is Emotional and Verbal Abuse?

I knew something was wrong in my marriage, but after years of abuse, it was hard to understand exactly what was going on and even more difficult to communicate it to others or try to get help.  Emotional and verbal abuse left me in a fog; I doubted myself, I felt terribly hopeless and I didn’t trust my instincts.  I thought if I just worked harder, or didn’t bring up certain topics, or explained things more clearly that my spouse would “get it”.  He would be nicer.  He would stop being so mean.

The Seriousness of Emotional/Verbal Abuse

Emotional and verbal abuse in a marriage can be difficult to understand and identify, but it is extremely destructive and causes great harm to the person in the relationship.  In this type of abuse, the abuser uses actions and words to maintain power, control and domination. They  have an intense need to stay in control of their world, to impose their belief system on their spouse, and win at all costs.   Abusers may use various “tools” to dominate; these often include rage, contempt, constant criticism, manipulation, intimidation, blame-shifting, defensiveness, stonewalling/withdrawal, mocking, putdowns, hostile humor, jealousy, lying, twisting the truth, threats, gas-lighting, the silent treatment, and/or different forms of passive aggressive behavior.

The temptation is to minimize this type of abuse because there are no bruises.  DON’T!  This type of abuse can be every bit as damaging as other forms of abuse.   Those who haven’t experienced this often find it hard to understand.  However,  as Christians, we should all understand how damaging this type of abuse is when we look at scripture and read that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Or read how reckless words damage our soul the same way a sword damages our body (Proverbs 12:18). We are told that “healing words give life, but dishonest, perverse, lying words crush the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4 AMP).  As Steven Tracy points out in Mending the Soul (see Helpful Resources page), almost half of the sins identified as the ones God particularly hates are verbal: a lying tongue; a false witness; one who spreads strife among brothers  (Proverbs 6:16-19).     He explains that this is because words have the power to encourage and give life;  but in the case of verbal abuse, Satan uses this God-given verbal power to curse and destroy life.    It is a perversion of God’s plan for our lives.   Continue reading