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Abuse Does Not Require a Diagnosis


I’ve read a lot of articles lately regarding narcissists and the damage they leave in their wake. I have read everything from how to spot a narcissist to how to escape a narcissist, and while all of them have been pretty informative and well written, I haven’t yet come across one that touches on the possibility that not every narcissist is a narcissist, or one that states that you don’t need a diagnosis to recognize abuse, so I thought I’d write one myself. Is that something a narcissist would do?

Years ago I was involved in a very toxic relationship, but it didn’t start out that way. The most charming and charismatic man that I had ever met swept me off of my feet. Our relationship progressed very quickly and while everything on the surface was perfect, the things lurking underneath were anything but. This man was the essence of charm, wit, graciousness and confidence, everyone adored him and he knew it. It’s not that he was without fault, far from it actually, he was so smooth that he could twist any situation into his favor. Before too long I was in deep and my Prince Charming started to show his true colors. There was absolutely no doubt that he exhibited many traits of NPD, but looking back now I realize that he would never have even come close to being diagnosed as a narcissist, a raging abusive jerk, but not a narcissist.

That relationship caused a world of hurt and took more from me than I could express. The amount of hours clocked in my psychiatrist’s office due to this relationship is ridiculous, but what I’m trying to say here is that sometimes people are just not nice people, and sometimes the nicest people display a few traits of every single personality disorder in the DSM, and those who do display traits all of the time, are still unique in their own right. I have crossed paths with many people who I suspect should have a diagnosis of either NPD or sociopath, but I’m not a trained mental health expert and am in no way qualified to even make that assumption, but here are a list of traits that I experienced in my own relationship that had me leaning to the side of him deserving that diagnosis:

Abusive Techniques and Traits

Sense of Entitlement – The man was unbelievably entitled; think of a child throwing a tantrum if he/she doesn’t get their way.

Gaslighting – This coupled with my untreated symptoms of bipolar disorder was agonizing.

Triangulation – This divide and conquer technique unleashed havoc in other relationships in my life.

Alienation – This was his desired result from using the triangulation technique.

Shaming – This one stripped me of any confidence I had left.

I’d like to tell you that I was exceptionally brave and left him in the dust at the first sign of poor behavior, but that would be a lie. I took that abuse for a couple of years, eventually even feeling as though I deserved it and that it was normal. I stuck up for him and defended his actions and behavior when everyone told me to get out. I chose to focus on, “when it’s good it’s so good” without admitting that when it was bad it was terrible. It was always bad. The good part of the relationship was long gone and was also nothing but smoke and mirrors designed to reel me in. Once he destroyed the person that I thought I was – strong, independent and capable – he looked elsewhere. You see I was only that prize to show off before I allowed him to completely destroy my self-worth, once that happened I was no longer in the position of making him look good, so now I was his emotional punching bag. The point though is that I got out and rebuilt my life, and while one part of me thought I needed him to be recognized as something – how could a normal person treat people this way? Eventually I got over that too because abuse does not require a diagnosis.

I love that these articles are everywhere now, people should be informed and educated, but when it comes to dealing with an abusive or toxic person in your life, your health and well-being does not require the abuser to have an actual diagnosis. If the abusive person in your life chooses to go to therapy or seek a diagnosis or treatment for their behaviors, then it’s now on them to attempt to change, it’s up to you to look after yourself and your well-being.

This world is filed with all kinds and I think it’s safe to say that at some point in your life you will cross paths with an actual card carrying narcissist, whether or not this person has been officially diagnosed is another story entirely, and the only person that can diagnose someone with any type of personality disorder is a trained mental health professional. You’re also going to cross paths with mean and miserable people who are intent on making others mean and miserable. Sadly our world is filled with A-holes, but it’s filled with some pretty amazing people too.

Here is a great Psych Central article on Narcissistic Personality Disorder that breaks down some important information regarding traits, and another regarding treatments.


Abuse Does Not Require a Diagnosis

Nicole Lyons

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APA Reference
Lyons, N. (2015). Abuse Does Not Require a Diagnosis. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Aug 2015
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