When a man or woman suffers from a condition named Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they display patterns of deviant or abnormal behavior that are so terrible, that they create carnage on those people who are unfortunate enough to have a close relationship with them.
The dysfunctional behavior involves such callous exploitation of their victims that it has given birth to a new condition known as Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (or Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome). While plenty has been written medically about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), little or nothing has been written about Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVD). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is considered the “bible” for all professionals, covers NPD extensively.
However, the DSM-IV has not written anything about the effects on those who live or work with the narcissist’s torturous behaviors, and the consequences of that behavior on the mental health of the victim. Thanks to the dedicated work of many psychotherapists, it has become clear that a set of detectable characteristics occur when working with victims of narcissistic abuse. The good news is that American therapists are calling for the recognition of this syndrome to be included in the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V, to be published in 2013), in the hope that all therapists will be given standard guidelines for formulating a way of working with this syndrome.
First, what do we mean by “Syndrome”?
The word “syndrome” comes from the Greek “syn” which means together, and “dramein” which means to run. So a syndrome is a set of signs and symptoms that tend to run together in a cluster that can be recognized as causing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse. In order to be able to diagnose a client suffering with Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, the therapist needs to be able to gather together the signs and symptoms and access the client’s psychological make-up as their story unfolds. That way they will be in a position to know if the person is suffering from Narcissistic Victim Syndrome or a lesser form of abuse on their mental well-being.
Do therapists know enough about the effects of Narcissism on the Victim?
Speaking for psychotherapists in Ireland, I can confidently say, definitely not! Narcissistic Personality Disorder is predominately the domain of psychiatrists, psychologists, and the mental health services; so naturally, rarely would a diagnosed narcissist be consciously referred to a psychotherapist outside of the Mental Health Services. Naturally, as a consequence, the mental health services only concentrated on the vulnerability and treatment of the narcissistic patient in their care, their priority is not the victim; unless the victim ends up in psychiatric care themselves somewhere down the line at a later date.
Victims are more likely to present themselves in counseling or psychotherapy, not because they know that they may be suffering from NVS, but because they are not coping with their lives. I have spoken to many other psychotherapists, and although they know of narcissism, none feel that they have been sufficiently trained for recognizing narcissistic behavior and its effects on victims, let alone work with Narcissistic Victim Syndrome.