Why Anxiety Is Worse After Leaving Narcissistic Abuse

Severing ties with a narcissist is a very difficult thing to do.  Not only telling the person you are done with the relationship, but the aftermath.  It can come with a plethora of challenges.  One of them for many people is extreme anxiety.

Many people who have left a narcissistic relationship have discovered that once they are safely away from the narcissist, their anxiety gets much worse for a while.

On the surface, this doesn’t make sense.  They’re safe, the narcissist hasn’t tried to contact them in ages.  They haven’t even seen the narcissist in passing at the grocery store or on the road.  Why would anxiety be bad when it should be so much lower?  I think this happens for a few reasons.

When in a relationship with a narcissist, you learn to function in survival mode out of necessity.  Your entire universe consists of thoughts like what can I do to please the narcissist, what can I do to make sure the narcissist doesn’t get angry with me, what needs does the narcissist have that I can anticipate in the hopes of gaining some favor from this person.  When you think this way, it’s as if there is simply no room in your mind for anxiety.  All the space in your brain is taken up with those thoughts, & there is no room for anything else.  I really believe narcissists do their best to keep their victims busy in this way so they don’t have the opportunity to see the abuse is wrong or plan their means of escape.

If you were romantically involved with a narcissist then begin to get involved with someone who isn’t a narcissist, that can create a lot of anxiety at first.  It feels so foreign to be with someone who is healthy when you are so accustomed to abuse & dysfunction.  You also naturally can feel like you did with the narcissist, waiting for the next bad thing to happen.  When it doesn’t, that can be unnerving simply because of what you were accustomed to in a relationship.

If the narcissist in your life was a parent, then you grew up in an extremely abnormal environment, which means you grew up to be a bit abnormal.  You couldn’t see life as a normal child does when growing up.  You have a skewed view of the world.  When you escape your narcissistic parent, you suddenly have to function in a very different environment.  Even though it’s healthier, it’s still different than what you are used to.  This can create anxiety, even though it’s a good thing.

You also grew up with this way of thinking like, “I’m supposed to do this thing, so I’ll do it.”  No further thought happened.  As an adult free of that abuse, now you see things as you should have seen them as a child but did not have that opportunity.  It can  create anxiety, & sometimes even shame for the things you did simply because you were told to do them.

The best way I know to deal with anxiety like this is with reassurance.  Ask God to reassure you & to help you with the anxiety for starters.  Also, talk to yourself.  Remind yourself that the danger has passed.  Those terrible things that once happened to you are no longer going to happen.  That abusive person is out of your life, & you’re safe now.  If you’re dating someone, remind yourself that this person isn’t the narcissist, but an entirely different person.  You can’t expect the same behavior from this person that you got from the narcissist, because healthy people do NOT act like narcissists.  And thank God for that!


Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

10 responses to “Why Anxiety Is Worse After Leaving Narcissistic Abuse

  1. annealcroft

    Thank you for another terrific message, Cynthia. God bless you!

    A few thoughts have surfaced lately about the narcissists in life, the most important being that narcissists are dishonest people.

    Narcissists are dishonest people.

    What does that mean?

    Right off the bat, if we recall the first 30 seconds of meeting a narcissist for the first time, what was our first impression? Do we pay attention to our intuition, and if not, why?

    It seems that when we have been acculturated to the abuses of other narcissists in our life, their gaslighting is exactly what paralyzed our ability to trust our intuition. This is how the narcissist squeezes God from our souls, or tries to, anyway. The narcissist is in direct competition at all times with God and that is who Satan is.

    It’s not that our intuition is no longer intact — it is. But we don’t pay attention to it because we have been coerced into believing the lies of the narcissist before our intuition, which comes from God. Our intuition IS the Holy Spirit speaking to us. Why then, do we make the choice to be impertinent toward God?

    Are we also choosing to be dishonest, and if so, who are we lying to, and why?

    Cynthia, recently you pointed out when I wrote about Leisa, a toxic narcissist, you pointed out that I “tolerated” her much longer than I should have. How very true. Jesus teaches that if they repent, we are to continue to forgive others no matter how many times they offend us — IF they repent. The narcissist does not repent, but instead, they retaliate, become defensive, refuse constructive criticism, and fabricate more lies and deceptive games to convince themselves they are winning at their own game. If I had trusted my intuition and paid attention to all the red flags that popped up when I first met Leisa, who happens to live in my neighborhood, I would have fed her with a long handled spoon. Why did I feel responsible for her? The more generous of her that I was, the more her uncouth ways became obvious and the more lecherous she became; the more she proved herself dishonest.

    It is safe to say that the victims of a narcissist are by nature care-givers who truly care about the well-being of others. Jesus Christ is the absolute victim of narcissism; He teaches us how to die to the sin of narcissism and rise to life eternal through learning to carry the burden of that sin, to persevere to the end. Jesus Christ forever triumphs over narcissism, which is synonymous with sin, because He is absolute, pure Love.

    We may try to think the best of someone and ignore the red flags our intuition flies before our eyes when we first encounter a narcissist. God sends us those red flags because He teaches us to disdain the Godless and to turn from evil. Loving our neighbor as our self does not mean disobeying God when He tells us to turn away from evil. Someone once told me, as soon as you start to feel sorry for anyone — RUN! Isn’t it the device of the narcissist to elicit pity from their prey? Sure it is. And then the games begin and it is time for us to disengage from their ridiculous antics. It is not what the narcissist does to offend me that is the violation, but instead, how their dishonesty and deceit violates God. When we fight, we fight from a place of principle. When the narcissist fights, they fight because of their conceit. The narcissist knows no humility. They can not be humbled, shamed, embarrassed. There is nothing that can be done to appeal to their senses because they are dishonest.

    God does not engage us in games. God is a gentle teacher who presents us with trials to master. Jesus tells us that when we sincerely dedicate ourselves to Him, He then calls us His friends. O, God, how could I sacrifice such a Gift for my own stupidity? May this stupidity be the balm that heals whatever severed my ability to trust my intuition and with each trial lead me, in absolute determination, to be and to do all for Your Holy Will! Amen.

    Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy Mercy. – the Fatima Prayer.


    • Thank you Anne!

      What you said is so very true.. narcissists are dishonest & they do destroy our ability to listen to our intuition.

      If only you’d paid attention to your intuition with Leisa huh? I’ve thought that many times too, most specifically with my ex husband. But, being raised by narcissists, the ability to pay attention to my instincts was damaged as no doubt was yours as well.

      Absolutely! Love triumphs over narcissism! Not the kind of love narcissists claim is right, but true Godly love.

      Wow, that is so true.. we fight from a place of principle but they fight from a place of conceit. How true is that?

      I wonder though.. is that why we sometimes ignore our intuition? God allows that to happen so we see the error of our ways & return our focus to Him?


      • annealcroft

        “Wow, that is so true.. we fight from a place of principle but they fight from a place of conceit. How true is that?

        I wonder though.. is that why we sometimes ignore our intuition? God allows that to happen so we see the error of our ways & return our focus to Him?”

        One of the “steps” of the Twelve Step programs is to make a careful examination of conscience and where we are wrong, to promptly admit it.

        It seems that disrespect of others and ingratitude go hand in hand. When God reveals to me how I have hurt, betrayed, deceived others, only through a fearless examination of conscience can the depths of what amounts to sinful behavior be plumbed. Though there are indeed reasons why I acted as I did, I also realize how the inherent narcissism we are striving to identify and overcome was at work. Frankly, at times I am horrified to think of some of the things I have done, some of the skeletons in my own closet, that disgust me and that yes, I am without a doubt ashamed of. That sense of shame is healthy.

        It is the people who persist in denying their abuses of others who are the ones trying their best in our society to “normalize” sinfulness. Someone once said that there is no greater punishment than when God ceases to stir our conscience.

        Recently I had another confrontation with a distant cousin who, by her comments, makes clear that she does not believe what I am telling her about my father. When she said that sometimes there could be a reason for someone committing adultery, she revealed a great deal about herself. I rebuked her by telling her there is never justification for adultery. Adultery means that one can not be trusted. Period. That, next to envy and hypocrisy, is one of the most wicked, evil, destructive of sins and an absolute mockery of the institution of marriage.

        What we drive, wear, own, where we live, who we rub elbows with, what college we went to, what degrees we boast after our name, what awards and honors we’ve won, mean nothing to God. What matters is how we treat others.

        I’ve been thinking a great deal abut this distant cousin. I told her that I will guarantee her that if the mask were to fall from his face and she were to see the real man who is my father, she would then have no difficulty believing what I have told her. Furthermore, as I explained to her, when the abuse becomes so incredibly unbearable there is no longer anything left to do but to expose the abuser.

        So who is she? What has she had to do during her career to be able to drive around in that bright, brand new red Mercedes? What has she had to do, that she can scoop out excuses for committing adultery? What am I to learn from having divulged and exposed the abuses of my father to her? Birds of a feather, perhaps. But more than that, where there are lies, there can never, ever be love. And where there is no love, there is no God. Period. Love can not enter until the lies are exposed, and there can be no authentic forgiveness without an apology. We can do our best to forgive but until there is a resolution the lies continue to fester and the wounds never heal. When another insults or injures us, it is prudent for us to turn the other cheek. But there is nothing charitable about the endorsement of sin and as Christians, it is our duty to reprimand. Saint Paul talks writes about this often.

        The only reason why someone refuses to be held accountable, or to admit their sins, is because they are into something they shouldn’t be, and on some level, they know that. Which goes back to what you mentioned not long ago, Cynthia, about some of our politicians now trying to normalize pedophilia. Why is it that it seems God has indeed ceased to stir the conscience of such people? Because He has turned them over to a reprobate mind. – Romans i:28.

        It seems to me that people fall from grace when they are first aware of committing sin, but ridiculously think that Christ died on His Cross for our sins so that we can go about doing whatever we want to do and we are automatically forgiven. That is absolutely ridiculous yet a misconception prevalent in religions claiming to be Christian. There is an arrogance and conceit freighting that headset that is of Satan, not Jesus Christ. Christ will forgive us our sins mercifully, if, that is, we obey His command to “Go and sin no more.” – John viii:11


        • That is a very good step in the 12 step programs!

          Yes, that shame is very healthy! I think we all have some of that shame.

          Wow, she thinks there’s a reason for adultery? I mean, there are tons of reasons. Doesn’t mean they’re good or they make it ok though! Doesn’t she realize that?!

          I wonder if that cousin of yours would believe your father is abusive even if the mask fell off. Seems to me that even then, some deny the abuser is abusive. They’re having a bad day, you pushed his buttons, he didn’t mean it “that” way, or some other lame excuse.

          It’s terrible but yes, there are plenty God has turned over to a reprobate mind. I was certain that was my parents, but am so grateful I was wrong about that. It taught me something, too.. never quit praying no matter how hopeless it may look. At least I’d have known that if things hadn’t worked out as they had with them, I would’ve had a clear conscience by knowing I prayed for them


  2. Reblogged this on Emerging From The Dark Night and commented:
    Narcissism can be hard to break away from.. we can find help from within and through our higher power.. Found this very helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing! It helps to know why it’s hard to break free from narcissists. Being raised by narcissists, it’s hard not to project and/or think everyone thinks like them, which means it’s hard to know if they’re intuitive red flags or your trauma talking, if you know what I mean.


    • You’re welcome!

      It really does help. You can feel like you’re going crazy so you need to know this information to prove you aren’t.

      I know exactly what you mean. It can feel like you see narcissists everywhere

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this. Your work is very thoughtful.


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