Narcissistic abuse is a devastating form of abuse that can have long-term effects on a person’s memory and emotions. The emotional trauma inflicted by a narcissistic partner can lead to various mental and physical health issues. This article will explore how long-term narcissistic abuse affects a person’s memory and emotions and discuss potential ways to recover from these effects.
Studies conducted by neuroscientists suggest that emotional abuse can have detrimental effects on the brain. The repeated emotional injuries suffered by a victim of narcissistic abuse can cause the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memories and learning abilities, to shrink over time. The hippocampus plays a crucial role in transferring memories from short-term to long-term storage. However, under prolonged stress, the body releases chemicals like cortisol, which can decrease the volume of the hippocampus. As a result, the longer a person stays in an abusive relationship, the more their hippocampus deteriorates. This can lead to mental health problems and make individuals more susceptible to the gaslighting techniques used by narcissists.
Additionally, long-term emotional abuse can enlarge the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotions, particularly fear. Narcissistic abusers often keep their victims in a constant state of instability, insecurity, and fear, which heightens their emotions and triggers anxiety. As the amygdala grows in size, so does the sense of fear experienced by the victim. This can lead to a constant state of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response, as the amygdala controls survival instincts. Moreover, the amygdala remembers painful experiences through sensory triggers, such as things heard, seen, smelled, or felt. This means that any reminder of the abusive experiences can trigger intense emotional reactions and fears. The combination of a shrinking hippocampus and an enlarging amygdala can result in confusion, abuse amnesia, and an inability to recognise all the triggers causing anxiety attacks.
After escaping a mentally abusive relationship, victims often experience difficulty concentrating, clouded thoughts, anxiety, panic attacks, and feelings of not being enough. They may develop complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) and phobias related to their traumatic experiences. The overactive amygdala, which heightens fears, can contribute to these symptoms. Furthermore, victims may employ subconscious survival methods to protect themselves. Denial is one such method, allowing victims to avoid dealing with painful memories and traumas connected to those memories. Gaslighting from the narcissistic partner further reinforces the idea that the victim is imagining things, causing them to question their own sanity. Compartmentalisation is another survival method where victims focus on the positive aspects of the relationship while ignoring the negative ones. The narcissist’s manipulation tactics contribute to the victim excusing their toxic behaviour and blaming themselves for the abuse.
To recover from the effects of long-term narcissistic abuse, it is crucial to take several steps. The first and most important step is to leave the abusive relationship. Though difficult, it is possible and necessary for healing. Daily meditation and mindfulness practices can help repair and rebuild the brain’s grey matter, reducing stress and cortisol release. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy technique for processing traumatic memories. Aromatherapy and essential oils, such as lavender and frankincense, can help regulate emotions and alleviate anxiety and depression. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can be employed to address anxiety and promote emotional healing. Engaging in self-care activities, nurturing a positive inner voice, reducing stress, and learning new things are all vital for healing and rebuilding the hippocampus and amygdala.
In conclusion, long-term narcissistic abuse can severely affect a person’s memory and emotions. The hippocampus, responsible for memories and learning abilities, can shrink over time due to the repeated emotional injuries caused by the abuse. Additionally, the amygdala, responsible for emotions and fear, can enlarge, leading to heightened anxiety and emotional reactivity. However, there are various strategies, such as leaving the abuser, practising meditation and mindfulness, engaging in therapy techniques, and self-care, that can help recover from the damaging effects of narcissistic abuse. It is possible to heal and regain control over one’s memory and emotions, but it takes time, effort, and support. Remember, you are enough.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach, She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.