This article is for educational purposes and is not designed to diagnose narcissistic personality disorder or to say anybody who has experienced this has narcissistic parents. These are simply signs that might suggest that you have experienced parents who have narcissistic traits.
If you feel like you may have had narcissistic parents or have been affected by narcissistic behaviour there is another article I have written about Signs You May Have Narcissistic Victim Syndrome which is available to read on the Psych2Go website. Remember, to always try and reach out to somebody you trust or a professional to discuss any concerns you may have.
To people from the outside looking in, your parents may seem like the perfect parents. The seem affectionate, kind, considerate and caring, but behind closed doors, the pretence drops. Only you, their child, knows what it’s like to endure their cold shoulders for days on end over a minor infraction, or bear the brunt of constant, age-inappropriate demands for perfection and strength (Almendrala, 2015).
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of 10 personality disorders described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, an authoritative psychiatric guide (APA, 2009).Narcissists tend to have an inflated sense of self-worth and base their identity on the praise and approval of others. Children of narcissists are rarely in a position to demand that their parents seek help and they may not even know that their parents have narcissistic tendencies.
Here are 10 signs that you might have been raised by narcissist parents.
- You may have low self-esteem.
Ever had that feeling of complete worthlessness? Narcissistic parents raise their children to believe that their authentic self is somehow flawed and have a tendency to use shame to try to control their children, forcing them to meet the parent’s needs (Robins, 2020). Parents will belittle their children if they do not conform to their ideal, which may cause their children to feel inadequate.
2. They reacted intently to any form of criticism.
Did you ever criticize your mother or father and be met with an intense emotional reaction? Perhaps they would scream at you and possibly physically hurt you through smacking, or some other method (Sol, 2016). Some parents will sometimes react in a certain way or physically punish their children, however this does not mean that they are narcissistic. The over reaction is the thing to identify here.
3. They may have had their “favourite” or “golden child”.
Did you ever feel like you were the outsider or the ‘black sheep’ of the family growing up? In your family, it is possible that one child or sibling was seen as the perfect child who could do no wrong (often referred to as the ‘scapegoat’ child). As the black sheep, you may have even accused as causing all of the issues; this person is also known as an identified patient (Sol, 2020). It is possible that these roles could have also switched frequently between you and your siblings.
4. You may feel like a doormat.
Ever feel like you let people walk all over you? It may be because having a narcissistic parent has meant that you, like others in your family, will have even trampled over by them in order for them to address their own desires without giving much thought to what anyone else needs (Almendrala, 2015). Children of narcissists have a tendency to bend over backwards through fear that they may upset their parents. If you have been told all your life that your needs don’t matter, it is possible that you have experienced narcissistic behaviour from your parents.
5. You may experience chronic shame.
Narcissists will often project their shame onto their children and will often use this as a parenting strategy (Robins, 2020). As children are sensitive to shaming, it is possible that this is carried on into adulthood. Often, you won’t be aware of this feeling and many children of narcissistic parenting will continue to shame themselves when they fail to live up to the impossible standards set by their parents.
6. You may experience a lack of boundaries.
Children of narcissists do not tend to have good boundaries in place due to their parents not setting boundaries during their childhood. Narcissistic families practice enmeshment and individuals in these families aren’t allowed to develop or have a healthy sense of themselves as separate and autonomous (Robins, 2020). You may not have had any “private” space to call your own growing up, your narcissistic mother or father would go through your room and private belongings, without a thought, sometimes even using what they found against you (Sol, 2016).
7. You may engage in ‘self destructive’ behaviour.
Problematic habits are often a covered under the umbrella of self- soothing behaviour, especially for children of narcissists. They may notice that they engage in frequent behaviours such as drinking, smoking, gambling, overeating, drugs and sex addiction can provide due to the painful feelings leftover from childhood trauma (Robins, 2020). Furthermore, this has the potential to spill over onto adulthood where people may sabotage their careers or healthy relationships, because they feel they don’t deserve success or happiness. (Disclaimer: This does not mean that if you engage in these behaviour that this is the result of narcissistic parents.)
8. You may been controlled through co-dependency.
Were you ever told things by your parents such as: “Don’t leave me”, “I need you” or “I can’t live without you”? Narcissistic parents may have made it impossible for you to live an autonomous life or establish independent priorities other than catering to the needs of your parent/s (Sol, 2016).
9. They may have gaslighted you.
Ever felt that you were questioning your own sanity or that you were being told you had done or said things which you couldn’t recall? In order to control you, narcissistic parents may have they used a psychological manipulation tactic known as gaslighting (Sol, 2016). This may have led to the development of constant self-doubt during your childhood, adolescence and even your present life.
10. You may experience depression and anxiety.
Child survivors of narcissistic parents may experience a host of different issues in adulthood, especially when it comes to relationships. Narcissistic parents are often authoritarian and can dominate their children resulting in a sense that they will be punished for taking action on their own behalf (Robins, 2020). Furthermore, narcissistic parents are generally not role models when it comes to managing negative emotions such as anxiety or when they are feeling low. For survivors of narcissistic parenting, it’s not enough to treat symptoms such as anxiety and depression without dealing with the underlying trauma and lack of self.
If you have even affected by this article or if you feel like you may have experienced narcissistic parenting or that any of your parents may be present with narcissistic tendencies, please speak to somebody to your trust or to a professional such as GP or a mental health specialist. Trauma can be a devastating thing to deal with but you don’t need to manage it on your own. There is plenty of support out there.
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Almendrala, A. (2015, October). HuffPost is now a part of Verizon Media. Consent.Yahoo.com. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/6-ways-to-know-you-were-raised-by-narcissists_n_5616b091e4b0082030a18f72
American Psychiatric Association. (2009). DSM-5. Psychiatry.org. https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm
Robins, A. (2020). 10 Signs You Were Raised By Narcissists. Medium. https://medium.com/invisible-illness/10-signs-you-were-raised-by-narcissists-5c4e73f3b27e
Sol, M. (2016). 19 Signs You Were Raised By a Narcissistic Mother or Father ⋆ LonerWolf. LonerWolf. https://lonerwolf.com/narcissistic-mother-father/