If you have a narcissist somewhere in your life, you’re likely to suffer from various psychological problems like anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. These problems may continue even after you successfully broke the bond between yourself and the narcissist, psychopath or some other emotional manipulator.
One of the most common problems caused by being targeted by an emotional manipulator is depression. In spite of that, depression can also be the hardest psychological problem to notice. Both the person suffering from it and those around the depressed person can dismiss the change in attitude as a normal and temporary sadness. However, there are prominent differences between that regular, daily sadness and clinical depression.
Signs of Depression
Although depression often shows different signs depending on the person suffering from it, there are still some common symptoms one must be aware of:
–Blues, stress, overreaction, aggression: People with severe depression are often found in a deeply sullen mood. They can have uncontrollable breakdowns that make it harder for them to deal with stress. Because of their low tolerance for stress, they can get easily irritated by other people or situations, and overreact.
Which causes them to be unable to control their temper. They feel not only unhappy but also anxious and restless.
–Lack of energy, loss of motivation, finding it hard to take care of one’s self: Although depression is a psychological and spiritual disorder, it can also have various physical symptoms. One of them is lack of energy. The depressed person can feel constantly drowsy to the point where they can’t even find the energy to take care of their own daily needs. These needs may be the simplest things such as showering or not skipping meals. Therefore, depression can seriously affect one’s social and professional life and make it difficult for them to live their life the way they used to.
Besides, they also lose their motivation to do things. They can start avoiding socialization and isolate themselves, or they can lose their motivation to continue their career.
-Loss of self-confidence and self-respect, feeling guilty and worthless: The depressed person’s self-confidence and self-respect can be completely destroyed. Perhaps this was an issue they were already struggling with. And depression can cause them to drop even more dramatically and make the person feel even more incompetent and worthless. Sometimes, even quite successful, intelligent, good-looking, wealthy, talented etc. people find it hard to think of a single quality they can be proud of.
Depressed people can feel overwhelmingly guilty as well. They can constantly think of all the mistakes they’ve made in the past and feel immense shame and regret even for the things that happened years ago.
-Poor judgement and memory loss: Lack of confidence, which is caused by depression, affects a person’s decision making process negatively. Besides, depression can cause temporary memory problems. Therefore, someone who cannot quite trust their own memory and perceptions will find it harder to make a healthy decision.
-Changes in appetite, weight and sleep schedules: Two of the most prominent signs of depression are the changes in appetite and sleep patterns. The depressed person either starts eating much less or much more and quite unhealthily as well. Also they can either sleep less or come to a point where they barely leave their beds.
-Loss of interest and pleasure in activities: Depressed people can lose interest in things they used to find enjoyable and feel like nothing makes them happy anymore. Sexual problems and loss of interest in sex can also occur.
-Emotional numbness: Sometimes, depressed people can state that instead of feeling unhappiness or anger, they feel completely numb and devoid of emotion. In this case, depression has caused the person to feel like they no longer care what happens to them or to other people. When the inner pain gets way too strong to handle, people can become emotionally detached and feel like there’s a huge emptiness inside their hearts.
-Body pain with unknown causes: We’ve already mentioned that depression can have some physical symptoms as well. Depressed people can feel unexplainable aches in their bodies every once in a while.
-Hopelessness and pessimism: Depressed person can fall into a deep despair. During depression, people cannot see things the way they actually are. So, even if there’s light at the end of the tunnel, even if all isn’t lost; people can turn a blind eye to it and continue feeling extremely hopeless and pessimistic.
-Extreme concern for one’s future and frequent flashbacks: Depressed people tend to feel much more anxious about their futures and think way too much about their pasts, dwell on bad memories and have flashbacks. Therefore, they can find it difficult to focus on the present.
-Suicidal thoughts: Of course not all depressed people end up committing suicide or have suicidal thoughts. But if you keep finding yourself thinking about/contemplating/planning suicide, you’re very likely to be severely depressed. Sometimes people with suicidal thoughts try to normalize the situation for themselves. They can try to console themselves by saying things like “it’s not like I’m actually contemplating it, it’s just something that comes to my mind these days,” or “these are harmless thoughts, everyone can think about such things every once in a while.” But even if you’re not actually planning on doing it, you should still take this seriously.
Besides, sometimes depressed people think of death quite often (even if they’re not inclined to commit suicide). In that case, they can come to negative conclusions like “I wish I were dead!” or “life isn’t worth living!”
If you’re depressed, you don’t necessarily need to show all the signs I listed above. If you have half of the symptoms and suffer from them for longer than 2 weeks, and if they affect your social/professional/academic life; it would be wise to take it seriously and get professional help.
Why Can Depression Caused by Narcissistic Relationships Be Easily Dismissed?
People who were abused in narcissistic relationships can fail to notice the severity of their ordeal at first, and try to normalize the situation. Because emotional and psychological abuse are invisible by nature, denying them is much easier. In a situation like that, even when people show severe physical and psychological symptoms they can still find it hard to make sense of it and they can even blame themselves for it. “I have no reason to be depressed, every relationship has its ups and downs and people get through it eventually.” Or “people get over the direst things, and yet here I am, completely destroyed by a mere breakup.” Because of thoughts like that, they can’t take care of themselves properly. Besides, sometimes the people around them aren’t considerate enough and they think the depressed person is simply “seeking attention” or “upset over mundane things” and feel like their depression is a sign of weakness.
And in some cases, people finally realize that what they’ve been through was abuse and it was something to take seriously. But even then, they can think that being depressed is quite “normal” so they don’t need professional help. Although depression is indeed a “natural” result of systematic emotional abuse, thinking that it’s “normal” and deciding against getting help can cause bigger problems in the long run. And sometimes the person has been depressed for so long that both the depressed person and those around them believe that it’s simply their personality by now.
Regardless of the situation you’re in, know that it wasn’t your fault. Nobody deserves abuse and neglect. Try not to forget that what you’ve been through wasn’t easy, and avoid comparing yourself to others. Because now you need to focus on yourself more than ever instead of other people. If you still feel guilty and ask yourself things like “why did I find myself in such darkness after breaking up whereas other people can easily get over their exes?” know that everyone has different coping mechanisms and different relationship dynamics. Depression is not a sign of weakness but a real disease and like all other diseases, it needs to be cured.
If you’re currently depressed because of the emotional abuse you went through, you have the right to mourn. You have the right to be angry. You don’t need to bottle up your emotions. Mourn for hours, days and months if you have to. You’ll be alright as long as you can face your pain instead of dismissing it. It’s not something that will happen all of a sudden, so don’t rush things, give yourself some time. Try to make small decisions each day, hour and minute. These decisions may be mundane things like getting up to take a shower, having a small meal or paying your bills for now. Don’t be ashamed of taking small steps. Those small steps will turn into bigger ones and you’ll reclaim the control of your own life.
Don’t keep things bottled up. If you have people you can trust, people who could understand, open up to them. In some cases, you may find yourself completely isolated. Writing all your thoughts and feelings down can also help.
Consider getting professional help. Depression is a complicated thing that isn’t very easy to overcome. Yet still, it’s very common and curable. Perhaps you feel like you can overcome your depression without getting professional help, but even if you can, talking to a good psychologist or psychiatrist can help you heal much faster.
It can seem unnecessary and meaningless right now, but you can think of depression as a milestone. You can’t get up without falling. Therefore, these dark days can be the beginning of a new era for you, a tool that will help you evolve.
Perhaps few years later you’ll look back on these dark days and realize how far you’ve come, how strong you’ve been.
But you can also see depression as a warning. Your body, your brain, your soul no longer want to adapt to abuse, they want a real change. Being unhappy with where you are now can help you take the first step towards change.
Also, the loss of motivation and interest brought by your depression is probably caused by the fact your motivation depended on the narcissist. In narcissistic relationships, the narcissist soon becomes the center of your world. Pleasing them, making sure they’re feeling good and trying to avoid angering them take great effort and your entire self-respect may be depended on the praise and attention you might receive from them. Think of depression as your body and brain rebelling against this order, and warning you about the fact you need to put yourself first. Your self-respect and self-love should be fueled by none other than you.
If you’re still in a narcissistic relationship, try to get yourself out of it first. If your relationship is over, practice the no contact rule. If we still have a connection with the emotional manipulator, it means the biggest obstacle on the path to recovery still remains.
Lastly, know that you’re not alone.
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You can also find the articles on https://medium.com/@narsistsiz:
Queen Beeing. “Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Are you clinically depressed?”. Access 15 July, 2016. https://queenbeeing.com/narcissistic-abuse-recovery-clinically-depressed/.
Türkiye Psikiyatri Derneği. “Depresyon Konusunda Bilmek İstedikleriniz?”. http://www.psikiyatri.org.tr/halka-yonelik/24/depresyon-konusunda-bilmek-istedikleriniz.