Although these two survivor issues have not traditionally been categorized together, my 20 years of work with survivors have shown a great deal of overlap of symptoms and challenges. Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) offers support groups (completely online during COVID), and I believe that Adult Children of Narcissists can also greatly benefit from these support groups. Many times substance abusing parents also have underlying mental health issues, including personality disorders, resulting in a continuum of parenting dysfunction ranging from neglect to emotional and physical abuse.
Working with survivors is such a rewarding part of my career. Survivors eventually come to me completely confused and exhausted by their past and present relationships with family members. They are often depressed and anxious to the point that life has become unmanageable ranging from toxic relationships to career immobility and health issues. They are finally ready to emotionally, heal and set strong boundaries with their dysfunctional family members. In addition, after some work, they begin experiencing the lightness and joy which only the serenity of the therapeutic journey can bring, launching authentic living according to healthy adult values and goals. Self care with a zero tolerance policy for chaotic, manipulative people allows us to live joyfully and experience achievements which would have never been possible while living in the constant fear of abandonment (by family) and guilt (if choosing to stop contact with toxic family members).
Survivors of Narcissistic romantic partners also share many of these challenges and they are also very likely to have survived dysfunctional childhoods and thus also struggle with common issues discussed here.
I have created a list of common psychological, emotional, and behavioral traits and beliefs of survivors which stunt them from achieving peace and aspirational living.
COMMON CHALLENGES FOR ACOA AND SURVIVORS OF NARCISSISTS (BEFORE THERAPY):
1. Feeling that others are talking about you behind your back/think ill of you.
2. People Pleasing
3. Feeling Lonely whether alone or with friends.
4. Nothing is ever good enough.
5. Conflict avoidant.
6. High tolerance of painful neglect, manipulation & abuse in friendships & intimate relationships.
7. Walking on eggshells.
8. Holding back opinions and ideas.
9. High self monitoring with guarded behaviors.
10. Obsessive/Ruminating thoughts and routines.
11. Prone to abuse of substances, food, money, & sex.
12. Feel left out far beyond typical FOMO.
13. Low self-esteem/lack of confidence.
14. Inauthentic, low-joy living.
15. High tolerance for chaos, lies, manipulation etc…
16. Emotional abuse and scape goat role from family of origin.
17, Love addiction.
18. Stay too long in abusive or other dysfunctional romantic relationships, friendships, and career.
19. Stunted emotional maturity/“stuck” in childhood or adolescence.
20. Instead of choosing a partner, friend, or coworker worthy of you, you allow personality disorders to infiltrate your life on many fronts. Date "beneath" your level of intelligence, stability, etc..
21. Fear Based approach to life
22. Don’t ask for what you want.
23. Learned helplessness.
24. Poor boundaries.
25. Easily swayed/wishy washy OR very rigid and controlling.
26. Freeze response.
27. Impulsive temper.
28. Body image issues.
29. Self defeating self-talk.
30. Mistrust of others, especially within intimate friendships and romantic relationships.
31. Financial worries, whether wealthy or poor.
32. Sad, fearful inner child issues.
33. Lack of spontaneity.
34. High need for control even though much of their lives are out of control.
35. High risk of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other Immune Deficiency Disorders.
37. Catastrophic Thinking.
38. Sleep disorders.
39. Poor relationship with food.
40. Inability to set and follow through on goals.