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A narcissistic personality disorder is a personality disorder characterized by dysfunctional patterns of behavior within relationships and a grandiose sense of self-obsession. Narcissists are often known to exploit the people closest to them for personal gain.

To do this, narcissists use several tactics, and in many cases, their victims do not realize they are being exploited until it’s too late. However, once you realize that you are being exploited and abused by a narcissist, it is best to cut ties and cut contact with them immediately.

If you have been through an encounter with a narcissist, then you will likely recognize the following. And if you are questioning whether or not someone is a narcissist, and they are exploiting you or someone you love, the following should provide some clarity.

1. They play the victim.

Narcissists like to play upon the sympathy of others. To a well-meaning, normal person, they will tell a sob story about their past lovers, their family, and their friends, with a major theme taking place surrounding betrayal. To a new lover, their past ones are all labeled as psychos or abusers. To a new friend, they will tell of how past friends have betrayed them. They want you to feel sorry for them, so they can use your soft spot to exploit your kindness.

Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed” by Wendy T. Behary offers valuable insights into the mindset of a narcissist and strategies for dealing effectively with their manipulative behaviors. This book is particularly useful for those who find themselves frequently encountering narcissistic exploitation.

2. They guilt-trip.

Narcissists will guilt-trip those they exploit. They may use phrases like “You are just like everyone else, you only disappoint me.” Or, “How could you dare accuse me of that, how dare you?!” They are great at projecting and turning things around on those that call them out when they get caught being exploitative. They will try to turn the tables on you, to make you feel as if you owe them something.

3. They gaslight.

Another tactic used by a narcissist is to gaslight. When called out on a lie, they will feign innocence and call their accuser crazy. Sometimes, the gaslighting starts more subtle, with a major theme being that they want you to question your sanity and your perceptions. If you doubt your perceptions, you are more likely to accept their distorted version of events.

For those dealing with the guilt-tripping and gaslighting tactics of narcissists, “The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life” by Dr. Robin Stern is an essential resource. It provides tools for recognizing and breaking free from these manipulative techniques.

4. They idealize, devalue, and discard.

Throughout the time that you know the narcissist, they will idealize you at first, even love bombing you. They will likely tell you how you are the greatest person they have ever met. If you are a friend, you are their very best friend, five minutes into the meeting. If you are a new partner, you are their soulmate. Soon after, though, they will begin subtly attacking your character and tearing you down. They will scream that they hate you. And then the cycle will start over. Eventually, when they have used you up, or you are catching onto them, they will discard you.

5. They manipulate their image.

Narcissists work diligently to carefully craft their image. They distort the truth when explaining narratives to others, to make themselves look perfect. They will fake achievements and accomplishments and even life experiences. Whatever it is they want to be perceived as, they will carefully manipulate how others view them, to try to appear the way they need to at that moment.

To rebuild self-esteem and establish healthy boundaries after experiencing narcissistic abuse, “The Self-Esteem Workbook” by Glenn R. Schiraldi can be a helpful tool. It offers practical exercises to strengthen your sense of self-worth and assertiveness.