As a clinician, many of your clients suffering from the mental health effects of sexual assault and abuse likely exhibit personality disorders. One of the most frustrating and hopeless personality disorders is narcissistic personality disorder. Oftentimes, clients with NPD manipulate people around them, including a trusting therapist. In recent years, clinicians and therapists started to connect sexual abuse and narcissism. According to an article by Psychology Today, blaming the victim of sexual abuse deepens the trauma. Although not every person with NPD is a sex offender, sex offenders do exhibit numerous narcissistic traits. If your client experienced sexual assault and abuse as a child, it’s possible his or her parents were narcissists. It’s extremely important to heal an adult narcissist who constructs an identity after pushing down his or her authentic self.
Understanding the NPD Sex Offender
A sex offender with NPD uses the child as an object for sexual gratification. Oftentimes, narcissists see other people as extensions of themselves or as their property. The survivor grows up with feelings of self-blame, shame, and confusion because the parent abuses them with disingenuous affection and attention. The hallmark of narcissism is cold empathy. A person with NPD can often fake or emulate empathetic reactions. Their sense of entitlement and their own needs stops them from realizing how their behavior impacts others. A person with NPD will often blame the victim. When it comes to providing treatment for a narcissistic adult, the outcome is critical because narcissistic children often become narcissistic parents.
Addressing Drug and Alcohol Abuse
When dealing with a sexual abuse survivor with a personality disorder, it’s also common to witness alcoholism or drug dependency. Encouraging a client to seek help for dependence issues is an important part of the puzzle. Sam Vaknin, the author of “Malignant Self Love,” explains that narcissists feel addicted to narcissistic supply, which other experts call “fuel.” In an article about narcissism and substance abuse, Vaknin writes how narcissists feel they are in charge of their addictions as the archetypical adrenaline junkies. They believe drugs or alcohol make them better drivers, more creative writers or fearless race car drivers. Addictive and high-risk sexual behaviors also tie into their grandiose false selves.
Recognizing Lies Boundaries
H.G. Tudor, a writer who blogs about his narcissism, says people with NPD are rarely faithful because of their constant need for fuel and sense of entitlement. Just as sexual abuse often tampers with natural psychological boundaries, the narcissist does not recognize boundaries. Yet, a narcissist will lie and insist he or she will remain faithful because it’s what the partner wants to hear. They simply fear losing an “appliance,” as Tudor calls the other person in the relationship. The appliance is the person who provides fuel or attention whether positive or negative.
As a clinician, the best strategy is to give clients choices and methods to feel more empowered. If you have clients with signs of NPD, seek training and find hope with Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). Laney Rosenzweig, LMFT, developed ART in 2008. ART is not hypnosis but utilizes the therapeutic value of eye movements. Clients walk away feeling empowered as they have tools to deal with a variety of issues such as anxiety, claustrophobia, and stress as well as NPD with its insidious effects.
At Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), we share the latest tips and techniques to health professionals helping clients deal with the mental effects of sexual assault and abuse. Survivors of sexual abuse experience lifelong trauma, but they can heal. As a therapist, learn more about ART, a highly intuitive treatment to reprogram disturbing memories and images. For information about voluntary image replacement that helps clients overcome the lingering effects of sexual abuse, contact us today.