Caring for the brain after narcissistic abuse can be achieved using various methods, but it takes time and effort. Recognizing the symptoms of narcissistic abuse and seeking assistance is the first step. Unfortunately, many people fail to recognize how much damage narcissistic abuse causes to the brain.
Before delving into the various ways you can care for the brain after narcissistic abuse, let’s first look at how narcissistic abuse damages the brain:
- 1 Impact Of Narcissistic Abuse On The Brain
- 2 How Does Narcissistic Abuse Alter The Brain?
- 3 Causes Of Brain Damage From Narcissistic Abuse
- 4 Methods Of Caring For The Brain Damage From Narcissistic Abuse
- 5 The Ending Note
Impact Of Narcissistic Abuse On The Brain
The emotional trauma that results from narcissistic abuse damages two vital parts of the brain: the hippocampus and amygdala.
It facilitates memory retention and release. The hippocampus is particularly important for short-term memory, which is the temporary storage of information before it is either permanently store in the brain or forgotten. Short-term memory is necessary for learning. Researchers from Stanford University and the University of New Orleans found that patients who had higher baseline levels of the stress hormone cortisol and more PTSD symptoms experienced the greatest reductions in hippocampal volume over time.
Your hippocampus will deteriorate more quickly the longer you remain with an emotionally abusive partner. It is simple to see how this neurological process could make abuse amnesia, cognitive dissonance, and confusion feelings more prominent in narcissistic and psychopathic abuse victims.
Narcissists constantly instill fear and anxiety in their victims, which causes the victims to react out of their amygdala. The amygdala regulates vital processes like breathing and heart rate as well as the fundamental emotions of lust, fear, hate, and love – all of these are considered primal emotions.
It is also in charge of the fight-or-flight response. Narcissistic abuse victims experience this condition almost constantly. The amygdalae eventually recall the unpleasant feelings, sights, and sounds you have experienced in the past. Subliminal cues of such traumatic events, including images, will set off the organs’ attack or flight responses, resulting in avoidance behaviors or internal conflict.
How Does Narcissistic Abuse Alter The Brain?
According to Goleman (2006), the hippocampus is responsible for everything humans learn, read, do, understand, and experience. The continuous retention of memories necessitates a high level of neuronal activity.
The hippocampus is where the brain produces new neurons and establishes connections with others. According to Goleman, the hippocampus is particularly vulnerable to ongoing emotional distress due to the damaging effects of cortisol. Cortisol influences the rate at which neurons are added or subtracted from the hippocampus when the body is under constant stress. This can have serious consequences for learning. When cortisol attacks the neurons, the hippocampus loses neurons and shrinks in size. In fact, prolonged stress is nearly as damaging as acute stress. Cortisol stimulates the amygdala while impairing the hippocampus, forcing your attention on the emotions you feel while limiting your ability to absorb new information.
Goleman adds that the neural highway connects the amygdala to the right side of the prefrontal cortex. As this circuitry activates, your thoughts are drawn to the source of your distress. Mental agility suffers as you become preoccupied with worry and resentment. Similarly, when you are sad, your prefrontal cortex activity decreases and you have fewer thoughts. Extremes of anxiety and anger, on the one hand, and sadness, on the other, push brain activity beyond its limits.
Causes Of Brain Damage From Narcissistic Abuse
Several factors can cause brain damage from narcissistic abuse:
- incidents of physical and emotional abuse that keep happening
- excessive reliance on and need for abuser approval
- a background of abuse or neglect as a child
- a lack of love or care for oneself
- abuse of alcohol or drugs
- exposure to infections or chemical toxins
- continual exposure to offensive words, images, or ideas after they have already become habitually offensive.
Methods Of Caring For The Brain Damage From Narcissistic Abuse
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to reversing brain damage caused by narcissistic abuse, but victims can take some general steps to improve their healing process.
First and foremost, victims must seek professional assistance. A trauma therapist can assist the victim in working through the psychological effects of narcissistic abuse. Therapy may greatly help increase the recovery process.
These are some therapies that help in caring for the brain after narcissistic abuse:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
It involves moving your eyes in a specific manner to process traumatic memories. A study showed an increase of 6% in the overall volume of the hippocampi in PTSD patients after 8-12 sessions of EMDR. EMDR is also effective in inhibiting hyperarousal in the amygdala, which frees the brain to more effectively direct what needs to be done rather than getting stuck and unnecessarily invoking troubling emotions.
It involves focusing attention on a specific thought, activity, or object to achieve emotional stability with the help of a guide or a teacher. Recent research from Harvard University demonstrates that regular meditation can actually rebuild grey matter in the brain, aiding in brain healing. Study participants who engaged in daily mindfulness practice for an average of 27 minutes had significantly higher densities of the hippocampus and amygdala and correspondingly lower levels of stress compared to the control group.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
It is used to relieve physical and emotional distress by tapping acupressure meridians. It helps to reverse biochemical short-circuiting that is a consequence of chronic anxiety.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is a psychological treatment that helps recognize and change destructive thought patterns, behavior, and emotional response and substitutes them with constructive patterns of thoughts, emotional response, and behavior.
It involves stimulating the amygdala to access and release emotional trauma. The olfactory bulb, a tiny region of the brain that is directly connected to the hippocampus and amygdala, receives smells. This therapy utilizes essential oils to access and surface suppressed emotions that lead to anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, and release them.
The Ending Note
Brain damage as a consequence of narcissistic abuse severely affects the psychological well-being of a victim. Fortunately, various therapies are effective in caring for the brain after narcissistic abuse. The best approach for each individual will differ depending on their situation and history.
Finding help outside and within the relationship, on the other hand, is critical in rebuilding one’s life. It is also important to remember that, while narcissism can be extremely harmful, it is not insurmountable.