Why Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome Is The Wrong Word For Your Condition


Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome Wrong Word

Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome is the wrong word for your condition. The word syndrome indicates ‘a psychological disorder,’  In survivors of PLRs we know WHAT that psychological disorder is.

Over a decade ago, my book ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths: Inside the Relationships of Inevitable Harm With Narcissists, Sociopaths, & Psychopaths’ came out.  It was noteworthy as it was the first book about the relationship dynamics and the traumatic aftermath of these ‘pathological’ relationships. As such, I named them pathological love relationships (PLRs).

Read What Is Healthy Narcissism? How Does it Differ from Self Love

I did so as I had spent my entire career working in the field of ‘psychopathology.’  What I noted in a not yet created new field of these types of relationships is that these relationships needed to be differentiated from bad, dysfunctional, even ‘just violent’ relationship because what made them so dangerous was the uncurable pathology of their partner.

Pathological love relationships

To highlight that a pathological partner is way more dangerous than just a bad partner, I named them ‘Pathological Love Relationships’ (PLRs) as a way to draw public awareness to the danger of Cluster B and psychopaths.  Sadly, survivors have started calling them ‘toxic’ relationships—a broad and generic word that is like ‘dysfunctional’ that has lost its descriptor of ‘pathological’ highlighting what IS dangerous in these relationships.

But in addition to losing it’s descriptor of paying attention to a partner’s ‘pathological disorders’ survivors have made up a name for the traumatic outcomes of those relationships calling it ‘Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome’ doing a terrible disservice to victims seeking education and recovery.

Here’s why…

As the oldest agency providing clinical services to this population, we have done the most research, data collection, and surveys about this topic spanning 30 years.  In one of our data collections, it was noted that 90% of survivors of PLRs have some kind of traumatic reactions from the PLR.

50-75% of those survivors with traumatic reactions will go on to develop a trauma disorder like Acute Stress Disorder, PTSD and C-PTSD. That means, most survivors have a trauma disorder in need of trauma treatment.

The symptoms of trauma disorders have been called ‘aftermath’ which is probably also unfortunate because it seems to describe something ‘unique’ to PLRs and thus has become sort of a clubby PLR-community description of what everyone experiences. While that it is true, not calling it what it is—a trauma disorder hides what survivors need treatment FOR.  

Many survivors have not sought trauma-informed recovery because they don’t know they have a trauma disorder because it’s called ‘aftermath’ and they aren’t finding clinical services for what they perceive they have as ‘aftermath.’ The symptoms of ‘aftermath’ are trauma reactions, most of them are typical PTSD symptoms, and some of them are atypical which need highlighting to therapists in order to treat (which the association is doing).

Read Narcissist or Psychopath: How You Can Tell One From The Other

The concept of Pathological Love Relationships as a dangerous and damaging relationship and thus as public pathology education is NOT just about Narcissism.  PLR’s encompass all of the DSM5 Cluster B Disorders and also Psychopathy.  Narcissistic Personality Disorder is ONE disorder in a cluster of disorders which overlap with other disorders in the cluster and most narcissist’s ALSO have other disorders in the cluster.  There problem is rarely one disorder.

Therefore, Pathological Love Relationships as a dangerous and damaging relationship include ALL the disorders in the Cluster B group and psychopathy.

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Anti-Social Personality Disorder
  • And Psychopathy

Multiple articles in research indicate 60% of people with one Cluster B disorder have more than one personality disorder out of the cluster. Calling it Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome does not draw attention to the other potential disorders they also have.  This doesn’t also include the other co-occurring disorders like addictions, mood disorders, and impulse control problems all personality disorders ALSO carry.

Labeling it ‘Narcissistic’ Abuse is not a complete picture that Narcissists are likely to also have Borderline, Anti-Social and Psychopathic disorders or traits of the disorders.  It is poor public pathology education that doesn’t include the understanding of the overlapping conditions of personality disorders as noted in the DSM.

Additionally, while highlighting ‘Narcissism’ it leaves out public pathology education on the other disorders in the cluster forcing more fragmented public pathology education to correct the misleading of only narcissism and creating more work for those of us in public pathology education.

Read 20 Narcissistic Terms: A Glossary of Terms for Understanding Narcissism

In addition, the word ‘Syndrome’ is also misleading.  The word syndrome indicates ‘a psychological disorder,’  In survivors of PLRs we know WHAT that psychological disorder is: it is a trauma disorder. So, name it in order that survivors know what they are seeking help for as a specific disorder associated with abuse from pathological persons of ALL types in the Cluster B group and psychopathy.

As the only formal association for mental health professional’s education and public pathology education, The Association formally concludes:

  • The name of relationships associated with Cluster B/psychopathic partners is called ‘Pathological Love Relationships’ (PLRs) which highlights that the danger of these relationships IS the pathological condition of Cluster B Personality Disorders and Psychopathy which produces the harm in others as noted in the DSM;
  • That these relationships include the disorders of BPD, NPD, ASPD, and psychopathy and not one single disorder of the Cluster B disorders;
  • That the affects of the relationships are most frequently a type of trauma disorder;
  • That the treatment for the effects of the pathological relationship is a specific clinical Model of Care approach that is trauma-informed, evidence-based, and trauma-specific including both traditional trauma treatment and atypical trauma treatment as established, produced, and taught by The Association.

Produced by The Association for NPD/Psychopathy Survivor Treatment, Research & Education © 2018
Written by: Sandra L Brown
Sandra L. Brown, MA  President of The Association for NPD/Psychopathy Survivor Treatment, Research & Education, an association for mental health professionals, Director of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education
Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
 Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome Wrong Word Pin

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Up Next

The Psychology Of Narcissistic Injury: How It Wounds A Narcissist’s Ego

Narcissistic Injury Recognizing and Managing the Impact

We all know that narcissists just love to abuse and hurt others. But what happens when a narcissist feels hurt or abused? What happens when their self-esteem and ego gets wounded? Narcissistic injury refers to the emotional trauma a narcissist experiences when they are devalued, rejected and criticized. 

And this can seriously scar the narcissist’s pride, self-worth and self-esteem. In fact, the damage can sometimes be so severe that the narcissist can never actually recover from it, leading to what is known as narcissistic scar.

Note: As narcissism lies on a spectrum, by using the term “narcissist” we mean to refer to individuals with narcissistic personality traits. However, the severity of

Up Next

Breaking Free: The Ultimate Checklist for Ending a Relationship With a Narcissist

Point Checklist For Ending A Relationship With A Narcissist

Ending a relationship with a narcissist is not a very easy thing to do, to be honest. However, ending a narcissistic relationship is important if you want to live a happy and sane life.

In order to achieve this goal, it's crucial to know the steps for leaving an abusive relationship. Let's find out how to end an abusive relationship and how to leave a narcissistic relationship.

Key Points

Leaving an abusive relationship is often the most dangerous time for a victim, as it is when the abuser fears they are losing control. While not all people with NPD are abusive, if your abuser has narcissistic traits, they could be capable of post separation abuse.

Up Next

Coping with Dysfunction: Understanding the 10 Unspoken Rules of Dysfunctional Families

Hidden Dynamics Unspoken Rules of Dysfunctional Families

Have you ever noticed certain patterns in your family that have made you think, "Maybe my family is dysfunctional"? This post delves deep into the signs your family is dysfunctional and the unspoken rules of dysfunctional families. Let's find out more about how to tell if your family is dysfunctional or not.

Key Points

All families, as with all social systems, have some level of dysfunction. It does not mean they are all unhealthy or abusive, but some are. Growing up in unhealthy environments can set children up for unhealthy or unsafe relationships down the line. Developing and maintaining boundaries can help decrease trauma

Up Next

6 Stages Of Healing For Survivors Of Childhood Family Trauma

Childhood Family Trauma Stages Of Healing For Survivors

Experiencing childhood family trauma is without a doubt, one of the most painful things a human being can go through. However, overcoming family trauma and healing from family trauma is also possible.


Due to their history of normalizing unhealthy behaviors, trauma survivors often do not realize their families were dysfunctional. Unmet needs in childhood may manifest in adulthood as shame, causing many survivors to blame themselves for their trauma history. If we do not do the work of growth, these behavior patterns can continue long into adulthood. But healing is possible.

Up Next

The Impact of Family Trauma: 20 Common Personality Traits Among Survivors

Common Personality Traits Of Family Trauma Survivors

Experiencing childhood trauma and family trauma are two of the hardest things a person can go through. This post is all about childhood trauma in adults, the signs of family trauma, and some of the most common personality traits found in family trauma survivors.

In childhood, children lack the tools to understand when something bad or dysfunctional is happening, only that they have to endure the trauma.

As a result, they develop coping skills and mechanisms to deal with it, which leads to adult pathology. “Childhood experiences literally impact the biology of the brain.” (Perry, 2021). More therapists now are aware of the link between childhood trauma and adult personality traits.


Up Next

What Is An Exhibitionist Narcissist? Breaking Down The Anatomy Of The Attention-Seeking Narcissist

What Is An Exhibitionist Narcissist Traits and Behaviors

Ah yes, narcissists! What a fun bunch of people who abuse you and ruin your relationships and life. While narcissists are horrible to be with as they are, it can be even more difficult to be around an exhibitionist narcissist. But what is an exhibitionist narcissist? 

Let’s take a deep dive and learn how to spot one and protect yourself from their dastardly mind games.

What is an exhibitionist narcissist?

Narcissism is a personality trait and it can manifest in different ways such as the vulnerable narcissist, the closet narcissist, the toxic narcissist, the exhibitionist narcissist and many others. So exactly what is an exhibitionist narcissist?

Up Next

Breaking the Cycle: 7 Strategies To Avoid Falling Into A Narcissistic Relationship Pattern

Narcissistic Relationship Pattern Tips To Break The Cycle

Have you ever been in a relationship with a narcissist? If your answer is yes, then you know how toxic, unhealthy, and emotionally draining it really is. And if you find yourself falling into a narcissistic relationship pattern every time you open up your heart to someone, then this article might be able to help you.

Falling into a narcissistic relationship pattern can be a devastating experience, leaving you feeling depleted, anxious, and helpless. Narcissistic relationships are characterized by an imbalance of power, with one partner seeking constant validation and attention, while the other is left feeling unheard and unimportant.

Dating someone with narcissistic personality disorder is probably one of the most traumatic things you ca