Why Being in a Relationship with a Narcissist Increases Your Anxiety

By Nanda Davis on
Why Being in a Relationship with a Narcissist Increases Your Anxiety

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot to be anxious about these days.  From the pandemic to politics and the economy, it’s safe to say that we’re all feeling a little stressed.  But if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, chances are your anxiety is heightened to unhealthy levels.  Here are four reasons how being in a relationship with a narcissist will exponentially increase your anxiety:

1. Gaslighting

The term gaslighting comes from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which the husband manipulated the wife into thinking that she was crazy.  Today it’s used when one partner actively denies that something happened, or makes the other partner feel like he or she is overreacting, crazy, or irrational.

With narcissists, much of their behavior stems from a deep underlying lack of confidence.  Therefore, anything threatening their identity or making them look like they were in the wrong is met with anger and denial.  For example, if you tell a narcissist that he/she could have handled a conversation with your neighbor better, he/she would feel as if they were being attacked by you.  To cope with his feelings of inadequacy, they might actively deny that they said anything like that to the neighbor.  He/she might even convince themself that the conversation did not happen the way you remember it so that he/she can continue to believe that they did nothing wrong.  Having your version of events constantly questioned and challenged can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.

2. Victim mentality

Unfair and upsetting things happen to everyone in the world.  We all experience grief, loss, health problems, stress, loneliness, and conflict with others.   But because narcissists are so focused on themselves, they are often unable to see hardship as something that happens to everyone. Narcissists often think that life is deeply unfair and that the world has dealt them personally an unfair hand.  When things go wrong, narcissists first think about how hard this is on them, rather than how others might be dealing with an emergency, or counting their blessings that things are not worse than they are. Victims often act as if they’re helpless and unable to do anything to improve their situation and being around someone with a victim mentality is draining.

Narcissists expect you to cater to their needs when things get tough.  They often focus on and exaggerate the negative and refuse to take steps to make the situation better.

Surrounding yourself with a person who views the world so negatively makes it hard for you to see the positive in the world, and can increase your anxiety about life in general.

3. Inability to understand your needs

Because a narcissist is so focused on their own needs, it is hard for them under the best of circumstances to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.  The moment a narcissist feels attacked or gets trapped in the victim mentality, any ability to anticipate your needs or emotions goes out the window.  Fundamentally, it is the job of both partners to support each other emotionally and make sure that the basic needs of both partners are met.

When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, the narcissist views their emotions and needs as more urgent and important. Not only is it exhausting to always cater to your partner’s needs, but if you are not getting your needs met, that can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.

4. Mood swings:

Narcissists frequently have mood swings and are constantly trying to hide their deep-seated lack of confidence.  Therefore, anything that threatens their self-image is deeply upsetting. Comments you may see as innocuous can hit a raw nerve with a narcissist, causing them to react with anger or tears.

When life happens, people with normal coping mechanisms may feel frustrated, but a narcissist may spiral into a moody victim mentality.  Being in a relationship with a narcissist may mean that you never know whether you’re going to come home to a happy, angry, or depressed spouse.

Living constantly on guard for a shift in mood and thinking about how you are going to deal with that is draining, and leads to constant anxiety.


So how do you know if you’re experiencing anxiety? Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways.  It can affect you physically, from insomnia to headaches and stomach problems.  It can make you feel drained, on edge, and constantly feeling like something bad is about to happen.

If you’re seeking help for anxiety, it may not feel like enough. While it is a good thing to speak to a therapist, fundamentally, if your partner is not willing to also work on him or herself, the anxiety may not go away.

If you’re not ready to seek help now, and that’s all right.  Maybe you’re not ready to leave your relationship right now even if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt your partner will never change — that’s all right too.

Wherever you are on this journey, give yourself grace as you navigate what is surely a difficult relationship, and know that if you’re dealing with anxiety from being in a relationship with a narcissist, you are not alone.