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'Unequal treatment among siblings.' 5 not so obvious tactics narcissists use.

Narcissism is a complex personality trait that can manifest in various behaviours, often affecting interpersonal relationships and causing distress to those around the narcissist

While some tactics used by narcissists may be overt and easily recognisable, there are subtle and overlooked ones that can be equally damaging. 

1. Unequal treatment among siblings.

One of the overlooked tactics used by narcissistic parents is the unequal treatment of their children. This can take the form of showering excessive praise and attention on one child while neglecting or belittling another. The favoured child is often portrayed as the golden child, receiving preferential treatment and validation, while the scapegoat child is subjected to criticism and neglect. This differential treatment not only creates division and rivalry among siblings but also perpetuates the narcissistic parent's need for control and admiration.

Watch: Some more signs your parent is a narcissist. Post continues after video.

Video via YouTube/Psych2Go.

2. Shaming partners for expressing needs.

Narcissists are notorious for their inability to empathise with others and their relentless pursuit of admiration and control. In romantic relationships, narcissistic partners may shame their significant others for expressing their needs or vulnerabilities. They may dismiss their partner's emotions as trivial or selfish, making them feel guilty or inadequate for having basic emotional needs. This tactic serves to reinforce the narcissist's superiority and dominance while undermining the partner's self-esteem and emotional well-being. This behaviour can erode someone’s self-esteem, causing them to doubt their worthiness and suppressing their ability to express their emotions and needs in the relationship.


3. Creating a world of mistrust.

Narcissists often operate from a mindset of extreme self-centeredness, believing that they are the only ones who truly have their partner's back. They instil a sense of mistrust and suspicion towards others, convincing their partners that everyone else is unreliable or out to get them. This isolation tactic not only reinforces the narcissist's control over their partner but also isolates them from external support systems that could challenge the narcissist's manipulative behaviour.

4. Gaslighting and distorting reality.

Gaslighting is a common tactic employed by narcissists to distort reality and undermine their victims' perceptions. They may deny past events, manipulate facts, or blame others for their own mistakes or shortcomings. By distorting reality, narcissists erode their victims' sense of self-trust and sow seeds of self-doubt. Over time, the victim may question their own sanity and become increasingly dependent on the narcissist's version of events. This is incredibly damaging and toxic.

5. Exploiting vulnerabilities for personal gain.

Narcissists are skilled at identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in others for their own benefit. To others, this can be difficult to spot. They may use flattery, charm, or promises of support to win over trust and loyalty, only to manipulate or discard their victims when they no longer serve their agenda. This exploitation of vulnerabilities extends beyond romantic relationships to friendships, family dynamics, and professional settings, leaving a trail of emotional wreckage in their wake.

Depending on how long the narcissistic abuse is endured, the effects can be mild to severe with some survivors recovering with help. However, others may sustain lifelong damage such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, loss of self-worth and an inability to speak up and trust themselves, unexplained mood swings and physical manifestations such as headaches, sleep disorders and body aches. 


Those who leave an abusive relationship may experience severe separation anxiety, panic attacks and a deep sense of loss of self when they are not with their abusers. If your symptoms include any of these, they will ease over time as you work through your trauma with a professional.

It is important to recognise these often-overlooked tactics used by narcissists and their detrimental impact on mental and emotional well-being. Those of us who experience narcissistic abuse may experience confusion, self-doubt, and emotional trauma. Your brain will be on high alert, looking out for danger and you may be triggered into a fight-or-flight response and often it is necessary to gather support from friends and family in order to not continue to second-guess yourself. This is why it’s essential to seek support from trained professionals such as psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Professional help can assist us in rebuilding our self-esteem, implementing boundaries, and learning to identify and address toxic relationships in the future.  

If you think you or someone you know needs help, please call South Pacific Private on 1800 063 332, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue 1300 22 4636. 

Diane Young is a psychotherapist at South Pacific Private, one of Australia's leading trauma, addiction and mental health treatment centres.

Feature Image: Canva.