Why Your Brain Goes ‘Off-line’ From Narcissistic Abuse

Guest Post by Sandra L. Brown, M.A.  |  June 5, 2024

Preface from LawYou: Although this article is not written specifically with pro se litigants in mind, we know that contact with the justice system can be psychologically harmful to anyone. Many of the concepts about which Sandra Brown writes may be helpful to you even if you are not an abuse survivor.

The impact from Narcissistic Abuse is a very, very real thing. 75% of survivors have PTSD (or higher severity) from these relationships, whether they have been diagnosed, or not.

Their inability to ‘bounce back’ is best identified by them as either:
1. The constant triggering that keeps them in fight/flight/freeze, or
2. Their current neuro-cognitive condition and that their brain has stopped working.

Survivors notice reductions in the ability to concentrate, remember, organize their thoughts or lives, make decisions, stop ruminating thoughts, control their impulse for recontact, retain information they read, stay present in therapy to process an event, have balanced mood, or feel positive emotion. Most of these are skills of the Executive Functioning part of their brain that has been impacted.

Trauma impacts how the brain works. Certain areas become over-activated (pushing them into emotional flooding and loss of emotional control) while other areas become under-active (causing freeze, depression, dissociation, avoidance, lethargy and poor cognitive control/functioning).

How their non-traumatized brain USED to operate is not how it is operating TODAY. While survivors often hope it self-corrects from ‘no contact,’ the damage and the rewiring of the brain from extended stressors takes more than no contact to rewire and heal.

It is why survivors continue to have symptoms months/years/decades after the relationship.

They try approaches that are NOT designed to help the brain heal. They are approaches that provide validation. Validation, as comforting as it feels, will not refire an offline brain and executive functioning system. Support and education on pathological partners, as interesting and educational as it is, still leaves the brain offline. Survivors lose time and money using approaches that are not working with the offline brain.

They are no further along learning to shift out of fight/flight/freeze allowing their brain (and body) to be constantly flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, further impacting their brain and nervous system—the very thing that needs help.

Trauma often worsens without neuro-based interventions. They lack the understanding of their automatic nervous system and how it unconsciously moves into triggering or what to do when it does. As months/years roll off the calendar, their brain and nervous system develop patterns of reactions that grow more, and more, reactive. It makes the necessary healing of the brain, body, and nervous system even more intensive than it could have been with earlier intervention with lesser engrained patterns of reactions.

A program for survivors who have constant fight/flight, whose brain has gone off-line, or live in a constant state of ‘mental fog,’ has been created to use 21st century trauma and neuroscience to help rewire the brain and repattern reactiveness.

The Intensive Stabilization Program© begins its next cycle for survivors on July 18, 2024-September 5, 2024. You can request an intake packet at survivortreatment at gmail.com.

Copyright © 2024 by Sandra Brown, MA | All rights reserved

About the Author

Headshot photo of Sandra Brown, MA, in which she is looking at the camera and smiling

Sandra Brown, MA, is the founder of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and the Association for NPD/Psychopathy Survivor Treatment, Research & Education. She is the author of the acclaimed Women Who Love Psychopaths, currently in its third edition, and other educational publications and courses.

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