Can they make themselves sick?

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


Illness is a great way to get attention from caring people.


Now, if you read that and feel a little uncomfortable, maybe even defensive, you may be proving my point.  We are designed to care for others.  If someone is sick, it is very hard for most of us to simply step aside and continue on our way.  We want to help.  We want to make a difference.  There is an empathy in normal people that moves us to intervene in the suffering of another.  That’s normal, and it’s good.

But narcissists use this desire in us to get attention and service for themselves.

Not all narcissists are bold and loud, or what we call overt.  Some are quiet and needy.  They begin by doing acts of kindness, then expect kindness in return.  Obviously, there is little wrong with that and most people are happy to reciprocate.  But it often escalates to a demanding parasitic relationship that drains the life out of the victim.  It may not appear that these people are narcissistic, but we call them covert.  They hide their need for attention and focus.  They drain the time and energy from others by being needy.

And covert or needy narcissists often use their health to manipulate others.  They use recurring sickness or injury or infirmity to gain service and other benefits from their victims.  Some of them always seem to be sick.  Others get sick just when you have something planned.  Some seem to determine whether they are sick based on the attention they want from you.

Now, of course, you think this is phony and manipulative.  After a few times, you realize that the sickness or aches and pains come and go in ways that are a little too handy.  So you get the “sick” person to a doctor, and the doctor prescribes medications to help with the sickness.  Or you skip out on one of the “emergencies” and learn later that the EMT’s were called.  The professionals seem to verify that the sickness is real.

And aren’t you ashamed of yourself?  You thought it was fake.  You thought it was manipulative.  You thought it was just the narcissist trying to control your life and time.

Sadly, that story comes up often.  Now you feel guilty.  And now you are stuck.  If the sickness is real, then the emergency is real, right?

So the question comes up: Can they make themselves sick?  If being sick is so handy to them, and they are able to control it so well, how can it be real?  And, if it is real, how did it start?  Are these people able to manufacture real illnesses to serve their purposes?

As you can imagine, the answer to this is complicated.  I will have to be content with sharing a few thoughts here that might stimulate your thinking and discussion.

First, look up Munchausen Syndrome.  I put in a link to the Wiki article.  This is a psychiatric issue where the person claims and exhibits symptoms for the sake of attention.  These people are often hospitalized and often use their fake problems to raise money, get services, and manipulate sympathy.  There is also something called Munchausen by proxy, usually referring to a parent who claims a sick child for the same purposes.

Second, in this day of litigation, doctors and hospitals and emergency care providers don’t have the luxury of questioning the illness of someone who claims to be sick.  They must treat those who claim illness as though they were ill, no matter what they suspect.  Few doctors will try to challenge the reality of a physical illness.  So, if the doctor prescribes something, or the person is rushed to the hospital, that doesn’t mean the sickness is real.  That only shows that the medical people have to treat it that way.

Third, we all have symptoms.  From nasal congestion to sore backs, we all live with a certain amount of pain and limitation.  Most of us realize that we shouldn’t spend our time focusing on these things.  We keep going and get things done.  But, if we wanted, we could be entirely honest with our constant complaints.  If we wanted to use those complaints to manipulate others to provide attention and care, we could be quite truthful about it.  The self-absorbed narcissist might be even more aware of pain, but they make the choice to exploit it.


Finally, back to the question: Can they make themselves sick?  Most of us know of someone who claimed to have cancer, even though the physicians never found cancer.  We tried to treat the person as deluded or manipulative.   Then the person died of cancer.  Then we felt guilty for not believing him/her.

The medical community recognizes the effect of stress on health.  Narcissists are among the most stressed people of our culture.  Their inward focus, unrelenting desire for control, and inability to trust keep them on edge all the time.  This explains much of the sudden and intense anger narcissists often display.  If anyone would suffer the ill effects of stress, narcissists would.

Let’s take just one example.  Narcissists are particularly unable to forgive.  They take offense at so many things and see negative intentions in so many places, that they always have something they hold against someone.  In truth, they have many things they hold against many people.  Remembering and reliving offenses can be very stressful.  It is hard to move forward in life while stuck in these old grievances.  But it is also hard to be motivated to get up and do things, like exercise, eating well, and bodily care.  Unforgiveness moves many people to grind their teeth, tense their muscles, or frown and squint their eyes.  So blood pressure goes up, headaches come, indigestion recurs, and aches develop.  High blood pressure causes all kinds of problems in the body.  Poor diet has a serious negative effect.  Chronic indigestion causes further difficulties.

I have believed, based on observation, that stress and cancer are often linked.  If the narcissist develops cancer (of which there are so many varieties and manifestations) we could hardly be surprised.  There are some who suggest that we all live with cancer cells, but our body systems are able to combat them.  If stress reduces that ability to cope with these cells, perhaps those with more stress will see more cancer.

Now, I am going to stop there.  I am not a medical professional.  My purpose is to encourage those who have felt the shame and guilt of trying to pull away from someone who uses illness to manipulate.  Once you convince yourself that the illness is not real, then you feel free to separate from the abuser.  However, when the illness appears to be real, or proves to be real later, it is normal to feel guilty for an incorrect judgment.

So here are some thoughts for you:


  1. Unless you are a medical professional, paid to take responsibility for this case, you should not get in the way of professional care. In other words, by rushing to meet every need, you not only destroy your own life, but also hinder the kind of care the person truly needs.  Those who are unable to live on their own should be somewhere else.  Those who are constantly sick should be tested and observed by people who know what they are doing.  Get the doctors and therapists involved.
  2. If this is a friend abusing your kindness, find local services who care for the handicapped and the sick in your community. I am a big fan of Meals on Wheels, for example.  Not only do they bring a good meal each day, but they check to make sure the person is up and able.  The more the person refuses outside help in favor of yours, the more you know you are being manipulated.
  3. If this is a parent or sibling, do the same thing. It isn’t as easy to step away from a familial relationship, but you still have to protect yourself.  Boundaries are the key.  Don’t go over if a call will do.  Don’t call until you are able and ready.  Don’t feel that you have to answer the phone.  The more anger and criticism you get, the more you know that you are being used.  Begin to back away with little steps.
  4. Your health is essential for you to care for others. Whether the illness is real or not, you have to be safe and healthy to give help.  No one wants to go to a sick or depressed doctor.  You have a responsibility to care for yourself first.
  5. Unless this is your minor child or your spouse, you have no moral responsibility to care for this person. What you do is your choice because of the kindness in your heart.  You are not under contract or bondage, not even by spiritual standards.  You give because you love, and you even put up with a certain amount of exploitation because of love, but you have every right to set an end for the care you give.
  6. You will never solve the problem. If this is a covert narcissist, manipulating you to get attention and service, then you will never give enough in time, money, energy, or anything else.  This person will never “get better,” never become healthy.  Unless he/she finds someone else to use, of course.  Then you will be discarded.
  7. Narcissists excel in draining the life from others and then making them feel guilty for being tired and weak. When you stop serving the narcissist, he/she will want you to feel ashamed and guilty.  Plan on it.  Get through it.  Don’t get stuck in it.  Move on with your life.


This post is far too long as it stands, yet there is so much more to say.  I would love to hear from those who have been through these situations.  I am particularly interested in learning how you solved it.  If you are in the middle of one of these, please feel free to ask for encouragement and prayers.


Filed under Narcissism

30 responses to “Can they make themselves sick?

  1. Kitkat

    The N I was friends with was sick as a child that left her with a disability. Not totally debilitated as she could walk and go to work and do most things. However, she would use this in order to get attention. I’m sure that when she was small much attention was lavished on her. But perhaps, and I am only guessing here, as she grew up her complaints may have gotten tedious as she aged with her disability no longer getting her the attention that she once had. Fast forward, I found it interesting when someone we knew had a rare disease, she all of a sudden had that disease. She may well have it, but after the big blow up we had I find it difficult to believe anything she had to say as she would lie about anything and anyone. She was injured not long ago and nothing seems to help. And now there is this prolonged issue that the doctors can’t seem to fix. I might add that there is another woman that we know who is severely handicapped who gets on with her life, has the most pleasant outlook on life, is much admired and continues to work from a wheelchair, but any mention of this other woman brings harsh criticism from the N, because the N can’t compete on that level of disability. This post rang so true concerning my experience, as when we first met I had admired her ability to push through all her “health” issues. Now I realized that it was just another hook to reel me in. Thank you for this post!

  2. Savedbygrace

    so, so familiar!…it took me a while to wake up to this one.. the more my h disliked or was disinterested in a family gathering the more ‘sick’ he presented! usually just some headache/ extreme tiredness which then gave him the perfect excuse to lay on the lounge and not have to relate and not have to help with the work. Often happened when visiting my side of the family! When we separated he suddenly became interested in going to the doctor…. and he then had a series of health ‘episodes’ which he used to gain sympathy from his children and others but the person he was most targetting was me… every event was dramatically portrayed, worse case scenario language – but no actual lies, just not a balanced picture (my response to this once I realised it was to specify that I wanted the truth- the whole truth and nothing but the truth..but that then made me sound pedantic and he could shrug his shoulders and wonder what my problem was!? so ..not an effective tactic though it did help me have clarity ( and possibly alerted him to the need to be more ‘clever’!)
    The first lot of surgery I fell for and was on the phone to recovery to see how he was and they put me through to speak to him! he was delighted! ( I’d not spoken to him since our separation) and I was dismayed, as I realised how he had manipulated me. The second lot of surgery which he had billed as ‘cancer’ and had managed to panic my adult children.. I was more alert to his manipulation, found out more info and just used different language with my children to reframe it.. from ‘I have to have surgery and it may be cancer ‘( cue music and special effects!) -it’s not ‘surgery’ he’s just getting a sun spot cut off his face, people have this done all the time , they’ll test it and see if it’s cancerous ( you’ll be relieved to know it was not!:) When that was less successful then hoped, he has now managed to get a diagnosis of ‘diabetes’.. really? well the Dr said if I didnt do x y z I would get diabetes.. so it’s pre diabietes he’s just telling you you had better live more healthy.. he then pled ignorance well that’s what he called it he said I have diabetes.. this has somewhat back fired on him as the adult children now say dad you can’t eat that what about your diabetes!? ( I’m sure he’s working on a ‘cure’!!)
    My son summed it up the other day ‘dad has hypochondria’.
    I think his illnesses serve him well . My best help has been awareness of his ability to manipulate through illness. It did shock me just how hard wired I was to nurture him and help him in times of crisis ( which of course its what he’s banking on) and it has been very hard to resist going with that, the trick is to be non responsive when you have to be though I am so aware that I do not want to become callous and hard hearted- so it is a fine line to walk.
    Thanks for highlighting this issue in your post!

  3. Kay

    Personally, I asked The Lord what was I doing, or not doing regarding a family friend that’s gotten worse over the last 8 years no matter how much TLC, help, attention I gave. I wanted His Truth His Way.** Long and short, I was co-dependant, enabling. It took less than 1-1/4 yr to resolve MY portion. I was getting my own feed from being needed. The end.**I helped him get new insurance, a great clinic that offered TLC I was giving, 3 blocks from his home, mail-delivered RXs.**The kicker was that I was all that he needed outside of his TV and food. I had to already be in Biblical counseling to see this shocker. **My friend no longer NEEDS me; I no longer NEED to take care of a person that needed to know how to get help. He played his first golf game, riding in the cart, walking to and from the ball, in over 3+ years. **Was I the total problem? Maybe; probably not, but I asked The Lord, He told me, I believed Him and now I, as well as my friend (former husband 32 yrs ago) are reaping health and a healthier relationship. **All scenarios are not the same or even similar. This one began to move forward AFTER I wanted the Truth AND obeyed. AMEN!!

  4. Lisa

    Yes, Yes…a thousand times Yes! Accurately described! Yep…the Lord has also exposed me to every conceivable disguise of Narcissistic and Borderline creatures (and I *do* mean creatures). I’m happy to report that all ungodly soul ties have finally been broken in my life. No more sucking and slurping available at this hot dog stand. lol

    • Janet Siegel

      Yep!!! Me too! Been there!! I just had to end all contact with a friend that fits this description to the letter. The pain of feeling guilt is overwhelming sometimes but that is how I was kept a prisoner in the relationship. At least the abuse and using me is over. I pray always for her healing. I get real hate looks from her at church but, she is really emotionally disfunctional. I can only feel compassion. She may never get well unless the Lord does a miracle.

      • Lisa

        Janet, I can feel your compassion through your statements and I can completely relate . My remark may have appeared to be lacking in empathy but it’s only because I had a safe moment to let out my relief here at this site . It’s just that I had allowed myself to be trampled upon for quite a long while and I’m still a bit annoyed with myself over that. So you’ll have to pardon me if some of my tenderness is still wrapped under bandages of healing . I must have a very hard head because the Lord has had to bring these similar lessons to my awareness over and over again in the course of my fifty years as they have arrived in so many disguises during my lifetime. I just ended a long term friendship myself and it required months and months of contemplation and prayer to handle it with delicate precision . I too pray for her on a daily basis. I’ve finally learned my lessons about the consequences of unGodly codependent soul ties. So I’m free now and , as I mentioned, the slurping sounds of the creature have stopped. I like to think that these painful lessons are behind me once and for all. And I have been gifted with special nuances of discernment in spiritual warfare as a result of all these experiences. I pray for your peace sister.

    • Rachel

      Hi Lisa. I think it can be so difficult to see any humanity in those who treat us in this way. I have struggled to do so with my N husband. In the end, the Lord has power and His Will is done even with these poor souls. It’s impressive that you are praying for the person who has harmed you so much, that isn’t at all easy either. Thanks for reminding us that we should do this! Blessings x

      • Lisa

        You’re very kind Rachel, thank you. It’s a long journey for all of us who have been involved with these personalities because we have had prolonged exposure to true evil. And it’s especially challenging when one has dealt with it i the context of a marriage, such as yourself, because eventual forgiveness is critical to our life as over-comers in Christ. Both my parents define the criteria as well as my many repeated life experiences with various individuals of the species. I can honestly say that I’ve suffered in unimaginable ways for my entire life through repeated exposure to different varieties but that, as a result, I am now familiar with every flavor and disguise of the beast of narcissism ( and other disorders) with great intimacy to the point that my discernment is extremely fine tuned. I can usually tell within several minutes, and sometimes even within seconds, of meeting one now. Praise God that I was gifted with treasure of incredible life lessons. Be well, Rachel, and have a wonderful weekend!

  5. Jeff Sturgis

    Pastor, I’ve read your posts for about the last two years, but never had one come so close to my exact situation. I was married to a narcissist for 46 years, and finally just broke down and had to leave. Yes, I did find someone else to share the remains of my life with. The guilt sometimes is overwhelming, hoping and praying everyday for forgiveness from our Savior.

    But the details you described pretty much summed up my life for nearly 50 years and won’t provide any of the punishing details. But I will say, that narcissists can move and manipulate between covert and overt. The anger flashes are particularly abusive.

    How I survived in many cases was simply believing I was not a real person. You can’t hurt a caricature. Near the end of the marriage I simply had no energy, fortitude, faith for Godly healing, I was simply spent, and that in every sense of the word. Hindsight is incredibly clear. Pastor Dave, have identified the key element in this disordered personality, “you can’t fix it”. For those trying as I did, you will be completely spent with absolutely nothing to show for all you efforts. For those wanting to be a hero, even a Godly hero, you will end up just as dead and mutilated as the one falling on the hand grenade. Trust me….

    Seek much guidance from qualified counsellors, trusted friends and relatives, pastors, including Pastor Dave, and seek God with all your heart. Develop a plan where you can become healthy. My experience is that you will find calmness, some peace, regain some positive self perception – but be prepared that you will experience grief, and much guilt, real and false. You may also finally realize you can be happy, even fighting thru the guilt.

    • Kathy

      Your post hit me right between the eyes, or maybe in the middle of my heart. A friend told me about this blog and I eat it up every time. I too have been married a long time to a N (27 years). I am in the middle of a process of getting free. A number of other disorders are likely present too, so no wonder it has been so difficult for so many years. I could relate to what you said, moving between overt and covert. Then the anger flashes.. I call them rages because they were so loud and so long. The sicknesses. He has an ongoing health issue, but it always amazed me how it got worse at certain times, like when I wanted him to visit my parents with me, or go to a work party. After a number of years of trying and being disappointed, I finally became comfortable going alone. I would tell people he didn’t feel well. I understand your guilt. I deal with it on a daily basis and we are still married! It is because I have put a big wall up between us and refuse to let him back in. I am too scared to do it. He has finally gotten the message (after 2 years of this) and leaves me alone. I try to be out of the house as much as possible. Everyone tells me I look better. I feel more myself, more free, less controlled. I told him 2 years ago that I had nothing left to give, I was empty, nothing left in the tank.. He had drained me completely, even if I wanted to give more I couldn’t. He did not get it at first. He is in counseling now and on meds. He is not raging anymore, at least not in front of me. He is scared to death of losing me no doubt, which keeps his behavior in line. He says he has changed and realizes he treated me horribly. The problem is my trust has been so severely damaged, I don’t know if I can ever have a “normal” relationship with him again, even if he really does change his behavior. Anyway, it is helpful to hear about other people’s experiences. I have a ton of support from healthy people, so I am very blessed that way. God will guide me each step. I pray you can be released from the guilt, but I understand why it is there.

      • Grace

        Wow, you are speaking my same story. Some days I think I am going crazy. I am actually about to seek counseling next week to deal with all of the craziness I have experienced over the last 20 years.

  6. Cecilia K

    I have a friend (I’ll call her “Stacy”) who seems rather narcissistic in that she Craves attention All. The. Time. (at least on FB), but she has never really been a jerk to me (except once when she seemed to be trying to hijack a conversation with a man in whom I was interested…and she was married at the time…but it wasn’t That big a deal, as I didn’t know if there was any reciprocated interest on this man’s part, plus it was an unlikely relationship, anyway, but I digress…). Anyway, she is ALWAYS sick with something and posts about it on FB All. The. Time. Currently, it’s breast cancer, which she may very well genuinely have; but I confess, I don’t feel too sorry for her.

    I have thought to myself before that I think she has brought at least some of her physical maladies on herself, perhaps. Like many years ago, before she got pregnant with one of her sons, she had gastric bypass surgery. I think I remember her saying that the doctor advised her to not get pregnant for a certain length of time after the surgery, but she ignored him, and got pregnant anyway. Of course, I realize that pregnancies can be accidental, but I don’t think this one was. I think she was Trying to get pregnant. And I think that Did lead to serious problems for her.

    And she has attempted suicide at least twice since I’ve known her, I think. Very disturbed woman, and I have heard her blame her parents for her condition before. Once, when some of Stacy’s friends apparently informed her mother that they were concerned that she (Stacy) had “gone off the deep end)”, she emailed me to ask if I was one of the ones who had talked to her mother. She said she wanted to “see whose side I was on”. I was rather glad at that moment that I had not had contact with her mother, although I didn’t blame the friends who had. I rather admired them.

    I am fortunate, in that Stacy lives out of state, so it is rather easy to ignore her. I just don’t comment on her posts. I mean, every once in a while, I’ll throw her a bone, like “So sorry you’re going through this” or something like that, but I don’t really want to give her any more attention than she’s already getting, and yet, like you say in the post, I do feel a little cold sometimes, if this is all for real. She actually has been a pretty good friend to me, but I also haven’t really crossed her before. No telling how she would respond if I did. If she hadn’t been such an attention hog as long as I’ve known her, I would be more inclined to show more compassion and concern.

    Oh, and here’s a rather telling tale… A few years ago, her oldest son was diagnosed with Lyme Disease (or so she says, anyway). Before Stacy’s son was diagnosed, the daughter of a good friend of Stacy’s had been diagnosed with LD as well. One day, Stacy posts that she and her friend (“Laura”) are having a fundraiser to raise funds for medical expenses for their kids. She asks for volunteers to help with it. I volunteered. Sometime during or after the fundraiser, Stacy says she doesn’t like the fundraiser coordinator. I forget her specific complaint. I found out later–from Stacy’s then husband–that originally, the fundraiser was just for Laura’s daughter–Not Stacy’s son, too. Laura needed to fly her daughter up to some clinic in Minnesota or something, and couldn’t afford it, so she was going to try to raise the funds to go. Well, in steps Stacy, and says that she wants in on it, too, for her son’s medical expenses, and either Laura agreed to it, or Stacy pushed and pushed and pushed until Laura reluctantly gave in. I don’t know how Stacy’s participation in it ultimately came about.

    Now, Stacy may have very well had a legitimate need for money for her son’s medical expenses, but in my opinion, she should have had her own fundraiser later, for her son. Laura’s need was a little more urgent/immediate, I think. Anyway, so from what I could gather, the fundraiser coordinator also disagreed with Stacy’s horning in on Laura’s event, and I think That’s why Stacy didn’t like her. Unbelievable!

    Sadly for the kids, the fundraiser was a flop, but as far as Stacy was concerned, I thought she got what she deserved. I laughed a little inside–to myself, of course. But then, the next day or a couple days later, Stacy goes off on FB on everyone who didn’t come to the fundraiser, laying a big guilt trip on them about how could they be so cold and not care about a little boy and girl with Lyme Disease? I think I spoke up in their defense, saying I’m sure they would’ve helped if they could have, or maybe they had conflicting plans, or something, but it didn’t help.

    Lo and behold, a while later after the fundraiser, Stacy shares that she and Laura are no longer friends. I don’t recall the details (or if she even shared them), but it sounded like Laura had betrayed her somehow, and she was so angry that she had trusted her, she would never trust a single mother asking for help again, or something like that. In hindsight, I have to wonder if Laura just merely called Stacy on her narcissistic behavior or something, and Stacy didn’t like being exposed.

    Anyway, her attention addiction really gets on my nerves, and I don’t know how I ever became close friends with her.

  7. KayJay

    I remember always being disappointed as a child when my N parent missed almost every school program, play, performance that came along due to a migraine or other illness. Looking back, I now see that the focus was to be only on that person. As a parent now myself, it seems utterly bizarre. When there was a sudden tragic death in the family a few years ago, the N never showed up to the funeral, nor acknowledged it in any way, but did manage to have a heart attack out-of-state so there was all kinds of drama in the weeks immediately following. When I went no contact, there were all sorts of accusations and implications that somehow I was to blame for the broken heart and subsequent dementia. My personal opinion is that the established manipulative behavior pattern has finally become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It all seems so unnecessary, but what is equally frustrating is the other parent who has become, as Jeff said in the post above, the “Godly hero” (a.k.a. martyr) and a sibling who is also willing to go along with the parents. What a destructive force the N has been through many decades without it even being recognized as such! At least not by my immediate family.

  8. Penny

    You bet they can make themselves sick!
    I learned over time how skilled my narc was at this, & the final straw was when she FAKED a bowel obstruction (seriously), fooling the paramedics & family, even vomiting bile….only to discover that she had deliberately & intentinally overdosed on prescription pain pills b/c she knew I would be in town!! She planned to be rescued and in the process ruin the weekend we had planned with close friends. We weren’t coming to visit her, so she figured out a way to make sure we would HAVE to. After all, how dare we spend time with friends when she “needed” attention??
    After spending ALL nite in the ER with her & after multiple tests, scans, & lab work all returned negative for ANYTHING, they really didn’t even know what to do with her. So they admitted her for “observation” giving her a perfect stage to perform her “pain” acting, & thus where she got MORE narcotics by IV. When she repeatedly begged me to bring her purse to her, I refused, initially b/c I told her the last place she should have valuables was in a hospital, and also b/c I was exhausted. Then I began to wonder: what was so important in her damn purse??
    Well, well, well….cleverly hidden in her purse, inside an innocent-looking makeup bag were more narcotics, anxiety drugs and sleeping pills. She wanted her purse b/c she wanted her drugs!!!
    So….that was the beginning of the end. She had “played” me for nearly 40 years and this was the last time. She had treated me cruelly thru miscarriages, my own child’s disabilities & my parent’s deaths, and this was the final straw.
    I exposed her to her doctor, her nurses, and the family. Then….I walked away.
    I went entirely “no contact” and fought like hell to maintain it. I grew a spine of steel and would not bend or break to her covert manipulations ever again. I blocked all email, disconnected my phone, changed numbers, threw cards and letters unopened into the trash….including those with money or checks (bait).
    That was 4 years ago, and it has been tough. But I was determined to never allow her toxicity to poison my life again. I have been shunned by family & friends alike, but where were they when she abused & maligned me? Where was the church when I told them of her duplicity? When did they ever once come to my defense?
    Even now, she is the Saint and I am vermin.
    So be it.
    She nearly destroyed my marriage, and I told my husband he cannot be married to me while appeasing her. He cannot have it both ways. She was determined to control & destroy our marriage to get her perfect, golden child back & be first in his life.
    I said no more. It’s me or her. I meant it. Not b/c I was mean but b/c I was devastated, spent, exhausted, grieving.
    There was NO middle ground, b/c there is no compromise with her “brand” of narcissism. She was the engulfing, eat-you-alive narc… the skilled, manipulative, scheming, lying, conniving, no good, very bad, innocent-looking narc who could charm the socks off a snake.
    I was done.
    I put up boundaries so strong & fierce not even the Navy Seals or Special Ops could get thru.
    I was no longer “seduced” by possible inheritances or shamed by false guilt. I finally understood if I was ever going to get away from her it would be on my own. No one was going to help me; everyone was invested in feeding the monster, no one wanted to slay the beast.
    So I went “undercover” and never uttered another word to her.
    It was powerful. No one had done that before, and I refused to cave in or back down or argue or defend myself. I simply went completely “off the grid”, no explanation, no apology, no appeasing. No more feeding the monster.
    There was NO middle ground.
    There still isn’t.
    Even this past Christmas I had to stand tall when she coyly called and spoke to my husband & then said she wanted to “wish me a Merry Christmas”. As if!
    I had to explain, again, to my husband that I will NEVER, ever speak to her so stop asking me to. And to remind him that if he wanted to live peacefully with me & to show me that he really chose me over her (“the other woman”) then he had to stop asking me to “make nice”.
    She remains ever the unrepentant, manipulative, deceitful charming addict who accuses me falsely and expertly plays the victim: the needy addict who has everyone fooled and everyone convinced that I am the wicked witch while she simultaneously & covertly undermines all that is good and decent.
    There is no way to make peace with that.
    Even Jesus walked away from the unrepentant, and he stopped doing miracles in unrepentant cities.
    Which means, even Jesus did not “rescue” those who feigned illness to be entertained by a miracle cure.
    He walked away.
    So did I.

    • Kathy

      Wow!! Good for you!!! One of the Ns in my life was also my M-I-L. She is deceased now, But as my husband, her son, was DYING of cancer, I would get phone calls about her allergies.
      Or I would get phone calls from her husband, my F-I-L, telling me he also had cancer and a melanoma was removed from his nose!
      The competition with their OWN SON was so cruel, so “not normal.”
      And this was a culmination of all their attention -seeking and competitive behavior since I had known them.
      I have cut off the living members of that family. I will not bed.

  9. hazelnut

    Yes, I think they can make themselves sick.

    They are in unbearable emotional suffering deep in their heart, mind, and soul. Mental and emotional pain will not be contained for long. It needs to be healed or it comes out in some way, so physical sickness and physically felt pain is one path it takes. I’m guessing that the suffering with physical sickness, the loving care recieved from others, and the satisfaction experienced from the ability to manipulate and get that from others somehow relieves the suffering in some sick way that is far beyond my understanding. Watching that in someone, and being involved with that can be very confusing and feels like craziness after a while.

    I do believe that they are unconscious or unaware of their true motives, or completely incapable of actually exploring their underlying intention for how they play out this behavior.

    This post from Dave does help to understand one of the dynamics that was happening in my relationship with someone with these character traits. Thank you.

    Interestingly my partner’s mother behaved much the same, and my partner treated her with dismissing disgust for being sick and in pain.

    What I could no longer live with, and would not, was to be blamed for their sickness.

  10. This brought back a very, very distant memory about my N stbx. We were dating, and had gotten close (yeah, so I thought!) and he liked back rubs, so I would give them to him while watching a movie or TV. At the time, I didn’t notice that he was the only one getting back rubs, all the time. I liked back rubs, too. But, do you think he ever even offered to give me one? Never! But, take, take, take ALL the time! Later in the marriage, I would just mention that my head, back or anything was not feeling well or hurting and he would leave the room for a bit, or the next day and he would have the exact same thing! It was so obvious and when I would call him on it, of course, he just stonewalled me. Any empathy he would have for me would only be secondary to his hurts, pains or illnesses. Looking back, he had no empathy for me – ever. It was just what he could muster up to pretend he had some. Disgusting! So, so happy those days are over and God has me in His loving, caring hands and I am free and I survived! Life has never been better! Glory to God!

  11. I’ve only come across covert Ns in the church. They come up for prayer about their life crippling allergies, their cousin’s divorce, ex-boss’s sister’s broken leg, etc. and expect you to shower them with sympathetic devotion. When you try to help others, or give them advice that forces them to take ownership of their situation, they act offended and try to milk how they were victimized by the church to someone else. Really annoying. Still I’d take annoying covert Ns over my arrogant overt NMIL!

  12. Lady Quixote/Linda Lee

    This post is very enlightening and it all makes so much sense. As I was reading, I kept thinking: “It seems so obvious, the way Pastor Dave explains it. Why didn’t I see this before?”

    My husband and I have both been diagnosed with severe PTSD. His was caused by combat in Vietnam, mine was caused by trauma and abuse in my childhood and first marriage (my mother tried to gas us all to death, among many other things). People with PTSD typically have a lot more physical ailments than “normal” people… probably due to stress, as Dave explains so eloquently in this post.

    In addition to PTSD, my husband had heavy exposure to the toxic dioxin herbicide Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate the jungles where the enemy soldiers hid. Agent Orange has been linked to heart attacks (my husband has had two), diabetes (my husband was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 11 years ago), and multiple types of cancer (so far my 67-year-old best friend hubby has remained cancer free, thank the Lord). As for me, at almost 63, my health is amazingly good, with the exception of a lot of annoying allergies and degenerative disc disease of my neck and lower spine which, according to a neurosurgeon, was probably caused by physical abuse (my ex husband came so close to breaking my neck that I thought it was broken, plus my ex pushed me out of a moving car, among countless other assaults).

    Here is my point to this litany of my husband’s and my physical challenges: neither of us wants to be a burden to ANYONE, EVER. We both go out of our way to maintain our good health and mobility. We both tend to our own needs as much as we possibly can, or else we do without things, as much as we possibly can. We do, of course, take care of each other when one of us is sick or in more than the usual amount of pain. But beyond our occasional mutual care-taking, we are self-reliant and we hope to continue to be self-reliant, for however long we remain on this earth.

    If I live to be 100, I hope to still be taking care of my personal needs, doing my housework, doing my laundry, and taking care of the yard. Lying around letting someone else wait on me is boring and humiliating, in my opinion. I think this is the difference between narcissists and non-narcissists… a person may, indeed, be sick or disabled for whatever reason(s), but: are they still trying to do for themselves as much as they possibly can, or are they crying “poor me” and “do for me?”

    It almost seems to be a contradiction: in the Bible (sorry I’m too lazy right now to look it up) there are two verses that seem to be a contradiction. One verse tells us that we need to bear our own burdens, that those who do not work, do not eat. Another verse tells us to bear one another’s burdens.

    So, which is it? I think it’s all about balance, truth, and love. Those of us who are able to help, need to help the weaker brothers and sisters who truly need it. But for the vast majority of us, the majority of the time, we need to bear our own burdens, even when it is difficult. After all, life is difficult for everyone! I have a 24 year old granddaughter in Harvard. Isn’t that awesome? But even for that healthy, bright young lady, her daily routine is hard. She is working two jobs and going to Harvard full time, paying her own way. She struggles at times but overall, she loves the challenge and she is having the time of her life.

    How can we tell the difference between the people who can bear their own burdens and the people who really can’t? It can be a challenge at times, but I have found that praying for discernment goes a long way toward clearing away the fog of confusion, doubt, and false guilt.

    God bless everyone who reads this and God bless Pastor Dave for writing this wonderful blog. I follow a lot of blogs, this one is my favorite. 🙂

    • Lady, first of all I am in awe of your attitude and fortitude given you and your husbands situation and ailments. I may be able to help you with your questioning and confusion about bearing one another’s burdens. I don’t remember the whole sermon, but the word burden when originally translated here, actually means “sins.” It is telling us to be understanding, tolerant, forgiving of
      one another’s sins. As we all commit them at times. You can certainly do your own research about it, I don’t even remember who preached the sermon, it’s been well over 15 years ago now. Anyway, I wish the best for you and your husband. And Jesus is in the healing and miracle working business and He desires people be saved, healed, whole and prosperous. God bless!

    • New Creature

      LQ, I really appreciate that you are reading through the whole blog and commenting as you go. I get excited when I see you have posted again. Regarding the verses you are talking about, I have had it explained to me this way: one verse refers to carrying our own load (those daily things that are part of life and we all go through and we need to take care of ourselves…its being responsible). the other verse refers to sharing our burdens (the extraordinary things that we have to go through in life…this is where we step in and care for each other).

      This post hits the nail on the head with my N MIL. Her whole life is about trying to find ways to get others to wait on her and she has found being sick/injured is a good way to do this. She has really let her health deteriorate by her poor choices to the point that she can not longer live unassisted despite being pretty young (mid 70s). It is backfiring on her, though. Due to her immobility, it has become very hard to find supply. She can’t go out looking for it. She has to wait for people to come to her and, now, everyone near her knows to steer clear.

  13. Janet

    My narc is ALWAYS ALWAYS sick!! As soon as one crisis of some major problem is over, another crisis comes up about a week later. When I finally pointed our the pattern I saw, I got a nuclear blast.

  14. Sandra C Martineau

    I’ve been with mine for 24 years. I have just found out about the N thing a few months ago which explains our entire lives together. I always knew something was wrong, blah, blah, blah…all the usual stuff…but I called it either ‘The Wall,’ he got his ‘Dark Eyes’ (everyone here should understand that one) or ‘His Evil Twin.’ Anyway, I did the worst thing possible to a Narc – I read an article called the Emotionally Distant Husband, gave it to him to read, he said yes, I am that but I need to think about this so we left it that he would think and then come talk to me about it. I also told him it was his choice but if he choose not to talk to me, he would be telling me everything I ever needed to know. One and a half months later, I told him I expected!!! him to come talk to me making it very clear. And that’s when I began to realize he was never going to. I, after 24 years, was still not worth it. That’s when God showed me my H was an N so I would finally understand.
    I didn’t know 4 months of waiting for him to say something and another month digesting that he hadn’t, didn’t want to, wasn’t gonna was my cut off for us. Our entire relationship changed. I told him he made his choice clear and it wasn’t me or us. I began making more and more choices for myself….like trying to make a life for myself – sort of a life within a life (we are both older and I would be particularly broke if we split – besides …this was the house I lost both my parents in and our 16 year old cats).
    Then came the day – you have to realize most of our communication in our relationship was unspoken – where I said, “Our relationship has changed…obviously….” and went on about my business. Four days later….he is lying on the floor in a fetal position saying he has to get his heart rate down…it was pounding. That turned into a bunch of doc calls the next day and since then his pressure is through the roof in am’s, passing out low in afternoon/pms and so uncontrolled by meds, he is having all his major arteries and his heart scanned this Friday.
    The deal is…since this part began 3 weeks ago (mind you he sees himself as mild-mannered but is really a seething cauldron of anger and frustration underneath), I have noticed if I say anything about us or I have to stop him from trying to cross a boundary I’ve set, his pressure is higher the next morning or it’s way too low that evening and he’s passing out. Note: Last Winter, the doc put him on a bp med. I am very nurturing so I did what comes natural – I mothered him. He blew up at me SOOOO much, I had to remind him I was his WIFE and had a right to be concerned. Finally, it ended up completely burning me out. I had had enough. He, knowing full well nurturing is as natural as breathing to me – I know he knew because I told him and he said he knew, turned it off in me completely for him. Now? He wants back what he destroyed. And since I was so close to being free (sort of…considering still sharing living arrangements), I am in N Hell…..I have to make sure he’s ok without getting too involved and that ain’t easy. And the deal is…this has never been about not loving him, it is about personal survival so things are really messed up now and I feel I am stuck here forever, giving until there’s nothing left and I have already done that a million times. One thing about N’s, they will suck your love buckets dry until you are empty – your buckets never get filled.
    So my question is….can he make himself this sick to make sure I stay right where he wants me?
    (sorry, I don’t have time to reread this so please excuse any confusion. Thanks)

    • Penny

      I agree with KitKat. Yes–they CAN & WILL make themselves sick, even “sick into death” if it’s necessary to get their drug of choice: attention.
      My narc had the skills to vomit bile & appear to be at death’s door with a bowel obstruction, when in reality she had intentionally & deliberately overdosed on prescription pain medicine (which the Docs gave her quite liberally b/c she had them all fooled.)
      Narcs will “Doctor shop” and “pharmacy shop” and use cash instead of filing insurance claims in order to evade detection & gain sympathy, while making sure there is no paper trail to expose their deception.
      This will never end, especially if you respond or try to “rescue” them from their supposed demise. I learned the hard way that the more I stayed involved (like you said “to make sure he’s ok”) the more they milked that cow.
      So I stopped.
      If she was that skilled at pretending to die, then she was skilled enough to find another caregiver to rescue her.
      And she did.
      And she is still alive (soon will be 95 years old and probably in better health than I am!) and still driving her caregivers crazy with her constant drama & urgent demands & has not endeared herself at all to the very people she expects to take care of her.
      My advice? Walk away. If he is skilled enough to do what he’s already done, then let him.
      Get on with your own life & health & healing.
      It’s not your job to keep rescuing someone who keeps sinking his own ship.
      These types of people will literally drive you to an early grave, & then have no trouble finding someone else to do what you have so nobly done, and they will continue to exploit others as long as they have breath. They don’t care about you or anyone else—they lack the capacity to have empathy for anyone but their own miserable selves.
      So, give it to them! Let them spend all the empathy chips on themselves, & get out of the way & watch the show.
      But don’t rescue them.

  15. Kitkat

    Sandra, I am not a doctor but I do know that your emotions can wreak havoc with your health. So if he gets angry because you are not playing by his rules then I would say perhaps yes. A close friend is going through a terrible situation with her husband right now. She finally had enough of his alcholism and non involvement in their family, verbal abuse, etc. that she told him she wanted a divorce. Since she told him, he has gone off the rails. He started having additional heart issues (he has a pacemaker), and then he would just disappear and she had no idea where he went, not showing up at work or leaving work in the middle of the day. He disappeared one night, just walked away from his house. Several of us searched to no avail. He showed up at her mother’s house all wet and covered in mud at 3 in the morning. He had a glazed look in his eyes and they took him to be mentally evaluated. Since that time he has been in and out of mental facilities since the beginning of the year. While she has watched him during this time, she feels a lot of this is a big show. He has been playing to the sympathies of her mother because he knows she will try to encourage her to stay in the marriage. But she is not fooled by any of this and will be filing for divorce this week. N’s are very clever and if they know something will increase say, blood pressure by eating too much salt, I wouldn’t put it past them to deliberately do that in order to manipulate people for what they want. Perhaps there are others on here who have more experience with this kind of manipulation who can offer more insight. But honestly, it would not surprise me if either deliberately or subconsciencely they are capable of doing things to their health in order to get their way. Don’t know if this helps but Pastor Dave can always be contacted by private message if you want further guidance. My N ex friend seemed like she wasn’t happy unless she had some ailment that she could use to get her much needed attention so she could manipulate people. Seek out a good counsellor that deals with Narcissism that can help you. God bless and read the wisdom of others on here who are fellow sojourners.

  16. Bryn Heimer

    Husband is narcissist. Won’t go into details of the abuse, but it’s gotten to the point where he has gone through multiple bouts of uncontrollable vomiting that lasts weeks… he’s going through it now. I deeply believe it is a manifestation of his stress from avoiding the truth of his actions and their effects. Any time I try to say it, he confirms my suspicions by exciting the conversation. Hanging up or driving away. He thinks he is escaping it but he’s just stuffing it down. His stomach can’t handle it. He takes every and any otc remedy he can find or think of. Nothing ever works. He eventually admits himself to er where he gets iv fluids, they lecture him on his pot use saying that he has a built toxicity.. He will stop for a while then when he feels better its back to the pot. Ive been searching for any anecdotal evidence that this could be the case. He’s watching YouTube videos on how the pot is the culprit… while taking that out if the picture is sure to help, I still feel it is linked to his inability to see his own actions and how they may be directly causing his predicament.. trying to show him that once he takes that responsibility he gains the control to solve the situation.

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