The Chemical Trap of Narcissism

The narcissist – and the recipient of narcissistic personality disorder behaviours both behave the way they do primarily because of the brain chemicals (Neurotransmitters) that drive their respective behaviours. Read on to learn more.


We navigate life through our relationship with emotions


We all have some narcissistic traits!

We all have a degree of narcissism, but separate to those afflicted with the personality disorder, many people have healthier or even deficit levels by which they try to meet their needs. Those with a deficit of self-esteem are typically ‘people-pleasers’ and who are deeply uncomfortable saying ‘no’.

Those individuals who have a strong sense of self and values can choose to set and maintain healthy, respectful boundaries for which to protect themselves from the harmful behaviours and traits of others.

The Narcissist appears in all forms.


The Narcissist and Their Personality Disorder

It is a truly challenging task to find any level of compassion for the narcissist, despite the chances being they most likely became disordered in personality due to ruptures in their childhood developmental and attachment period of early life. Ergo, through little choice. All of us go through a developmental period of great narcissism as a child when we believe the world MUST revolve around US! The rest of us grow out of and through this phase.

While this character didn’t choose their environment, and much the same for any of us, the cognitive blindness of a personality disorder tragically means that unlike the rest of us, they cannot and will not take any level of responsibility or accountability for their malevolent and injurious actions.

Anyone affected by a covert or overt narcissist can testify that the ‘narc’ will go to any level to achieve their core aim. To make their son, daughter, other family members, or partner, responsible for the narc’s existence at all costs.

What the narcissist will never accept is that they have any responsibility for the pain they ‘must’ inflict on their victims. It is always the victim’s ‘fault’.


A true narcissist will never arrange a counselling session for themselves!


It Started With the Love-bombing!

ALL stories of how a narcissistic relationship began (that wasn’t familial) will share they were inundated with love and affection, promises that would never be fulfilled, and a sense that this would be ‘the one’.

The bait had been set and the victims regret their lack of action, having observed ‘red flags’ which often becomes a regret that ‘can’ last a lifetime, whether the relationship continues, or the victim releases him or herself through the establishment of self-asserted boundaries.

Take a relationship and boundaries quiz here, kindly provided my award winning boundaries author, Nedra Tawwab.

The Victim Who Becomes Trauma-bonded to the Narcissist


If you seem preoccupied with presenting your partner as being a good partner in the relationship, meaning you are going to do and say whatever to elevate them in the relationship, you are probably in a trauma bond. – Richards-Smith says. 21 Nov 2020


It seems to the observer, and especially those like the author who work with those psychologically injured by the narcissist, that the narc can ‘hand-pick’ and target their prey. There is some truth to this and simply put, it becomes obvious that the individual courted by the narc may well have noticed relationship and emotions red flags but tragically, didn’t call him or her out on them.

This victim already has a lowered sense of self worth and has likely never been taught (as a child) that to express and assert herself was to be welcomed – and therefore those skills are not easily seen as being of value, or even available in adulthood.

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) truly contains a legacy that will continue to injure for life unless the deficits are healed, learned, and overturned through counselling, psychoeducation, and therapy.

Those Chemicals That Drive us to Behave How we, and They, Behave… DOSE


The reward chemical. The reason we healthily and unhealthily may be driven to try to attain goals, positions, and a feel-good factor that can often be most recognisable after a workout at the gym, a run in nature, or a communal activity such as Yoga.

On the negative side if we have a diminished ‘inhibitory’ response to things that are less healthy for us but appear to bring about a ‘good feeling’, or a change of perception about negative feelings, we can fall into the web of addictions, unhealthy relationship associations, such as is found in abusive and controlling narcissistic partnerships.


The ‘love’ hormone! (A prescription for daily ‘hits’ of oxytocin)

Hugs, especially after the denial of close contact to others during the pandemic, that are heartfelt and lasting can release pleasurable and connecting doses of oxytocin. When people hug for 20 seconds or more, the feel-good hormone oxytocin is released which creates a stronger bond and connection between the huggers. This article shares more about the subject and the power of hugs.

Serotonin – The mood stabiliser

Most of us are familiar with this hormone and may recognise it as something our doctor may commonly prescribe sertraline for reducing depressive episodes for as this works on the brain and its chemical pathways.


Our own opiate neurotransmitters, or ‘pain-killers’

The Inhibitory Mechanism of the Brain

Humans are usually created with a natural inhibitory trait which can negate the sometimes less healthy impulse control. The action we are thinking of taking in those with an optimal inhibitory response is assessed in a nano-second for efficacy.

However, this is most reduced when we’ve taken alcohol or other psycho- affective substances and may also be reduced in those who are personality disordered, such as our individual with narcissistic traits, but also psychopaths, among others!

No less injurious, perhaps, that those of us who once again suffered sub-optimal environments in our childhood developmental period and who may also have reduced access to the inhibitory response, such as those many of us who ‘people-please’, and those who suffer obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and those who are addicted to substances or behaviours.

In Conclusion Then…

In navigating our lives, we feel important chemical messages that can and often does help inform our behaviours, healthily.

If I feel thirsty, I drink, and the emotion is satisfied. I feel hungry, I eat, and I am satisfied. If I feel lonely, I can reach out for that hug or other form of connection.

But, if I lack that all important inhibitory response which would optimally put a brake on an action I may later regret, whether because of personality disorder or developmental injury, then I will either seek to numb the discomfort with substances or behave towards others in a way that hurts them but feels right to the psychologically disordered individual.

Need Help?

Please reach out If you are enmeshed in the hope-(less) pursuit of changing the narcissist and are suffering from his or her abusive behaviours. I work with family members affected, and partners, to gradually dilute the impact on your sense of self and the values you once held. You can become whole once again. I also specialise in adults who are in receipt of traits associated with childhood emotional neglect, and work face-to-face at our Newmarket, Suffolk offices or globally online.

About the author
Managing Director / Counsellor at Anglia Counselling Ltd | 07747042899 | [email protected] | Business Website

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).