How To Cut Ties With A Narcissistic Parent

Narcissism comes in all shapes in sizes. While we tend to think of narcissists as that stereotypical CEO who couldn't care less about their employees and lives their life needing to be catered to and treated like royalty — because they believe they are royalty — that trope isn't always the case. Sometimes the narcissist in your life can be your parent.

Although some people can exhibit traits of narcissism, because who hasn't gotten a big head over one thing or another in their life, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is in a whole other stratosphere. It's a mental illness steeped in inflated importance of one's self, the inability to relate to others or have empathy for them, and the need for an obscene amount of attention. Because of all this, their personal relationships suffer greatly, if they're even able to have personal relationships at all (via Mayo Clinic).

"Realizing and accepting that you have one or more narcissistic parents is a long and intensely painful road," writer of the blog The Narcissist Family Ties Julie L. Hall tells HuffPost. "That's because children, even adult children, continue to desire love and approval, often against all reason ... Creating distance with your parent means giving up the delusion that they will someday change and releasing the feeling of responsibility for them they may have instilled in you."

Having a narcissist in your life is rarely, if ever, a good thing. And when they're your parent? It's even worse. As much as it might be painful in some ways, cutting ties with a narcissistic parent is sometimes the healthiest thing you can do. No one deserves that level of toxicity in their lives, especially when it's coming from a parent.

Recognize the signs

To be clear, there's a huge difference between a parent with NPD and a parent who's just, well, a bad parent. Even if one or both of your parents acts in a narcissistic way, it doesn't necessarily mean they're a narcissist. If your parent is truly a narcissist, they'll be competitive with you, they won't have appropriate boundaries, they'll make you feel bad about your successes, everything is about them, and their love will feel conditional (via Bustle). The love between a parent and child should always be unconditional, always.

"The child grows up in a household where these traits are constantly present and therefore does not have the context to consider how their parent might behave differently from other parents," chief psychologist at AMFM Healthcare Meghan Marcum tells Insider. In fact, in many cases, a person won't even realize that their parent is a narcissist until they grow up. But that doesn't mean it's too late to do something about it.

How and when to cut them loose

Once you realize your parent or parents are indeed narcissists, then comes the time to figure out what you want to do. Do you stick around and allow the mental abuse to continue, accepting that they won't change? (And they won't.) Or do you let them go?

"Going no-contact is the best option when several areas of your life are being destroyed by maintaining your relationship with this person," licensed professional counselor Sybil Cummin tells PsychCentral. "This may be your physical health, emotional or mental health, financial health, spiritual health, or social health."

But if the idea of cutting ties from your parent(s) is too much to bear, and it just might be, then learning how to handle them is the only option you have left. You don't have to accept that they have NPD, but you do need to be aware of it with every interaction. This involves setting up boundaries, learning to stay calm when your parent does something to trigger you, planning your responses to their behavior in advance, and seeking professional help (via WebMD). Of course, completely cutting off your narcissistic parents isn't for everyone, but learning how to manage your relationship with them and protecting yourself in the process is what really matters.