Narcissistic Abuse Cycles

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By Telita Montales on Jun 20, 2024.


Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is a Narcissistic Abuse Cycle?

The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle is a potent tool used by those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to maintain power and control in their relationships. This cycle, often characterized by emotional manipulation, unfolds in four stages: idealization, devaluation, discard, and hoovering.

During the idealization stage, the narcissist creates an illusion of the perfect relationship by lavishing their partner with affection, attention, and praise. This phase is designed to make the partner feel deeply appreciated and valued.

However, the narcissist gradually transitions into the devaluation stage, criticizing, belittling, and undermining their partner. This shift in behavior can lead to feelings of self-doubt, confusion, and worthlessness in the partner.

The discard stage follows, during which the narcissist abruptly ends the relationship or significantly reduces contact with their partner. This sudden change leaves the partner feeling rejected and abandoned.

In the final stage, hoovering, the narcissist attempts to pull the partner back into the relationship. This phase may involve promises of change, displays of affection, or even acts of manipulation.

Understanding the  is paramount for individuals entangled with a narcissist. It equips them with the knowledge to recognize abuse patterns and seek help. To better understand the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle, refer to our resources and this helpful explainer video.

Printable Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

Download this Narcissistic Abuse Cycle to equip clients with the knowledge to recognize abuse patterns and seek help.

How to use the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle:

The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle is an invaluable tool to help individuals understand and navigate relationships with narcissists. Here are the key steps to effectively use this resource:

  1. Stage Identification: The first step involves understanding and recognizing the four stages of the cycle - idealization, devaluation, discard, and hoovering. Each stage has distinctive traits that help you identify where you may be in the cycle.
  1. Pattern Observation: Once you know the stages, closely observe the behavior patterns that align with these phases. This could involve sudden shifts from excessive praise to harsh criticism or abrupt withdrawal of attention and affection.
  1. Incident Documentation: It is crucial to document instances of selfish behavior whenever they occur. This record is tangible evidence of the abuse cycle, making recognizing the patterns and validating your experiences easier.
  1. Professional Consultation: If you suspect that you are caught in a narcissistic abuse cycle, seek the assistance of a mental health professional. A trained therapist or counselor can provide you with the necessary guidance, support, and resources to cope with the situation.

By following these steps, you can effectively use the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle to recognize patterns of narcissism, understand their impacts, and seek appropriate help.

Our printable Narcissistic Abuse Cycle is a handy reference guide as you navigate the complexities of narcissistic abuse.

Narcissistic Abuse Cycles Example (sample)

To better understand the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle, let's examine a fictitious yet representative scenario involving two characters: John, who exhibits narcissistic traits, and Mary, who finds herself caught in the cycle of abuse.

In the initial stage of their relationship, the Idealization Phase, John goes out of his way to make Mary feel special. He showers her with compliments, presents her with thoughtful gifts, and devotes extraordinary attention to her. Mary, basking in this adoration, feels loved and cherished, believing she has found the perfect partner.

However, this affectionate facade gradually crumbles as John transitions into the Devaluation Phase. He begins to nitpick at Mary's actions, criticizing her for minor mistakes and demeaning her efforts. This constant belittlement makes Mary question her self-worth, leaving her confused and emotionally drained.

Without warning, John then moves into the Discard Phase, where he suddenly cuts off contact with Mary. He withdraws his attention and affection, leaving Mary feeling rejected, abandoned, and distressed.

Just as Mary starts grappling with this abrupt change, John reenters her life during the Hoovering Phase. He appears remorseful, apologizing profusely for his behavior and making promises of change. Drawn in by his seemingly sincere regret, Mary finds herself back in the relationship, hopeful of a positive transformation. Unfortunately, this cycle repeats, plunging Mary into recurring emotional turmoil that characterizes the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle.

Understanding and recognizing such patterns can empower individuals like Mary to seek help and break free from this toxic cycle. For a detailed analysis of the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle, you can download our comprehensive Narcissistic Abuse Cycle PDF.

Download this Narcissistic Abuse Cycle Example: 

Narcissistic Abuse Cycles Example (sample)

When would you use this Form?

The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle is a critical resource that serves multiple purposes, primarily in mental health and personal relationships. This tool is particularly beneficial for individuals who suspect they may be entangled in a relationship with a person exhibiting narcissistic traits and mental health practitioners aiding those affected by narcissistic abuse.

  • For Individuals in Relationships: The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle can be an eye-opener for those in confusing, emotionally tumultuous relationships. It can help identify patterns of idealization, devaluation, discarding, and hoovering characteristic of narcissistic abuse. By recognizing these patterns, individuals can better understand their situation and seek appropriate help. This cycle can also validate their experiences, helping them break free from self-blame and doubt.
  • For Mental Health Practitioners: Therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals can use the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle as a guiding tool when working with clients who may be victims of narcissistic abuse. This resource can assist in explaining the complex dynamics of such relationships to clients, helping them recognize the abuse cycle. Moreover, it can also provide a structured framework to develop therapeutic strategies to empower clients to break free from the cycle.

The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle is valuable when dealing with relationships marred by narcissistic behaviors. It aids in understanding the complex dynamics of such relationships, validating personal experiences, and formulating effective coping strategies.


The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle is a powerful tool that offers numerous benefits, especially for individuals in relationships with narcissists. Here are some key advantages of understanding and using this cycle:

  1. Enhanced Awareness: By studying the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle, individuals can gain insight into the patterns of narcissistic abuse. This increased awareness can help identify such patterns in their relationships.
  1. Empowerment: Knowledge of the cycle can equip individuals with the tools to seek professional help. It enables them to take proactive steps towards breaking free from the cycle of abuse, fostering a sense of personal empowerment.
  1. Prevention: Understanding the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle can be a preventative measure. It can dissuade individuals from entering similar, potentially harmful relationships in the future.
  1. Validation of Experiences: The cycle can provide much-needed validation for those grappling with the confusing dynamics of a relationship with a narcissist. It reassures them that their experiences are not isolated incidents but part of a recognized pattern of abuse.
  1. Therapeutic Guidance: The cycle offers a structured framework for mental health professionals to guide therapeutic interventions. It aids in developing effective strategies to support clients dealing with narcissistic abuse.
  1. Educational Resource: The Narcissistic Abuse Cycle is an educational resource for those seeking to understand the complexities of narcissistic relationship behaviors.

We have a free Narcissistic Abuse Cycle that can help you enhance your understanding of narcissistic abuse and equip you with the knowledge to navigate such situations effectively.

Research & Evidence

The concept of the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle is supported by a substantial body of research, primarily aimed at understanding the dynamics of relationships with individuals exhibiting narcissistic traits and the impact of such relationships on victims.

Historically, the study of narcissistic abuse has evolved significantly. Early research focused on identifying narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), with scholars like Rothstein providing detailed accounts of the origins of NPD. Over time, researchers started exploring the abusive patterns inherent in relationships with narcissists.

For instance, studies have shown a clear link between childhood physical abuse and aggression, often associated with shame and narcissistic vulnerability. Further research has also established associations between childhood abuse, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, and Cluster B personality traits, including narcissism.

Additionally, research has highlighted the significant role of disclosure and response to disclosure in the pathogenic impact of childhood trauma, including sexual abuse. This further underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing narcissistic abuse.

More recently, the focus has shifted towards understanding the implications of narcissistic abuse for mental health nursing practice. Findings suggest understanding and formulating narcissistic abuse should be integral to mental health nursing.

A wealth of research and evidence supports the use of the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle in identifying patterns of narcissistic abuse and seeking appropriate help. The cycle is a crucial resource for victims and mental health professionals, aiding recognition, intervention, and recovery from narcissistic abuse.

Why use Carepatron as your Narcissistic Abuse Cycle app?

When navigating the complexities of the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle, it's crucial to have a reliable and user-friendly platform to assist in understanding and documenting this process. Carepatron is an exceptional choice, offering myriad benefits as your Narcissistic Abuse Cycle software.

  • Simplicity and Ease of Use: At Carepatron, software should facilitate, not complicate, your work. Our Narcissistic Abuse Cycle app is designed with a user-friendly interface that requires no extensive training. This simplicity allows you to focus more on what's important – understanding and managing the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle, rather than spending time learning how to use our software.
  • Globally Compliant EHR: Carepatron meets worldwide security requirements, including HIPAA, GDPR, and HITRUST. We understand the sensitive nature of the information involved in documenting the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle. Hence, our robust security measures ensure your work remains safe and secure.
  • Collaboration Made Easy: Carepatron is built with collaboration at its core. Our app facilitates seamless sharing across your team, professional network, and clients, making it feel like everyone is in the same room. This feature especially benefits mental health professionals navigating the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle.
  • Global Trust: Carepatron is trusted worldwide and supports a global community of users. We are committed to delivering beautiful experiences daily, making us an ideal choice for managing the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle.

Carepatron is an intuitive, globally compliant, and collaborative platform for handling the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle. It's not just an app; it's a comprehensive solution designed to help individuals and healthcare teams understand, document, and manage narcissistic abuse effectively. Choose Carepatron today and experience the difference.

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Commonly asked questions


Individuals who suspect they are in a relationship with a narcissist or mental health professionals working with such individuals.

When are Narcissistic Abuse Cycles used?

Narcissistic Abuse Cycles are used when there is a suspicion of narcissistic abuse in a relationship.

How are Narcissistic Abuse Cycles used?

Narcissistic Abuse Cycles are used to identify patterns of behavior that characterize narcissistic abuse.

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