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Narcissistic Financial Abuse Signs You Should Know (and Ways to Cope)

5 min.

Controlling a person’s finances is a type of narcissistic abuse. Keep reading for how to recognize and overcome narcissistic financial abuse.

By: Alex Bachert, MPH

Clinically Reviewed By: Don Gasparini Ph.D., M.A., CASAC

March 11, 2024


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Table of Contents

If you or someone you know is experiencing any type of abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) for anonymous, confidential help available 24/7.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition where people have an inflated self-image and exploit others for personal gain. This exploitation varies based on how NPD manifests, with most people classified as either overt or covert narcissists. An overt narcissist tends to utilize blatant abuse tactics like domestic violence or verbal abuse, whereas a covert narcissist usually prefers subtle control tactics like emotional blackmail or psychological abuse. 

One form of abuse typically favored by a covert narcissist is narcissistic financial abuse—when an abuser uses money or financial resources to manipulate or control another person, such as a partner, child, or other family member. With financial abuse, narcissists have control over the other person’s ability to earn, use, or maintain financial resources. Below, we delve into signs of narcissistic abuse and how to heal from this kind of abuse. 

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Six types of narcissistic financial abuse

Some aspects of financial abuse may seem obvious, such as one person maintaining sole control of all bank accounts. But more covert financial abuse, like sabotaging your chances of getting a promotion, can be more difficult to detect. Below, we share six examples of narcissist financial abuse. 

1. Controlling finances

One example of narcissistic financial abuse is when someone controls all aspects of your finances. By managing your bank accounts, credit cards, and investments, a narcissist can control your options, decisions, and overall autonomy. This manipulation even extends to them withholding important financial information, such as bank account passwords.

They might try to frame it as though they’re doing you a favor, such as: “Let me handle our finances so you don’t have stress over it and can focus on more important things.” But for financial abusers, this is actually a way to restrict financial freedom and maintain control in the relationship. 

2. Financial gaslighting 

Gaslighting is a common tactic used by narcissists. For example, they might make you second-guess a financial decision or accuse you of being irresponsible with money. They may accuse you of being greedy when they’re actually the ones spending without regard.

Because narcissists often lack empathy, they may also exploit your generosity for their own benefit. For example, they’re happy to accept your money without offering anything in return. 

3. Creating debt 

Another form of financial abuse is creating debt in another person’s name. Here are a few other examples of how narcissists can create debt problems: 

  • They’ll purchase items with your credit cards so that they own the assets, but the debt is in your name
  • They’ll take out a line of credit in your name
  • They’ll max out your credit cards without your knowledge
  • They’ll intentionally ruin your credit rating to limit your financial freedom in the future 

4. Sabotaging employment 

With financial abuse, a narcissist will do everything they can to prevent you from having a job or earning your own income. For example, they try to get you fired by taking your keys so you’re late to work or harassing you at your place of employment. They may also try to sabotage your potential for advancement by talking you out of promotions or causing confrontations right before an important meeting or interview. 

5. Financial monitoring

Another form of abuse is monitoring a person’s spending and questioning all financial decisions, even when it’s that person’s money. For example, a narcissist may demand that you ask permission to make purchases, even necessary items like groceries, or show receipts after a trip to the store. 

6. Having financial double standards

Hypocrisy is common among narcissists, which can become increasingly clear in cases of financial abuse. They can freely spend money on whatever they want, but they’ll criticize you for even the most basic of purchases. Another example is when a narcissist spends large amounts of money to impress other people but is then stingy or protective of their money in private. 

The effects of narcissistic financial abuse

Financial abuse is just one of several ways that narcissists exert power and control over others. Any type of narcissistic abuse can have a significant impact on your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Here are a few ways that researchers say financial abuse can affect your mental health, financial future, and quality of life. 

Low self-esteem

Constant criticism and manipulation can eventually have a major impact on a person’s self-esteem and self-worth. For example, making people feel responsible for financial burdens or troubles can cause feelings of shame and guilt. 

Mental health problems

Enduring narcissistic financial abuse can be a traumatic experience. And, when left unaddressed, it may lead to additional health struggles, such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, and difficulty regulating emotions.

Financial concerns

Financial abuse can cause credit card debt, loss of assets, and other wealth-related concerns. Over time, this instability and abuse can affect your financial independence, safety, and security.

Reduced quality of life

Eventually, financial abuse can interfere with your quality of life, making it difficult to manage work or school, daily tasks, and other relationships. 

How to heal from narcissistic financial abuse

If you or someone you know is experiencing financial abuse or any other type of abuse, consider seeking professional support. 

Talk therapy is one way that people can learn to manage and overcome traumatic experiences, such as narcissistic financial abuse. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in particular, can empower people to challenge unhealthy behaviors and beliefs and replace them with more helpful alternatives. For example, feelings of anxiety and self-doubt may be replaced by increased confidence, control, and self-worth. 

A woman is healing from narcissistic financial abuse she experienced in her relationship.

Another tip for healing from financial abuse is to surround yourself with a strong support system. Whether it’s friends, family, mental health professionals, a divorce coach, or colleagues, having people you can trust is essential to working through moments of fear, vulnerability, and doubt.

Narcissistic abuse treatment at Charlie Health

If you’re a survivor of narcissistic financial abuse or any other type of emotional abuse, Charlie Health is here to help. Our virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) provides personalized, more than once-weekly therapy for young people dealing with complex mental health struggles, including trauma and emotional abuse. Our expert clinicians incorporate evidence-based, trauma-informed therapies into individual counseling, family therapy, and group sessions. With this kind of holistic treatment, healing your mental health from a toxic relationship is possible. Fill out the form below or give us a call to start healing today.

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