Adrenal Fatigue After Narcissistic Abuse

Adrenal Fatigue After Narcissistic Abuse (10 Recovery Tips)

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Adrenal fatigue is currently not a recognised medical diagnosis, yet many of those in the narcissistic abuse recovery community stand as proof of its existence.

Adrenal fatigue is a term used to describe a combination of extreme tiredness among other symptoms centred around a chronic long-term lack of energy.

It seems that adrenal fatigue after narcissistic abuse is more prevalent on the flip side of the abusive relationship, once the body has been removed from the perpetual state of stress and can finally relax.

If you think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue after narcissistic abuse, but you’re not sure what it actually is, you’re in the right place.

Let’s explore what adrenal fatigue is, why the abuse caused it and how to heal so that you can move forward into the free and peaceful life you deserve.

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Adrenal Fatigue Explained


What Are Adrenal Glands?

The adrenal glands sit just on top of the kidneys, producing many important hormones, including cortisol, aldosterone and adrenaline.

These adrenal hormones help regulate several bodily functions including metabolism, blood pressure and the body’s response to stress.

What each hormone does


  • Helps control the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates
  • Suppresses inflammation
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Increases blood sugar
  • Helps control the sleep-wake cycle

The adrenal glands release cortisol during times of stress to help your body get an energy boost and be able to handle the crisis.


  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Regulates levels of sodium and potassium (electrolytes) in the blood

The adrenal glands release aldosterone to help regulate your blood pH by controlling the levels of electrolytes in your blood.

Adrenaline & Noradrenaline

  • The “fight or flight” hormones
  • Increase heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, dilated pupils, looking flushed or pale etc.

The adrenal glands often release these hormones when you’re in physically and emotionally stressful situations.

The Role of the Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands naturally release these hormones in a 24-hour cycle.

The largest amount is secreted in the morning as your body gets up and moving for the day, with the secretions reducing as the day moves on. By the end of the night, only a small amount is being released so that your body can wind down and get ready for sleep.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is when the adrenals are not producing enough of the required hormones to get through the day and function normally. It usually comes about as a result of being in highly stressful circumstances for a prolonged amount of time.

When you’re placed in a stressful situation, your body will release higher amounts of cortisol, aldosterone and adrenaline to help the body respond quickly to the event. Then, once the issue has been dealt with and things calm down, the hormones being released will go back to normal levels.

However, when you’re constantly in a high-stress environment, the body ends up giving lots of extra hormone hits to keep up with the external crises so that you can keep powering on through each day.

Over time, your adrenal glands are unable to keep up with the demands of the continual ‘fight or flight’ response and begin to slow down the hormone production. In other words, they’ve been going too hard for too long and need time out to recover.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

Symptoms will vary from person to person, but here are the general symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue.

  • Fatigue/ exhaustion
  • Afternoon energy crash
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Weakened immune system
  • Getting sick easily & taking longer to recover
  • Lightheadedness when you stand up
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood glucose (hypoglycemia)
  • Poor memory/ brain fog
  • Lack of concentration
  • Sweet or salt cravings
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Always feeling cold
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Digestive issues
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Body aches/ joint pain
  • Irregular/ no menstrual periods
  • Reduced libido
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Adrenal Fatigue After Narcissistic Abuse

Adrenal Fatigue After Narcissistic Abuse

When you’re in a situation where you’re dealing with narcissistic abuse on a regular basis, adrenal fatigue can be a very normal response from the body. This abuse can be from a parent, a partner, a friend or even a coworker or boss.

In the case of growing up with a narcissistic parent or living with a narcissistic partner, the chances of adrenal fatigue are even greater due to living in such a turbulent environment.

How Does Narcissistic Abuse Cause Adrenal Fatigue?

When you were being abused by the narcissist, you were living on constant eggshells.

They programmed you, through intermittent reinforcement, to never know what was coming. They punished you for doing things “wrong,” or not giving them whatever they wanted at that exact moment. Then they doled out ‘rewards’ (breadcrumbs of attention) at random times to keep you on your toes.

One minute the narcissist could seem calm and agreeable, the next, they were losing their shit over some perceived slight that you’re not even sure happened.

They gaslighted you into such confusion that you lost your sense of reality. You ended up with so much self-doubt that you couldn’t even order a takeaway meal without the fear of “getting it wrong.”

The whole point of their abuse was to keep you in a perpetual state of anxiety, always wanting to please them to avoid their punishments. That was how they were so easily able to control and manipulate you.

They primed you to become chemically dependent on them, which created the trauma bond.

READ: What is a Trauma Bond?

The Chemical Addiction

Every time the narcissist punished you, your body went into a state of high stress, releasing a hit of cortisol and adrenaline in order for you to cope. There you sat, in an extreme state of anxiety until the moment the narcissist dished out their ‘reward.’

For them to really get off on their own power they made sure the rewards were delivered randomly so that you never knew when or how they would come. It could have been minutes, hours or even days later.

Over time the rewards got dismally less and less. At first, the reward may have been flowers or dinner. But then, as the months or years wore on, that reward was as simple as them acknowledging your existence as a human being again.

Your body becomes addicted to the highs and lows of the chemicals being released.

Essentially, your body learnt that the narcissist was the only one who could deliver relief from the constant state of anxiety that you found yourself in. Even though they were the very person to have caused the anxiety in the first place, their abuse meant that they were the only ones who could relieve you from your pain by issuing out a ‘reward’ just so that you could feel okay again.

Your nervous system ends up completely fried. It’s all you can do to drag yourself off the couch and keep on top of the daily chores.

Why Does Adrenal Fatigue Kick In After the Abuse?

Most narcissistic abuse victims are living with adrenal fatigue without even being aware of it. The regular boosts of cortisol and adrenalin from still being in a high-stress situation mask the underlying fatigue.

Your headspace is so monopolised with the narcissist’s needs, which they are constantly demanding, that you end up living in a fog. You are so wrapped in surviving each minute, hour and day, that you don’t have the capacity to lift your head and see a bigger picture.

But, more than anything, you probably don’t even recognise that you’re actually in an abusive relationship.

The saddest truth is, that narcissists are so masterful at their manipulations that their victims don’t even recognise they’re being abused.

Don’t get me wrong, being entwined with a narcissist is utterly draining and you no doubt had many moments of exhaustion throughout the relationship, without understanding why.

But once you’re able to get yourself out and over to the other side, your body is finally able to slow down and relax in a way that it never could while in the narcissistically abusive relationship.

I don’t just mean the day you walked out. I’m talking about beyond all of their manipulation tactics to try and hoover you back in or destroy you as a final discard. All of those things can still keep you in that ongoing state of anxiety, receiving regular adrenal hits to survive the narcissist’s relentless attacks from afar.

When you are able to get to a point where you’re free from the narcissist and you don’t need to be living on high alert any more, that’s when adrenal fatigue can really set in.

Your body has been living in ‘fight, flight or freeze’ for so long that your adrenal system is totally spent.

For me, adrenal fatigue didn’t fully set in until a few years after I had left my covert narcissist ex.

It took that long to figure out who he really was, accept and deal with the abusive marriage, divorce the guy, sort out child custody, enforce the lowest amount of contact possible, field off his hoovering tactics and cut out everybody from my life who still had anything to do with him. All while trying to build a business so I had enough income to support myself and the kids.

Only once I could finally breathe after all of that could the Complex PTSD and adrenal fatigue kick in.

By that point, self-care and healing became compulsory rather than just a ‘nice thing to do.’

▶️ VIDEO: Adrenal Fatigue and Narcissistic Abuse

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How to Recover from Adrenal Fatigue After Narcissistic Abuse

Adrenal fatigue after narcissistic abuse is when your adrenals are unable to produce the normal hormone levels that your body requires.

Your adrenals need lots of rest and recovery to recoup, much like all of your mind, body and soul do after narcissistic abuse.

Recovering from adrenal fatigue is about being super gentle with your body and giving it all the time it needs to recover. There is no set time frame and it will be different for everyone.

Healing After Narcissistic Abuse

Here’s how to recover from adrenal fatigue after narcissistic abuse.

1. Sleep

Try and get as much sleep as you can. Our bodies recover and rebuild cells the most when we’re sleeping. This means going to bed at a decent hour and taking daytime naps if possible.

2. Inform Close Friends & Family

It’s important to have some support around you as you heal your adrenal fatigue from narcissistic abuse.

Explain to a few trusted friends and/ or family members that your body is tired and needs time to rest, heal and recover. That way they’ll be more understanding of your need to prioritise rest and will hopefully be less likely to push unnecessary obligations onto you.

3. Clear Out Your Diary

Allow yourself the opportunity to say ‘no’ to commitments and events unless you really want (or must) go to them. If there was ever a time to give yourself permission to catch up on some Netflix or read through a pile of good books, it’s now!

4. Drink Lots of Water

Your endocrine system needs plenty of water to deliver the hormones and nutrients to the cells around your body. So, keep some nice, filtered water handy at all times.

5. Adrenal Fatigue Diet

A common symptom of adrenal fatigue is low glucose levels, which causes us to reach for quick ‘hits’ of energy found in sugar and carbohydrates. Go for foods that have a slow release of energy (Low GI), which will stop the energy crashes and lightheadedness.

This will also reduce the need for your body to release unnecessary shots of cortisol as a stress response to drops in blood sugar, giving the adrenals a better chance to heal.

Adrenal Fatigue Diet foods:

  • Protein – lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes
  • Vegetables – leafy greens & colourful veggies
  • Fruits – low sugar varieties
  • Whole grain carbs – or even try gluten-free
  • Healthy fats – avocado, cheese, fatty fish, nuts, yoghurt, olive oil

6. Gentle Exercise

Gentle exercise is good for general fitness and getting the body moving. It’s also great for mental health and getting yourself into a self-care routine after so long of being made to put the narcissist first.

Anything too strenuous will cause the adrenals to release all of their reserves and you’ll end up having an energy crash. Stick with gentle walking, yoga and simply getting out into nature to recharge.

7. Supplements

Go to the doctor and request a blood test to see if you’re low in any vitamins and minerals. For example, low iron can often be a by-product of adrenal fatigue.

8. Meditation

Regular meditations are a great way to fully relax your mind, body and soul. After the abuse you’ve been through, your body now needs to experience full peace and you deserve nothing less. There are plenty of guided meditations on YouTube. Going to sleep to a meditation at night is a great way to slip off into dreamland.

9. Bath with Magnesium or Epsom Salts

Not only is a bath super relaxing for your body but adding magnesium or Epsom salts to the water will help to restore any dip in magnesium levels, which is common with adrenal fatigue.

10. Practice Daily Self-care

When you were with the narcissist, you were programmed to believe that your needs didn’t matter. I’m here to tell you that your needs matter more than anything, not just now, but moving forward into the rest of your life. If your cup isn’t full, you will never have anything spare to give to those you love.

Find one or multiple self-care routines that you love and make them a ritual. For me, it’s having a long, hot bath with a good book at least three times a week.

The journey to recovery from adrenal fatigue after narcissistic abuse is a beautiful one. It’s your body’s way of making you choose yourself, maybe even for the first time in your life!

▶️ VIDEO: 10 Ways to Heal Adrenal Fatigue

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