Catching FLEAS from narcissists and abusers. (reblogged from Nyssa’s Hobbit Hole)


When I was Googling “fleas and narcissists” for the previous article, I learned something new. It’s also something I very much have been needing to know, due to my worries lately about my own narcissistic behaviors.

The article, reposted from Nyssa’s Hobbit Hole, decribes the way a long-term relationship with a narcissist can lead to a condition in their victims called FLEAS. I have never heard this term used before, but apparently it’s part of the narcissistic abuse lexicon, and refers to the bad or narcissistic behaviors ACONs and other abuse survivors have picked up from the narcissists who influenced or raised them. These behaviors, unlike those of a true narcissist, can be unlearned. Here is the article in its entirety.

Catching FLEAS from Narcissists and Abusers
By Nyssa (“Clarissa Harlowe,” pseudonym)


I have caught my own FLEAS while dealing with Tracy.

Sometimes, we who have been targeted by the abuses of a narcissist, wonder if we, too, are now narcissists. It can be catching, especially if we are raised by narcs.

But the recovery community uses the term “fleas” to describe our own harmful behaviors, picked up from the narcs, but which do not mean we ourselves are narcs. The trick is to figure out whether you are a narc yourself, or just have “fleas” which you can kill off with a good flea bath.

As posted in FLEAS – Bad Behavior Patterns and Habits Picked Up from Living or Dealing with a Narcissist by Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers:

Now, you may not have NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). Some children of Narcissists do, and some don’t. Let’s say you don’t, but you were raised by someone who did/does. Therefore you have some issues that can take the shape of NPD – like a shadow or a snow angel, or even an echo.

You’ll have some issues in the same sorts of areas that Narcissism occupies, because you picked up these fleas FROM a Narcissist.

…..But you don’t have NPD.

What you have is the shadow – “maladaptive behaviors”, as psychologists call them, the unhelpful patterns you have been taught, and which you have had to resort all your life.

And they are glued in, most often, by the shame you have been made to carry.

What you have is nicknamed “FLEAS.” They’re the bad behavior patterns and habits we picked up from living with a nutcase who had total and unhealthy control over us. They are the pain and guilt and crazy patterns we had to take on as children in order to just survive. And they’re completely un-learnable. (Meaning, you can un-learn them!)

One of the most common issues that newbies demonstrate is a tremendous fear that they themselves have NPD.

It’s a perfectly understandable fear. All human beings do Narcissistic things, and when DoNM’s who don’t have NPD recognize and acknowledge their own self-centered behaviors, they sometimes worry that they have NPD.

They feel guilty about possibly having hurt someone’s feelings, been self-centered, etc., and they panic. It can really be upsetting, even terrifying. And they beat themselves up mercilessly for it – because that’s what they’ve been taught to do.

You’ll notice that I said, “Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers who don’t have NPD”…

In order for someone to recognize, acknowledge and feel guilty about their own Narcissistic behaviors, they first have to have a level of empathy and sense of emotional responsibility that Narcissists, by definition, do not possess.

On the DoNM forum, the usual response to such a person is, ‘If you’re that worried about the impact of your behavior on others, and you’re willing to publicly share your fear of being NPD, trust us — you don’t have NPD… you just have FLEAS.’ “


Violet writes in Am I a Narcissist, Too? All About Fleas:

We can pick up fleas anywhere. I have seen things on FaceBook, people saying really hurtful, mean things about LGBT people, about people of colour, about the poor and disadvantaged, about women, and they are absolutely shameless about it.

Some of these people are narcissists, but others have picked up fleas from narcissistic politicians, pastors, or other authority figures they either revere or fear. Taken out of that environment and shown how their words and attitudes actually hurt other living, breathing human beings, some of these people will feel shame for what they said and the hurt they caused.

Others will not, and they will rationalize and justify what they said, even blame their victims for their hurt (I have actually seen someone say that feeling hurt by the words of a bully is a choice, that you can choose not to be hurt and therefore what the bullies say and do is OK!) : these people are most likely narcissists.
I’ve seen versions of this as well. For example, statements that we choose to be offended by others; that we can simply stop being offended. Or, “I’m not responsible for your emotions.”

There are different ways people mean this, however. The first was said in the context of, Yes, what they said is offensive, but you can choose your own reactions–thereby not giving the offender power over you.

The second, I’ve seen used as an excuse to do whatever you want, because it’s the other person’s fault if they’re offended. It was said by Richard to me, after I told him he was doing some things that hurt me. I forget what they were, just that it was close to the time we broke off the friendship, and that he basically took the responsibility for my being hurt off his shoulders, putting it on mine. ???!!!

I’ve seen it in other places as well, the excuse that if we hurt somebody, it’s their fault for being hurt. That’s very narcissistic, and goes against everything my husband and I were taught growing up. It’s yet another sign that I’ve pegged Richard correctly as a narcissist.

If you’ve hurt and offended someone, the very least you can do is apologize for hurting them, even if you don’t feel your action was wrong in and of itself. You can listen to how you can avoid hurting that person again.

Sure there are times when that person was offended by an innocent action which should not be offensive (ie, offended by a gay man kissing his partner in public, or offended by an introvert who means well but is quiet, or offended by a woman breastfeeding her baby at the mall).

But oftentimes, the offensive act could simply be avoided next time.

Tracy, too, as I saw time and again, would justify whatever she did, even though it hurt others. She hurt Todd, so she justified it as his fault. She hurt me, so to this day she justifies her actions as “nothing wrong” and talks like my being hurt is somehow “childish.”

Even Richard told me back in February 2008, Good luck getting an apology out of her, because she rarely apologizes to anyone, thinking whatever she does is justified. I don’t have the e-mail in front of me and don’t recall if I kept it, but I still remember it.

(I remember thinking when I got it, “I don’t want to deal with that woman anymore!” This was the first time I seriously thought about breaking off the friendship.)

She used Richard’s past abuses of the children to justify her own abuses of the children (I have an e-mail proving this). Which means she’s like this to everybody: me, Todd, even Richard. And this is one of the signs of a narcissist, according to the above.

There is more good stuff in that blog post, explaining how we can tell if we’re narcissists or have just picked up some “fleas”–and how to eradicate those fleas.


From the website Out of the Fog (Fear, Obligation, Guilt):

Fleas – When a non-personality-disordered individual (Non-PD) begins imitating or emulating some of the disordered behavior of a loved one or family member with a personality disorder this is sometimes referred to as “getting fleas”….

Sometimes, when a person has been exposed to an abusive situation for a sustained period, they will look for ways to escape – and sometimes they will experiment or resort to behaviors which are not characteristic but serve as a mechanism to demonstrate their anger.

These behaviors are often destructive and counter-productive and rarely get the abuse victim what they want. These behaviors usually result in regret, shame and apologies from the abuse victim towards their perpetrator. Some perpetrators may seize on such incidents as justification for their own abusive behavior or as a diversion from it….

However, most Non-PD’s are more accustomed to “keeping the peace” than being aggressors and most of us are not comfortable or accomplished in winning arguments or fights.

We will often back down or feel remorse after lashing out. We may begin to compare our behavior to that of the person with the personality disorder and wonder if we are the ones who have “the” problem.

It is common for Non-PD’s to begin to question if they are the one who suffers from a personality disorder. It is also common for Non-PD’s to greatly fear retribution after an angry outburst and engage in a manipulative campaign, similar to hoovering to try to deflect consequences or payback.


To read the rest of this post, please see the rest of Nyssa’s article here.

For more about how Narcissists can give you FLEAS, read this article, “The Shocking Truth: Staying with a Narcissist can Give You Fleas” from Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed.

That’s enough about fleas and FLEAS for one night. I’m getting itchy.

24 thoughts on “Catching FLEAS from narcissists and abusers. (reblogged from Nyssa’s Hobbit Hole)

  1. Thank you for liking my post. Please note that “Clarissa Harlowe” is not my name, but the name of a favorite character from a book. And please shorten what’s posted here, with a “read more” link at the bottom, so I can get the traffic. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is why I don’t believe in therapy. I was once taken aside so the therapist could give me shit on how offensive I was at a group meeting for self-esteem. I was so clueless, and what I needed was to take a step back and be taught something else. I couldn’t be around people without being offensive. So help me with that, don’t blame me for something that I learned. But she didn’t know if I only learned it, or if I was a narcissist. Just gave me shit. They don’t know anything, they can’t do their job, they are useless!

    Another thing I’ve been thinking about with regards to fleas, that maybe I cover up or try to act invulnerable, or be defensive. I’ve been trying to let my old guard down, because I know this behaviour comes from being attacked all the time. In a sociopathic household, you have to be ready for anything. But, when you go out in the real world and try to act that way, the consequences can be horrible. It will attract more narcissists to you. you can only be around narcs at that point. So what I had to learn was to allow myself to be vulnerable.

    Because if you try to be with a real man, who is all about paying the bills, making a life, and you treat him like a narcissist, he will be offended.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sorry that you experienced such bull sh*t from a therapist. I am also hesitant for the whole therapy thing. I am a nurse…I’ve been trained to “therapeutically communicate” with psychology patients…so, don’t freaking do that to me. And what makes me think you even know what youre talking about? I have a really bad issue with making therapists first tell me about themselves first. I need to know you’ve been through something. Show me YOUR scars. If you don’t have any, you can’t even begin to understand mine.

      I did meet one. She was a recovering alcoholic, use to be a practicing nurse, now therapist who was hard headed for the hard headed. She was incredible. After a while became too pricey especially after douche bag put me in debt after the divorce… If it weren’t for her, though, I wouldn’t have (at least for a while) allowed myself to believe this whole narcissist thing. She basically sat me down threw it in my face, made me see the correlations. Made me accept it. I couldn’t leave the session until I was in tears. That might not be some peoples preference in therapy but, hot damn, that’s how you get err done with me.

      Other than that…I don’t have enough time to scout out therapists and wait till i find which one I like the most. It’s a long and expensive process. I’ve had one who never called back after I had “suicidal ideation” but, no plan……LITERALLY. no one called me back. AND the therapist I had before the husband screwed my “best friend” AND THEN wanted marital counseling because before, “everything was fine, you’re the one with a problem. not me” we went to the same woman I had been seeing for extensive grief I had been going through. OH but yet a few weeks later they’re emailing about me. HIGHLY ILLEGAL. Talking about my individual sessions with her that did not involve him… (he was trying to get her to diagnose me as psychotic….) I decided not to show to my appointment with her, see if she called him and asked where I was seeing as by law she couldn’t legally acknowledge I was even a client of hers outside of marital counseling. She didn’t call to see where I was, she called him. Found out they were having an inappropriate relationship outside of therapy. Soooo yeah if a therapist buys in to my narcissistic ex husbands bull shit I really don’t know how she thinks should could help me get over it? Sucks, because I think this profession is a highly respectable one when the professional is a PROFESSIONAL.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s horrible. That must have felt so violating. In my city, if you are taken to an emergency mental health facility, they talk to your spouse, and I don’t feel that is right. And with me they used everything he said, nothing I had said, to diagnose me.

        I actually had to go elsewhere, outside of therapists, for help. I now believe I have all the tools I need for recovery or at least to have a good life.

        Liked by 1 person

        • that totally is not right! sure, outside comments surely help. WHEN SOMEONE IS COMPLETELY UNORIENTED IN A PSYCHOSIS!!! Even then… subjective data is the only thing credible. for these purposes exactly. I am so sorry to hear that happened as well. but I am also way happier to hear you’ve found the help you needed and that you feel comfortable/safe with them.

          as for my situation, violated is a perfect emotion to describe how I felt. violated, used, fearful everyone was against me…& more so extremely hurt. for once I TRUSTED a counselor. I thought that healing of grief before all else happened was finally in the process… but, thank GOD I found their emails before our marital sessions went any further. for that, I am thankful. I should have reported the psych, especially being a medical professional myself, but given I was still extremely gas lighted I wasn’t FOR SURE I had a premise. oh well. thank God THATS over!!! The best of wishes to you & your healing!!! ❤️

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Love this… I am pretty knew in my healing but this is something that I’ve wondered often… more so because, he would accuse me of things during our divorce that I now know, were his doings and his behaviors, not my own. But essentially, he accused me of doing narcissistic abusive things to HIM…and I get nauseas at the thought that, okay well…yeah. Sure I did that this one time and that really isn’t considered NOT narcissistic abuse. I don’t see those in myself any longer. I don’t think, well I know, this fight is long from over so I know that it definitely might be something I notice later on. So thank you…thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gaslighting 101. My ex did exactly the same thing–got all his flying monkeys (INCLUDING MY KIDS!) to side with him that I was insane, I was the crazy one, I was selfish, I was a narcissist.

      Like you, when we went to marriage counseling (which was MY idea!), he was able to get the marriage counselor to side with HIM– both of them thought I was the pathological one with anger and control issues. He was very good at charming the crap out of anyone he wanted to. I don’t have that talent, and so it was me that always got scapegoated and blamed for everything that went wrong in the marriage.

      Liked by 1 person

      • geez…. talk about dejavu !!! Same here with the monkeys. including my best friends since KINDERGARTEN who KNEW me better. he was quite the charmer. marital counseling at first was my idea bc I just wasn’t happy- couldn’t explain why. but I wanted counseling. “no you’re the one with the depression or whatever. im fine. you’re the one who needs help not me”….
        until he screwed my best friend bridesmaid in our house while I was on a weekend “me” trip. ohhhh did he want counseling, nightly prayer and meditations, date night once a week…yadayada. all the things he had zero time for before he screwed the whore. at first, the counselor didn’t of course side with anyone. but he stole the mic each session and she really got to see his irrational and unrealistic expectations and explanations … he got angry bc as he said, she singled him out and not me. Well, my dear, let me talk for once and maybe she might single me out. until he decided since we couldn’t not fight during our sessions we should have an individual session this day, me another in the same week….then next week one all together. yeaaaah that individual session he did a 360- he suddenly “misunderstood her”, thought she was great and had an awesome session. next thing I know we get emails with “weekly plans”. TOTALLY thought of and compiled by him. but in her words through her email. I was blown away which sparked my suspicion. charmer is such an understatement. too nice of a term also.

        but yeah. im the insane one. psycho, as he said “pseudologica fantastica” is what I have. im an “amazing talker. I can get anyone to be on my side although it’s manipulation and delusion. nothing I say is true or reality. nothing I think happened, every really happened. and if I think something is a good move for myself next & I plan to do it- his caring advice- DONT. bc I don’t know what’s good for myself. I think it’s good but it’s not. im delusional.”

        yeah I am proud i stayed somewhat mentally there to tell him that was insane and I wasn’t buying his attempts to disrupt my self trust. it did and still does at times but he doesn’t get to know that. and as far as the marital fail goes…he screwed my bridesmaid in our house in our marital bed. but don’t worry, I am the reason we divorced. all me. his inlaws, I don’t even know what they were told but they never even said a word to me during or after. they hated me THAT much. at least his story must be a juicy one👌

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Marilyn Munrow and commented:
    Oh no, i appear to have a Flea as you call it of the same name who is itching me right now. Oh dear. Tracy tracy tracy. You are a flea. hahahahahaha Oh i am so sorry. This is a wonderful blog as usual Otter. Just came at the right time for me. You are kind and caring, No you are not a narc. But it seems that some Tracy’s are.


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