‘I study narcissists for a living. Here’s exactly how to spot one.’

“I’ve found that most narcissistic loved ones – such intimate partners or parents – are covert. They infiltrate your life very easily and are just so nice in the beginning. Sometimes even quite shy and introverted. Typically, the last person you’d pick to be abusive.”

When she launched her counselling business in 2012, Brisbane-based Gibson worked with people in all facets. She soon realised that most of her clients were narcissistic abuse victims, so decided to specialise in it. 

Having also been in a relationship with a narcissist, Nova “gets it”. The former social worker has helped more than 4,000 people – including through free Instagram live streams – and hopes to reach thousands more via Fake Love, a handbook for anyone who’s languishing in or is recovering from, narcissistic abuse.

Narcissism is more than a buzzword.

Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional abuse, which, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, affects 23 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men in intimate relationships. Emotional abuse is behaviours intending to manipulate, control, isolate or intimidate a person. These are generally repeated behaviours including psychological, social, financial and verbal abuse. 

Specifically, narcissists might ignore (‘stonewall’) their partners, gaslight them – distorting their reality or making them think they’re in the wrong – incite drama at happy events and find fault in everything the victim does, says Gibson.