Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Recognizing Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships

Think abuse is only physical? Think again. Often times when we hear of domestic abuse we immediately picture a battered woman struggling with the fear that her partner has instilled in her; but beware! The scars left behind from domestic abuse are not always visible to the naked eye. Many
Woman slumped over a ledge looking dejected or depressed
people, both men and women, sit in abusive relationships and do not even realize that they are being abused. These persons might be experiencing emotional abuse and the effects of this run deep psychologically.


What is emotional abuse?

According to Wikipedia, emotional abuse, also called psychological or mental abuse, is a type of abuse where a person subjects another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma including anxiety, chronic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In terms of intimate relationships, there are spouses who will tailor their actions in a way so as to manipulate the emotions of their partners.   To do this, they employ tactics such as fear, guilt, shame, intimidation and isolation on their victims. Emotional abuse can be just as or sometimes even more damaging than physical abuse. The scars are not easily healed and may forever live with a victim. However, the first step to change is recognizing the abuse.


Why do they do this?

Simple. To gain amd maintain control over you. Why teach you to drive when he can take you wherever he wants you to go whenever he wants you to go? Why let you help make any major decisions when it might inspire you to gain independence? They have to he in control, have to dominate. Sometimes they are insecure and use psychological abuse to try to make sure that their fear does not come true. For instance, a woman who is fearful that her man might leave her may try to tear at his self esteem by telling him that he is fat and ugly. With his low self esteem, he just might stay in line and not seek after any other female.

The strategies that these mental abusers use are said to be similar to those which prison guards use on prisoners. The guards know that it is difficult to overpower and control prisoners physically for any meaningful amount of time. So, they attack them psychologically. It is in this same way that emotional abuse victims feel like prisoners of war. They are reduced to having only animal level concerns; just surviving. No space for independent thought or activity.

Man, leaning on a tree, with far away look in his eyes

Emotional abuse is not prejudiced to any one group. It appears in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It even breaks the barriers of ethnicity and economic status. It also spans over all age groups.   Men are mostly found to be abusers but do not be fooled, women do it too.


The signs of emotional abuse

Here are some of the signs you can look out for when trying to analyze for emotional abuse.

If your partner:

·        Always threatens you or others close to you, such as family, to get you to do what you are told
·        Constantly belittles you and criticizes your looks, weight, dress
·        Yells and humiliates you
·        Discourages any independent activity such as work, school or going out with friends
·        Always accuses you of being unfaithful if you speak to someone of the opposite sex
·        Forces you to perform sexual activities which you are uncomfortable with to prove your love or withholds sex
·        Uses the children too; undermines your authority or threatens to leave with them if you do not do what you are told
·        Maintains complete control over the finances
·        Makes all major decisions like where to live or where the children go to school
·        Constantly shifts blame to you
·        Manipulates and sets  up even family members against you

If you:

·        Have a constant fear for your partner
·        Experience feelings of self loathing, helplessness and desperation
·        Try to avoid certain topics so as not to anger your spouse
·        Lack confidence; feel like you cannot make it without your partner
·        Feel stressed out but not sure why
·        Feel like there is no way out
·        Wondering if you are the one going crazy

A woman crying

I can imagine that emotional abuse must be a terrible experience to go through. Mental abuse plays with your psyche. It slowly chips away at your self esteem and autonomy. All that is left is a shadow of yourself. Someone who is incapable of thinking rationally. Someone who lacks confidence and has no good sense of self worth. As a result, you suffer from anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness and loneliness. If you recognize these signs in yourself or someone else, seek help. The quicker you get help, the faster you will regain your life. 

For further reading, you could check out this article I found How to deal with emotional abuse. It has a very comprehensive look at how to handle and cope with such abuse.



Photo credit: images courtesy of morguefile