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What is Psychological Abuse?

Updated: Apr 15

As seen in APeeling in November 2020

When someone is physically assaulted it is easy for us to believe the person is abused and needs help. However, when the abuse is psychological it can be easy to dismiss as over sensitive or looking for sympathy instead of help.

The person may not know they are being abused and slowly, over time their self-esteem is worn down until they believe they don’t matter, are unworthy of help, and are numb to the humiliation and degradation. They may even welcome it because it feels normal to them due to conditioning over time.

To undermine your self esteem, the abuser will humiliate and criticize constantly to reinforce the idea that you are nothing. An abuser may constantly call you stupid or have a derogatory “pet name” for you. They will do their best to assassinate your character by saying you are not “good enough” by accusing you of “always” being something negative, incapable of being successful, or unworthy of good things. Words hurt and a psychological abuser will use their words to demean and break down the person they claim to love.

Psychological abusers will not hit you with their fists, but they will with their voice. They will yell, throw things, pound their fists to scare you and make you feel weak. They will threaten you with violence or something you are scared of like being alone or losing the kids. They will embarrass you in public and push your buttons every chance they get.

At the core of psychological abuse is control and they will do anything to ensure they control you. Monitoring your whereabouts and digitally spying on you so they can find something you are doing wrong and punish you for it as if you were a child. They may even make important decisions for you, like taking control of your finances to make you ask them for money.

Abusers have insecurities and they want to ensure you are beneath them in everything so they will blame, accuse, and deny ensuring they are right, and you are wrong. They will blame you for their abusive behaviours, it’s all your fault they are like this, they are really good, but you make them bad. Or they will deny their abusive behaviour all together and tell you that you are imagining things. They will gaslight you by making you question what you know to be true. You agreed that if you bathed the kids, he’d read them a bedtime story. When it comes time to read the story, he says you never agreed to that and continue until you think you’re crazy. They will blame you for their problems. It’s your fault they have to stay at a job they hate, even if you found them one, they’d love but they choose not to take it.

It is all about them and they will emotionally abuse you to ensure their feelings are more important than yours. They will demand you respect them, but they don’t need to respect you. They ignore you when you need them or get angry if they have to help you. Some will isolate you from friends and family to ensure you are dependent on them and alone without them. Your feelings mean nothing to them, they will ignore your pain and say you are being “silly” for feeling a certain way.

Fear is at the core of psychological abuse. The abuser uses fear to keep the abused person under their control. The abuser is also scared of being alone, losing them, or being seen as they see themselves.

There are resources out there for people who are abused to help them to break free and to heal.

It takes time to heal and those around you may want to help you, hear you, or wait for you to be better. Friends and family may expect you to be the person they think you are, even though you are far from it. This is why it is important to find resources, meet other people who have gone through what you have, and take time to be alone to discover who you are.

Please Google Psychological Abuse to find information written by professional psychologists who are trained in psychological abuse for more information and talk to a professional.

If you think you are a victim of psychological abuse, please talk to someone. If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, please just listen to them and keep your judgements to yourself. Once they are ready to get help, they will feel safe to come to you. That said, don't enable them or their abuser either by agreeing with them about their situation. This is a difficult position to be in and there are professionals who will help you understand the best action to take for your situation.

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