Have you suffered from emotional abuse, psychological abuse, mental abuse, verbal abuse, or sexual abuse?
If yes, then you need to know:
- The effects of emotional abuse
- How to heal from emotional abuse
As a professional therapist of 30+ years, I have worked with countless individuals seeking treatment for abuse-related issues.
Healing from emotional abuse is not easy. However, with professional guidance and information, you can learn the many challenges to healing from emotional abuse. Some of you may require professional guidance in addition to the suggestions below.
7 Steps to heal from emotional abuse:
1. Your journey to healing from emotional abuse starts with you. Commit to these human rights:
My Commitment To Not Be A Victim of Emotional Abuse
1. I will not allow my partner to humiliate, shame, degrade, curse, or threaten me.
2. I will not allow my partner to intimidate, control, or force me to do something I don’t want.
3. I will not allow my partner to trivialize my feelings, ideas, or values.
4. I will not accept my partner ignoring me.
5. I will not accept extreme selfishness from my partner to the point where he or she is dismissive of my legitimate needs and wants.
6. I will not allow my partner to isolate me from my family or friends.
7. I will not allow my partner to confiscate my belongings such as money, car keys, phone, or other property.
8. I will not allow my partner to behave in an extremely jealous and possessive way that impacts my peace of mind, challenges my dignity, and restricts my freedom.
9. I will not allow my partner to touch me in a hostile way, threaten me with a fisted hand, or get very close to my face with his face, nor threaten me any other way.
10. I will not let my partner hit me, push me, or throw things at me.
11. I will NOT REMAIN SILENT. I will explain my situation should I need help from others to free myself from being abused.
Keep this My Commitment To Not Be A Victim of Emotional Abuse with you at all times.
Read it several times a day so you will be reminded of your human rights and that you need to take care of yourself.
Some of you may be able to share this My Commitment To Not Be A Victim of Emotional Abuse with your partner so he or she can use it to stop their abuse.
2. Emotional abuse will cause anxiety and depression
Common effects of emotional abuse are anxiety and depression.
Anxiety and depression come from being criticized, being a target of anger, being threatened, and insulted.
Anxiety and depression are natural responses to being emotionally attacked and being unable to control one's life.
The most essential treatment for anxiety and depression caused by abuse is to 'stop being abused!'
Your anxiety and depression are a natural reaction to living in fear, pain, and feelings of helplessness.
Unfortunately, many doctors and mental health professionals do not realize the after effects of emotional abuse. And because of this, wrong treatments are often prescribed.
If you are being abused, taking pills or undergoing cognitive-behavioral therapy will do little to restore your mental health, lost confidence, and unhappiness.
You need to deal with the effects of emotional abuse in your marriage or committed relationship before you can make progress healing from anxiety or depression.
Like a person who has his or her hand squeezed tightly in a vice, taking painkillers will do little to solve the problem. His or her hand must be freed from the vice. This is the only effective solution.
So too, with an abusive relationship. You either need to fix your relationship or get out of it.
If you are in an abusive relationship, you need to stop the abuse, otherwise you will continue to suffer from mental health problems.
3. Emotional abuse has caused a weakening of self-esteem and confidence
One of the hallmarks of mental health is strong self-esteem and confidence.
These character traits can only develop and exist when a person's social environment is imbued with respect, love, and sensitivity.
In a relationship frequently shattered by abuse, the necessary emotional ingredients to build and maintain healthy self-esteem and confidence are missing.
The after effects of emotional abuse will eventually change a victim's character.
One of the common strategies abusers use is to degrade their victims and break their will.
The abuser hopes that a weak and insecure partner will not resist the tyranny he or she wishes to impose.
A victim repeatedly exposed to being degraded and shamed will naturally suffer a loss of confidence and self-esteem.
Emotional abuse is brainwashing!
The abuser looks to alter what his or her partner knows about himself or herself and replace that information with 'other' information that gives the abuser more control.
Instead of 'lovable,' you are now 'unlovable.' Instead of 'capable,' you are now 'incapable.' Instead of 'smart,' you are 'stupid.' And so it goes...
At some point, you become so changed by the abuse you no longer recognize yourself!
Instead of being the strong, capable person you were in the past, and as others knew you to be, you are now passive, weak, and reclusive.
Self-esteem is often very localized. You may be very accomplished and respected in your chosen profession. In this niche, you may have healthy self-esteem and be very confident.
However, you are transformed into the opposite when it comes to family relationships — unsure of yourself and weak.
Make a list of all the things you have accomplished, your talents, and what other people like about you.
Keep this list with you at all times.
Read it to yourself several times throughout the day. Doing so will remind you that you are, 'a good person.'
Nobody has to be perfect. Nobody is perfect. However, know that the sum total of YOU is good enough!
Knowing THAT YOU ARE GOOD will help bring back your natural, strong, and healthy self-esteem or at least return it to where it was before your partner abused you.
4. Emotional abuse has reduced your feelings of safety
The cornerstone of every healthy relationship is feeling safe when you are with your partner.
Sadly, feeling unsafe is one of the most obvious effects of emotional abuse in a relationship.
Your abuser puts you down, criticizes you, insults you, threatens you, and more. Feeling unsafe are normal after effects of emotional abuse.
Under such circumstances, it is impossible to feel safe.
As a victim of abuse, fear of your abuser has taken over your mind.
Likely you fear your abuser coming home, the critical comments, the threats, the rejection.
It is understandable why you feel unsafe, being trapped, not knowing how to avoid these terrifying emotional attacks.
Safety is a human right, a God-given right — and we are all entitled to it freely and unconditionally.
Solve your emotional abuse problem, and you will once again feel safe! Or at least begin to feel safe!
Yes, it is that simple. Stop the abuse and safety will gradually return.
You need to either find a way to get your partner to stop abusing you, or you need to end your relationship with him or her.
There is no other way to feel safe.
5. Emotional abuse destroys your trust in others
You were born trusting!
However, if someone hurts you repeatedly and shows no remorse... how can you then continue to trust them?
Trust is necessary for every healthy and successful relationship.
Relentless emotional attacks without remorse are an everyday occurrence in emotionally abusive, verbally abusive, psychologically abusive, sexually abusive, and mentally abusive relationships.
When somebody disrespects you, criticizes you, disregards your feelings, how can you trust them?
How can you trust someone who has so little regard for your well-being?
The victim experiences the abuser as a person not to be trusted, which is often then extrapolated into the belief that 'no one can be trusted.'
When this occurs, the victim's isolation is expanded to all spheres of his or her life.
Not being able to trust anyone can cause the victim to feel extremely alone and trapped.
Because of not being able to trust others, it is not uncommon for a victim of emotional, verbal, sexual, mental, or psychological abuse to fear reaching out to others for help — and so he or she doesn't.
This makes it difficult for a victim to get outside help as needed.
Remind yourself that not trusting your abuser is logical, it makes sense. However, you can trust others and you should do so. It is your abuser — and he or she alone — that you cannot trust!
You CAN trust others to be your friend, provide professional services, help you as needed, and be a confidant.
Take a piece of paper, and in the middle of the page draw a line from top to bottom.
List the people you cannot trust on the left side and list the people you can trust on the right side.
Hopefully, there will only be one person on the left side, and that is your abuser. On the right side will be a long lists of names.
Maintain a close and trusting relationship with all the people on the right side of your list.
This is a good antidote to a 'trust deficiency' you may have as a result of the abuse you have been suffering from.
6. Emotional abuse has destroyed my feelings of love for my partner
Abuse plus Love... forget about it!... they don't go together.
If you are being abused, there is no healthy love!
I don't need to tell you how important love is to a relationship... it is everything. You know that.
Abusive relationships have no love... they only have fear, hurt, and disappointment.
Emotional abuse is bad relationship chemistry!
If the abuse ends, it is possible to recover the love over time... maybe.
The mind has a talent for holding on to negative memories. It is possible to recover from emotional abuse and feel loving toward your partner, but it is not guaranteed.
Love is like a delicate flower, it needs to be taken care of. Taking care of love is the best way to ensure it stays healthy and strong and does not die.
Abuse crushes love!
If emotional abuse has caused your love to wither, know that you are running out of time to solve your abuse problem before it becomes too late to change things around for the better.
Once an egg falls and smashes, it can never be put together again — often the same is true for love.
The sooner you can solve your emotional abuse problem, the sooner you can get to work to see if you can rekindle the feelings of love you once had.
Upon recovering from emotional abuse, seek ways to enhance your relationship and rekindle your love for each other.
The following are some examples of what you and your partner can do together that will create positive feelings, memories, and a happy future:
- Learn a new hobby such as playing tennis
- Go on trips
- Go out to eat (you and your partner, without other couples, or with the kids)
- Go to a movie
- Exercise together
- Go to a class or lecture
- Watch a movie or TV
- Play board games
- Participate in religious activities
- Cook together
- Organize a party or family gathering
- Give each other massages
- Take turns reading a book out loud
- Go shopping
- Go for walks
- Work as a team on home improvement
- The possibilities are endless…
7. Emotional abuse has destroyed my desire for sex with my partner
Sexual desire has physical and emotional components.
When emotional abuse enters a relationship, the sexual nature of the relationship may become strained, even though physical attraction remains present.
This is in part due to the broken trust between the victim and the abuser, as sexual acts involve trust between two caring partners.
If your marriage or a committed relationship has been marred by abuse, probably your relationship will be sexless — unless sex is being forced, which is a form of abuse.
If you are to have a healthy and satisfying sexual love-life, you need to have a healthy and satisfying emotional relationship that includes safety, trust, friendship, and love.
Stop the abuse that's going on in your relationship.
There is no other way around it. When there are rocks in your relationship, the rocks are typically found in the bed.
If your partner complains of the lack of sexual intimacy, explain to him or her that every type of abuse is a sexual killer.
When the abuse stops, and you have healed from the abuse, and your relationship has recovered from the abuse, only then is there an opportunity to restore the sexual intimacy that you and your partner once had.
After the abuse has ended, it can take a long time until the recovery is fully complete and a normal sexual life to resume. Both you and your partner need to be patient.
True story: How Janet found healing from emotional abuse
In their family home, Janet never experienced nor saw the kind of emotional abuse she was now experiencing when married to Eric.
His constant criticizing, extreme anger blowups, and insults had destroyed her self-esteem and were a painful example of emotional abuse.
Finally, Janet had enough.
She told Eric that if they didn’t go for help, she was going to leave. She told him she was no longer willing to live with his anger outbursts.
Reluctantly, Eric agreed to go for marriage therapy.
Fortunately, the therapist was good.
The therapist explained to Eric how wrong emotional abuse was and how his extreme anger outbursts were eroding his wife’s natural healthy self-esteem.
The therapist also told Janet that if she felt physically unsafe, she should call the police.
Janet reassured the therapist that Eric never hit or pushed her.
After Eric got over the embarrassment of his abusive ways having been exposed to another person, he rose to the challenge to be better and committed himself to treating his wife respectfully.
He was also afraid that if he didn’t stop his abuse and anger, Janet would leave him.
Eric was smart, and upon reflection, he realized how horrible and wrong his behavior had been.
The therapist gave Eric anger management worksheets to help him learn anger management.
Several weeks later, Janet reported to their marriage therapist that Eric had transformed himself and was now behaving respectfully, and kindly, and was more patient.
However, she told the therapist she was still fearful of her husband and had a hard time speaking up and letting Eric know what her needs were and how she felt about things.
The marriage therapist was insightful and understood that Janet’s self-esteem had suffered and was now very low after years of abuse.
The therapist gave Janet the following four suggestions to help her build her self-esteem, and confidence, and help her be more assertive:
- Make a list of your positive attributes and your achievements, then review them several times each day.
- Each day write a paragraph of what you would like to hear from your husband. At a quiet moment in the evening, hand him the paper and ask him to read the paragraph out loud to you. He should repeat this three times.
- Each day find one small thing to ask Eric to do for you.
- Each day give yourself a special treat. Maybe it is taking some quiet time and reading a book, or calling a friend, or buying something special to eat. Tell yourself the reason you are being good to yourself, is that ‘you are good,’ and you are on the road to achieving many great things
Janet worked on building her self-esteem and being more assertive.
She went from being a broken and emotionally abused woman to finding her inner strength.
She became much more outgoing, connected with old friends, and felt empowered to set goals and achieve them.
Best of all, she was no longer afraid of Eric. They continued together for many happy years.
* * *
Take the necessary steps to stop the abuse and heal yourself
Make the necessary changes so your marriage or committed relationship is healthy and you can live with dignity, freedom, and respect. If peace and respect cannot be achieved... you should consider separating from your partner.
No one can solve your abuse problem unless you are a full participant! This is why solving your emotional abuse problem must start with you!
The decision to free yourself from relationship abuse must be yours!
Slow and steady progress towards a more respectful life with your partner is definitely worth the effort, time, and sometimes money spent to pay for relationship counseling.
You are not alone
To be silent is what your abuser wants. Don't cooperate!
If it is helpful... speak out... speak to others to get their help to stop the abuse.
If needed, speak with trusted family members, close friends, authorities, or trained relationship specialists so you can get the help you need to stop the abuse.
There is no need to feel shame identifying and reporting abuse; you did nothing wrong!
A good place to locate a trained and certified relationship specialist is: American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and Canadian Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
If there is violence — hitting, pushing, etc. — you need to separate immediately from your abusive partner.
The decision to return and live together should be made only after you are certain the violence will NOT reoccur.
Note: If you are currently being physically assaulted, call your local police.
Let your partner help you heal
If your partner has stopped abusing you and he or she is remorseful and wants to make amends, asking him or her to participate in your healing is good for both of you.
When your partner, who has abused you, can participate in your healing, this is very helpful because it gives him or her an opportunity to do penitence and help undo the damage that he or she has caused. For example, for him or her to participate in counseling.
Working together helps rebuild trust, safety, and love.
If your partner helps you heal, it makes it much easier for you to eventually forgive him or her for their abuse.
Hopeful, your partner will leave his or her abusive ways behind, and the two of you will move forward and live a great life together as a happy couple.