Emotional abuse can be difficult to recognize due to its more normalized presence in relationships and lack of obvious signs. However, the damage caused by this type of abuse can be even worse than that caused by physical abuse.
Many people are unaware that they are in an emotionally abusive relationship and see many abusive situations as normal problems and disagreements within a relationship.
As we can see, the most damaging aspect of psychological violence is its difficulty in identifying it. Since there is no physical violence, victims often have more difficulty getting out of the situation. It is important for people to analyze the forms of psychological violence that they tolerate or reproduce. A first step is to understand what psychological abuse consists of and what signs make it possible to quantify it. In this article we analyze psychological violence in couple relationships and its most frequent signs.
What is psychological violence in the couple?
emotional abuse in a relationship is the most common form of violence. It is also the most standardized and the most difficult to test. The term psychological refers to abuse that is not physical in nature, although it may include violent threats directed at the victim or those close to them. Victims of emotional abuse often feel isolated and do not take the necessary steps to protect or defend themselves against future violent situations.
Psychological abuse, as we have seen, is often difficult to detect due to its subtle nature; Although embargoed, it can also happen in an overt or manipulative way. The abuser’s ultimate goal is to control the abused person, convincing her that she’s incompetent, separating her from her support systems, and making her feel unworthy to even speak of love. This form of abuse involves all attempts to control, scare, or isolate the partner through words or actions.
Emotional abuse usually begins gradually and continues steadily over time. It’s easy to miss the first subtle signs of an abusive situation. Small, gradual changes in a person’s violent behavior can easily go unnoticed. So many people already know some of the obvious signs of abuse and emotional manipulation, which they take for granted.
Psychological violence, finally, it causes the victim to feel a strong dependence on their attacker. Its greatest advantage is its ability to slowly destroy the victim’s self-esteem, causing the abused to doubt their own worth as a human being. Moreover, any separation carries the stigma of failure, which makes some people prefer to stay in an abusive relationship and think it is the price to pay for not being alone.
Some people think that only certain people considered weak or belonging to a certain social class can be victims of abuse; however, this is not the reality. Psychological abuse can affect anyone, regardless of age or social class. More than a profile of an abused person, there is a profile of an abuser.
Signs to identify emotional abuse
Although emotional abuse is usually subtle and difficult to detect, there is a series of red flags. The first thing to do to determine if we are in an abusive relationship is to consider how we feel. And what emotions our couple awakens in us.
In any case, a situation of psychological abuse can cause us to distrust ourselves and our perceptions, drastically reducing our capacities for self-esteem and self-perception, which, in the end, makes it extremely difficult to leave the relationship. Some victims of abuse are too scared to leave the relationship and are too hurt to do so. To finish, they find themselves in a situation of which they are aware, but cannot get out of it.
Emotionally abusive relationships lead to a whole series of unhealthy manifestations such as: pain, stress, confusion, anxiety and depression. If these negative emotions are frequently present when you interact with your partner, there is a high probability that we are in a psychologically abusive relationship. These types of feelings are not characteristic of a healthy relationship.
Certain signs can help us identify a situation of abuse. A sign of emotional abuse is if the other person places unrealistic expectations of us, for example: demanding unreasonable things or expecting us to set aside everything to meet their needs.
Another sign that someone may be emotionally abusive is if it constantly invalidates us. Some examples of invalidation are: saying you’re exaggerating when reporting problematic behavior or demanding an exact date to try to deny something happened. Emotionally violent people also tend to create chaos, they tend to argue out of nowhere or make confusing and contradictory statements. This type of erratic and unpredictable behavior can make us feel like we’re “walking on eggshells” lest any comments cause an emotional outburst.
Additionally, psychological abusers typically act with superiority and righteousness in almost all situations, which includes treating the other as inferior or blaming them for their mistakes and shortcomings. They will also often try to isolate and control it; Some examples of this type of behavior are: controlling who we see or spend time with, including friends and family, or hiding car keys.
It is important to remember that everyone, including ourselves, deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. Minimizing the other person’s behavior can lead to a cycle of emotional abuse.
Many studies confirm that more women than men suffer psychological violence from their partner. According to the first 2005 WHO study on domestic violence, it is the most common type of violence that women faceabove the aggressions committed outside the framework of the couple.
Consequences of emotional abuse
According to many health professionals, psychological abuse can have consequences as serious as physical abuse, except that it has no visible signs. Instead of bruising, abuse injuries are focused inward and include: doubts, self-loathing and feelings of worthlessness. Because their signs are invisible to others, it is harder for victims to realize that they are being abused or if it makes them feel isolated.
Living in a situation of constant emotional abuse can cause us to completely lose our sense of who we are. Over time, criticism, insults, belittling, and insincerity can erode our self-perception until we are no longer able to see ourselves for who we really are.
Abusive relationships can reach make us believe that we are not good enough for anyone and that we do not deserve others: abuse is the price to pay. This can lead to self-deprecating comparisons, agreeing with the abuser, and getting stuck in the relationship. Victims of abuse may come to believe that no one really loves them and drift away from friends and family, isolating themselves. This makes it even more difficult to leave the relationship.
Chronic stress caused by emotional abuse leads to physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and illnesses. It can also cause somatization (emotion that manifests in physical symptoms) in conditions that are already present. These include apathy, depression, fatigue, insomnia and disturbances in food. Victims of emotional abuse are likely to abuse alcohol and other psychoactive drugs.
In some cases, victims of abuse may even begin to justify the abuse, underestimate its seriousness or adopt the point of view of reality of the aggressor. Moreover, many abused people do not even realize that they are involved in an abusive situation; it happens more often than most people realize because many abusive relationships are normalized. The ideas that we have internalized about romantic love or phrases like “quien bien te quiere te hará lorar” go a long way towards not detecting this type of psychologically abusive behavior.
Lately, The first step to dealing with an emotionally abusive relationship is to acknowledge or understand that the abuse exists.. By being honest about what we are going through, we can begin to regain control of our lives with professional help. Getting out of an abusive relationship is not easy, and above all you should never think that you deserve the situation or feel guilty. In cases of abuse, we are the victim.
- Goldsmith RE, et al. (2005). Awareness of psychological violence.
- Karakurt G, et al. (2013). Psychological violence in intimate relationships: the role of sex and age.
- Mouradian VE. (nd). Violence in intimate relationships: defining the multiple dimensions and terms.
- Remschmidt H. (2011). The emotional and neurological consequences of abuse. Dtsch Arztebl Int.