Just because you don’t have cuts and bruises doesn’t mean mental abuse is any less damaging and traumatic than physical abuse.
Even when you leave an abusive situation, the road to feeling like yourself again is not always going to be a straight and narrow path to take. It may involve setbacks and challenges – all of which are completely normal.
However long it takes you, it is possible to move on from the mental abuse you’ve been subjected to and look forward to a much happier and healthier future for yourself – the first step is to recognise your abuse.
In this article, we’ll be looking at what it means to be mentally abused and how you can begin the journey to recovery.
What does it mean to be mentally abused?
When people think of abuse, they often think of violence and physical attacks, but this is not the only type of abuse that can be inflicted on someone. Mental abuse is also traumatic and can leave painful emotional scars.
Mental abuse is said to have taken place when someone uses threats and verbal insults to affect the way you think about yourself and the things around you. These verbal insults don’t always have to be explicit and aggressive to constitute abuse; they can be much more subtle and manipulative, breaking down your sense of self, reality, and confidence.
Five signs of emotional abuse
Emotional and mental abuse can present in a range of ways, depending on the person inflicting the abuse and the relationship between the individuals.
Although no two abusive relationships are the same, there are some common indicators of emotional abuse taking place. Five of these signs include:
Making fun of, and drawing attention to, anything that a person feels insecure about can be extremely humiliating for the person on the receiving end. It’s a tactic that abusers will use to exhibit power, especially in public or in front of friends and family.
Abusive words don’t always have to be aggressive, but in abusive relationships words can be used to belittle or ridicule.
You may be called names for no reason or, they could be used in response to you making a silly mistake such as forgetting to buy something at the supermarket or misplacing a particular item.
If someone is threatening to do something like leave you, tell your friends something untrue about you, or even take your children away, this is a sign of mental abuse and manipulation.
In this situation, you will probably feel in constant fear of these things happening, which gives the abuser power over you.
In a loving relationship, you should feel attention and affection and, if your partner is purposely withholding these from you to gain control or punish you, it is a clear sign of mental abuse.
Showing a general lack of concern
Similarly, abusers may also adopt a general feeling of indifference towards you and show a lack of concern for what you’re doing or how you’re feeling.
No matter what happens, they may be unfazed by how you feel, and will never offer any support, or apologise if you’re upset by their actions.
Examples of mental abuse
As we’ve said, no two abusive relationships look the same, but there are few examples that demonstrate the variety of situations someone may find themselves in.
Here are some examples of mental abuse:
- Being constantly blamed for causing your partner’s problems or being made to feel like you’re always wrong.
- Your partner tries to create an environment where you feel like it’s impossible to leave them.
- Your partner exercises extreme control over you e.g., by not letting you out of the house, forbidding you to see your friends, or preventing you from choosing what you want to do.
- Your partner constantly criticises you, from making fun of what you’re wearing, or criticizing you for how good you are at your job.
Examples of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is a situation where a partner uses non-physical behaviour to alter the way you feel about yourself.
Some signs of emotional abuse include:
- Having your privacy invaded or your personal boundaries ignored.
- Denying things you know are true, or purposely ignoring/excluding you.
- Having your feelings constantly dismissed.
- Your actions are closely monitored and controlled.
We’re here to help
No matter what your situation is, emotional abuse is never OK. At National Legal Service, our team of professionals are here to help you get the support you need.