Abuse can happen to anyone of any age, in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship. It is not limited to any age range, ethnic group or economic level. It is not limited to romantic relationships, it can also be from a business partner, parent or caretaker.
You may know some of the more obvious signs of mental, emotional, or physical abuse, however, if you are in the midst of it you may not be able to see it for yourself.
Physical abuse may be easier to recognize than emotional or mental abuse, as it can be subtler but very real.
Signs and symptoms of abusive relationships
Here are some of the tactics used in abusive relationships to help you to recognize the signs and symptoms. They fall into 4 main categories:
Humiliation, negating or criticizing
These tactics aim to belittle or undermine your self-esteem. The abuse is harsh and very unrelenting over big or small matters.
- Name-calling – They will call you names like “loser” or “stupid” or other horrible names.
- Derogatory “pet names” – This may be name calling in a slightly subtler way with names like “my little chubby chubster” or “my favorite ugly duckling”.
- Yelling and screaming at you – yelling, screaming or swearing at you to make you feel small and inconsequential.
- Public embarrassment – They will pick fights and expose your secrets in public to embarrass you.
- Dismissiveness – They belittle things you tell them and make out like nothing you say is important.
- Insults of your appearance – They continue to tell you how ugly you are or how wrong your hair is.
Control and shame
They try to make you feel inadequate so they can control you and have power over you.
Some of the things they will do are:
- Threats – telling you things like they might take your kids and disappear.
- Digital spying – they might check your call logs, internet history or emails and texts. They even demand that you give them your passwords.
- Financial control – They may keep control of the bank accounts and keep them in their name. They may allocate money to give you each week so you have no control, and you may have to account for every single penny that you spend.
- Direct orders – Telling you exactly what to do and how to do it.
- Treating you as a child – They tell you what to eat, what to wear, and which friends you can see.
- Using others – abusers may tell you that others “think you are crazy” or “that you do everything wrong”.
- Unpredictability – they explode into rage for no reason at any time and then suddenly change mood and can shower you with affection out of the blue.
Accusing, blaming, denial
This type of behaviors come from the abusers own insecurities and they want you to see that they more important than you.
Some of the examples of what they might do are:
- Jealousy – they always accuse you of flirting and cheating on them.
- Denying something they know is true – they will deny conversations that happened, either an argument or an agreement. It makes you question your own memory and sanity.
- Goading and then blaming – they know how to upset you, and then when you get upset they blame you for starting a fight.
- Denying their abuse – when you try to discuss their attacks, abusers will deny it so emphatically that you start to question your memory.
- Trivializing – when you say you are hurt by things they have done, they accuse you of being overdramatic and overreacting.
- Blaming you for their problems – Whatever is wrong in their life, is your fault. Somehow you are not supportive enough or you don’t do enough to help them.
Emotional neglect and isolation
Abusers will put their needs above your own. They try to come between you and people who love you so that you become more dependent on them.
They will do this by:
- Trying to become between you and your family – they will tell family you don’t want to see them and make excuses for you not to attend family events.
- Keeping you from socializing – whenever you have plans to go out, something will come up and they will beg you not to go.
- Shutting down communication – They will ignore your attempts at conversation, in person or on the phone
- Calling you needy – When you are feeling really low, and you reach to them for support, they tell you that you are too needy.
- Indifference – they see you upset or crying and they ignore you.
Recognizing the warning signs of abuse
There may be some questions you can ask yourself if you are worried you are in an abusive relationship. The more questions that you answer yes to, it means it is more likely that you are in an abusive relationship.
- Do you feel afraid of your partner a lot of the time?
- Do you wonder if you are the one who is going crazy?
- Do you avoid talking about certain topics so as not to anger or upset your partner?
- Do you feel like you never do anything right for your partner?
- Do you feel helpless and unsure of what to do in your relationship?
- Do you feel humiliated or belittled by your partner?
- Does your partner yell at you?
- Does your partner treat you so badly that you feel so embarrassed in front of family and friends?
- Does your partner blame you for their own abusive behavior?
- Does your partner threaten you?
- Does your partner force sex on you?
- Does your partner act excessively jealous or possessive?
- Does your partner keep you from seeing your family or friends?
- Does your partner constantly check up on you?
Treatment for an abusive relationship
If you answered yes to a fair few of these questions, you may need some professional help. It is often hard to see clearly when you are the one involved in an abusive relationship.
Our treatment at The Center • A Place of HOPE will be a combination of talk therapy, either in groups or one on one, depending on what your health professional feels is best for you and your situation. We will work with you and your family to help you to take the next steps on your journey to wellness and help you to work through this abusive relationship. There is hope and help available for you.