Effects of Emotionally Abusive Relationships

| Amy Nussman, LCSWA

When you think of abuse in relationships, what comes to mind? For many of us, the first thoughts that show up depict loud, violent, and aggressive words or actions. 

Emotional abuse is often a quieter form of abuse that involves tactics such as gaslighting and shaming, and can leave you feeling worthless, hopeless, and powerless. Enduring emotional abuse can greatly impact your mental health, self perception, and how you function within other meaningful relationships in your life. 

Individuals that experience emotional abuse often experience feelings of self doubt and lower self esteem levels as a result of the abuse they endured. Continuous gaslighting can cause you to question your own thoughts or perception of reality and might decrease your feelings of confidence in your own instincts. Those who experience emotional abuse may also notice an increased fear of abandonment, difficulty trusting others, and presentation of codependent behaviors. This may present itself as high levels of abandonment anxiety, people pleasing behaviors, or even feeling as though your needs don’t matter as much as everyone else’s. 

This whirlwind of emotions can make it extremely difficult to stay away from the emotionally abusive person and leave the relationship behind, even if you know the relationship isn’t healthy. In some cases, the relationship may even feel “addicting” because of the brain’s release of chemicals such as Oxytocin, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone and Dopamine.

Emotionally abusive relationships can feel extremely isolating, but you are not alone. Therapy can be a great place to begin processing the abuse and working on building positive social connections with emotionally healthy individuals. 

Today's the day to make a change.