Emotional or psychological abuse occurs when one person exposes another to behavior that leaves lasting psychological repercussions. This may or may not be coupled with physical abuse, and can occur anytime there is a power imbalance – at home, in the workplace, at school, etc.
Emotional abuse involves manipulation and can cause the sufferer to believe that they are worthless.
Symptoms & signs of trauma from emotional abuse
- Mood swings
- Lack of self-esteem
- Anxiety or a constant feeling of fear
- Fear of the abuser
- Fear of attending school, work, or other events where the abuser may be present
- Inability to break free from the abuser
- Feelings of shame
- Pulling away from friends and family
- Being withdrawn from everyday life
- Displaced aggression towards other people or family pets
- Openly or secretly planning revenge
- Attempting to overhaul your looks or life to blend in
- Avoiding situations or changing your job, school, or habits to avoid the abuser
- Trust issues
- Feelings of numbness
- Shock and confusion
- Issues with sexual identity or functioning
- Flashbacks or nightmares of the abuse
- Night terrors
- Physical injuries
- Problems sleeping
- Trauma response (PTSD)
- Sleeping too much
- Lack of energy
- Memory issues
- Aches and pains
- Tense muscles
When is it time to get help?
Emotional abuse does not leave visible scars, sometimes making it easier to tolerate the abuse. Emotional abuse is often delivered in repeated small doses like sarcasm, disguised as teasing, or with snide comments. The impact of these can add up over time – sort of a death by a thousand cuts analogy – that can take a toll on you before you realize the full impact. Sometimes the clues are in the symptoms listed above. If you are experiencing most of the symptoms listed above as a result of being in a relationship or a past relationship, you should seek help.
Trauma from emotional abuse treatment methods
There are several treatment methods that are effective in dealing with the trauma caused by emotional abuse. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all therapy – so your therapist will talk with you to determine the best treatment method for you and your situation. These may include:
- Grief work therapy refers to the methods used in counselling that help people to grieve loss and understand their emotions associated with the loss in a healthy way, with the ultimate goal of moving forward.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy encourages clients to accept the difficulties and misfortunes of life. Clients learn coping techniques to not dwell on negative emotions by staying in the present.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to treatment that focuses on how people’s thoughts, emotions, and beliefs influence their behaviour and how they perceive themselves.
- Client centered therapy (Rogerian therapy). Developed byCarl Rogers, this focus of therapy views the therapeutic process and progress as ultimately based on the accomplishments of the client and only psychologically aided by the therapist.
- Emotionally focused therapy is based on observations and experience. It looks at emotions and emotional intelligence, which helps support stronger and more secure relationships by helping better understand how our actions impact others, and how our emotions drive our interaction.
- Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses narratives and/or client’s personal stories to help people separate themselves from their problems, believing that the person isn’t the problem; the problem is the problem.
What will I get out of treatment with Insight Psychological?
An evaluation by a therapist is necessary to determine the extent of the abuse and the lingering issues that it has caused. We can help you to set boundaries or even to make tough decisions regarding your relationship if you’re in an emotionally abusive situation. Insight Psychological has several convenient locations across Alberta. Call us today to see how we can help.
Note: Insight can also provide therapy for abusers.