Psychological abuse

Domestic abuse cuts across all class and culture, no-one is immune. It is estimated that one in three women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and one in seven men; and what about the children who grow up in a family with domestic abuse?

It's not just the physical abuse that the children are affected by, but the atmosphere and mood. How does the victim behave? Being abused can leave feelings of anxiety and depression, which can affect everyday life, making parenting more difficult.

Psychological abuse is common, although it is not always spotted. It is sometimes known as 'gaslighting', which was taken from the movie 'Gas Light in 1938, and can leave the victim feeling as though they are going mad, useless and/or worthless. Because there are no physical signs of abuse, it is not always easy to spot, and diagnosis of depression or anxiety can often follow. This abuse can have a detrimental effect on the whole family; it affects thoughts and feelings leading to an uncertainty of the world around and feeling unsafe, even at home. Psychological abuse has an impact on relationships with family and friends.

Some of the words used by the abuser:

  • “You’re crazy – that never happened.”
  • “Are you sure? You tend to have a bad memory.”
  • “It’s all in your head.”

The aim of the abuser is to have control. If the victim (any gender) is uncertain of their own mind, their thoughts and feelings, it is easier to control, and the victim more likely to stay. Psychological abuse happens gradually, over time it can become more confusing, leaving feelings of anxiety, isolation, depression and a loss of reality. At this point, a victim begins to lean more on the abuser to support and define reality, which causes more confusion.

Is this happening to you?

Ask yourself some questions:

  • Do you second-guess yourself?
  • Do you often feel confused and even crazy?
  • Are you always apologising to your partner?
  • Do you know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself?
  • Do you start lying to avoid the put downs?
  • Do you have trouble making simple decisions?
  • Do you have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed?
  • Do you feel as though you can’t do anything right?

If you need support, contact a counsellor.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Brandon, Suffolk, IP27
Written by Liz Jenkins, Psychotherapeutic Counsellor BSc(Hons)UKCP (Reg'd) CSAccred
Brandon, Suffolk, IP27

I am a qualified, experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor, practising in Brandon Suffolk. My main work is with domestic abuse; I also work with depression, anxiety, trauma, DID (to name a few), which can often be a result of abuse or trauma. My past working experience has been in substance misuse and survivors of child sex abuse.

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