Most people, when they hear the term abuse, think about the obvious, most talked about form of abuse. Physical. Whether it is being hit in a friendly-turned-hostile game of wrestling with a sibling, being hit by a stranger on the street, a coworker in your place of work, or by a partner in your own home, these are example of physical abuse and they often have visible characteristics. Bruises, tears in the skin, inflammation, scrapes, internal pain, these are all characteristics of physical abuse. I mentioned physical abuse as the most common type of abuse because its the most common seen. However abuse doesn’t stop at the surface of the skin and not enough people talk about it. Abuse goes beyond the physical and seeps into the world of the psychological, the mental, and the emotional. Finding yourself hopelessly crying in your bed at night is a characteristic of these kinds of abuse. Finding yourself being cautious as you approach people of the opposite sex (or same sex), is a characteristic of emotional abuse developed from a history of physical abuse. These, of course, are only the tip of the ice burg. It is time we shed a light on just how debilitating psychological abuse can be.
Psychological abuse is a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting, or exposing, another person to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Psychological abuse can also referred to as psychological violence, emotional abuse, or mental abuse
It happens in many shapes and forms. You may not even know it’s happening until it is too late. Psychological abuse can be intentional: purposely putting someone down for irrational reasons. It can also be incidental: the trauma from being caught in the middle of parental divorce. Typically, these kinds of abuse occur in a situation where there is an imbalance of power such as between a parent and a child, an individual and their romantic partner, an individuals and a school bully, or between a worker and their superior. All forms of abuse can leave long lasting effects on the mind.
You may notice behavioral changes. Becoming more anxious towards your abuser, exhibiting more forms of closed body stances that may make one appear smaller and more reserved. You may notice avoidance behaviors, whether it is attending school or work later and leaving later to avoid confrontation with a school or workplace bully. Perhaps you avoid school or work altogether, leading to educational and financial setbacks. Perhaps you find yourself adopting a victim mindset. Blaming yourself for the hostile behaviors of others or making excuses for their actions. You may even find yourself in terror of leaving the safety of your own home, or conversely, terror of returning home after a wonderful day out.
All of these feelings are symptoms of depression, anxiety, and you may not even know you’re experiencing them. It is important to take a step back and assess a situation that is causing you psychological trauma. It is important to remember that just because there are no visible signs of abuse, does not mean that no abuse is taking place. It is OK to seek help, and more importantly, it is necessary. Mental health is as important as physical health and should be shouted from the roof tops.