5 Lingering Effects Of Emotional Abuse (And How To Heal Them) (2023)

Mental Health 5 Lingering Effects Of Emotional Abuse (And How To Heal Them)
Written by Jackson Mackenzie Jackson MacKenzie is the author of Whole Again and Psychopath Free, and co-founder of PsychopathFree.com, an online support community that reaches millions of abuse survivors each month.
5 Lingering Effects Of Emotional Abuse (And How To Heal Them) (2)

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August 10, 2016

Up, down, high, low, good, bad, black, white, push, pull. Emotional abuse takes a heavy toll on our hearts and minds, planting lies in our psyche that, left untended, can last long after the roller coaster is over. It's hard to dig deep and identify these wounds, especially when we may not even be aware that we're still wounded. But months or years later, our ongoing behavior and character transformations can help to shed some light on what really needs our attention.

With most forms of emotional abuse, the victim is left feeling powerless, worthless, and broken inside. These wounds don't leave visible scars, although they're just as painful as any physical injury. We pick up the pieces and put our lives back together as best we can. And sometimes, the best we can do is patchwork. We go back to our daily existence thinking everything is fine — but something still seems different. Many survivors describe two different selves: "before abuse" and "after abuse."

(Video) 5 Common Things That Happen After Emotional Abuse

The simple truth that you are a real, suffering human being can break open even the tightest heart and bring you to a place of self-compassion that you've never felt before.

The truth lives in our body and behaviors, and the truth will keep manifesting in increasingly strange ways until we find our way home. Here are five signs that suggest you might still be suffering from the lingering effects of emotional abuse:

1. Numbness

You isolate yourself, becoming more an observer of the world than a participant. Everything feels blocked. You don't feel bad — but you don't feel good either. You don't feel much of anything at all. Even when you know you should be happy, it's like there's a tight guard around your heart at all times, preventing anything from going in or out.

This can feel hopeless — like you're permanently damaged and unable to feel emotions normally. However, it's actually the first step toward approaching your trauma with a gentle and caring perspective. Allow the numbness to be there, and understand that it wouldn't be there unless it was protecting you from some pretty overwhelming stuff. Your body is trying to help you! Focus on that noble effort, and you will slowly begin to develop the sense of love needed to hold this pain.

2. Seeking approval

This one can be really sneaky because it manifests in ways that are socially acceptable: people-pleasing, excessive accomplishing, being "nice" to everyone, and hyper-focusing on your appearance. The underlying current of approval-seeking behavior is that you are somehow "not enough" without it. This was a lie put into your heart, and it needs to be banished forever. Our worth as human beings is not dependent on any of those things.

(Video) 8 Ways Emotional Abuse Traumatizes You

If you slow down and pause these behaviors, you're likely to feel a great deal of shame, inadequacy, and even jealousy. Your first instinct may be to run back to your vices, but I encourage you to sit with these feelings (and seek out professional counseling, if needed) until you really understand how much you are truly suffering. Only then can we begin to regard ourselves with compassion and discover that healthy love does not need to be earned.

3. Resentment

This can build up over time, and it's not about throwing objects or screaming. Far more common signs include irritability, blame, blood pressure changes, heart tightness, frustration, and impatience. Resentment's key word is "should." (This bad thing shouldn't have happened. People should have behaved a different way.) Essentially, we are living in a constant state of resistance to reality.

Most psychological or spiritual paths will outline the reasons resentment is toxic, but releasing it is not quite so simple. We need to be kind to ourselves and not feel any sort of shame for carrying this resentment. All we need is the simple intention to release it, and it will begin to happen. I personally have found forgiveness (and self-forgiveness) to be very effective, but there are many other paths. Once we stop focusing on the "bad other," we finally have time to tend to the wounds in our heart.

This is a personality shift that happens slowly. You hear nice words coming out of your mouth, but your thoughts are somewhere else entirely. You find yourself obsessively analyzing everything others do, to the point that it becomes difficult to trust anyone. You hyper-focus on behaviors, holding others (and yourself) to very high standards.

Once again, the key here is self-compassion. You need to be kind to yourself and understand that these are all protective mechanisms — a fear of not being in control. Judging ourselves for being judgmental is an infinite loop that can only be broken by love. You did not ask for this. You did the best you could with an impossible situation, and the more you can rest in this truth, the softer your heart will become.

5. Anxiety and depression

Insomnia, appetite changes, constant fear, a sense of doom, and hopelessness: self-destruct mode. This is your body saying "no more." Your patchwork — the above four solutions — aren't working anymore, and your body is going to torture your mind until you surrender to the only permanent solution: love.

(Video) 6 Essential Steps For Healing From Emotional Abuse

You should seek professional therapy for anxiety and depression, but I would highly recommend that all emotional abuse survivors approach therapy from the perspective of love rather than constant analysis of your undesirable behaviors. Instead of searching your memories, try feeling your feelings. The simple truth that you are a real, suffering human being can break open even the tightest heart and bring you to a place of self-compassion that you've never felt before — perhaps a new reality where you are as kind to yourself as you've always been to others.

After emotional abuse, there are so many lies obstructing the heart: not enough, inadequate, worthless, bad, broken, replaceable, unlovable, my fault. The good news is you can heal this stuff. The bad news is there's no quick fix — just a lot of patience, hard work, and dedication. It may take months or years of practice, but finding love for yourself is a permanent solution. In this journey, we leave behind the splitting of "old cheerful self" and "new abused self" in favor of a whole self who is loved and accepted completely.

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My book Psychopath Free describes a specific type of psychological abuse in which the perpetrator idealizes and mirrors the target’s personality, closely followed by a whirlwind of mind games, lies, and infidelity. If this sounds familiar, you can take our 13-question quiz to determine if you might be dating a sociopath.

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FAQs

How can we overcome the effects of emotional abuse? ›

Let the Healing Begin: 11 Tips to Overcoming Emotional Abuse
  1. Familiarize Yourself with What Constitutes Emotional Abuse. ...
  2. Recognize the Qualities of a Healthy Relationship. ...
  3. Know That It Is Not Okay. ...
  4. Understand That Abuse Is a Cycle. ...
  5. Reach Out to Family and Friends. ...
  6. Seek the Guidance of a Professional. ...
  7. Stand Up for Yourself.
16 Jun 2017

What is the aftermath of emotional abuse? ›

Long-term emotional abuse can also result in several health problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, chronic pain, and more.

How do you recover from emotional manipulation? ›

How to Heal From Being Manipulated
  1. Understand how manipulative relationships work. Researching this will give you the information you need to figure out why someone you love may act this way.
  2. Recognize you're being mistreated. ...
  3. Listen to yourself, not them. ...
  4. Set boundaries. ...
  5. Let yourself grieve.
7 Jan 2021

What are the five types of emotional abuse? ›

Types of emotional abuse
  • humiliating or constantly criticising a child.
  • threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names.
  • making the child the subject of jokes, or using sarcasm to hurt a child.
  • blaming and scapegoating.
  • making a child perform degrading acts.

Can the brain heal from emotional abuse? ›

Emotional abuse is often harder to recognize than other forms of abuse, but its effects can be just as profound. Healing is possible.

How do you recover from long-term abuse? ›

Below are 5 steps to help you in your healing process.
  1. Acknowledge the Abuse. Thinking about and accepting your past abuse as a real event can be very difficult to do but it's the first step to healing from your experiences. ...
  2. Change Negative Thought Patterns. ...
  3. Engage in Self Care.

Can you form PTSD from emotional abuse? ›

Emotional abuse can lead to C-PTSD, a type of PTSD that involves ongoing trauma. C-PTSD shows many of the same symptoms as PTSD, although its symptoms and causes can differ. Treatment should be tailored to the situation to address the ongoing trauma the person experienced from emotional abuse.

Can you get PTSD from emotional abuse? ›

PTSD is a reaction to psychological trauma which develops in response to actual or threatened extreme danger or personal injury. PTSD can originate from a variety of forms of abuse, ranging from physical abuse to sexual abuse to emotional abuse.

What are 5 effects of abuse? ›

mental health disorders such as anxiety, attachment, post-traumatic stress and depression disorders. self-harming or suicidal thoughts. learning disorders, including poor language and cognitive development. developmental delay, eating disorders and physical ailments.

What are the 4 stages of manipulation? ›

Manipulation can happen to anyone in all kinds of relationships, from friends and romantic partnerships to parents and family relationships.
...
While manipulative tendencies are often subtle and sometimes undetectable, there are four stages of manipulation.
  • Flattery. ...
  • Isolation. ...
  • Devaluing and gaslighting. ...
  • Fear or violence.

How does emotional abuse affect a woman? ›

Staying in an emotionally or verbally abusive relationship can have long-lasting effects on your physical and mental health, including leading to chronic pain, depression, or anxiety. Read more about the effects on your health. You may also: Question your memory of events: “Did that really happen?” (See Gaslighting.)

How long does it take to recover from narcissistic abuse? ›

Recovering from narcissistic abuse takes time, so you will have to remain patient. This process could take months or even years, but it's worth all of the hard work and effort. You can and will move on to find healthier and happier connections with others.

What is the most common type of emotional abuse? ›

Verbal abuse is the most common form of emotional abuse, but it's often unrecognized, because it may be subtle and insidious.

What are the 5 most common types abuse? ›

Types of domestic violence or abuse
  • psychological.
  • physical.
  • sexual.
  • financial.
  • emotional.

What constitutes severe emotional abuse? ›

Emotional abuse involves attempts to frighten, control, or isolate you. This type of abuse doesn't involve physical violence, though it might involve threats of violence directed toward you or your loved ones. It's characterized by a person's words, actions, and the consistency of these behaviors.

Do you ever fully recover from abuse? ›

Unfortunately, healing from trauma—no matter if the abuse lasted a few months or a few decades—is not an overnight process. In fact, "getting over it" may never be a part of a survivor's recovery. Abuse can have a lifelong impact, but the severity of its effects can be lessened by getting help.

Does trauma from abuse ever go away? ›

Many may often ask themselves, “Will I feel this way forever?” The answer to this is both simple and complex. The effects of trauma that evolve into ost-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will never entirely go away. However, they can be managed with proper treatment to make them less severe to live a normal life.

Can emotional abuse change your personality? ›

Long-term effects

Studies show that severe emotional abuse can be as powerful as physical abuse. Over time, both can contribute to low self-esteem and depression. You may also develop: anxiety.

How do you treat PTSD from emotional abuse? ›

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is used to help a person with PTSD learn about symptoms, identify triggers, and help develop skills and strategies to manage symptoms. In addition, psychotherapy may target symptoms directly or help a person manage social, family, or job-related problems.

Can you develop did from emotional abuse? ›

Causes. The main cause of DID is believed to be severe and prolonged trauma experienced during childhood, including emotional, physical or sexual abuse.

What are the five potential traumas that may lead to PTSD? ›

The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include:
  • Combat exposure.
  • Childhood physical abuse.
  • Sexual violence.
  • Physical assault.
  • Being threatened with a weapon.
  • An accident.

What are the 3 main symptoms for someone suffering from PTSD? ›

The main symptoms and behaviours associated with PTSD and complex PTSD include: Reliving the experience through flashbacks, intrusive memories, or nightmares. Overwhelming emotions with the flashbacks, memories, or nightmares. Not being able to feel emotions or feeling “numb”

What are the symptoms of PTSD when healing from narcissistic abuse? ›

If you or a loved one has just gone through a breakup with a narcissist, watch out for these signs of PTSD:
  • Episodes of panic and fear that come out of nowhere.
  • Extreme reactions—physical or emotional—to traumatic reminders.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts.
21 Aug 2022

How do you stop flashbacks from emotional abuse? ›

How to cope with emotional flashbacks
  1. Identify your triggers. ...
  2. Talk yourself down. ...
  3. Take deep breaths. ...
  4. Soothe your senses. ...
  5. Don't beat yourself up. ...
  6. Think about therapy.

Can emotional abuse cause schizophrenia? ›

Researchers say that those who have experienced emotional abuse in early life are 3.5 times more likely to have schizophrenia-like experiences in adulthood. Researchers also say that the more significant the abuse, the more severe the schizophrenia-like experiences adults have.

What does emotional PTSD feel like? ›

If you have PTSD, you may experience very strong feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, guilt, or shame, to name only a few. 1 When you feel several of these PTSD emotions in quick succession, it can be very hard to know what you're feeling at any given moment.

What does abuse do to a person's brain? ›

Researchers focus on the changes that take place in the brain as a result of abuse as well. Sadly, adults who experienced severe abuse as children show critically impaired neural connections in the brain. Parts of the brain associated with the regulation of attention, emotion, and other cognitive processes suffer.

How does abuse affect a person in adulthood? ›

Adults who have buried their history of child abuse can continue to suffer in ways that can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, substance misuse, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, guilt, learning disabilities, physical illness, disturbing memories and dissociation.

How can you tell if someone was abused in the past? ›

11 Signs You May Have Experienced Emotional Abuse in the Past
  1. You Aren't Good at Making Decisions for Yourself. ...
  2. You Are a People Pleaser. ...
  3. You Minimise Toxic Moments. ...
  4. You Get Angry or Frustrated Easily. ...
  5. You Often Feel Defensive. ...
  6. You Tend to View Yourself Negatively. ...
  7. You Find it Hard to Cope When People Are Upset.
23 May 2019

What are the 5 basic manipulative skills? ›

Manipulative movements such as throwing, catching, kicking, trapping, striking, volleying, bouncing, and ball rolling are considered to be fundamental manipulative skills. These skills are essential to purposeful and controlled interaction with objects in our environment.

What is the root cause of manipulation? ›

Psychologists say the root cause of manipulative behavior can often be toxic cycles of violence, narcissism, or unhealthy relationships in the manipulator's own childhood. Manipulation can happen in any relational context, Balestrieri says, including family, friends, professional, romantic, or sexual relationships.

What is the root cause of emotional abuse? ›

Emotional abuse may be rooted in low self-esteem.

When a person has low self-esteem, they often don't like to think about themselves. The negative thoughts that come through reflection are painful. One of the many ways to avoid thinking about oneself is to find fault in others and to create arguments.

Does emotional abuse have long-term effects? ›

Long-term effects of emotional abuse may include but aren't limited to PTSD, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, feelings of guilt and shame, and trouble trusting others or entering new relationships.

Why is emotional abuse so damaging? ›

Emotional Abuse Can Cause Nervous Breakdown

The effects of emotional abuse can be painful and destructive, both in the short and long-term. Survivors are often plagued by low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and feelings of helplessness.

What happens to your brain after narcissistic abuse? ›

Continuous stress due to abuse can damage the brain cells in the hippocampus, making it gradually shrink in size. As a result, the person starts to forget things easily and finds it difficult to learn new stuff. The prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain that is located right behind the eyes.

How do I rebuild myself after narcissistic abuse? ›

  1. Jul 13, 2021. Tips to rebuild your self-worth after narcissistic self-abuse. ...
  2. ​Acknowledge the abuse. ...
  3. ​Set your boundaries. ...
  4. ​Be ready for complex emotions. ...
  5. ​Reclaim your identity. ...
  6. ​Practice self-compassion. ...
  7. ​Understand your feelings may always be there. ...
  8. ​Take care of yourself.
13 Jul 2021

How do I reclaim myself after narcissistic abuse? ›

It's often helpful to set boundaries around your time with these people as you work to recover.
...
Talk to others
  1. offer compassion.
  2. validate the pain you experience.
  3. help distract you or provide company on difficult days.
  4. remind you the abuse wasn't your fault.
30 Mar 2020

How do you stop flashbacks from emotional abuse? ›

How to cope with emotional flashbacks
  1. Identify your triggers. ...
  2. Talk yourself down. ...
  3. Take deep breaths. ...
  4. Soothe your senses. ...
  5. Don't beat yourself up. ...
  6. Think about therapy.

What does extreme emotional pain feel like? ›

Symptoms of emotional pain can include feelings of: Deep sorrow, sadness, or depression. Grief. Intense distress.

Can your heart hurt from emotional pain? ›

Acute emotional stress, positive or negative, can cause the left ventricle of the heart to be 'stunned' or paralysed, causing heart attack-like symptoms including strong chest, arm or shoulder pains, shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting.

What are emotional blockages? ›

What Is Emotional Blockage? Being emotionally blocked means having an unhealthy relationship with your emotions. You may be unable to express and communicate them, or you might experience difficulties understanding why you feel the way you do.

What are the 17 symptoms of complex PTSD? ›

What are the 17 Symptoms of PTSD?
  • Intrusive Thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are perhaps the best-known symptom of PTSD. ...
  • Nightmares. ...
  • Avoiding Reminders of the Event. ...
  • Memory Loss. ...
  • Negative Thoughts About Self and the World. ...
  • Self-Isolation; Feeling Distant. ...
  • Anger and Irritability. ...
  • Reduced Interest in Favorite Activities.
14 Jun 2021

Can you get PTSD from emotional abuse? ›

PTSD is a reaction to psychological trauma which develops in response to actual or threatened extreme danger or personal injury. PTSD can originate from a variety of forms of abuse, ranging from physical abuse to sexual abuse to emotional abuse.

How do you cure emotional abuse PTSD? ›

PTSD Treatment

Psychotherapy can help with this process, and a person may also benefit from medication and holistic treatment focused on all aspects of the problem. It's important for treatment to be tailored to the individual, including the type of trauma the person experienced.

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