Reactive Abuse: Meaning, Examples, Patterns, Signs, Effects (2022)

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If you’ve been doing any work to heal trauma from narcissistic abuse, or if you follow court cases and news articles about domestic trauma, then you’ve probably come across the term “reactive abuse” before.

While at first it sounds fairly self-explanatory, it’s actually a complex type of abuse that can encompass psychological, emotional, and physical violence.

The key thing to know about reactive violence is that while both parties end up getting hurt, this type of violence is knowingly and intentionally instigated by the abuser.

It’s an insidious type of cruelty because of how multi-tiered and manipulative it is. Let’s take a look at what reactive abuse really means, as well as how it affects everyone involved.

What is reactive abuse?

Reactive abuse occurs when an abuse victim responds to the cruelty and injustice being visited upon them with abusive behavior of their own.

It happens when a person who’s being abused gets pushed so far by their abuser that they can no longer contain the pain and hurt and injustice they feel.

Reactive abuse is often a “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation. The abuser will keep goading the victim over a period of time while the victim keeps trying to stay calm and not react. They’ll hover at the breaking point for as long as they can until they’re pushed just a little too far. Then they’ll go full-on Oppenheimer and lash out with all their fury.

They might answer verbal criticisms with insults of their own, match scream for scream, or hit back after being beaten. They’ve been pushed so far that they actually take part in the very behavior that they despise in their abuser.

When this finally happens, their abuser might pretend to look shocked or hurt at how mean they’re being. Others will smirk smugly instead because they finally got the response they were aiming for. Now they have a treasure chest full of “proof” that they can use to manipulate their victim further.

At this point, abuse escalates far more because of the additional fuel that’s been thrown on the fire.

Examples of what reactive abuse can look like.

Any type of verbal or physical violence that’s done by the victim as an act of self-defense can be considered reactive abuse.

The examples listed below are just a few different ways that reactive abuse can manifest:

Let’s say “Olivia” is a teenaged high school student who’s being relentlessly bullied by another girl named “Jenna.”

Jenna mocks and insults Olivia on a constant basis, spreads lies about her, stirs up all kinds of trouble about her, even gets Olivia’s boyfriend to cheat with her.

Finally in class one day, Jenna tells Olivia about how she and Olivia’s now-ex boyfriend talk about how bad she is in bed… and Olivia goes ballistic.

She starts screaming at Jenna to leave her alone, calls her all kinds of names, and totally loses it on her. Jenna then plays the victim, going to the guidance counsellor and principal about how traumatized she is by Olivia’s abuse. As a result, Olivia gets suspended, forced into counselling, and becomes a social pariah.

Olivia has been the victim of immeasurable cruelty, but she’s the one punished because her “crazy” outburst was witnessed publicly, and seemed to be unprovoked since nobody knew about the long-ongoing backstory.

Then we have parent-child reactive abuse.

30-year-old “Dan” has a chronically ill mother named “Hannah” who’s a malignant narcissist. She lives with him because her illness won’t allow her to live alone. She nitpicks and criticizes him constantly, telling him that he’s useless, ugly, stupid, will never get a girlfriend, etc. She’s physically abusive towards him as well, making a point of pinching, slapping, kicking, and shoving him around.

Finally, one day, after several years of abuse building up, he grabs her arms to stop her from hitting him.

She throws herself to the floor in a melodramatic fit and calls the police when he goes out back to catch his breath. He ends up being investigated for elder abuse, while she gets to redouble her efforts picking on him, PLUS guilt-tripping him for “abusing” her.

(Video) 8 Signs You Are Dealing with Narcissistic Abuse

When Dan finally tries to kill himself to try to get away from her, she torments him further for trying to abandon her (another type of abuse in her eyes), plus being too weak and incompetent to even get suicide right.

In a romantic relationship, a partner of any gender can be the abuser. Sometimes it’s a boyfriend or husband tormenting his partner, other times it’s the girlfriend or wife abusing her partner. Abuse can happen in same-sex relationships, and even in nonbinary or asexual/aromantic (ace/aro) pairings.

What ends up happening is that the abuser will torment their victim, and when the victim finally shouts or hits back, the abuser then turns it around and says that they “don’t feel safe” with their partner. They’ll then use this to get something they want. Maybe it’s an expensive gift or a holiday, or it might even be a breakup that they don’t want to initiate.

Other abusers might have a “home base” that they’re cultivating with a pliant partner victim. For example, let’s say 35-year-old “Anya” is in a relationship with 40-year-old “Mark” who follows this particular pattern in his relationships.

Anya has low-self esteem from an unhappy marriage, and met Mark online: he swept her off her feet and “rescued” her from that relationship to start anew with him.

Everything in their relationship was wonderful to begin with, but then Mark started to get verbally and emotionally abusive. He began to control what she wore, what color she dyed her hair, and which friends she was allowed to associate with. Next he found an excuse not to work (let’s say because of a “health issue”), so he was being supported by Anya financially.

Anya ends up being stressed out and depressed. Mark starts to spend more time in his office and outside the house. He’s also spending a lot of Anya’s money without explaining why. She suspects that he’s cheating, and confronts him about it angrily.

Mark tells her that he thinks these accusations are abusive, and that between her unfounded cruelty and her depression (which he finds incredibly unattractive), he’s thinking of leaving her. Anya feels terrible about hurting his feelings, is terrified of him leaving her, and redoubles her efforts towards him.

So Mark has his cake, is eating it too, and has ensured that his cozy little nest is exactly how he wants it. Anya isn’t going to stir up trouble any time soon, and if she does, he’ll just threaten her with abandonment again. He will eventually leave once he gets too bored and annoyed by Anya, and will white knight his way into the life of another damaged, pliant woman who’ll be eager to fix him and love him the way he feels he deserves.

How can you identify reactive abuse?

Reactive abuse tends to follow a very specific, three-part pattern:

  1. Antagonism
  2. Proof
  3. Turning tables

First will be the constant provocation to try to get an emotional or physical response. Then they’ll use that response as “proof” that the abuse isn’t coming from them, but from the victim. Finally, they’ll turn the tables and imply that the victim is responsible for everything that’s going wrong in the relationship because of how unhinged they are.

The abuse is unlikely to deviate from this pattern specifically because it’s a necessary one. Proof of instability can’t happen without antagonism, and the victim can’t be gaslit and manipulated if they don’t behave in an unstable manner that’s out of character for them.

Do you recognize these kinds of patterns in your own relationship?

Try to keep emotionally detached enough to recognize if this is the case. If there are friends or family members whom you trust, and who have been watching your relationship unfold, you can even ask for their input on it. Chances are many people have noticed these issues over time and just haven’t said anything because they’ve felt it isn’t their “place” to do so.

What are some signs that reactive abuse is imminent?

People who are exposed to abusive trauma over long periods of time can manifest a number of different symptoms. Most will end up being averse to any kind of confrontation and will flinch or startle easily.

If and when they find themselves in a situation that may be abusive and traumatic, they might start shaking, sweating, trembling, and/or stammering. Their blood pressure or sugar might drop, causing them to feel lightheaded. Some might even faint, which the abuser may use against them as a sign that they’re being “dramatic.”

The victim might disassociate emotionally, or they might become hyper-emotional. If they’ve always been quite calm or stoic, they might behave in a manner that’s quite unusual for them, such as crying at the drop of a hat or becoming irritable. Some might have difficulty concentrating and feel confused, thus making them seem erratic and unintelligible when they’re speaking.

Meanwhile, their abuser is absolutely calm and collected, manipulating the situation like a puppeteer twiddling a marionette’s strings. They seem completely coherent and put together, while the victim is erratic, unstable, even frantic. As a result, the victim gets seen as unhinged while the abuser seems completely rational.

You can see how justice can utterly fail a victim of reactive abuse on so many levels. When someone has been tormented to the point of madness, they will react as though they are mad. And that can seal their fate unless those around them have been privy to the cruelties that have pushed them that far.

If you find yourself in a position where the abuse you’ve been suffering is pushing you to your breaking point, then you need to work that energy out of your system before you go incandescent.

Try to physically get away from the abuser, even if it’s just into another room where you can lock the door and be alone. Even better if you can go somewhere else; somewhere you’ll be safe from them, like to a sympathetic friend or family member. Call an abuse hotline if you need to speak to someone immediately, and don’t be afraid to get to a hospital if you’re in serious mental distress.

There are people around who can help you.

Furthermore, if you take the initiative and get help before the situation escalates to the point of reactive abuse, then your abuser won’t have anything to hold over you. They can only continue to manipulate you if you give them fuel to do so. If you don’t scream or strike back, then all the evidence pointing towards abuse is against them.

It’s important to note, however, that many abusers – especially narcissists – have elevated abuse to an art form. They are master manipulators and can gaslight just about anyone. Many of them have learned techniques to trick therapists and doctors into believing what they say over anyone else.

(Video) The 5 Signs Someone Has Suffered Narcissistic Abuse

This is why it’s so important to never seek couples therapy with a narcissistic abuser. In all likelihood, they’ll dominate the sessions to the point where the therapist will end up siding with them, with all “evidence” pointing to you being the bad guy in this situation.

How does a person provoke reactive abuse in the victim?

As you can tell by the examples listed earlier, provoked reactive abuse can take a number of different forms. Similarly, getting someone else to behave in those matters can also happen via various means.

Everyone has their own individual triggers and buttons that will cause emotional, psychological, and even physical responses within them. Abusers – especially narcissistic ones – learn these triggers well, and subsequently use them to manipulate their victims.

Let’s say the abused person is hypersensitive to being cornered and physically dominated. Maybe they were terrorized or beaten by someone significantly larger than them when they were very young and as such get panicky when they feel trapped.

Their abuser might purposely corner them in a place where they can’t escape, like a small bathroom or in a tight corner in a kitchen. They’ll then loom over them, physically trying to prevent them from being able to get away, while insulting them, yelling at them, or otherwise inflicting verbal (or even physical) abuse.

The victim’s emotions will run higher and higher and their fight-or-flight response will intensify until they finally lash out.

Maybe they’ll yell back, or maybe they’ll push, hit, or kick their abuser so they can get away from them to a place where they can feel safe. They might lock themselves in another room or leave the house entirely so they can get away from the situation that was hurting them.

Later, when they inevitably have to face their abuser, that’s when things get particularly awful.

Their abuser will turn the victim’s defensive behavior around and imply that the victim was abusing THEM.

They might cry, or flinch, or otherwise imply that the victim has done them some damage because of how horrible they were. While the victim was out of sight, they might have hit themselves repeatedly in a spot where they were touched or shoved to create a big bruise, solely so they can say “look what you did to me!!!” and try to make the victim feel guilt and shame for their violence.

To add insult to injury, the abuser might even escalate the situation by telling their friends and family that they’ve been abused by their victim. They might even file a police report so they have the abuse “on record.” This way, if they abuse their victim horribly in the future and their victim retaliates in self-defense, there will be a record on paper that THEY are prone to violence: not the other way around.

Meanwhile, the victim feels absolutely devastated at the fact that they have engaged in this kind of behavior. They’re most likely empathic or otherwise extremely emotionally sensitive, and are horrified at the thought that they could be as abusive as the one who’s been tormenting them.

The fact that they had little to no control over their outburst doesn’t alleviate the guilt and horror they feel towards themselves: they hate themselves for their behavior and often end up feeling like they “deserve” whatever punishment ensues as a result. Of course, this just empowers their abuser even more, which makes them then try to trigger the victim again… and on it goes in an incredibly ugly circle.

It’s horribly manipulative and unjust. Sadly, it’s an incredibly common tactic used by abusers in order to maintain power and control over their victim(s).

What is the difference between reactive abuse and mutual abuse?

Or, in other words: “does reactive abuse make you an abuser too?”

In the simplest possible way: no. No it does not.

This is a similar situation in which a person who is defending themselves against attack by a stranger is not attacking said stranger. They might cause damage as they defend themselves, but said damage is caused in trying to save themselves. The one being attacked is under real threat, and is doing what they can to protect mind, body, and spirit.

It might not even be a conscious reaction.

When we’re feeling seriously threatened, our innate self-defense mechanisms kick in to try to preserve us. We might get physically violent by kicking, pushing, scratching, or hitting the other person to get them away from us. Or we could be more verbally expressive by screaming, shouting insults, etc.

Quite often these reactions are unconscious. Furthermore, many people who experience these extreme fight-or-flight responses can’t remember what they said or did afterwards. Their innate instincts completely take over to save them.

In contrast, mutual abuse is when there isn’t a primary abuser who keeps provoking the other to respond in kind. Rather, each party is independently abusive towards the other in their own way. One might be verbally abusive while the other is physically abusive, or they might both abuse in the same way. In situations like these, it’s more a case of incompatible people living in a poisonous situation and lashing out at one another as equals, or close to it.

With reactive abuse, the perpetrator tries to make the situation appear as though the abuse is mutual by antagonizing their victim until they react in such a way as to seem abusive. Then, in the future, if the victim tries to confront them about their awful behavior, they can say “well, you hit me too, so I guess we’re both guilty here” or similar.

It’s a perfect way for them to evade any kind of justice for the damage they’re inflicting.

What is the impact of reactive abuse on each party?

The person who’s been on the receiving end of abuse for a long period of time will have trauma in every aspect of their life. Long-term stress has a number of different effects on individuals, ranging from emotional and psychological issues to very real physical ones.

For example, many people who suffer long-term abuse develop complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). This condition can manifest symptoms such as anxiety, depression, emotional dysregulation, and insomnia.

(Video) Episode 5: Twisted Out of Shape: Reactive Abuse

Long periods of elevated stress also take their toll on the body. Studies have shown that stress can contribute to several different physical conditions.[1] Some are degenerative, others are inflammatory, but all are very real results of elevated stress hormones over months or years of unhealthy, abusive environments.

A few of the physical issues that can result from exposure to long-term abuse include:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cardiovascular issues (heart disease, heart attacks, strokes)
  • Sensory oversensitivity (light, sound, sudden movement)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic migraines
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Ulcers
  • Diabetes
  • Infertility

And that’s just the physical aspects.

When abusers use the victim’s reactive abuse as leverage against them, it’s an added layer of torment on the victim. They start second-guessing everything about themselves. They’ll start wondering if they’ve been imagining all the suffering they’ve been experiencing (hello gaslighting), causing their entire sense of self and the way they perceive their world to unravel.

Furthermore, they might feel such guilt about what they’ve done (in self-defense) that they try to do anything they can to repair the damage they’ve think they’ve caused so they can repair and save the relationship. This is also known as “trauma bonding,” and can cause the abused person to create even stronger bonds with their abuser.

This can cause unbelievable emotional and mental suffering, and can even cause psychotic breakdowns. Meanwhile, their abuser can use all of this as fuel for their cause. They can get doctors, therapists, and their entire social circle on “their side” with all their proof that their victim is unstable and abusive.

The abuser is literally driving their victim insane, and then using the results of their abuse as proof of the insanity. It is one of the most reprehensible abusive situations out there, and sadly, many psych professionals miss very important clues and cues because the abusers – usually narcissists – have elevated their abuse and manipulation to an art form.

The victim ends up a completely broken shell of their former self, often heavily medicated, and (most terrifyingly), dependent upon their abuser for care.

As mentioned earlier, trauma bonding can be particularly bad in situations like this. Not only does the victim feel like they can (and should) do everything in their power to save the relationship, they might also feel that they can change their partner for the better.

Some of them feel like they’re meant to “save” or “fix” their broken partner; that the abuse they perpetrate is because they’re deeply wounded, and as such are in need of unconditional love and care.

Yes, the abuser may indeed be the way they are because of childhood abuse and torment, but they aren’t likely to be “fixed.” Not by a partner who’s been abused to the point of insanity anyway.

There really is no negative effect on the perpetrator of this abuse. They’ll just keep doing what they do best, learning new techniques to provoke and antagonize their victims. They’ll do so until they get bored with or break their victim, then move on to do the same thing to someone else.

Maybe eventually they’ll end up alone, having reaped what they’ve sown all their lives. And maybe they won’t.

Why do abusers intentionally provoke reactive abuse in their victims?

Ultimately –and this is the number one thing to remember when it comes to reactive abuse – the abuser’s main goal is to completely disempower their victim. They lower the victim’s self-esteem until they feel weak, useless, and powerless.

Then, if and when they finally find a burst of real energy in themselves, and use it as a means of self-defense, they’re gaslit into feeling like they’re the abuser because they dared to defend themselves.

The abused person ends up being damaged twice over: first because of their abuser’s behavior towards them, and secondly because they don’t want to feel like the “bad guy” in any way, so they refuse to defend themselves against the abuse.

Thus, the abuser has someone under their complete control. They can do whatever they want to or with this person, knowing that they’ll never fight back. The abuser can dominate them mentally, physically, emotionally, sexually, and always have weapons in their arsenal to use as leverage if the victim ever tries to put a stop to their cruelty.

This will often continue until the abuser gets bored and moves on, or the victim ends up institutionalized, or dead.

Some people try to instigate reactive abuse when they want to end a relationship, but don’t want to appear like the “bad guy.” They’ll antagonize their victim until that poor soul finally lashes out, and then use their response as justification to leave. Furthermore, they’ll play victim to garner sympathy from others.

A great description here is that it’s like a lockpicker’s form of abuse.

The abuser finds all the different nooks, crannies, and triggers they can use, and then pick and pick bit by bit until they unlock the response they want.

And then they use that to their greatest advantage.

How can you stop reacting to a person’s abuse in that way?

The one surefire method to stop reacting to this kind of abuse is to get away from your abuser permanently.

If that isn’t an option for the time being, either because of financial circumstances or because they’re family members you have to deal with for a bit longer, then going “gray rock” as a coping strategy can be an effective option.

Remember that reactive abuse can only happen if one chooses to react.

(Video) 10 Signs of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

Learn to recognize when this abuser is trying to goad you into the type of response they want. They feed off emotion and drama and will often try to instigate responses that will give them the rush that they want. If you don’t engage, they might redouble their efforts briefly, but most will quickly get bored and turn their attentions elsewhere.

This is sort of like a child poking a dog with a stick until the dog snaps at them. Then they can run to mommy and daddy to get attention because the big, scary dog scared them. But if the dog doesn’t react, they’ll soon put the stick down and toddle elsewhere.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether you want this cycle of abuse to continue. If you want it to stop, then you’re going to have to be the one to stop it by getting help, and getting out.

Still not sure how to deal with your own reactive abuse or the abuse you suffered in the run-up to it? In truth, this is not something you should attempt to work through alone. It is very much a situation in which a therapist is going to be required if you are to overcome the damaging effects of the abuse you suffered and took part in. So speak to a therapist today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on

You may also like:

  • 6 Steps To Leaving A Toxic Relationship And Ending It For Good
  • Gaslighting: 22 Examples Of This Brutally Manipulative Mindf*ck
  • 5 Sad Reasons Why Name-Calling In A Relationship Is A Form Of Abuse
  • 12 Symptoms Of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome
  • 11 Key Signs Of Love Bombing (And What To Do About It)
  • 8 Things That Are Essential To Recovery From Narcissistic Abuse
  • How To Cut Someone Off: 10 Steps To Cut Them Out Of Your Life


  1. Mariotti A. (2015). The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication. Future science OA, 1(3), FSO23.

Reactive abuse occurs when an abuse victim responds to the cruelty and injustice being visited upon them with abusive behavior of their own.


It happens when a person who’s being abused gets pushed so far by their abuser that they can no longer contain the pain and hurt and injustice they feel.

" } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "How can you identify reactive abuse?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "

Reactive abuse tends to follow a very specific, three-part pattern:


  1. Antagonism
  2. \n

  3. Proof
  4. \n

  5. Turning tables
  6. \n

" } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Does reactive abuse make you an abuser too?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "

In the simplest possible way: no. No it does not.


This is a similar situation in which a person who is defending themselves against attack by a stranger is not attacking said stranger. They might cause damage as they defend themselves, but said damage is caused in trying to save themselves. The one being attacked is under real threat, and is doing what they can to protect mind, body, and spirit.

" } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What is the impact of reactive abuse on each party?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "The person who’s been on the receiving end of abuse for a long period of time will have trauma in every aspect of their life. Long-term stress has a number of different effects on individuals, ranging from emotional and psychological issues to very real physical ones." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "Why do abusers intentionally provoke reactive abuse in their victims?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Ultimately – and this is the number one thing to remember when it comes to reactive abuse – the abuser’s main goal is to completely disempower their victim. They lower the victim’s self-esteem until they feel weak, useless, and powerless." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "How can you stop reacting to a person’s abuse in that way?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "

The one surefire method to stop reacting to this kind of abuse is to get away from your abuser permanently.


If that isn't an option for the time being, either because of financial circumstances or because they're family members you have to deal with for a bit longer, then going \"gray rock\" as a coping strategy can be an effective option.

" } } ]}


Does reactive abuse make you an abuser? ›

Due to power imbalances in reactive abuse situations, one partner is likely primarily abusive while the other may be attempting to fight self-defense.

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse
  • They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You. ...
  • They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy. ...
  • They are Possessive and/or Controlling. ...
  • They are Manipulative. ...
  • They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.
23 May 2017

What are 3 warning signs of someone who is violent? ›

They might look like:
  • Increased loss of temper.
  • Frequent physical fighting.
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Increased risk-taking behavior.
  • Declining school performance.
  • Acute episode of major mental illness.
  • Planning how to commit acts of violence.
  • Announcing threats or plans for hurting others.
1 Jan 2013

What is a pattern of abuse? ›

Summary. The cycle of abuse is a four-stage cycle used to describe the way abuse sometimes occurs in relationships. The stages—tension, incident, reconciliation, and calm—repeat themselves over and over again if the abuse follows this pattern.

How do you break a trauma bond? ›

Outside of getting professional support, here are some steps you can take on your own to break free from a trauma bonded relationship:
  1. Educate Yourself. ...
  2. Focus on the Here and Now. ...
  3. Create Some Space. ...
  4. Find Support. ...
  5. Practice Good Self-Care. ...
  6. Make Future Plans. ...
  7. Develop Healthy Relationships. ...
  8. Give Yourself Permission to Heal.
18 Feb 2022

What is reactive anger? ›

Reactive aggression (also known as impulsive aggression) refers to aggressive behavior in response to perceived threat or provocation and is the main type of aggressive behavior (Berkowitz, 1993).

What are signs of narcissistic abuse? ›

Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
  • Always Walking On Egg Shells. As a human, you tend to avoid things that remind you of terrible things in the past. ...
  • Sense of Mistrust. ...
  • Self-Isolation. ...
  • Loss of Self Worth. ...
  • Feeling Lonely. ...
  • Freezing Up. ...
  • Trouble Making Decisions. ...
  • Feeling Like You've Done Something Wrong.
23 Dec 2020

How do emotional abuse victims act? ›

Emotional and psychological abuse can have severe short- and long-term effects. This type of abuse can affect both your physical and your mental health. You may experience feelings of confusion, anxiety, shame, guilt, frequent crying, over-compliance, powerlessness, and more.

What are the side effects of emotional abuse? ›

Long-term effects of emotional abuse
  • mental health conditions.
  • neuroticism, or the tendency toward low mood and negative emotions like anger.
  • chronic stress.
  • physical health challenges like body aches and heart palpitations.
  • attachment challenges.
  • emotional disconnect or apathy.
23 Mar 2022

What are signs of aggressive behavior? ›

Signs and Symptoms of Aggression
  • Biting another person or an object.
  • Bullying.
  • Destroying property.
  • Excluding others.
  • Gossiping.
  • Having difficulty calming yourself down after exerting aggressive behavior.
  • Hitting another person or an object.
  • Ignoring someone on purpose.
23 Jul 2017

How do you tell if someone is lying about being abused? ›

Some common signs include: The person does not answer a question right away, but pauses or delays their answer as they try to think about what to say. The person looks away and will not make eye contact. The person instinctively touches their mouth while speaking.

What are the characteristics of an abuser? ›

Red flags and warning signs of an abuser include but are not limited to:
  • Extreme jealousy.
  • Possessiveness.
  • Unpredictability.
  • A bad temper.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Extremely controlling behavior.
  • Antiquated beliefs about roles of women and men in relationships.

Is abuse a pattern of behavior? ›

The commonly held definition of abuse, which we use in all of our trainings, is “a pattern of behavior used by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another.” One thing to note about that definition is that we are talking about a pattern of behavior, in other words, not just one incident.

Does abuse have to be a pattern? ›

Although abuse often does happen in a cycle or within a larger pattern, it doesn't happen in the same way all the time, even in the same relationship. Narratives that suggest otherwise can overlook important signs of abuse and deny the experiences of survivors.

What is the predictable pattern of abuse? ›

Predictable Patterns. – The child who unwittingly responds to the special attention or does not respond negatively is further exposed to grooming across boundaries into clearly inappropriate behaviors.

How do you know if you are traumatized? ›

Intrusive memories

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event. Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks) Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event. Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event.

How do I know if Im in a trauma bond? ›

Travers says if you're immediately coming to their defense and justifying their actions toward you, even when they're clearly in the wrong, that's a key sign you're in a trauma bond. In a healthy relationship, you should both step up and take accountability when you can do better.

What is narcissistic trauma bonding? ›

Trauma bonding occurs when a narcissist repeats a cycle of abuse with another person which fuels a need for validation and love from the person being abused. Trauma bonding often happens in romantic relationships, however, it can also occur between colleagues, non-romantic family members, and friends.

How do you deal with a reactive person? ›

So here are some ways to deal with an emotionally reactive partner, according to experts.
  1. Take A Brief Moment To Ground Yourself Before Responding. ...
  2. Communicate How You Feel And Focus On The Impact Of Their Behavior. ...
  3. Try To Understand Your Relationship Dynamic. ...
  4. Set Boundaries For Yourself.
9 Oct 2019

What is an example of reactive? ›

To react, to 'act back' on an event, is to respond by exerting the happening back on itself. Think of a few physical examples, like a rubber band 'reacting' to being stretched. Or a rubber ball 'reacting' to being thrown against the ground.

What causes a person to be reactive? ›

When we feel stressed, angry, or hurt, we tend to react impulsively. We are in a state of fight-or-flight and tend to react emotionally, that is, to overreact. That overreaction is emotional reactivity.

What does a victim of narcissistic abuse look like? ›

Victims of narcissistic abuse have been reported to experience symptoms similar to PTSD, known informally as narcissistic abuse syndrome. Symptoms include intrusive, invasive, or unwanted thoughts, flashbacks, avoidance, feelings of loneliness, isolation, and feeling extremely alert.

How do you prove narcissistic abuse? ›

There are several things you can do to prove narcissistic abuse. You need to record every interaction, tell other people about the abuse, and have people witness it if possible. You can also use the narcissist's history against them and even trigger their narcissistic behavior to show other people.

What is narcissistic rage examples? ›

Examples of narcissistic rage range from intense outbursts and sudden fits of anger, to passive-aggressive acts such as simmering resentment, icy silence, deliberate neglect, or cutting sarcasm.

What mental illnesses are caused by abuse? ›

Experiencing abuse or other trauma puts people at risk of developing mental health conditions, such as:
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Depression.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Misusing alcohol or drugs.
  • Borderline personality disorder.
16 Feb 2021

What does emotional abuse do to 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.)

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 happens to a person after years of emotional abuse? ›

In fact, according to one study, severe emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse and contribute to depression and low self-esteem. The study also suggested that emotional abuse may contribute to the development of chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

How abuse can affect a person? ›

Maltreatment can cause victims to feel isolation, fear, and distrust, which can translate into lifelong psychological consequences that can manifest as educational difficulties, low self-esteem, depression, and trouble forming and maintaining relationships.

How does verbal abuse affect the brain? ›

Impact of Verbal Abuse

Changes in mood. Chronic stress. Decreased self-esteem3. Depression.

What are the 5 categories of aggressive behavior? ›

There are four types of aggressive behavior: accidental, expressive, instrumental, and hostile.

What causes a person to be mean? ›

Many things can trigger anger, including stress, family problems, and financial issues. For some people, anger is caused by an underlying disorder, such as alcoholism or depression. Anger itself isn't considered a disorder, but anger is a known symptom of several mental health conditions.

What are 5 causes of violence? ›

Other factors which can be causes of violence include:
  • The influence of one's peers.
  • Having a lack of attention or respect.
  • Having low self-worth.
  • Experiencing abuse or neglect.
  • Witnessing violence in the home, community, or medias.
  • Access to weapons.
17 Aug 2011

What are the 17 signs of lying? ›

Below, you'll find 34 signs of lying, as explained by experts.
  • They give way too much information. ...
  • They can't keep their story straight. ...
  • They put up a physical wall. ...
  • They're giving way too little information. ...
  • They're doing strange things with their eyes. ...
  • They're fake smiling. ...
  • They can't remember the details.
9 Feb 2018

How do you know someone is telling the truth? ›

Scientific Ways To Tell If Someone Is Being Honest
  1. Their Story Is Longer & Detailed. ...
  2. They're Holding The Right Amount Of Eye Contact. ...
  3. Their Breathing Is Steady. ...
  4. Their Voice Is Steady, Too. ...
  5. They Neglect To Blame Negative Outside Forces. ...
  6. You Haven't Noticed Them Touching Their Nose. ...
  7. They're Not Covering Their Throat.
9 Jun 2016

How does a man know if he is being abused? ›

Men who are being abused may: Seem afraid of or are anxious to please their partner. Go along with everything their partner says and does. Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they're doing.

Why do people stay in toxic relationships? ›

A lot of people in abusive relationships stay in them because they love their partner and think that things will change. They might also believe their partner's behavior is due to tough times or feel as though they can change their partner if they are a better partner themselves.

Who is likely to be an abuser? ›

Overall, women were five times more likely to suffer sexual assault as an adult than men (20% compared with 4%), and twice as likely to experience domestic abuse (26% compared with 14%).

What are the four stages of the cycle of violence? ›

The 4 stages of an abusive relationship
  • The tension-building stage. This is when stress and strain begin to build between a couple just before an abusive act occurs. ...
  • Incident of abuse stage. This is when the act of violence takes place. ...
  • Reconciliation stage. This is also known as the honeymoon phase. ...
  • Calm stage.
21 Nov 2017

What common signs would indicate abuse has taken place? ›

Possible Indicators of Physical Abuse
  • Multiple bruising.
  • Fractures.
  • Burns.
  • Bed sores.
  • Fear.
  • Depression.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Assault (can be intentional or reckless)

What is emotional reactivity? ›

Emotional reactivity refers to the tendency to experience frequent and intense emotional arousal. Both the threshold and ease with which individuals become emotionally aroused and the intensity of emotional experiences are aspects of emotional reactivity.

What is Gaslighting emotional abuse? ›

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a person or group causes someone to question their own sanity, memories, or perception of reality. People who experience gaslighting may feel confused, anxious, or as though they cannot trust themselves.

In what part of the cycle of abuse might the abuser apologize? ›

Reconciliation stage

This is also known as the honeymoon phase. The abuser becomes contrite and apologises for their behaviour. They may be overly attentive or affectionate; they may try to ignore what happened, or they may even try to blame the victim for the violence.

What are the 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 6 behaviors that indicate emotional abuse? ›

Examples include intimidation, coercion, ridiculing, harassment, treating an adult like a child, isolating an adult from family, friends, or regular activity, use of silence to control behavior, and yelling or swearing which results in mental distress. Signs of emotional abuse.

What are the 5 most common types abuse? ›

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

How do you communicate with a reactive person? ›

So here are some ways to deal with an emotionally reactive partner, according to experts.
  1. Take A Brief Moment To Ground Yourself Before Responding. ...
  2. Communicate How You Feel And Focus On The Impact Of Their Behavior. ...
  3. Try To Understand Your Relationship Dynamic. ...
  4. Set Boundaries For Yourself.
9 Oct 2019

What causes a person to be reactive? ›

When we feel stressed, angry, or hurt, we tend to react impulsively. We are in a state of fight-or-flight and tend to react emotionally, that is, to overreact. That overreaction is emotional reactivity.

What are the 11 signs of gaslighting? ›

👓 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting | Psychology Today
  • They tell blatant lies.
  • They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.
  • They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.
  • They wear you down over time.
  • Their actions do not match their words.
  • They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.
4 Oct 2018

What are 10 signs of gaslighting? ›

10 Signs of Gaslighting Behaviour
  • Blatant Lies. You know the person is lying, often and with ease, yet they say they do not recognise this in their behaviour. ...
  • Deny, Deny, Deny. You know what they said. ...
  • Using What You Love Against You. ...
  • Losing Your Sense of Self. ...
  • Words Versus Actions. ...
  • Love and Flattery. ...
  • Confusion. ...
  • Projecting.
15 May 2019

What is the narcissistic abuse cycle? ›

The narcissistic abuse cycle refers to an abusive pattern of behavior that characterizes the relationships of people with narcissistic traits. It involves first idealizing a person, then devaluing them, repeating the cycle, and eventually discarding them when they are of no further use.

What are the long term effects of emotional abuse? ›

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.

What is the primary symptom of battered woman syndrome? ›

Anxiety: Women with BWS have high levels of anxiety and hypervigilance when something doesn't seem right, Walker says. This leads to the fight-or-flight response. This could mean being startled by noises and other triggers, crying often, and having problems with sleep.


1. Is it reactive abuse or a normal response to emotionally abusive behavior?
(Love and Abuse Podcast)
2. 3 Powerful Ways you can prove Non-Physical Violence in court
(The Woman of Valour)
3. Types of Child Abuse and Signs In Adults
(Michelle Mana)
4. How to prove coercive and controlling behaviour
5. The Hidden Signs Someone's In a Narcissistic Relationship | MedCircle
6. How To REPROGRAM Your Brain To Break Bad Habits & Make HEALTHY Choices! | Shawn Stevenson
(Shawn Stevenson)

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