Abuse is an all too common occurrence in relationships worldwide. Abuse is not only limited to romantic relationships. It can also be present in familial relationships, friendships, and interactions with acquaintances and strangers.
In the United States, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience extreme physical violence from their partner. This leaves a worryingly high number of people with scratches, burns, scars, etc., inflicted by their partners.
But while the signs of physical abuse are typically visible, an effect of malicious mistreatment by a partner is often emotional and largely out of sight.
Many victims of domestic abuse have to grapple with the emotional and mental health effects of psychological aggression, neglect, financial abuse, and other forms of intimate partner violence.
In this guide, we'll be examining the different ways abuse takes a toll on mental well-being. Plus, we'll be highlighting ways to seek help when living in an abusive situation.
What Is Abuse By Proxy?
This is perhaps the most overt form of abuse. Physical abuse employs the use of force to humiliate, control, or coerce a victim to act in a particular way. It is intentionally causing bodily injury to a partner to establish dominance over them.
Forms of Physical Abuse
Here are some common forms of physical abuse:
- Throwing objects
Effects of Physical Abuse
When a person constantly receives or is at the risk of receiving blows to the body, slaps to the face, or another form of cruel physical contact, there is a high chance that their body will host various injuries in many states of healing.
For women especially, physical violence and the threat of it come with a different set of challenges. Receiving constant violence and the stress of expecting harm has been linked to chronic health challenges like back pain and headaches.
Women who were victimized by their partners also report higher rates of depression and anxiety due to this treatment.
People that have been battered by their partners may also experience stress, PTSD, eating disorders, among other symptoms. Physical violence may disrupt sleep patterns and has been linked with insomnia. In addition, there is a high risk of engaging in substance abuse following repeated physical violence from a partner.
Abuse victims may also find that they are restless during daily activities or unable to achieve much due to fatigue.
If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Because emotional abuse can take many forms, it’s often hard to give a fitting description of this form of maltreatment. For a general idea, emotional abuse may occur where a person’s emotions are manipulated by a pattern of abusive and bullying words or behavior. It is controlling and acts as a way of punishing a person through humiliating tactics and threats.
This form of abuse does not require physical contact to cause damage, it does, however, diminish a person’s self-esteem and self-worth.
Someone that employs emotional abuse may chip away at their victim’s sense of reality, and personal value by disregarding requests or needs. They may start unnecessary arguments, or make overly critical comments on their partner’s appearance. They tend to go in and out of unpredictable moods, or may make unreasonable demands of their partners.
In some cases, they may employ extreme criticism when these demands are not met to their standards.
Emotional abuse may take different forms that can cause a victim to feel wounded, worthless, and anxious.
Forms of Emotional Abuse
- Silent treatment
- Withholding affection
- Routinely making threats
- Cruel name-calling
- Threatening to harm a partner
- Isolating the victim from friends and family
Effects of Emotional Abuse
Being surrounded by a partner with turbulent mood changes can be mentally taxing. When a partner can cleverly construct their words to debase and demoralize, or otherwise warp their victim's reality, it can have far-reaching effects.
Victims of emotional abuse are likely to experience depression and anxiety. It isn’t uncommon for an abused partner to develop phobias, or alcohol and substance use disorders. An emotionally abused person may also self-harm or engage in reckless sexual practices following emotional harm.
Very worryingly, a person that has experienced emotional abuse may begin to harbor suicidal thoughts and can even attempt to end their life as a result of the pain.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Some of the most brutal forms of domestic violence come in the many variations of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse occurs where a person is forced to perform sexual acts against their wishes.
It may also occur where they are degraded during intimate situations, or where bodily autonomy is threatened by a partner.
While rape is the most recognizable form of sexual abuse, this form of violence may appear in other ways.
Forms of Sexual Abuse
- Insisting a partner dress in a preferred way
- Demanding sex when a partner is ill or tired
- Unwelcome sexual photography
- Sharing nude photos without consent
- Forcing a partner to watch pornographic content
Effects of Sexual Abuse
When a person’s sexual autonomy is forcibly overtaken by a partner or another person, this can produce understandably adverse reactions in the body and mind.
Being forced to perform sexual acts or partake in dehumanizing forms of intercourse can cause feelings of guilt to present themselves,even though the victim is in no way responsible for what has occurred.
A victim of sexual abuse may also find it difficult to hold on to relationships and can begin to struggle with depression and anxiety. While navigating the anger and disbelief of their partner’s actions, victims may experience PTSD, sexual dysfunction, and poor sleep patterns.
In severe cases, this extreme breach of trust and humanity can cause a victim of sexual assault to make attempts at ending their life.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to receive confidential support from a trained staff member at a local RAINN affiliate.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
An easily overlooked, yet dangerous form of abuse occurs where a partner has limited or no access to funds in a relationship. In such a situation, one partner has the majority control over the money in the relationship, and how it is dispersed for needs.
This mistreatment may also crop up where one partner is prevented from opportunities that might grant financial independence.
Financial abuse forces a person to become heavily reliant on their partner for funds to buy everyday items like clothing, groceries. This ultimately affects the victim's ability to survive.
Forms of Financial Abuse
- Controlling how funds are spent at home
- Denying a partner access to shared accounts
- Being financially reckless with joint funds
- Preventing a partner from taking up employment opportunities
- Placing a partner on an allowance from the income they earned
Effects of Financial Abuse
It can be mentally and emotionally devastating when one person can decide to withhold money for the food their partner eats, how much they can spend on new clothes, or even decree a haircut as an unnecessary monthly expense.
Intimate partners—usually women, on the receiving end of financial abuse may be found in a constant state of anxiety and distress over their economic state. The reality is that they lack the resources to leave their partners and feel trapped. This feeling can lead to depression.
Financial abuse can also significantly affect the household by impacting the ability to carry out parental roles adequately.
A Word From Verywell
Abuse in any form can be incredibly damaging to someone's emotional and physical health. If you are a victim of abuse, please remember that it is not your fault and that there are resources that are available to help you.
The immediate emotional effects of abuse and neglect—isolation, fear, and an inability to trust—can translate into lifelong consequences, including poor mental health and behavioral health outcomes and increased risk for substance use disorder.What are the effects of mental and emotional abuse? ›
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 9 different types of abuse? ›
- Physical Violence. Physical violence occurs when someone uses a part of their body or an object to control a person's actions.
- Sexual Violence. ...
- Emotional Violence. ...
- Psychological Violence. ...
- Spiritual Violence. ...
- Cultural Violence. ...
- Verbal Abuse. ...
- Financial Abuse.
You might experience:
- Trouble learning.
- Trouble paying attention.
- Memory problems.
- Problems with self-control.
- Low self-esteem
Effects of Trauma
For some people, however, a traumatic event can lead to mental health issues such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and negative impacts on their relationships with family, friends, and work.
developmental delay, eating disorders and physical ailments. permanent physical injuries or death. violent, aggressive or criminal behaviour or other behavioural problems. drug and alcohol abuse and high-risk sexual behaviour.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.How does abuse change a person? ›
Traumatic childhood events can change the way a person's brain and body work. Trauma can affect the person's emotions, memory, thinking and sense of self. Trauma can also affect relationships. Women most often develop the effects of trauma if, as children, they felt helpless and trapped by abuse.What are the 5 cycles of emotional abuse? ›
The five cycles codified—enmeshment, extreme overprotection and overindulgence, complete neglect, rage, and rejection/abandon- ment—were first published in Annals, the journal of the American Psychotherapy Association, in the Fall of 2002.What are the long-term effects of narcissistic abuse? ›
Some examples of long-term effects include mood and anxiety disorders, physical ailments such as headaches, stomachaches, or body aches, the inability to get a good night's sleep or having nightmares, and a lowered sense of self-worth.
Children of narcissists also, like their parent(s), form brain damage from maltreatment. When children suffer at the hands of a narcissistic abuser, some crucial brain regions are affected, including damage to the hippocampus and amygdala. These changes lead to devastating effects on the lives of these children.What is the most reported type of abuse? ›
Neglect is the most common form of child abuse.What are the 10 abusive personality types? ›
- Asking without giving. The emotional abuser believes that his partner is there to please him. ...
- Mr. Perfect. ...
- An expert in driving her crazy. ...
- The drill sergeant. ...
- The sensitive man. ...
- The Playboy. ...
- Rambo. ...
- The victim.
- 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.
Pierce et al15 previously derived a bruising clinical decision rule (BCDR) named the TEN-4 (bruising to the torso, ear, or neck or any bruising on an infant <4 months of age), which is applicable to children younger than 4 years who have bruising.What abuse does to your brain? ›
Emotional abuse is linked to thinning of certain areas of the brain that help you manage emotions and be self-aware — especially the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe. Epigenetic changes and depression. Research from 2018 has connected childhood abuse to epigenetic brain changes that may cause depression.Can abuse affect you years later? ›
The long term effects of abuse and neglect can include: emotional difficulties like anger, anxiety, sadness or low self-esteem. mental health problems like depression, eating disorders, self harm or suicidal thoughts. problems with drugs or alcohol.What are the 17 symptoms of complex PTSD? ›
- Vivid Flashbacks. A PTSD flashback is when you relive your traumatic experience, and it feels like it is happening all over again right in that moment. ...
- Nightmares. ...
- Self-Isolation. ...
- Depression. ...
- Substance Abuse. ...
- Emotional Avoidance. ...
- Feeling on Edge, or Hyperarousal. ...
- Memory Loss.
Beyond the initial emotional reactions during the event, those most likely to surface include anger, fear, sadness, and shame.What are three possible psychological impacts of trauma? ›
- Flashbacks – reliving aspects of a traumatic event or feeling as if it is happening now, which can happen whether or not you remember specific details of it. ...
- Panic attacks – a type of fear response. ...
- Dissociation – one way your mind copes with overwhelming stress.
- Physical abuse.
- Domestic violence or abuse.
- Sexual abuse.
- Psychological or emotional abuse.
- Financial or material abuse.
- Modern slavery.
- Discriminatory abuse.
- Organisational or institutional abuse.
The 7 most common types of elderly abuse include physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, self-neglect, and abandonment. Any of these elder abuse types can be devastating to older people and their families.What are the long-term effects of abuse in adults? ›
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.Can emotional abuse traumatize you? ›
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.Which form of abuse can cause the most long-term effects? ›
The longer the emotional abuse continues, the more prolonged these effects can become. Emotional abuse, like physical abuse, can have long-term effects on the brain and body. In fact, according to one study, severe emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse and contribute to depression and low self-esteem.Can emotional abuse cause complex trauma? ›
The short answer is yes. We now understand that emotional abuse can cause a subcategory of the mental health condition PTSD, known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). It's actually one of the most severe forms of PTSD.How does abuse rewire the brain? ›
If you experienced abuse or neglect as a child, your brain might have become wired for fear, anxiety, and stress. And disorders such as anxiety, depression, or addiction can surface later in life. But recovery from the emotional aftermath of child abuse is possible with the right support and treatment.What does abuse do to a woman? ›
Women who have experienced domestic violence or abuse are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing a range of mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide.What are the hidden effects of trauma in relationships? ›
Essentially, attachment trauma impacts our ability to feel safe with others and ourselves. We feel chronically unsafe, mistrustful, and anxious in relationships, and this manifests through the push and pull of desperately craving healthy connection, yet also fearful and ambivalent of connection and pulling away.What are the 7 signs of emotional abuse? ›
- Gaslighting. ...
- Isolating you from loved ones. ...
- Using insulting language. ...
- Yelling. ...
- Shifting the blame. ...
- Acting extremely jealous. ...
- Outbursts of unpredictable anger.
What is the narcissistic abuse cycle? It is a pattern of behavior that is often seen in relationships where one person has a narcissistic personality disorder. It typically consists of four phases: idealization, devaluation, discarding, and hoovering.What qualifies as narcissistic abuse? ›
Narcissistic abuse refers to the emotional, physical, sexual, or financial forms of abuse that a narcissist inflicts on others. This abuse can range from mild putdowns to severe, life-threatening violence. If you're in a relationship with a narcissist, you may frequently feel angry, confused, or alone.What are typical behaviors of narcissistic abuse survivors? ›
The aftermath of narcissistic abuse can include depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, a pervasive sense of toxic shame, emotional flashbacks that regress the victim back to the abusive incidents, and overwhelming feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.What childhood trauma leads to narcissism? ›
Narcissism tends to emerge as a psychological defence in response to excessive levels of parental criticism, abuse or neglect in early life. Narcissistic personalities tend to be formed by emotional injury as a result of overwhelming shame, loss or deprivation during childhood.What does PTSD look like after narcissistic abuse? ›
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
Difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts. Hyper-awareness, vigilance, anger, and irritability. Misplaced sense of blame, low self-worth.
Gaslighting can lead to increased anxiety and depression, says Stern. “Gaslighting may not be the only factor leading to mental illness but the same factors that leave a person vulnerable to gaslighting may result in lower self-esteem, uncertainty about their own reality, anxiety, and ultimately depression,” she says.What narcissistic abuse does to a woman? ›
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.What is a fawn response to narcissistic abuse? ›
A fawn response, also called submit, is common among codependents and typical in trauma-bonded relationships with narcissists and abusers. When fawning, we seek to please and appease someone to avoid conflict. Internally, we're unable to regulate our emotions. We frantically look to someone else to normalize them.Which abuse is the most difficult? ›
It is one of the most difficult forms of abuse to prove because it does not leave physical scars or other evidence, but it is nonetheless hurtful. Verbal abuse may occur in schools or workplaces as well as in families.
It encompasses all physical, sexual, emotional, economic and psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This is one of the most common forms of violence experienced by women globally.
- Physical abuse was the most common form of maltreatment (37%).
- One-quarter of these children were victims of sexual abuse.
- One-fifth were victims of educational neglect.
- The least common forms of maltreatment involved physical neglect (9%) and emotional abuse (13%).
1 The adult may be a relative, caregiver, step-parent, religious figure, coach, or babysitter, though the majority of perpetrators are parents of the child. In the United States, children experience child abuse or neglect at a rate of 8.9 per 1,000 children.What are the traits of a psychological abuser? ›
The abuser always blames their problems on you and accuses you of doing everything wrong. They don't accept any responsibility for the consequences of their actions or words and constantly use you as a scapegoat. They are very jealous and use guilt to force you to do something you may not want to do.What are the four characteristics of abusers? ›
Below are 12 common characteristics of an abuser you may not be aware of.
- Controlling. ...
- Charming. ...
- Jealous. ...
- Inconsistent. ...
- Manipulative. ...
- Threatening. ...
- Demanding. ...
- Blames the Victim.
- Bullying and cyberbullying. Find out more.
- Child sexual exploitation. Find out more.
- Child trafficking. Find out more.
- Criminal exploitation and gangs. Find out more.
- Domestic abuse. Find out more.
- Emotional abuse. Find out more.
- Female genital mutilation. Find out more.
- Grooming. Find out more.
Passive neglect is the non-willful failure to fulfill care-taking responsibilities because of inadequate caregiver knowledge, infirmity, or disputing the value of prescribed services. Self-Neglect. This is the adult's inability, due to physical and/or mental impairments, to perform tasks essential to caring for oneself ...What does the cycle of emotional abuse look like? ›
The cycle of abuse is made up of four stages. These stages include the building of tension, the abuse incident, the reconciliation, and a period of calm.How does abuse impact 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.What are the 3 effects of abuse? ›
distrust of adults or difficulty forming relationships with others. disrupted attachments with those who are meant to keep them safe. mental health disorders such as anxiety, attachment, post-traumatic stress and depression disorders.What type of abuse can affect an individual? ›
Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse are some of the most known types of abuse: Physical abuse is when someone hurts another person's body. It includes hitting, shaking, burning, pinching, biting, choking, throwing, beating, and other actions that cause physical injury, leave marks, or cause pain.
Emotional and physical consequences
Short-term emotional and physiological effects may include fear, hopelessness, moodiness, shame and difficulty concentrating. As time goes on, these get worse. Psychological abuse also often affects the victim's ability to form healthy and trusting relationships in the future.
- 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.
Neglect is the most common form of child abuse.How does abuse affect the 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.Who does abuse affect the most? ›
Women are most likely to be victims of abuse and perpetrators are most likely to be men. Children are often the hidden victims of domestic violence and abuse.What mental illness is caused by childhood trauma? ›
Summary: Childhood trauma significantly increases the risk of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder later in life. For children who experienced emotional abuse, the most prevalent disorder reported was anxiety. Trauma also increased the risks for psychosis, OCD, and bipolar disorder.What type of abuse is most difficult to identify in adults? ›
In adults, emotional and psychological abuse may be the most common and pervasive type of abuse. Unfortunately, it is also the most difficult to track and often goes unreported, so experts are not sure how many individuals suffer from it or how often it is experienced.What are long-term effects of gaslighting? ›
The long-term effects of gaslighting may include anxiety, depression, trauma, and low self-esteem. Gaslighting often appears in abusive relationships but also takes place in other contexts. People from marginalized groups are especially vulnerable.