It would be nice to live in a world where emotional and mental abuse didn’t happen, but that’s not the case. Both types of abuse exist and can cause a lot of damage to the people receiving it.
Sadly, this abuse can lead to a substance use disorder. We’ve addressed this issue in many ways at Granite Recovery Centers. Still, the connection between these kinds of abuse and substance use disorder isn’t always clear. We’re going to do our best to help you see how these two can intersect.
Understanding the Danger Behind Emotional and Mental Abuse
Sometimes, people refer to emotional or mental abuse as silent killers. It’s estimated that around half of Americans in some kind of romantic relationship have experienced some form of emotional or mental abuse at the hands of a partner.
The truth is that emotional or mental abuse can come from anyone. It could come from siblings, friends, or parents, but the truth is that it can come from a significant other as well. This type of abuse hits you harder when it’s coming from people you know. These are people with whom you’ve shared your life and established an emotional connection.
The severity of emotional or mental abuse is often linked to how strong the connection is with the abuser. Part of the reason abuse is called the silent killer is because signs of it are often hidden—it usually doesn’t happen out in the open, but behind closed doors.
The abused sometimes hide that it’s happening because they have a strong connection to the abuser. That doesn’t stop this type of abuse from being destructive. It can lead to so much pain. The following are a few examples of what could happen with enough emotional or mental abuse:
- This kind of abuse can make people feel a sense of confusion about their lives and relationships.
- Fear and feelings of hopelessness start to overcome you more than any other emotion.
- Shame is something you might experience for not being able to do anything about the abuse of going through it all together. The reasons you feel shame vary, but you’ll feel it.
- People experience physical effects like muscle tension, trouble controlling their emotions, anxiety, unexplained pain, and constant nightmares, just to name a few things. Some people even go as far as developing insomnia because of this problem.
- You may develop self-esteem issues.
Every so often, people who get emotionally or mentally abused begin to withdraw from society. This could happen because of shame, but it could also involve self-esteem.
While we do focus on substance use disorder, many of our treatment programs try to address the underlying issues that might have led someone to fall victim to this troubling disorder. People don’t want to talk about this reality, but abuse can lead to substance use disorder in many ways. We’ve seen people suffering from abuse turn to all sorts of drugs to cope with life. Some turn to sleeping pills because they’re having trouble sleeping. Others turn to numbing drugs or drugs that allow them a moment of happiness. Some of these substances are stronger than others, but in the end, the use turns into a substance use disorder, which is challenging to address. We address substance disorders with our evidence-based treatment programs.
What Is Emotional or Mental Abuse?
While it’s more than clear that emotional or mental abuse is quite disturbing, it’s important to know what it is.
An easy way to describe it is to say it’s an emotional or mental attack. This is not physical; it’s something that hits you deep without the abuser ever touching you. Most people understand this kind of abuse in these general terms, but it’s much more complex, making it harder to identify at times.
We think it’s important that you’re able to see it, just in case it’s happening to you or happening to someone you love. Knowing more about it makes it easier to fight it. If more people can recognize it, maybe people will find a way to run from it before things get worse.
The following are some ways emotional or mental abuse can manifest itself:
- Humiliation is common tactic abusers use against their victims. Sometimes, it’s just a mean joke, but other times it’s a dig at your character or accomplishments. They’ll insult your appearance and try to be patronizing.
- Control is another tool an abuser will use. The way a person gains control over another emotionally can be diabolical. Sometimes, they threaten to leave using your love against you. Sometimes, it’s monitoring you through social media or by surveilling you. Every so often, you’ll feel like the person treats you like a child.
- Denial can be emotionally hurtful. Abusers will usually deny they abused you at all, and if you bring it up, they’ll act insulted that you would even insinuate something like that. They’ll consistently deny truths. In essence, they’re trying to make you question your sanity, which can be surprisingly effective given enough time.
The abuser may also use neglect and isolation against you. For example, they could withhold their affection even when you need it the most. An abuser will also do their best to prevent you from socializing. If they’re able to, they’ll try to break you away from your family. The more you have to depend on them, the happier they are, which isn’t healthy for you. This is sometimes referred to as codependency.
It’s important to realize that what you experience is your experience alone. Emotional or mental abuse is personal. The way you’re attacked is specific to you. What you’re experiencing or what a loved one is experiencing doesn’t have to match everything mentioned here. What you have to look for is a pattern. A pattern makes it clear that your abuser is trying to control you and make you feel small.
You can see how this kind of abuse can lead to bad things, such as depression, hopelessness, and sometimes, substance use disorder. People can see why a person could fall victim to these things. This kind of abuse is brutal, and it can go on for years, which can have a lasting effect on a human being.
One of those lasting effects is PTSD. Yes, people who suffer from emotional or mental abuse can sometimes develop post-traumatic stress disorder. This is regrettably something we’ve seen here often. Most of the time, PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is associated with veterans. This makes sense. What these patriots have seen is truly horrifying. The things they’ve experienced haunt them, and don’t let them go easily. Sometimes, these haunting images are too much and end up falling victim to substance use disorder, but PTSD doesn’t just affect them.
PTSD affects people who’ve suffered through emotional or mental abuse. The PTSD that some people develop can be very severe and prevent them from living a normal life until it’s addressed. Some victims find it hard to trust others, which can put a strain on relationships. This condition could also make it hard for a person to recover from the damage caused by the abuse. It continues to remind the victim of the abuse, and it ends up reopening those same wounds all over again. Every so often, PTSD linked to the abuse can lead a person to fall victim to substance use disorder.
PTSD is sometimes one of the underlying conditions our team has to address when we’re trying to help our guests find a way to reclaim their lives after suffering from a substance use disorder.
What Can You Do to Escape This Type of Relationship?
As hard as it might be right now, it’s important to trust your instincts. This type of abuse makes you doubt yourself, and it makes it hard for you to follow your instincts, but at some point, you’ll feel them. You’ll hear that voice inside your head telling you that what you’re going through is not okay. Hopefully, you’re able to hear this voice or feel those instincts before things develop into more complicated problems, like substance use disorder.
Now, if you fear for your life and the abuse accompanies physical abuse, then it’s important to contact the authorities. You can’t leave this relationship without having someone there to you help protect you. There are shelters out there and organizations built to help people in your situation that authorities can help you find.
On top of that, you have to accept that the abuse you’re dealing with has nothing to do with you. As much as the abuser has attempted to convince you that you’re the problem or that you’re the reason they abuse you, don’t pay attention to them. You have nothing to do with their abuse. The sooner you allow yourself to accept this, the sooner you can begin to heal.
If possible, try hard to let go of this relationship. If it’s someone you’re dating, then leaving this person is one of the best things you can do. If the abuser is a family member, you may need to cut ties and inform your family that you’re doing so. Those who have kids will want to work with the law to figure out a way to limit their exposure to the abuser. It’s will likely be harder to reclaim your life and happiness if your abuser still has access to you. This behavior probably won’t stop because you attempt to break ties. In fact, the abuse might intensify their attacks, so avoiding this person is something you need to work on doing.
You need to consider working with a therapist or a counselor. These folks are trained to help you cope with what you’ve been through. This was a traumatic experience—thinking the abuse is no big deal is exactly what the abuser wants you to believe, and is also known as gaslighting. Work on accepting how horrible you’ve been treated and accepting that you deserve better. You’ll probably want to visit a few therapists or counselors before deciding on one.
It may be helpful to reach out to friends or family members for support. These are people you might have left behind during this period of your life, and that’s okay. You don’t have to tell them what you’ve been going through unless you feel comfortable sharing so much. The reason you’re contacting these folks is to get out of your own head. You’re taking a break and trying to enjoy yourself again. It might not seem like such a big deal, but spending time with people you care about and who care about you is good medicine.
If you’re able to get out of this relationship, then consider working on taking care of yourself again. This means taking up relaxing activities, like yoga or meditation. It means healthy eating, exercising, and just generally caring for your well-being. Taking steps like this could give you a sense of control over your life, and you need that when healing from an abusive relationship.
Should the outcome of abuse become serious, like substance use disorder, give us a call. Granite Recovery Centers is here to help you overcome the hardships described above. It’s going to take time, but we’re patient, and you’re worth the effort.