Psychological Abuse

by | Psychological phenomenon

What is Psychological Abuse and How Does It Occur?

Abuse emanates in numerous forms and it can be a vicious cycle that can be handed down from generation to generation. Certain kinds of abuse are easy to recognise, namely physical or sexual abuse. On the other hand, the most challenging abuse to provide evidence and pull through from would undoubtedly be mental or psychological abuse. From time to time, it is also discussed as emotional abuse. 

What is psychological abuse? Psychological abuse is employed to acquire power and control in a relationship and might possibly take a number of styles, comprising of but not restricted to: insulting, criticizing, threatening, shaming, name-calling, swearing, belittling, lying and ignoring – just to name a few. 

Psychological or emotional abuse may go together with other types of abuse: sexual, financial or physical. Nevertheless, do note that it is crucial enough to be of concern on its own. If you always feel anxious or scared around your abuser, it is most likely that you are a victim of emotional abuse. The goal of an abuser is often to undermine the feelings of self-worth and independence of another individual.

Who Can Suffer From It?

Abuse has always been about control and manipulation. Anyone can be an abuser: your partner, your parent, your boss or even your business partner. Abuse can also be inflicted on any gender and age, and it is blind to socio-economic status and even educational status. Thus, it can impact anyone.

Gender is an undependable predictor of interpersonal aggression, as well as psychological aggression. Irrespective of gender, violent persons share common traits such as elevated rates of suspicion and jealousy; unexpected and extreme mood swings; lack of self-control; and greater than average degrees of approval for violence and aggression. Both males and females are noted to be equally abusive.

Symptoms of Psychological Abuse

Fear, guilt and shame are some of the negative emotions engaged to keep a person under control. Insults, threats, coercion and criticism are few of the techniques used by an abuser. Another common practice is “gaslighting” or manipulating by psychological means into trusting their own sanity.

As a result, your self-esteem and confidence will continue to suffer and diminish, leaving it difficult to leave the abuser. These days, modern technology has steered to new forms of abuse that is by text messaging and online cyber-bullying.

Why It’s Important to Have It Treated

It is important to seek help and talk to someone in order to make sure you are safe and learn about the types of support available. You can break the cycle by accepting that the abuse is not your responsibility, disengage and set personal boundaries, exit the relationship or circumstance and give yourself time to heal. However, most often a therapist can show you a healthy way to move forward and can aid in recovery easily. A support system is necessary for one to break away.

Therapy has been an effective treatment for a range of mental and emotional issues. Despite the fact that talking to friends and family do help, they are unable to get to the root of your problems, assist in overcoming your emotional issues or make positive changes as a trained counsellor does. Therapy is not only for those who suffer from mental health ailments but also for individuals who are finding it hard to cope with relationships, jobs or experience low-self-esteem, for instance. At times, you can also seek help from a therapist in the event of a loss of relationship or death. Unlike medication, therapy can give you insights on your life and bring awareness about your unhealthy choices. Therapy can give you long-lasting benefits even though it can be time-consuming and challenging at times to confront negative emotions and thoughts.

Long-term Effects If Not Treated

Psychological abuse is ever so often not recognised earlier and the aftermath on your mental health can be devastating. Victims generally feel that they are powerless and hence can experience symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, headaches and fatigue. Others may likely develop sleeping difficulties, eating disorders and substance abuse. Some others may go on to suffer from psychological trauma including anxiety, chronic depression, suicidal ideation or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Additionally, further studies have shown that these people also tend to exhibit higher than average rates of alexithymia (difficulty labelling and processing of their own emotions). This is often the case for victims of abuse within intimate relationships as abuse may be a coping mechanism in order to either conquer, reduce or to put up with the stress. 

Treatment Options

Mental abuse treatment benefits the victim by rendering help to regain control over their life. Therapy can take place in an individual or in a group setting. Mental or emotional issues can be treated with counselling and medication. Throughout the course of counselling, speak to a therapist to work through traumatic events. The most common types of therapy methods consist of cognitive therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and exposure therapy. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a brief, goal-oriented psychotherapy method that entails a practical methodology to problem-solving. The goal of CBT is to change the ways of thinking or behaviour that occur when people face difficulties and as a result, shift the way they think and feel.

Cognitive therapy is another short-term psychotherapy technique centered on the concept that our thoughts predominantly affect our emotions. Cognitive therapy concentrates on present thinking, behaviour, and communication rather than on past experiences. It is also slanted towards problem-solving.

Exposure therapy is a method in behavioural therapy to treat anxiety disorders. It involves exposing the client to the anxiety source without the purpose of causing any harm or danger. Doing so is understood to aid them in overcoming their anxiety or distress. Numerous studies have verified its efficacy in the treatment of disorders namely generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, and specific phobias.

In addition to the therapies listed above, another therapy is somatic therapy. It combines talk therapy with alternative forms of physical therapy. The therapist provides assistance in reviving memories of traumatic experiences and pays attention to any physical reactions once the memory is brought out. Physical techniques applied are deep breathing, relaxation exercises, and meditation to get rid of symptoms. Other physical techniques may be used with somatic therapy comprises of either dance, exercise, yoga, vocal work and massage.

There are also alternative therapies that can be advantageous for those who have been psychologically abused. These also include music therapy, art therapy, hypnosis (like Ericksonian Hypnotherapy), dance therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy. 

Journalling is another way to help you gain control of your emotions and improve your mental health. Most often, the therapist uses this tool as an assignment for clients.

Lastly, drug therapy can only be administered by psychiatrists whereby notable symptoms are recognised and cause disruption to daily functioning. These drugs are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications that treat the symptoms of anxiety and depression. When medication is used with talk therapy, the benefits are far greater than just using drug therapy alone.

Approaching a Therapist/Counsellor May Help a Patient

Every session is fundamentally a problem-solving session. Discuss and describe your present circumstances and emotions revolving around the issue to your counsellor. The therapist then draws on their expertise to render assistance in moving towards improving your life.

At the start of each session, you will be requested to share openly about what is bothering you or whether there are any goals you would like to discuss. The therapist will listen and may take notes. The discussion will be kept confidential unless harm to oneself or others is identified. Therapy is a place where you can verbalise exactly how you feel without worrying about offending someone’s feelings, damaging a relationship or suffering from other consequences.

Some counsellors may give clients some homework to finish after a session. It may be to devote some time each day to release pent-up emotions safely, make a journal entry nightly, or take appropriate steps to reach your goals. During the following session, progress might be shared and any areas where frustration occurs or occasions of being stuck might be addressed.

Every single therapist and client is different and therefore, every therapist-client relationship is distinctive as well. Some therapists employ meditation, visualization, or role-playing exercises to challenging conversations. At the end of the day, irrespective of the approach chosen, the role of a therapist is to listen without judgment and assist clients to make decisions to the challenges they face and to empower their lives.

Why Should You Choose TTP?

Therapy can be costly, time-consuming and challenging. The Therapy Platform is here to simplify your journey towards self-improvement and betterment of life. In this modern era, with the use of technology, therapy is easily accessible from a computer or your mobile phone. This can be helpful if individuals are tied down to many career and family commitments. Do look through my profile and engage me if you think I may be able to help you.

References

Goldsmith, R. E., & Freyd, J. J. (2005). Awareness for emotional abuseJournal of Emotional Abuse5 (1): 95–123. DOI:10.1300/J135v05n01_04. Pdf.

Carney, M.M., & Barner, J. R. (2012). Prevalence of partner abuse: Rates of emotional abuse and control. Partner Abuse. 3(3):286–335.

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Chriselda holds a Master’s degree in Counselling from Monash University. She is currently a member of Singapore Association of Counselling. Her clientele includes individuals, couples and families from diverse age, racial, religious, socioeconomic groups including LGBTQ+. She incorporates elements of cognitive behavioural, mindfulness, person-centred, psychodynamic, solution focused and narrative therapies and motivational interviewing techniques.

Chriselda is passionate about helping individuals and empowering them towards a purpose, meaning and wholeness. She hopes to bring about positive changes in those who lack direction in life and are hurting from their past wounds.

Chriselda

Counsellor

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