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Mental Health

Long-term Effects from Abuse that No One Talks About: Part 2 

Feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, unwavering apprehension and anxiety, loss of interest in daily life—All of which are signs of verbal/emotional abuse. 

When the generalized definition of abuse is applied to verbal/emotional abuse, the pattern the abuser often uses consists of a period of high praise and emotional vulnerability followed by degradation and guarded behaviors. 

Abusers will mirror another’s interests and values, appear to be trustworthy by being emotionally open immediately, and will treat them in a way that is “too good to be true” in order to draw them in—these are used as part of the beginning stages of a tactic called “grooming.” 

Grooming is characterized by six stages: targeting, gaining trust, fulfilling a need, isolation, inciting abuse and maintaining control. Grooming is used within all forms of abuse, however the order of the stages may vary. In the case of verbal/emotional abuse, the first three stages are primarily used. Stages four, five and six will slowly be introduced into the relationship as the abuser transitions into the other three forms of abuse. 

Verbal/Emotional Abuse: 

Verbal/Emotional abuse can be characterized by the abuser using words or explosive emotions in order to criticize, shame, blame and manipulate another person. 

Major signs of Verbal/Emotional Abuse: 

  • Agitation, anxiety or constant apprehension 
  • Extremely apologetic or meek 
  • Loss of interest in daily activities they once loved 
  • Low self-esteem 

Tactics used by the abuser include, but are not limited to: 

  • Putdowns: Statements made to patronize someone and minimize their feelings, often made in a condescending tone with the implication of disdain. 

Examples include: Backhanded compliments meant to instill insecurities and the use of body language suggestive of contempt. 

  • Induced helplessness: Actions made to ensure that another feels incompetent and incapable in certain areas of their life. Basically, the abuser will slowly take over control of all aspects of another’s life in order to induce helplessness. 

Examples include: Taking control over daily tasks, responsibilities and personal relationships due to “inadequacy.”

  • Accusing the victim/Blame shifting: Reversal of the role of the abuser and the person being abused, with the intent to make the abuser look as though they are defending themselves. 

Examples include: Projection, claims that they are the one being abused and/or have been subjected to false accusations, and mention of past trauma and flaws to validate their behaviors. 

  • Playing the victim: The fabrication or exaggeration of events that may or may not have occurred. Abusers often play the victim as a way of avoiding facing the consequences for their actions. In some cases, abusers may have “toxic amnesia.” 

Examples include: Threatening self-harm and suicide, displaying explosive emotions, destroying property and/or inflicting abuse on themselves when confonted about their behavior. 

Long-term effects of Verbal/Emotional Abuse: 

  • Insomnia: Survivors of domestic violence are at risk of suffering from a number of disorders, one of the most prevalent being insomnia. In this case, insomnia results from night terrors, flashbacks, fear of the abuser returning, and sleep deprivation tactics used by their abuser as part of gaslighting. 


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  • Self-sabotage/distrust: As a result of the above mentioned tactics, those who have suffered from abuse are conditioned to believe that they are abusive. As a result, survivors subconsciously distrust and sabotage themselves in every aspect of their lives from their physical/mental health to personal relationships. 
  • Overactive amygdala: The amygdala is responsible for a person’s ability to process and react to the fight or flight response. As a result of repeated emotional injuries brought on by abuse, the amygdala is conditioned to remain in a constant state of fear which translates to survivors becoming hypersensitive to what the brain perceives as negative stimuli. 
  • Hippocampus deterioration: Psychologists have found that those who have been repeatedly exposed to abuse are likely to show a decrease in the size of their hippocampus on scans, which affects their ability to process key details about their abuse. Studies have also shown that deterioration is likely to worsen the longer an individual is in an abusive environment, furthering cognitive dissonance and abuse amnesia. 

Sources: 

https://www.confusiontoclaritynow.com/blog/covert-abuse-tactics

https://psychcentral.com/blog/liberation/2017/10/long-term-narcissistic-… amage#2 

https://www.intechopen.com/books/the-amygdala-a-discrete-multitasking-ma… periences-disrupt-amygdala-prefrontal-connectivity 

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/trauma-bonding#causes

Hello, my name is Kitana Ford! I am a sophomore at GCU with a major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and a love for writing. Instagram: kitana.lynn_
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