psychological abuse

8 Signs of Psychological Abuse

I have a workbook called Self-Care for Breakups: Healing from Toxic, Abusive, and Codependent Relationships that was inspired by my last relationship of gaslighting, emotional and psychological abuse, and codependency.

Psychological abuse (also called narcissistic abuse but I prefer to use psychological) has become a hot-button topic in the last few years. It also plays a part in many relationships, especially complicated and emotionally abusive ones. I want to touch on this subject because it’s so important to be able to recognize these signs so that your personal healing isn’t compromised.

Many abusers have an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement.

Many abusers are that way because of life circumstances, upbringing, addiction, or personal trauma.

We can understand the *why* without excusing it or putting up with it.

My last ex was an abuser. She struggled with alcohol abuse and at the time I was lured in under the guise of needing to help/take care of her. I ignored that everything was always about her. We never really talked about me. After three years together, she honestly couldn’t remember the name of this website.

I was never allowed to have a negative feeling.

It always got turned around on me. I was making her upset. I was stressing her out. She wasn’t “doing this right now”. Whenever I wanted to talk about my feelings I was shut down. If I confronted her about her drinking she would break up with me and stop speaking to me for a short period of time. I financially supported her for almost the entirety of our very on-off-again relationship. Even when we weren’t together she would guilt me into paying her bills because I would be “ruining her life” or threatening her sobriety when I refused to.

The thing about abuse is that it often takes the things that you are and then it twists them so that you exist for another person. It’s about giving them attention, meeting their needs, and never complaining about it because if you do then you must not love them.

Abusers are often very charismatic.

They’re great storytellers and they often come off as sympathetic. In their world, if you don’t love them then you are the enemy. I heard so many stories about how friends and family were so terrible to my ex and how they cold-heartedly abandoned relationships with her. Later, I would learn that they were tired of being used, lied to, and taken advantage of.

You feel sorry for someone who portrays themselves as the underdog. We have this thing inside of us that says “I will be different and show you that people are good and loving.” and it is used against us in the most heart-wrenching way.

There’s this thing called love bombing.

1. They will be sweet and adorable and meet your needs and the instant you do something they don’t like it’s all taken away from you.

You’ll get yelled at, or complete coldness, and it’s almost a type of behavior training – you learn what not to say or do because there will be consequences. You remember what it feels like when they are being kind and loving – so you spend all of your time trying to be worthy of that behavior again.

Here are Signs of Psychological Abuse:

2. Gaslighting by making you disbelieve your reality or making you feel like you’re crazy or forgetful. I had to keep screenshots of texts or my ex would deny entire conversations and tell me that I was crazy and delusional.

3. Sabotaging your friendships or other relationships. Making it difficult to do your job. Getting jealous of your accomplishments.

My ex was jealous of one of my friendships so she slept with that person while we were together and told me the next day while I was hanging out with them.

4. Making you the enemy for having feelings and reactions. If they do something that upsets you – it’s your fault. Either you’re stupid for being upset or they did the thing that upset you because you deserved it.

Emotional blackmail like threats to hurt themselves, blaming you for things in their life that you have no control over. Telling you that if you don’t do something for them something bad will happen to them and it will be your fault.

5. Constant lying to avoid responsibility.

My ex lied about a lot of things. She lied about going to rehab. She told me that she was in love with someone else and then months later refused to acknowledge that it ever happened. There was a lie to cover up anything that didn’t fit the narrative of victim.

6. Never being at fault for any issues in the relationship. Turning all of the blame toward you.

Punishing you when they don’t get what they want. Breaking up with you or threatening to, blocking you, giving you the silent treatment, bullying you, accusing you of not caring about them. It will be over small things that looking back are ridiculous.

My ex’s reason for anything that happened in our relationship was “because I knew you didn’t really love me”.

7. Having a lack of interest in who you are as a person. In the beginning, they treat you so well and seem so attentive but after a while, you begin to learn that it was to get them what they wanted – not because of a real interest in you. It’s all about them and then the abuse starts.

8. A huge sense of entitlement. Exploiting or taking advantage of you. Asking you to do something and then taking credit for it. Pushing past your boundaries when you’ve said no. Guilting or manipulating you into dropping your boundaries.

At the end of the relationship the cycle repeats. They tell everyone that you were the bad one and they were the victim.

After things ended with my ex and I started dating (now) wife, my ex would accuse me of cheating on her and refused to acknowledge that we had been broken up for months because she had broken up with me. A year later she was still sending me messages about how I had done nothing but lie and break my promise to love her forever.

My narrative is that her alcoholism severely impacted our relationship. She fell in love with someone else until that didn’t work out and those were two of the many reasons we didn’t work out.

Her narrative is that I never loved her. I strung her along for three years, and I fell in love with someone else because I had never loved her.

It’s extremely hard to heal from that.

I had a lot of trauma from all of it and I fell into some of those abusive traits when I first started dating my husband.

In my new relationship – I didn’t want to take accountability for doing anything wrong because I was so used to being wrong all of the time. That made me blame my husband for a lot of things that I shouldn’t have. The cycle of abuse has so many repercussions.

I made him feel bad for having feelings. I was so emotionally exhausted that I didn’t ever want to deal with any negative feelings. If he got hurt by something I did it made *me* upset and I would blame him for that.

I also had a huge sense of entitlement. Getting out of a relationship where I had to do 99% of the emotional labor caused me to shut down a lot. I wanted someone to bend over backward for me but I wasn’t willing to do the same because I was tired.

How did I heal from psychological abuse?

A lot of self-awareness. Looking at myself and my relationship and saying “Nope, that’s not healthy. No, you’re being toxic right now.” So acknowledging it and then doing my best to fix it.

Even though I was a victim in the past, I couldn’t stay the victim or I’d just be perpetuating the cycle.

Check out the rest of in Self-Care for Breakups: Healing from Toxic, Abusive, and Codependent Relationships for journaling prompts, self-care tips, suggestions, and more.

Have you dealt with psychological abuse?

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