Whenever a person is exposed to behaviour from their partner which leaves them feeling depressed or a range of other traumatic emotions, they are a victim of domestic mental abuse.
The drip-drip effect of the behaviour lasting over a period of time as the perpetrator seeks to gain and maintain total control their partner can take a long while to catch up with the victim, who may rationalise what is happening or deny such abuse is taking place.
Anyone of any age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or socio-economic background can become a victim.
Forms that mental, or emotional, abuse can take include:
An abuser may also threaten physical violence or other repercussions if their partner doesn’t do what they want, adding to the victim’s mental anguish.
Mental domestic abuse can cause:
Though everyone reacts differently to traumatic events and so do not experience all of the above, as Victim Support says in its guidance: “It’s important to remember that all of these reactions are normal and this is not your fault – only your abuser is to blame for their behaviour.”
In the most extreme cases it can lead to the victim abusing alcohol or drugs; suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts; having suicidal thoughts; or making attempts at suicide.
Even the home, where one should feel relaxed, happy, comfortable and away from the cares of the world, can become a place of great anxiety where the victim is tense, carefully watching every word or action to avoid provoking the partner into another outburst. Survivors often refer to that aspect of domestic mental abuse as walking on eggshells.
Fear of retaliation from the partner or outright denial abuse is taking place may prevent victims from seeking the help they require. Feelings of shame, embarrassment or a sense of failure as a person, especially among male victims, may also inhibit victims getting assistance.
The resulting lack of emotional support can add to the sense of fear, anxiety, depression or isolation and lead to the use of illicit drugs, alcohol dependency or even suicidal thoughts.
After leaving the abusive relationship, the lingering consequences for the survivors of having been subjected to mental abuse include feelings of:
Mental, or psychological, domestic abuse can have a significant impact on the victim’s emotional wellbeing and ability to live their life as they’d want to. They may want to avoid going to or near some places because of bad memories associated with their ex-partner, for example.
It can take some time for a survivor to adjust to living in an ordinary, safe environment away from their abusive partner. The experience of having suffered mental abuse over a sustained period of time can haunt survivors for many years and rob them of the ability to live a varied life to the full. While physical injuries often heal, the harder-to-spot emotional scars take longer to fade.