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Addressing Emotional Abuse in Addiction Recovery

An exploration into emotional abuse. Learn how to identify and deal with emotional abuse as you mature in your addiction recovery. Plus, a section at the end for questions.

5
minute read

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: There are people who try to control other people’s actions by behaving in an abusive way. Often, the abuse manifests through humiliation, fear, guilt, or feelings of embarrassment. So, how can we deal with current or past emotional abuse in recovery? We explore the issue here. Then, we invite your questions or feedback at the end.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:


What is emotional abuse, exactly?

Emotional abuse is defined as is the ongoing emotional maltreatment or emotional neglect of a child or person. It is mostly expressed verbally by:

  • Criticizing
  • Disapproval of another person’s action(s), or
  • Constant expression of dissatisfaction

This type of behavior, especially when it appears in primary relationships with loved ones, can destabilize self-confidence and sense of self-worth. Emotionally abused individuals see no way out, experience a growing fear of being alone, and usually tend to accept the abusive situations and behaviors as normal.

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So, how can you recognize if emotional abuse runs in your family? Can emotional abuse patterns affect your addiction recovery?

Signs of emotional abuse in family

Physical symptoms of emotional abuse are not quite obvious, so the signs of this type of abuse can be seen in a person’s emotions and actions. Recognizing the signs of emotional abuse in children is even harder, because changes in their mood and character are a part of growing up. However, you can recognize an emotionally abused person if they express some of the following signs:

  • Avoiding closeness with people that they love or like
  • Avoiding a love life
  • Becoming withdrawn from communication with parents (for children)
  • Being unable to control strong emotions
  • Expressing emotions aggressively
  • Losing interest for social activities
  • Losing self-confidence by becoming too cautious or fearful
  • Showing aggression to other people and/or animals

Effects of emotional abuse on you and your family

Emotional abuse can make people feel anxious, depressed, easily afraid, and reliant on other people’s authority. It is typically seen as a “less serious” form of abuse because there is no direct physical effects on the person. However, emotional abuse can have severe effects on everyone in the family. These effects of emotional abuse include:

1. Many children engage in deviant behaviors such as stealing, bullying, using substances, and running away.

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2. Emotional abuse increases the risk of eating disorders, other mental health problems, or leads to self-harm.

3. Emotional abuse can affect emotional development, including the ability to fully express the emotions that arises appropriately.

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4. Children who grow up in homes where they are constantly criticized and understatement may experience lack of self-confidence and anger management issues.

5. It can be hard for children to develop healthy relationships when their parents are not giving them love and care as they need it.

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6. Emotional abuse can lead people to depression, lack of happiness and satisfaction with their life, while affecting their physical health in the adult years.

7. Emotional abuse can affect children’s behavior by creating anger. This manifests in how they treat their peers or other people, a condition also known as negative impulse behavior.

8. Self-isolating behavior may also appear, which further distances you from others, as a difficult personality.

How to deal with emotional abuse in addiction recovery

You’ll have to take some steps in the healing process in order to deal with emotional abuse different from the patterns you’ve learned before. Here we present you 3 actions that will help you empower the change:

1. Become aware of the cause.

Even though there is no rule that insight into a problem leads to change, it is always better to be aware of the problem instead of letting it give you the lesson on the hard way. You need to be conscious when feelings of anxiety, fear or depression appear and understand how impulsively you react on them. Why do you address the problem in such response? Is your reaction solving or helping you express those feelings properly? Do you hurt yourself or someone else with your reactions? Acknowledging these questions, can help you improve the way you’re dealing with emotional issues. So, identifying patterns is STEP 1.

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2. Take responsibility.

Life can put you in many a difficult place. With life, comes many traumas that can be quite a challenge for any of us. However, at a certain point you need to take their healing into your own hands. The process of restoring an authentic “self” from the inside begins when you make a conscious decision to cope with and own your own negative emotions.

Although it’s easier said than done, the one true way out of reliving emotional abuse and coming into emotional freedom comes with the decision to ask for help-and there are plenty of professionals available to walk you through it. It may benefit you to reach out for professional help via:

  • Community Mental Health Clinic
  • Licensed Addiction Counselors
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers
  • Psychotherapists or Licensed Clinical Therapists
  • Psychiatrists

3. Seek specific therapies for emotional abuse.

Before you address emotional abuse, you’ll have to tackle drug or alcohol addiction first. The influence of any psychoactive substance will make it harder to really start recovering. Once addiction recovery is stable you can seek out these specific, evidence-based therapies:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Helps you deal with trauma by identifying thoughts and feelings about past experiences. The goal? To eliminate the negative attitude about that experiences and understand them with a positive mindset.

Group therapy: A common treatment for survivors of emotional abuse. It helps you rebuild your self-confidence while sharing experiences with people that were facing similar life situations.

Somatic Therapy: Helps you deal with the physiological effects of trauma especially in the nervous system. The goal? Recognize and release the repressed energy that has accumulated to feel physically freed.

Family Therapy or Couples Therapy: This type of therapy is used when the abuser is prepared to admit that there is a problem in the way they behave or solve life situations. The abuser must be ready to work on his own behavior. Family therapists can help you understand everyones roles in the family, the responsibilities you have and to balance or establish a compromise within each relationship.

Emotional Freedom Technique: An effective technique used by many therapists throughout the world. It helps you disassociate from unaccepted and unpleasant situations that made you feel bad by making connection with certain parts of your body while repeating a positive affirmation out loud.

Questions about emotional abuse

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, maybe you should talk with a family counselor. Emotional abuse can be treated properly. So there is nothing to be ashamed of if you are ready for help.

Please leave your questions and comments about getting help here. We are happy to help refer you to treatment services or answer your questions personally.

Reference Sources:  EQI: Emotional Abuse
NSPCC: Emotional abuse – Signs, symptoms and effects
Reach Out: What is emotional abuse?
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.

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