If you are experiencing violence in your relationship, it’s completely normal for you to not feel well. Abuse and psychological violence can have severe consequences for your mental health. For example:
You're restless, nervous, you can't relax.
You sleep poorly, you have nightmares.
You are more irritable than usual.
You feel emotionally numb, you withdraw.
You feel as if you can't think clearly.
You feel sad, hopeless and negative about the world.
You feel shame and guilt.
People who have violent partners often unconsciously develop strategies to better endure the abuse. For example:
- Denial and trivialization: You tell yourself that the abuse is not really happening, or you deny the effects the abuse has on you. You might tell yourself «It’s not really violence» or «I was only hit once».
- Responsibility and blame: Many victims blame themselves. You may be convinced that you are responsible for the violence or even deserve it. You believe that you provoked your partner. These feelings are often reinforced since abusive partners can be masters at blame-shifting.
- Shock and dissociation: When your partner gets abusive, aggressive, threatening or otherwise violent, your body and mind can go numb. You might go into a state of shock and freeze. This reaction is completely natural and common. For many victims, it is a coping mechanism to deal with overwhelming emotions, shock and distress.
Gaslighting: The hidden abuse
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that often occurs in abusive relationships.
It is gaslighting when your partner tries to control you by twisting your sense of reality. He or she manipulates you and creates a false narrative so that you begin to doubt yourself. Your partner downplays your emotions or uses them against you. This type of emotional abuse is used to exert power over you. Tactics include lying, distracting, minimizing, denying or blaming.
Gaslighting is dangerous. Persistent gaslighting has serious consequences on victims’ mental health. It can cause anxiety, depression, increased self-doubt, loss of confidence and have negative impacts on a person’s sense of self.
Examples of gaslighting:
- You’re crazy - I certainly didn't say anything like that!
- You’re just emotionally unstable. Don't you think you’re overreacting?
- You flirt with other people all the time! How can you deny that? I can see it!
- Honey, it was a joke. You’re just being overly sensitive. Even your friends say so
If you think you are being gaslit, the last thing you should do is just shrug it off. Tell someone you trust about your experiences, confide in a family member, talk to a therapist. An outside perspective can help you recognize gaslighting and find your way out the toxic relationship.