Recovering from Psychological Abuse: What You Need to Know


Psychological abuse is dangerous because it often comes from the people closest to us: narcissistic parents, spouses, significant others, siblings, and people who have been in our lives for a long time. Many people who experience psychological abuse are victimized for a long time before they are able to break away, heal, and understand that the abuse they received was not their fault.

Many people in these relationships deny what’s happening. Anything to keep the family bond in tact, even if it means enduring suffering and harm. For years, you may have been trapped by lies and deception.

Psychological abuse can include tactics like:

  • Intimidation
  • Shaming
  • Manipulation
  • Gaslighting
  • Threats
  • Insults
  • Coercion

Because there are no physical signs of abuse, people underestimate the damage that psychological abuse can inflict. Severe depression, anxiety disorders, disassociation, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal ideation can be found in victims of psychological abuse. People’s actions, words, and behaviors are powerful. They can linger in victims’ heads for a long time.

Rates of psychological abuse in intimate relationships are often higher because of people’s unwillingness to acknowledge it or even think of it as abuse. Studies reveal, “With a lack of concrete evidence, many victims of abuse begin to normalize their partner’s behavior. It’s much easier to make excuses for abuse if there is no physical evidence.”

Childhood Psychological Abuse

 The outcomes of experiencing childhood psychological abuse can cause a wide variety of mental health disorders in adolescence and adulthood. Parents with personality disorders, like borderline personality disorder, may cause tremendous harm to young children. Damage can include everything from agoraphobia, panic attacks, chronic pain, major depressive disorder, and more.

Psychological abuse wreaks havoc on a person’s peace of mind, self-worth, and independence. If manipulation, coercion, and gaslighting were a part of the abuse, victims’ thoughts may not be their own. They may have adopted their abuser’s words and beliefs. They may question everything they think, never trusting their own instincts. And some may find themselves still communicating with their abuser due to their manipulative ways.

Breaking Free

Psychological abuse is powerful and confusing. It’s seizes control over a person’s mind and body.

For victims of psychological abuse, breaking free is possible. But when you do, you’ll need to work on reclaiming your mind every day.

Though painful, you must show up for therapy regularly and actively share your experiences. It’s okay to get frustrated or upset in session. Therapists are comfortable with a whole range of emotions. There is nothing you can’t share with them. They are there for you.

Outside of therapy, there is so much you can do to begin healing. Journal every day about your experiences. Don’t avoid them. Acknowledge the mind games you endured. Understand that their toxicity had nothing to do with you. Follow through with boundaries and separation. Find a supportive network of friends. Most importantly, never discount your experiences or pain. When you begin to grieve, true healing can begin.