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  • Writer's pictureMary Gale Gurnsey

Are you in a relationship with a psychological abuser?

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine if someone is in an abusive relationship. This is because victims often blame themselves. Even though they are not happy in the relationship they continue to attempt to please their abuser in hopes they will receive love in return. They will make-up excuses for the abuser's behavior and hide their feelings to friends and family. The victim realizes they are not happy in the relationship but they struggle to leave, this makes them feel weak.

Contrary to popular belief, abusers are attracted to strong people. Some of the strengths victims may have include; relationships with friends and family, a great career or financial stability, great physical health habits of eating and exercising. An abuser will chip away at these strengths in order to gain control.

The abuser will find discrete ways to hurt the victim. Then when the victim reacts (as any normal person would) with an emotional response such as fear or sadness, the abuser uses this as proof the victim is not stable and blames the victim of being the one who is abusive. The abuser is then able to gain empathy from others claiming they are the victim. This gives the abuser the power they crave in the relationship.

When the victim tries to question the abuse or point it out, they are met with a technique called gaslighting. Gaslighting makes the victim question their own reality because the psychological abuser is telling them it is wrong. The abuser will state they do not see the problem. This lands a lot of victims of psychological abuse in therapy.

Victims will present in therapy with symptoms of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, PTSD dissociation identity disorder, OCD, low-self worth, insecurity, paranoia, insomnia, borderline personality disorder, etc.. it is important to see these symptoms in the context of the relationship. The bigger picture will reveal the devastating impact psychological abuse has had on our society for so long. While the psychological abuser may also be physically abusive, police, judges, lawyers, doctors, and family of victims should be aware of the symptoms of psychological abuse as well and offer appropriate help and support.

If this sounds familiar you probably want to know what to do. This is something you can work on with your therapist, begin to establish boundaries, recognize the red flags and take a look at yourself and your own predisposition to being a victim.

Email me at if you have any questions about this article.

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