Why You Can Get PTSD From An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

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Emotional abuse is even worse than physical because it can often go unnoticed. We may normalize it or mask it as passionate love and make excuses for the person causing us so much emotional turmoil but at the end of the day, the effects of it are just as harmful.

Emotional abuse takes an even worse toll on us because unlike a bruise that eventually heals, emotional abuse destroys us from the inside out until we no longer even know we are, love ourselves, or know how to live a normal life. Here’s how emotionally abusive relationships can lead to PTSD effects.

Learn To Recognize The Signs

You may think that PTSD is only reserved for war veterans but you’d be surprised at just how easy it is for the brain to experience trauma with effects that can impact your behavior and emotional regulation long after the incident.

woman and man standing forehead to forehead with their eyes closed
Ba Tik / Pexels
Ba Tik / Pexels

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that comes with difficult symptoms that interfere with everyday life. We will dive deeper into the symptoms that are associated with emotional abuse but before we do, the first step of dealing with PTSD is recognizing the signs of a relationship that puts you at risk of it.

Some of the signs include name-calling, ridiculing you, gaslighting, invading your privacy, punishing you when they don’t get what they want, isolating or controlling your life, and making threats.

There’s No “Right” Way To Feel

Emotional abuse can be really confusing to your brain and can actually brainwash it into thinking that you’re being treated in a way that you deserve or out love. Even when you logically know that the behavior is wrong, you might try to rationalize it or feel heartbroken about it. The key is knowing that there is no “right” way to feel.”

woman sitting on rocks while hugging in her knees
Pixabay / Pexels
Pixabay / Pexels

The pain of emotional abuse looks different for everyone. What’s important is becoming aware of whatever those feelings are and how they arise. After all, the psychological trauma caused by emotional abuse can have a similar impact on the nervous system as physical trauma.

Inability To Focus

Let’s go through some of the impacts of emotional abuse that might not be recognizable right away.

woman covers her face with her hands looking upset
Ana Bregantin / Pexels
Ana Bregantin / Pexels

One of the most common ones is losing concentration. When the brain is overwhelmed by emotional distress, it stops being able to process information properly. The stress hormones push the body into a “‘fight, flight, or freeze response” that takes front and center of the attention span and leaves little room for focus on other things as simple as remembering if you locked the front door that morning.

Frozen In Short Term Memory

Even if you didn’t think of it as trauma, your body knows when it has experienced traumatic events even when your conscious mind doesn’t. This can impact memory by getting you stuck or frozen in your short-term memory.

woman hugging in her knees with eyes closed sitting against brick wall
Rafael Barros / Pexels
Rafael Barros / Pexels

This is because your brain is still processing the emotional abuse and protecting you in case it encounters that same danger again. It’s uncomfortable and on high alert, so it will keep feeding you the same painful memories over and over even if it’s been some time since they happened.

Short Term Effects

The list of short-term effects of PTSD is long. These are effects that can be overcome and replaced with better coping mechanisms once you acknowledge and treat them.

Anxious woman running her fingers through her hair
David Garrison / Pexels
David Garrison / Pexels

The list includes hypervigilance, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, and trouble concentrating. You might not become aware of these symptoms right away as you might be in denial, and unable to process that you have been the victim of emotional abuse. As you accept your situation you might feel, confused, hopeless, or even shameful. This is all part of an nonlinear process.

Long Term Effects

Unfortunately, emotional abuse also has long-term effects as well. StudiesTrusted Source shows that emotional abuse can be as powerful as physical abuse. The longer it happens the more harmful effects it can have over time, especially when it comes to low self-esteem and depression.

man sits by the water pushing his hair up looking concerned
Nathan Cowley / Unsplash
Nathan Cowley / Unsplash

Other long-term effects include anxiety, chronic pain, guilt, insomnia, social withdrawal, loneliness, and chronic fatigue. Luckily with the right support, even the long-term effects can be managed in a healthy way.

Don’t Blame Yourself

People in abusive relationships always get the same question: “why didn’t you just walk away?” Unfortunately, it’s never actually that simple. Emotional abuse is a lot harder to track.

woman sits on bed across man
Alex Green / Pexels
Alex Green / Pexels

We tend as a society to normalize it and even romanticize toxic relationships as passionate. We learn to dismiss emotional abuse and we don’t notice how much it has impacted us until it’s too late. So don’t blame yourself. What has happened so far doesn’t matter. What matters is how you move on from it now.

Love Yourself Most

In any relationship, always look at how you feel and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?

close up woman rests her hands on her heart
Giulia Bertelli / Unsplash
Giulia Bertelli / Unsplash

Love is more than just kisses and butterflies, it’s much more than that. If you want to know more on what your birth chart reveals about how you love and what you need out of a partner, check out this personalized report based on date of birth.