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The Effects of Domestic Abuse and Coercive Control

*** Trigger Warning - This post discusses domestic abuse ***

Behind closed doors up and down the country, lies a painful and devastating reality - the experience of being in an abusive relationship. This complex and harrowing journey is something that far too many individuals endure silently. In this post I wanted to explore the psychological impact an abusive relationship will have, as well as the emotional and physical toll it can take in the survivor, which goes some way to explaining why simply escaping the relationship doesn't lead to instant healing.

Abuse is not limited to physical violence; it often begins quite subtly with emotional manipulation and control that can be hard to identify. Abusers employ tactics such as gaslighting - isolating their victims from friends and family, and belittling them, all aimed at eroding their self-esteem and independence. This web of manipulation makes it incredibly challenging for victims to recognise they are even in an abusive relationship, let alone break free from it.

One of the most agonising aspects of abusive relationships is the relentless nature of the cycle of abuse. It often starts with tension building, where minor conflicts escalate. Then, the explosion phase follows, marked by emotional, verbal, or physical abuse. Finally, there's a period of reconciliation, where the abuser may apologise, shower affection, and promise change. This cycle can repeat itself over and over, leaving victims trapped and hoping for the return of the person they initially fell in love with. The abuser bringing flowers and promising it will never happen again offers false hope for the victim.

Abusers thrive on isolation, making it difficult for victims to seek help. Over time, survivors often lose touch with friends and family members who were once their support system. The loneliness and alienation intensify the grip of the abuser, making it even harder for victims to imagine a life beyond the abusive relationship. Who would be there to catch them if they were to jump?

The fear instilled by abusers can be paralysing with victims feeling afraid of the consequences if they were to leave or seek help. Threats of violence, revenge, or harm to loved ones are all too common. The constant feeling of being watched, monitored, or followed adds to the overwhelming anxiety that can overtake the victim's life.

Abuse erodes self-esteem and self-worth. Victims often believe they deserve the mistreatment or are, in some way, responsible for it. The constant barrage of insults and belittlement chips away at their confidence, leaving them feeling powerless and defeated.

Being in an abusive relationship takes a profound toll on mental health. Victims often struggle with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This constant state of hyper-vigilance and fear leaves deep scars that can linger long after the relationship has ended.

Physical abuse can have devastating consequences, leading to injuries that range from bruises and broken bones to long-term health issues. Sadly, many victims endure these injuries in silence, afraid to seek medical help or report the abuse to authorities.

Leaving an abusive relationship is an immensely difficult and courageous step. Victims must navigate a maze of fear, guilt, and uncertainty. They often require support from professional organisations, friends, and family members to escape the cycle of abuse. It's crucial to recognise that leaving may not be a one-time event, as abusers often try to reassert control and manipulate survivors into returning, and are all too often successful.

Once out of an abusive relationship, survivors face the challenge of rebuilding their lives. This may involve finding safe housing, reconnecting with loved ones, and seeking therapy to heal emotional wounds. The journey to recovery is long and arduous, but it's a testament to the resilience and strength of survivors.

If you are struggling with the effects of an abusive relationship or coercive control, try visiting to arrange a free initial chat to explore how counselling could help.

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