Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

6 Signs of Abuse & 6 Self-Care Tips
by Rebecca Hieronymi

Your relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances define your life and how you experience it and shape how you engage with others. Attached to every relationship are experiences and memories, however, sometimes what you experience can hurt you. This hurt can influence new relationships you may be trying to build, so here are 6 signs of abuse plus 6 self-care tips to help you heal.
1. Feeling Insufficient: Emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive relationships can give you an unstable sense of self, you may even feel a sense of unworthiness. In an abusive relationship, an abuser plants false ideas in your mind that can lower your self-esteem. Signs of low self-esteem are: pessimism, hostility, lack of motivation and communication. Fortunately, self-esteem can improve. Try starting with changing the negative narrative in your head and practicing mindfulness to boost your self-esteem.

2. Flashbacks: Reliving a traumatic event through flashbacks, dreams, or vivid memories can be a sign that you have complex PTSD. CPTSD occurs when you suffer repetitive abuse over an extended period of time. CPTSD symptoms may also be accompanied by depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. If you are dealing with CPTSD, please reach out to a therapist or licensed professional for treatment. The therapies they provide can help to replace negative thought patterns and help you deal with stress and suicidal urgers.

3. Cognitive Dissonance: Cognitive dissonance is when you hold on to two contradictory beliefs at the same time. For example, the abuser professed their love for you but verbally abused you creating a sense of internal confusion that has made you wary of trusting others in the future. Validation journaling exercises can help you heal and create positive thought patterns.

4. You Feel Numb: It can be difficult to explain what it’s like to feel empty or numb. Emotional numbness is the mind’s response to increased levels of emotional or physical stress and creates a way to disengage from negative experiences. Treatment for emotional numbness is possible through coping strategies such as identifying your triggers, exercising, and reaching out to a support person or group.

5. Emotional Detachment: In an abusive relationship, it’s common to start feeling detached from yourself (physically or emotionally). This is a defense mechanism to help you cope with overwhelming emotions. Emotional detachment is also a tool that develops in order for you to gain resilience against the abuse and keep your sense of self. However, the effects of emotional detachment can linger on long after the relationship has ended and can prevent you from opening up and being emotionally vulnerable. Yoga can help ground you in your body and your emotions. Getting a pet, connecting with new friends, or picking up a new hobby can also help you broaden your horizons emotionally and physically.

6. Over-apologizing: People who have endured abuse in the past often apologize for things that are not their fault. This habit originates from low self-esteem caused by abuse or trauma and from feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, or shame. A good thing to keep in mind is that your needs matter and are important. With therapy, you can replace self-defeating thought patterns with positive ones. Repeating positive affirmations and practicing assertive can also help.

Did you relate to any of these signs? Past hurts do not have to determine future outcomes. If you recognize any of the signs of abuse in your own life, or of someone you know, please reach out. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. For an appointment, please call 256.574.5826. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline where you can speak with trained crisis counselors at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.

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