Mental abuse is also known as psychological abuse or emotional abuse. This is a form of brainwashing in which the abuser degrades the victim to the point that she feels she can’t live without him. This type of abuse often starts out by the abuser wanting to control little things—the way the victim does her hair, how she spends money, what she cooks. Mental abuse is sometimes overlooked because there aren’t any visible bruises or marks on the victim; however, mental abuse can severely affect the victim.
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Symptoms of mental abuse vary slightly depending on the case. The victim may feel afraid of her abuser. She may avoid certain topics or may hide things from the abuser because she is scared of the reaction. Her abuser may make her feel like a child. Feelings of hopelessness, intimidation, helplessness, isolation, terror and humiliation are also possible. Family and friends may begin to notice that the victim doesn’t contact them often. In some cases, the abuser may control all finances, states HelpGuide.org. Life necessities, such as food, clothing and shelter, may be controlled. Mental abuse can sometimes lead to other mental health problems, such as depression. Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts may be the result of the mental abuse. Some victims of mental abuse may suffer from eating disorders, especially when the abuser has attacked the way the victim looks.
According to This is a War, a nonprofit crisis intervention service, victims of mental abuse are the ones in a relationship who hold the least power. Most often, this means that women and children will be the victims. However, men can sometimes be the victim, especially if a woman is controlling or has a better paying job or if another male is significantly more dominate.
In cases of subtle mental abuse, it may be possible for the victim and abuser to attend counseling together to work to stop the cycle of mental abuse. However, in severe cases of mental abuse or when the abuser doesn’t think he is doing anything wrong, the victim may have to break away from the abuser and attend therapy on her own. In the case of a marriage, this means the victim may have to leave her spouse.
An abuser chooses to abuse. In the case of mental abuse, the abuser will often try to make the victim feel that it is her fault that she is being abused. The abuser blames the victim for the abuse. If the abuser begins to feel guilty, he may apologize with the hope that he doesn’t have to face up to his abuse and deal with any consequences, states HelpGuide.org. Once the guilt is gone, in most cases, he will slowly try to revert to his abusive ways.
Mental abuse is a stepping stone to physical abuse. As such, it is imperative that the victim get help as soon as possible for the mental abuse. In some cases, mental abuse can lead to sexual abuse, even in the case of a married couple. Sometimes, the abuser uses sex as a way to make up with the victim. The victim may not want this attention, but the abuser will usually use intimidation to get his way.