Many people in New Jersey understand the danger of physical abuse in a marriage or relationship. Less well-understood is psychological abuse, which can cause significant damage to the mental health of its victims.
What is psychological abuse?
Psychological abuse is a pattern of behavior in which one party routinely humiliates, demeans, or instills fear in another person. Abusers use these behaviors to control, manipulate and harm their victims.
What psychological abuse looks like
Psychological abuse can take on many forms, including:
- Verbally berating and yelling at the victim
- Public humiliation
- Threats of violence
- Threats of leaving the victim
- Blackmailing the victim
- Abusers may threaten suicide or self-harm if the victim does not do what the abuser wants
- Controlling a victim’s personal decisions, such as grooming, clothing, eating, or entertainment choices
- Closely monitoring the victim’s activities and routines
- Interfering with the victim’s job
- Attempting to alienate the victim from friends and family members
Because these behaviors take place within an intimate relationship, victims may be slow to identify the abuse. It is not unusual for victims to excuse these behaviors or even blame themselves for their spouse’s conduct.
The consequences of psychological abuse
Victims of psychological abuse report emotional distress and may experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Over time, victims may find that their personal and professional lives are impacted as they may have difficulty concentrating, completing tasks, or trusting their own judgment.
The damage caused by psychological abuse can be significant, which is why victims may decide to divorce their abusers. Victims who do decide to leave their marriages may need the support of mental health professionals as they navigate the process of divorce, child custody and property division.