Anyone can be a victim of abuse, regardless of age, gender, nationality, or socioeconomic status. Abuse does not just happen inside the home; it can happen in the workplace, even in a romantic relationship.
Abuse also comes in many forms, aside from physical and sexual abuse. There’s mental torture and emotional abuse, which can scar people as deeply as other forms of abuse.
Do you know if you’re involved in an abusive relationship? Or do you know friends and family members stuck with an abuser? You can help put an end to this by recognizing the warning signs of an abusive person and how to handle the situation.
Why Recognizing the Warning Signs of Abuse Is Important
Recognizing warning signs of an abusive relationship is important because it may have a lasting negative impact on a person’s emotional and mental state.
You may know the warning signs of an abusive person, but when you’re in the situation, you may be too blind to recognize them. It may be easy to miss out on abuse when you’re blindly in love, when the abuser is your romantic partner.
The warning signs can be as minor as controlling what to wear, where to go, or the friends you hand out with. Many times, they can be easily detected in a person’s words, behaviors and actions.
It may start as verbal abuse, but as you tolerate it, it may turn into emotional and/or mental abuse and escalate further into domestic violence. You don’t want to live the rest of your life with any of these, so it’s very important to spot an abuser right away.
How to Identify an Abusive Person
- Mood Swings. An abuser may fluctuate from one mood to another. They may have explosive mood swings and snap or an emotional reflex during volatile situations.
Moodiness and explosive temper are the typical warning signs of people with abusive tendencies. This behavior is linked to hypersensitivity.
- Perfectionism. Abusers may have high, unrealistic expectations from their spouse or children. Any minor error can flip a switch and make them go violent or mad. For example, abusers get violently angry at their child for not getting an A+ on a test instead of talking calmly or encouraging their child to do better next time.
- Substance Abuse. A person with a substance abuse disorder may become violent, especially when not in the right state of mind when under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
Although not all who drink or do drugs are violent, they are at higher risk of not acting rationally. Some abusers also use drugs or alcohol to manipulate their victims into doing things against their own will.
As mentioned earlier, abuse is not only limited to physical violence and may be in the form of verbal harassment. Domestic violence may cause a bruise, but hurtful words often cut deeper than the knife and get embedded into the soul.
Verbal abuse can hurt a person’s self-esteem so badly and can cause mental health problems like depression if it constantly happens. Bad-mouthing comes in many forms like:
- Insulting. The abuser may throw insulting comments about the victim’s actions, gender, religion, career, choices, behavior, family, friends, beliefs, or feelings.
- Name-calling. It may come in forms like calling the victim hurtful names such as “stupid” or “useless.” The abuser may use these words blatantly regularly without remorse.
- Attacking your character. Nobody is perfect, but nobody has the right to attack the character of another person, especially of a loved one, even if it’s their personal opinion. If your character is constantly being attacked by a partner, boss, or family member, this may be a warning sign of verbal harassment. An example would be the abuser blaming the victim all the time, saying things like, “You’re so stupid! All you do is wrong.”
- Screaming or yelling. Even without name-calling or insulting words, a simple form of screaming or yelling in private or public is a form of verbal abuse.
- Public shame. Examples would be patronizing you in front of friends, picking fights with you in public places, calling you embarrassing names in front of other people, or making fun of you when many people can hear.
- Dismissiveness. An abuser may come as dismissive. If you share with them an important achievement or coveted job promotion, they will not congratulate you but dismiss you instead. This can be in the form of words like saying, “Yeah, whatever,” or with body language like smirking, eye-rolling, headshaking, or sighing.
- Silly but hurtful jokes. They say jokes are half-meant. Sometimes this is true, especially with verbal harassment.
If the jokes have a double meaning, are sarcastic, delivered in a teasing manner, are offensive, and become part of the communication on a regular basis, then you are being verbally abused by the person making these jokes.
- Belittling or patronizing your accomplishments. An abusive person may appear to belittle or patronize the victim. It can be a form of belittling their accomplishments, patronizing them by saying, “You’re not that smart,” or may take responsibility for the victim’s success.
An abuser who does not verbally insult the victim may be too controlling. This is especially applicable to romantic relationships.
The abuser suffocates their victim because they are afraid of losing their significant other, to the point they become paranoid, controlling, and overly jealous. Studies show that most domestic violence cases are caused by romantic jealousy.
Jealousy and control may come in forms like:
- Threatening. Threats are a common warning sign of abusers, whether it’s a threat to physically hurt the victim or take the kids and disappear.
- Stalking, spying, or monitoring you all the time. When your spouse monitors your whereabouts all the time, places recording devices in your office, or attaches GPS monitoring devices in your car, it’s a sign of obsession and possibly an impending abuse. This also includes monitoring your calls, asking for passwords, or following you everywhere without you knowing.
- Making decisions for you. Unilateral decision-making or the abuser making the decisions for you is a sign of abuse. Healthy relationships should be about compromise, support, and considering each other’s feelings, not the abuser making all the decisions for you.
- Financial control. The abuser may also control all the finances, such as naming the bank account for themself, monitoring every credit card purchase, and depriving the victim of money so they can’t go anywhere and just stay at home.
Being too controlling also includes lecturing, imposing direct orders, angry outbursts, or making you feel you’re not in control of your life.
Emotional abuse usually follows verbal abuse. This behavior is rooted in the abuser’s insecurities and dependency on the victim. In short, the abuser is too dependent on their partner and becomes emotionally abusive because they fear losing their partner.
Emotional abuse comes in the forms of:
- Jealousy. They are overly paranoid that you’re having an affair, even if you’re not. Or they are accusing you of flirting even though you’re just having a friendly conversation. They even control what you wear for the fear that you may provocatively dress for someone.
- Blaming. Abusers may turn the table, not take any responsibility, and blame you for your relationship problems. They tell your family and friends may say that you are the cause of all the conflict or they are the one being abused.
- Gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. This means abusers may manipulate you by denying that the abuse happened. An abusive person may deny the argument ever existed to make you question your own sanity or memory.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, breaking or striking objects is what an abuser would do. This behavior is done to terrorize the victim by destroying their possessions that have sentimental value. This may include throwing the victim’s phone, wrecking their car, or breaking dishes during an argument.
If the abuser can have angry outbursts and take them out on material possessions, physical violence is not that improbable and may come next.
If someone emotionally, verbally, sexually, or physically abuses you, you know that the best thing to do is walk away. However, if your abuser uses force to have sex against your will, that is rape and should be reported to the authorities. In case of domestic violence, call the authorities as well.
Some victims, especially women, cannot walk away from their abusers because they lack the financial means to do so. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common marriage problems. In this case, talk to social services, support groups, family, or friends who can help you get away from your abuser.
For women or children experiencing domestic violence, reach out for help by contacting your city/state’s domestic violence hotline. Do not put yourself and the safety of your children at risk if you’re being abused.
Do not stay in a relationship where you are easily insulted and not happy. Know our self-worth and believe you can get past this situation, no matter how hard it is.
If you think your relationship is worth saving or your partner is willing to change, you can always resort to couple’s therapy. It will help you discover if your partner is under a lot of stress, which is the reason why they’re acting that way. If this is the case, then witnessing your partner’s abusive behavior may not completely mean that they will continue to abuse you in the future.
You can try family therapy if this situation has become a family problem. If all of this is causing you too much stress or is starting to negatively affect your mental health, seek support from a therapist or counselor right away. Talk to a mental health professional at Kentucky Counseling Center by booking an appointment now.