Anyone can be a victim of abuse regardless of age, gender, nationality, or socioeconomic status. Abuse also comes in many forms. All types of abuse inflict deep scars. Abuse does not just happen inside the home; it can happen in the workplace and even in romantic relationships.
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 Warning Signs Is Important
Recognizing the red flags or warning signs in a relationship is important because it may have a lasting negative impact on a person’s emotional and mental state. You may have an idea of the warning signs of an abusive person, but when you’re in the situation, you may be too blind to see it. It may be easy to miss out on abuse when you’re blinded by love, especially when the abuser is your romantic partner.
Some warning signs can be as little as controlling what to wear, where to go, or the friends you hang out with. These warning signs can be easily detected in a person’s word, behavior, and action. It may start as verbal abuse, and as you tolerate it, what’s next? Emotional abuse? Mental abuse? Domestic violence? Is the person worth keeping if the only thing they do is abuse you?
Recognizing the Warning Signs of an Abusive Personality
- Mood Swings: An abuser may fluctuate between extreme mood swings. He/she may have explosive mood swings and have a “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.
- A Perfectionist: 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 instance, abusers get violently angry at their child for not getting an A+ on a test instead of talking calmly or encouraging their child.
- Substance Abuse: A person with substance abuse disorder may tend towards becoming violent, especially when not in the right state of mind if 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.
Related article: What is Substance Use Disorder?
Verbal Abuse: Humiliation, Name-Calling, Criticizing
As mentioned earlier, abuse does not only limit physical violence, and it may be in the form of verbal harassment. Domestic violence may cause physical pain, but hurtful words cut deeper. Words can hurt a person’s self-esteem badly. When it constantly happens, it can even cause mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or body dysmorphia. Bad-mouthing comes in many forms like:
- Insulting: The abuser may throw insulting comments about the victim’s actions, body, gender, religion, career, choices, behavior, family, friends, beliefs, or feelings.
- Name-calling: It may come in forms like calling the victim hurtful names like “stupid” or “useless”. The abuser may use these words blatantly and regularly without remorse.
- Attacking the 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. For example, the abuser blames the victim all the time, saying things like, “You’re so stupid! Everything you do is wrong”.
- Screaming or yelling: Even without name-calling or insulting words, a simple form of screaming or yelling (private or public) hurts.
- Public shame: Patronizing you in front of friends, or picking fights with you in public places, calls you embarrassing names in front of other people, or makes fun of you when many people can hear.
- Being dismissive: An abuser may come as dismissive. For example, you share with them an important achievement or coveted job promotion but instead, they dismiss you. 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 for verbal harassment. However, it’s important to note that sometimes, jokes are used as a way to express passive aggression. So when is a joke hurtful? When jokes have a double meaning, are sarcastic, offensive, and disrespectful, that’s verbal abuse.
- Belittling or patronizing your accomplishments: An abusive person usually belittles the achievements of the victim. It can be a form of belittling the accomplishments, patronizing by saying, “You’re not that smart”, or may take responsibility for the victim’s success.
Being Too Controlling
An abuser may not only be verbally abusive, but also controlling. This is especially applicable to romantic relationships. This is because the abuser is afraid of losing their significant other, up to the point they become paranoid, controlling, and extremely jealous. Studies show that most domestic violence cases are caused by jealousy.
Being controlling may come in forms like:
- Threatening: Threats are a common red flag. Some examples are threats about hurting the victim, taking the kids away from the victim, or threatening to release intimate pictures of the victim unless the victim stays.
- Stalking, spying, or monitoring you all the time: When your loved one monitors your whereabouts all the time, attaches recording devices in your office, or attaches GPS monitoring devices in your car, it’s a sign of obsession. This also includes monitoring your calls, asking for your passwords, or following you everywhere without you knowing.
- Makes unsolicited decisions for you: Unilateral decision-making or the person making unsolicited and unconsolidated decisions for you is toxic. Healthy relationships should be about compromise, support, and considering each other’s feelings. However, it’s also important to note that relationships must respect boundaries. Your partner or loved one may be an abuser if they make all the decisions for you.
- Financial Control: A common technique of abusers is to gain ultimate financial control so it would be hard for the victim to leave. He or she controls all the finances, such as naming the bank account for themselves, monitoring every credit card purchase, and the victim does not have any money to go anywhere but stay at home.
- Being too controlling also includes lecturing, imposing direct orders, and showing angry outbursts.
Emotional abuse follows after verbal abuse. This behavior is rooted in the abuser’s insecurities. There’s also a tendency of codependency where the abuser is too dependent on their partner and becomes emotionally abusive because there’s fear of losing their partner.
Emotional abuse comes in the forms of:
- Jealousy: Being paranoid that you’re having an affair, even though you’re not. Extreme jealousy may lead to accusations. They may get angry and accuse you of flirting even though you’re just having a friendly conversation. These emotions can push them to control what you’re wearing or who you’re meeting.
- They blame you: Abusers usually turn the tables and not take any responsibility. There’s a tendency where they blame you for the problems they’re having. This, in turn, can lead to a misconstrued perception of your character. Some abusers even take it to the point where they distort the truth and make you the bad guy, just so they can evade being blamed.
- 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
Is Breaking or Striking Objects a RED FLAG?
Yes. Breaking or striking objects is a red flag. This behavior is done to terrorize the victim by destroying sentimental possessions of the victim. This may include the victim’s phone, car, or breaking dishes during an argument. This can also show a lack of self-control. Anger is a common emotion, but that doesn’t mean that you should always act on that feeling. If the abuser can have angry outbursts and take them out on material possessions, what’s next? Physical violence may be around the corner.
What Do You Do if Someone Abuses You?
If someone emotionally, verbally, sexually, or physically abuses you, the best thing to do is walk away. However, it’s important to understand that walking away isn’t easy. That’s why you have to use the best resources you have around you; that includes establishing a safe support group, saving enough money in a personal bank account, and turning to the authorities if you’re walking away from a physically abusive person.
Some victims, especially women, cannot walk away from their abusers because of a lack of financial means. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common marriage problems. In this case, talk to social services, support groups, family, or friends that can help you out of this mess.
In the case of women or children experiencing domestic violence, reach out for help in your city/state’s domestic violence hotline. Why put yourself and the safety of your children at risk if you’re being abused? Why stay in a relationship where you are easily insulted and not happy? Know your self-worth and believe you can get past this situation, even 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 or Family Therapy. Witnessing these abusive signs or red flags may not completely mean that there will be abuse in the future.
If all of this is causing you too much stress or is starting to negatively affect your mental health, seek support with a therapist or counselor right away. Book an appointment with us now, and we can give you the help or support you need.