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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is frequently linked to physical trauma, such as physical abuse, war, or sexual assault. However, mental health professionals have discovered that emotional abuse can also result in PTSD. This form of trauma, however, comes under a different type of PTSD called complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). Management by professionals can help in addressing the signs and effects of C-PTSD as well as providing alternatives for leading a healthier and happier life.

Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse, is a practice of behavior in which one person subjects another to mental or nonphysical acts that undermine the other’s mental health and their capacity to perform.

Emotional abuse can take many forms, and while it’s not often simple to detect, it can have long-term consequences. Despite the fact that emotional abuse does not meet the trauma requirements for a formal diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it can nonetheless have serious mental and physical consequences.

PTSD can develop as a result of abuse. Since abuse is frequently a recurrent pattern of behavior instead of a single incident, PTSD from abuse usually does not follow the typical pattern and instead falls under the category of “complex PTSD,” or PTSD resulting from numerous traumatic events rather than just one. While someone with PTSD after a vehicle accident may avoid driving altogether or drive as swiftly and carelessly as possible—or a combination of the two—people with complex PTSD are experiencing or dealing through a cumulative event that piles upon neglect, abuse, and trauma over and over.

Because you’re not trying to heal from a singular incident, but rather a lifetime of abuse, PTSD caused by abuse often necessitates significantly more prolonged treatment. Each trauma you’ve experienced must be filtered and healed, which may necessitate not only a long period of therapy, but also the establishment of strong, strict boundaries in your family relations, as family members are frequently the cause of abuse, and many people who are close to both of you would be unable to see the abusive behavior and may not fully comprehend your point of view. 

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Compounding trauma is not insurmountable to overcome, but it does need a great deal of reflection, rewiring, and healing. As a result, clients are recommended to stay away from the source of the abuse throughout treatment if at all feasible, in order to ensure that damaging thought patterns and emotions do not obstruct the process of healing.

Although emotional abuse does not necessarily result in PTSD, it can.

After a terrifying or disturbing experience, PTSD can develop. If you have high-stress levels or fear for an extended length of time, your doctor may diagnose you with PTSD. These feelings are frequently so intense that they make it difficult to function on a daily basis.

Other PTSD symptoms include:

  • Furious outbursts
  • Prone to becoming startled
  • Unpleasant thoughts
  • Sleeplessness
  • Uncomfortable visions and nightmares
  • Reliving the experience (flashbacks) and having bodily symptoms like a racing heart

PTSD in children can also lead to:

  • Bed-wetting
  • Codependency
  • Regression

If you have any of the following, you may be at a higher risk of developing PTSD:

  • Been through terrible situations in the past, particularly as a child
  • A mental disease or substance abuse history
  • A lack of support system

Abusers can exert their authority over others in a multitude of nonviolent ways. These emotional and psychological abuse acts are intended to intimidate and dominate another person in order to keep them in the abusive situation. Trauma symptoms can develop as a result of living in a chronic state of anxiety or witnessing extraordinarily terrifying experiences, like being threatened

Neglect and emotional abuse in childhood can cause lifelong alterations in the growing human brain. These structural alterations in the brain appear to be severe enough to induce psychological and emotional difficulties in adults, such as depression and substance abuse.

Around 14 percent of Americans say they were subjected to emotional abuse or neglect as children.

Emotional abuse can take the form of:

  • Demeaning, calling a kid a name, or cursing them
  • Threatening to hurt the child physically
  • Terrorizing or otherwise frightening the child

Emotional neglect occurs when a kid’s emotional needs are not met. This can involve not being able to:

  • Have faith in the child.
  • Make a tight-knit family.
  • Make your kid feel important or special
  • Offer assistance.
  • Have a desire for the child’s success

Children’s brains go through periods of rapid development as they grow. Negative experiences can interrupt those stages of development, resulting in brain alterations later on.

This theory is supported by research, which reveals that the timing and duration of childhood abuse might have an impact on how those children are affected later in life. Abuse that begins early in life and continues for a long time, for example, might have particularly harmful consequences.

Dr. Martin Teicher and colleagues at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Northeastern University used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment to uncover quantifiable alterations in brain structure among adults who had experienced early neglect or abuse in their early lives.

What to Do When Someone With PTSD Pushes You Away

They discovered distinct abnormalities in nine brain regions in individuals who have been through childhood trauma versus those who had not. The brain regions that help regulate feelings and reactions, as well as self-aware thinking, showed the most noticeable changes. The findings of the study show that those who have experienced childhood neglect or abuse are more likely to have mental health problems later in life.

Effects on Structure Of The Brain

Neglect and abuse in childhood can have a variety of detrimental consequences on how the brain is developing. Here are a few examples:

  • The corpus callosum, which connects the hemispheres’ cerebral functions (sensory, motor, and cognitive), has shrunk in size.
  • The hippocampus, which is critical for memory and learning, has shrunk in size.
  • Disruption of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is engaged in the response to stress, at several levels
  • The prefrontal cortex has less volume, which impacts emotional equilibrium, behavior, and perception.
  • The amygdala, which processes emotions and determines reactions to stressful events or dangerous circumstances, is overactive.
  • Cerebellum volume reduction, which can impair motor abilities and coordination

Trauma and the stress that comes with it alter the structure and function of the brain. The body creates significant levels of stress chemicals during a traumatic incident, which influence the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. These parts of the brain are in charge of fear-related emotions and behaviors, as well as clear thinking, memory, and decision-making. In those who have gone through trauma, certain functions and capacities have been observed to be impaired.

The Consequences of Psychological Abuse

PTSD from childhood emotional abuse can have both short and long-term consequences on a person’s physical and mental health, as well as their ability to form healthy relationships.

Mental Well-Being

Emotional and psychological abuse can have a negative impact on one’s mental health. Experiencing psychological abuse on a regular basis can erode your sense of self, self-worth, and confidence. You may feel fearful, humiliated, guilty, unloved, powerless, and hopeless all of the time. You may believe that you are unable to experience happy emotions. Abuse of emotions can lead to despair and anxiety.

Physical Health

Psychological abuse causes the body to be constantly stressed, which can result in physical problems, including brain structure changes and neurochemical imbalances.

Studies have also shown that children who are subjected to psychological abuse are more likely to develop diabetes, lung illness, malnutrition, visual issues, heart attacks, back problems, high blood pressure, and arthritis in the long run.

Interpersonal Relationships

If you’ve been in a psychologically abusive relationship, you’ve probably felt isolated, undesired, and alone. Even after the abusive relationship has ended, these events have an impact on how you see yourself and others.

The most frequent form of PTSD linked to emotional abuse is “compounding” or “complex” PTSD (C-PTSD), which manifests symptoms as a result of a sequence of stressful events rather than a singular, shattering event. This impedes and complicates PTSD treatment, as patients must work with what could be a lifespan of abuse, trauma, and reactionary behaviors that have been normalized and anticipated, the frequently vicious circle of abuse, freedom, and abuse. 

Although many individuals are capable of breaking the pattern of abuse, if healing does not occur before the start of a new relationship, they may relapse into an abusive situation because they are sensitive to emotional abusers’ deception.

C-PTSD from psychological and emotional abuse is a complicated traumatic disorder that can be sustained by a failure to heal from the initial trauma. Many clients suffer their first trauma as a child at the hands of a caregiver, parent, or family member, and the cycle continues well into adulthood, progressing from authoritative to intimate relationships. Reach out to mental health experts if you’ve been the victim of emotional or narcissistic abuse to start a therapy plan to recover from your abuse and create healthy thoughts and behaviors about yourself, your lifestyle, and your skills.



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