After Emotional Abuse: Do the Side-Effects Ever Disappear?

After emotional abuse, or rather, after I left my abusive husband, I hoped the effects of abuse would disappear. Magically. Without any work from me.

Those hopeful feelings minimized the difficulty of coping with life and relationships after emotional abuse. The intelligent part of me knew that after emotional abuse it would take time to recover from the emotional trauma and regain my mental health.

Alas, the intelligent part of me was correct.

Mental Changes After Emotional Abuse

During domestic violence and abuse, victims, by and large, become people they no longer like. When someone you think you love spews hatred like buckshot, it is natural to retaliate against the abuse. Unfortunately, self-defense can get nasty.

Defending yourself in unhealthy ways can become habit. Not only can that habit spill over to innocent people (like your children), but those unhealthy habitual thoughts integrate themselves into your brain – they become your new thoughts. In that way, you become someone you do not like.

At one point during my emotionally abusive marriage I wrote:

The abuse is bad, but the things I’ve allowed to change in my mind and heart are horrid. 

That thought started my recovery from domestic violence. I had not left the marriage yet, but with that statement, I took one giant, healthy mental step forward. The understanding I gained was that I, not my abuser, have the power to change and create how I think, feel and act. I’d given my power to change to him. I needed to take it back.

allowed my abuser’s negative thoughts to infiltrate my brain during the emotional abuse. Now it was up to me to deny their ability to dominate me. I had to change my thoughts so I could be who I wanted to be.

My Recovery at 2 Years, 8 Months After Emotional Abuse

After emotional abuse is out of your life, rapid healing begins. Then it slows down a bit and you wonder if this is as good as it gets. It isn't. Read this.

Patricia Evans, author of several books about verbal abuse, offers a *list of symptoms abuse victims may suffer. Here’s a look at that list along with my experience in recovering from them.

A verbal abuse victim often . . .

  • distrusts their spontaneity and suffers a loss of enthusiasm

My enthusiasm for my future returned around three months after emotional abuse was in the rear-view mirror. My spontaneity took a little longer because I believed he had spies watching me. I kept it low-key so the spies would have nothing to tell him.

  • lives in a perpetually in a ready, on-guard state

If you suffer PTSD, this symptom will take time to conquer. For me, eventually, after realizing the spies were phantoms implanted in my head, I learned how to relax. I began to trust the peace I created in my home after leaving emotional abuse.

  • wonders about how they are coming across

Soon after emotional abuse ended, I discovered that he was the only person who misunderstood what I said or misinterpreted my behaviors. Every new person I met understood me perfectly. Now I’m writing a blog that hopefully you understand, too.

  • thinks and feels that something is wrong with her

Within the first year, I realized that I am not as damaged as I thought. Yes, I have issues to work through, but everyone does (except for my ex who still loves himself just as he is). I am at peace with myself and my point in recovery from emotional abuse.

  • soul-searches and reviews incidents in hope of determining “what went wrong”

I don’t do this anymore. I am able to go through entire days without thinking about my ex or how things could have been. I could go longer without thinking of him, but we have children together and there is contact.

  • hears only her internalized critical voice

The hardest after emotional abuse, for me, is separating my internal nag from his criticisms of me. I sometimes ask myself, “Kellie, is this what he told you?” If it is, I banish the thought without question. Hell, sometimes I banish my internal nag too. Feels good!

  • suffers from anxiety or fear of being crazy

I am sane. I do not doubt my sanity any longer – not for one second. The anxiety associated with the fear that I might be crazy is gone. After emotional abuse ends, meaning I have a home that doesn’t include him, the distance lets me see very clearly who is crazy. Not me.

  • wishes she was not the way she is – “too sensitive”, etc.

I am perfectly me. Sometimes a person’s statement or word choice will sting because they are similar to my abuser’s words. Sometimes I overreact. But the people I choose to have in my life are safe; I can tell them exactly what I’m feeling and they respond to me with love. The more I let myself trust them, the less often I feel those stings.

  • is hesitant to accept her perceptions

Now my perceptions are the most important ones to me. I realize that the way I perceive things may not be complete, so I ask people what they meant when they said or did something. I do not try to read their minds. I listen to their explanations. I can tell whether they’re lying or not in time by watching what they do.

  • tends to live in the future – “everything will be great when/after”, etc.

I do look forward to future events (like graduation and moving to Austin), but I do my best to make now great, too. Life flows, and it feels good to be in the flow instead of predicting what will happen when or after emotional abuse occurs.

  • has a distrust of future relationships

I once thought I was unlovable and couldn’t be a great friend because he didn’t love me and he didn’t want my friendship. After all of that emotional abuse, it is taking some time to trust my perceptions of other people. I’m relearning how to listen to my gut feeling about someone; not perfect yet, but looking forward to testing it.

Is Complete Recovery Possible After Emotional Abuse?

I believe we can conquer all of these horrible side-effects after emotional abuse is out of our lives. Some effects will take more time than others. Trusting myself seems to be at the core of it all.

I’m not done healing, but I will completely heal. I will completely trust myself. It will be sooner rather than later. It can happen for you, too.

See “Do the effects of abuse change you permanently?”

*Evans, P. (1996). The verbally abusive relationship: how to recognize it and how to respond (Expanded 2nd ed.). Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Media Corporation.

You can find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

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56 Responses to After Emotional Abuse: Do the Side-Effects Ever Disappear?

  1. Mike says:

    I am a man and can relate to everything in this article. I once had a therapist tell me that being too ‘sensitive’ was not normal but thats how I describe myself. It started off in cgildhood with a dad who bullied of whom I couldnt connect with. Then later I married an emotional abuser who was a very controlling woman who tried to keep me from my family. I am divorcing now but the emotions are flooding back like you cant believe. Some issues that Ive noticed in my life from this include love addiction, PTSD, poor self esteem, and loneliness. It would be great if this article mentioned some ways for us to recover and heal from this. Thanks.

  2. At the End says:

    Hi Mike , I’m just at the end of cutting full ties with my abuser and am full of anxiety , have been suicidal and feel a little crazy due to this.. I realised I needed more help than just a book – so I have seen a mental health professional, and she suggested to also see a psychologist ‘Schema Therapy’ , Not only does this address your thought patterns but also where they where developed throughout your childhood and help to change them so your don’t attract another abusive person in the future. It’s not for everyone but like you some of the patterns in my ex where things I’d experienced as a child hence why I seem to pick up abusive relationships and I want to not only heal from this one but make sure I don’t repeat this pattern , if not I find counselling helps a lot so you can share your experience without judgement of friends or family… I hope you get the help needed to heal,grow and gain back the self worth to enjoy everyday , if you are more of a reader there’s a good book called “Reiventing your Life” by Jeffery young – I also still read a lot of these blogs and articles in between my appointments to just remind myself I’m not crazy and was manipulated and abused , I am going to fight now to get the parts back that where robed from me , my self worth, my independence, my freedom

  3. Laurika says:


    Im a survivor of a emotional abusive relationship and after i was locked in the house for 8 months and all ties were cut with people or friends he even tried keeping me away from my family. I ran away and went back to my family but i am now without a job or friends and struggling to find myself again and to start healing and moving on in life.

  4. Zanele says:

    I’m a victim of emotional and verbal abuse,i suffer abuse at the hands of my mom shouts and calls me names like you are useless,irritating and cruel each time i’ve made a mistake.i’m not allowed to even cry when i’m hurt,sometimes when i’ve made a mistake my mom would give me the silent treatment just to spite me,with her i can never win and everything i do is totally wrong

  5. Jocelyn says:

    Hello everybody.

    After months of trying to ‘fix’ things (and gaining an anxiety-induced eating disorder) I finally figured out my partner was emotionally abusive. It’s scary how long it can take to put the pieces together. I would’ve hit this person with a baseball bat if they’d been dating one of my friends.

    I’ve had a lot of issues, so I’m used to being the ‘broken’ one in my relationships, and spent months thinking I was doing everything wrong. Every time I made plans with someone, I was sleeping with them. Every time I dressed up a little, it was for someone else. No matter what I said or did, I was always under scrutiny. I literally became anorexic because I needed to feel like I had control over something in my life. If it wasn’t for my roommates staging a ‘friend-tervention’ I’d might still be with this clown.

    I found this article the day after my friends stepped in, and it made a lot of things clearer. Thank you.

  6. Jane says:

    Hello There,

    I feel like I’ve just been saved. I’ve been struggling with dealing with my emotionally abusive, narcissistic personality, almost ex-husband. My ex has the typical Jekyll and Hyde personality of a narcissistic person. Our marriage counselor even told him he needed to see someone himself. Needless to say we didn’t see her anymore. He was able to manipulate the guardian at lidem that was appointed for the children. He coached the kids. By saying that he would be all alone and he wouldn’t n know what to do. To make a long story short he has residential custody and the majority of parental responsibility and parenting time. I only have the kids 2 nights a week for 2 hours and every other weekend. I didn’t have the money to fight him. And I’m literally drowning without my kids everyday is a struggle. And here we are 8 months later and we are still not divorced because now he’s fighting over money. He can take the money just give me my kids back. But he won’t have it that way. Everything all the time has to be his way. OR ELSE He has to have it all and he will not stop until he completely and totally destroys me. I left him so now I’m paying for it. I have severe anxiety issues, migraine headaches for weeks at a time, depression, I don’t sleep or eat really. I was forced out of the house by him so I am living with my family. I am hoping that now that I have started to talk about and acknowledge the degree of abuse that was happening, that I can at least breathe a little better. I’m surrounding myself with people who I trust and I know have !y best interests in mind.
    Finding this blog and this website was like a ray of sunshine in my day. Finally a place where people understand.

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