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

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.

After the 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 the 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 a 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, the 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 the 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.

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

Kellie Jo Holly advocates for domestic violence and abuse awareness through her writing. You can find Kellie Jo on her website, Amazon Authors, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

94 thoughts on “After Emotional Abuse: Do the Side-Effects Ever Disappear?”

  1. I have decided to leave my husband after 24 years of marriage. I’ve never understood why I felt so anxious and unsure of myself all these years. Often felt like I was walking on eggshells because I was nervous for his scolding or berating over pretty much everything. My feelings of loneliness and emptiness have intensified over the last several months and I started googleing my symptoms and low and behold….there I was described to perfection! I am being emotionally abused!!! I’ve since spoken to a counselor who has confirmed this. I needed confirmation because I always felt like I was crazy or being weak for feeling so effected by his comments. I will be seeking out a lawyer very soon and I can’t wait until this marriage is over. I have not had the conversation with him yet as I’m waiting and planning the execution. I am scared, relieved, unsure, excited, anxious….all rolled into one big mess. I am so sad for my 2 daughters, who are young adults still at home, because they have endured his wrath as well. How did I miss this ???? I pray for me, my daughters and all those that have suffered this insidious crime against us.

  2. I’m still in the stage of not feeling comfortable for fear he will say or do something else. Or fear he will continue to tell lies to our boys. I stayed in my marriage for years, knowing he was mean. Knowing I’d never be w him my whole life. But I never understood the toll it was taking on me mentally. I stayed for the boys. My goal was to get them to college, then I’d ask for a divorce. I couldn’t take it. I got close. Only a few years away for my youngest. When I went to a psychologist, she told me I was being abused. I left her office and never went back. I am a strong professional woman. Strong women aren’t abused. I was staying intentionally, enduring the pain. How was that abuse. A friend also told me I was being abused. Our friendship suffered a bit, because one again, I didn’t believe. Finally when we both went for joint counseling and, after 20minutes with both of us, the counselor separated us, and told me privately to file for divorce based on abuse…I started to listen. I started to read. I started to come to terms with what I did to myself by staying. When I moved out, he called the police on me…and blamed me for it. He drained our accounts. And turned the kids against me. One still asks why I abandoned them. I will never speak poorly to them about him, nor will I do anything that puts them in the middle. Sometimes the pain I feel is so bad, I can’t breathe. I just want to sleep. I just want to end it all. …but then he would win. …and I pick myself up….and try another day …. I’ll keep trying.

  3. Your bullet “wondering about how they are coming across” made me smile. As did the next. I’ve been so stuck and ashamed of being abused, that I hadn’t even thought it might happen to others. I am strong and smart, very successful in my profession, yet rendered completely useless and insignificant in his shadow. I can’t believe I’ve let myself become that, all in the name of love. Thank you for your words and thoughts! It helped me truly open my eyes to what has happened, and to what the abuse really did to me. I have a tween that I am navigating through the mess as well, and for him, I need to be strong and almost clinical in my descriptions and support mechanisms, but here I finally allowed myself to acknowledge what “he” did to me. I don’t have friends around me, he pushed them all away, and I don’t know how to make friends anymore, broke as I am, but reading everyone’s comments helps me move on. Thank you!

    1. I’ve read so many of the comments and could be literally several of all I’ve been able to read. It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating. It’s unimaginable, but it’s happened. I too, intelligent, embarrassed, ashamed, because I couldn’t imagine how so much BAD could come from one human, (I’ll never believe they’re human), but didn’t know exactly WHAT I’d been married to for all 18 years until I learned of this and what they’re capable of. Nobody gets me. I’ve lost everyone. Everything I had. Started over from rock bottom or below because the court was ALL in his favor. They’re sick demented demons and we’re finalky free of the daily struggle and pain to some peace of mind. I hope and dream that someday we’ll all see this sooner. This was the defining and breaking point of my 51yesrs at the time. I’m 57 now and feel like I’ve lost so much of me but there’s still time. We’re still alive. I want some happiness someday, and I wish that for you and everyone else here and everywhere to find peace and happiness. We all deserve it so much. Best of all to you.

  4. I left my husband 6 months ago and I spent7 years feeling alone made fun of in front of people and lost who I was. I’ve struggled to go back to work im too scared of getting things wrong. I became a complete prisoner and couldn’t look up in fear of being accused of making eyes at people. He would spend full nights making me stay awake while he qiestioned me over and over. I don’t know how long it’ll take to get over because it took so long to recognise myself. I hope I can move on

  5. I left a man I was married to for 41 years about 1 1/2 years ago. Overall I felt that I have adjusted . Every few months I have an emotional breakdown for no special reason. I would like to think this is a release of all of my pain and suffering. I am working on loving myself. I know happiness comes from me and no one else is responsible for my happiness. It is a struggle to not let yourself become emotionally shut off and be able to trust again. I realize this will take allot longer than I though but that’s okay. One day at a time. Good Luck and God Bless all of you who are facing these same struggles.

  6. Im so thankful i stumbled on your blog. Its been two years since i left my ex boyfriend who mentally abused me in ways I’m still recovering from. The week i finally left him was the best week of my life until it took a turn for the worst. I ended up having an acute psychotic disorder and was hospitalized for two weeks. The trauma from the mental break down evolved into terrible anxiety and depression. I just feel so damaged having to deal with the trauma of mental abuse, then a mental breakdown to now anxiety and depression. Its just frustrating how one person altered the course of my life and how i feel about myself and now I’m afraid ill never recover from all that trauma. Its affected my romantic and platonic relationships. Now I’m incapable of forming proper relationships with people because i feel so damaged and undeserving of people now. I have a decent enough support system but its hard talking to people who cant familiarize with what I’ve been through.

    1. Orire, Honey, I FEEL your pain! Do not give up on yourself! You are a beautiful, wonderful, worthy human being and you are more than what happened to you. Your ex’s estimation of your character is flat out wrong. Love yourself enough to tell yourself the truth about who you are and who God created you to be. Saturate your mind with the truth of how God sees you in scripture. You will make it and you will be a “surthrivor”. Great things like at the end of your dark tunnel. Just don’t give up!

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