Abusive Relationships and Children

Children who are abused are profoundly affected physiologically in many ways. Nervous systems raise to high alert and cannot calm down. Stress hormones rush through the body and retard growth, obstruct digestion, prevent learning, and disrupt development. Whether the abuse is physical, sexual, or emotional, the effects are devastating. Depending on the nature, duration, and extent of the abuse, these affects are more or less reversible.

Often, even without clear memories of abuse they experienced in childhood, adults can recognize traits and reactions that stem from early abuse experiences. Sometimes it is not until entering the world of intimate relationships themselves, that individuals realize how pervasive the influence of abuse can be, how lasting, or how powerful. Anger, shame, guilt, and self-doubt are very common.

Adults in Abusive Relationships

Abuse in adult relationships takes many forms, but always involves a harmful misuse of power in an intimate relationship. Whether the abuse involves physical aggression, sexual or emotional mistreatment, intimidation, isolation, or other means of control, it can leave psychological wounds that are often more difficult to heal than bodily injuries. Survivors of abuse often find it challenging to cope with the intense, often negative feelings that can plague them long after the abuse has ended, and their ability to find peace and happiness in life may be affected. Difficulties with intimacy, anxiety, intrusive memories, and a struggle to trust others are all common in abuse survivors.

Sometimes adults get caught in an abuse cycle, where they know they are in an abusive relationship, but are susceptible to believing their abuser's claims that “it will never happen again.” Such individuals often struggle with a belief that the abuse is their fault, or what they deserve, and feel tremendous guilt at the thought of leaving their abuser. Survivors of abuse, as well as those in a current abuse situation, are more likely than the general population to develop further mental health issues. It is not uncommon for survivors to experience anxiety, depression, anger, shame, dissociation, mood swings, PTSD, and self-harm.

A positive therapy relationship begins with re-establishing the ability to trust. Once someone feels safe,  it is possible to allow oneself to be vulnerable with another human and not suffer for it, and it becomes possible to build on that and move through an extensive repair process. Our Madison abuse therapists are here, waiting to begin discussion with you about a road to healing and recovery.