No One Escapes the Effects of Abuse

Dr. Steven Stosny explains that not only the the spouse, but everyone in a family is affected by emotional abuse.

  • Everyone in an abusive family loses some degree of dignity and autonomy (the ability to decide one's own thoughts, feelings and behavior).
  • At least half of victims, abusers and children in abusive families suffer from clinical anxiety and/or depression. ("Clinical" means that it interferes with normal functioning.)
  • Most victims, abusers and children lack genuine self-esteem.
  • Emotional abuse is usually more psychologically damaging than physical abuse.
  • Abuse tends to get worse without intervention from someone outside the family.
  • Witnessing abuse makes a child 10 times more likely to become either an abuser or a victim of abuse. As adults, they are at increased risk of alcoholism, criminality, mental health problems and poverty.
  • Symptoms of children in abusive families include one or more of the following: depression (looks like chronic boredom), anxiety, school problems, aggressiveness, hyperactivity, low self-esteem, over emotionality (anger, excitability or frequent crying) or no emotions at all.
  • Witnessing a parent victimized is usually more psychologically damaging to children than injuries from direct child abuse. Seeing a parent abused is child abuse.
  • Symptoms of victims and abusers often include one or more of the following:
    -Trouble sleeping
    -Frequent periods of sadness and crying
    -Continual worry, anxiety or excessive anger
    -Obsessions (thoughts you can't get out of your mind)
    -Confusion/impaired decision-making.
How to Get Your Angry or Abusive Man to Change
I have been contacted by many men who saw the show on the emotional abuse of wives and have been inspired to seek help. But I must say that before the show, only a handful of the more than 4,000 angry and abusive men I have treated sought help on their own, without their wives or the courts pressuring them. That's because their addiction to blame makes them think that they are merely reacting to everybody else.

The hard fact is, you may have to leave your husband to motivate him to change. If he is violent or threatens violence, call the police or file for a civil protection order. (Most communities have domestic violence hotlines to help you.) Leaving or calling the police may seem drastic, but they are the most compassionate things you can do. Your tough-love demands are likely to be the only way to help him stop the behavior that makes him lose his humanity as he harms you and your children.
FROM: The Follow-Up Show: Fall 2004
Published on November 03, 2004


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