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Addiction and Mental Abuse: The Effects of Mental, Emotional, and Psychological Abuse

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mental and emotional abuseMental and emotional abuse is the same thing as psychological abuse. This type of abuse involves a person behaving in certain ways to isolate, control, manipulate or scare another person. This type of abuse may take the form of statements or threats and are regular, ongoing behaviors.

Mental and emotional abuse has a destructive effect on the mental health of its victim. It can make them feel:

  • Inadequate
  • Insecure
  • Unsafe
  • Traumatized

At other times, emotional abuse can trigger:

  • Emotional helplessness 
  • Feelings of dependence on the abuser

Victims can also develop mental disorders like:

Abuse and Addiction

Sometimes an abusive relationship is compared to a harmful addiction. Because an individual may not know they’re getting involved with an abusive person until it’s too late, they feel like there is no escape. 

Trauma bonding is another reason people stay in abusive relationships. In this case, the victim becomes chemically addicted to the rollercoaster of emotions that the abuser puts them on. Likewise, the periodic love and affection the abuser gives are just enough to keep the victim hooked. It’s not that different from being addicted to a drug.

Long-Term Effects of Psychological Abuse

It has been discovered that one-fourth to three-fourths of people who have suffered abuse or violent experiences report alcohol use problems. Women struggling with PTSD were more likely to drink as compared to women who weren’t abused. 

Mental and emotional abuse causes trauma that can bring on destructive tendencies. People who were mentally, physically, or emotionally abused may not undertake therapy to help themselves. Instead, they will create unhealthy coping mechanisms such as:

  • Gambling
  • Shopping
  • Binge eating
  • Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs

Using the strategy of self-medicating to cope with abuse can get out of control and quickly become a substance use disorder (SUD).


There are long-term medical problems that can affect people who have been emotionally and mentally abused, including:

  • Headaches
  • Eating disorders
  • Obesity
  • Substance use disorders
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Depression
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Suicidal thoughts and suicide
  • Stress and anxiety

Addiction and Mental Abuse: The Effects of Mental, Emotional, and Psychological Abuse

Connecting Drugs, Alcohol, and Emotional Abuse

Statistics show high rates of co-occurring substance use disorders and anxiety disorders, depression, and PTSD, such as those that occur as a result of mental abuse. Many national surveys have discovered that about 50% of people who experience mental illness in their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa. 

Another national study suggested that people with mental, personality, and SUDs are at a higher risk for nonmedical use of prescription opioids. Research determined that 43% of people in SUD treatment for misuse of prescription painkillers have symptoms of mental health disorders, mainly depression and anxiety.

Environmental Influences

There are many environmental influences associated with substance abuse and mental illness, including:

Chronic stress

Stress is a well-known risk factor for a range of mental disorders and provides a link between the disease processes of substance use disorders and mental illness.


Emotionally traumatized people are at a much higher risk for drug use and SUDs. Individuals with PTSD often use substances to reduce their anxiety and to avoid dealing with the trauma.

Adverse childhood experiences

When a mental illness is developed from the trauma of psychological abuse, the related changes in the chemistry of the brain increase the likelihood of substance use problems. The rewarding effects are enhanced, reducing the awareness of the negative effects.

therapy for emotional abuseTypes of Mental and Emotional Abuse

Mental and emotional abuse might occur before, during, or after periods of physical abuse. It is never the fault of the person who’s being abused. There are different types of emotional abuse:

Emotional Abuse by Parents

People of any age can be subjected to emotional abuse. This includes children. A relative or close friend of the family is more likely to abuse a child than a stranger.

Relationship Emotional Abuse

People who are emotionally abusive in romantic relationships might not be sexually or physically abusive at first. However, emotional abuse can lead to it if the relationship continues to go down an unhealthy road.

Emotional Abuse in a Marriage

The signs of emotional abuse in a marriage are the same as those of emotional abuse in a non-married relationship. In a marriage, it might make a person feel worthless or as if they don’t deserve anything better.

Emotional Abuse in the Workplace

Rates of emotional abuse in the workplace vary. Studies showed 10%, 24%, and 36% of individuals experienced ongoing substantial emotionally abusive behaviors. A web-based survey showed that women were more likely to engage in bullying and name-calling.

Verbal Abuse

Everyone gets into arguments from time to time and sometimes yells. It’s part of being human. But verbal abuse isn’t normal. And if you’re involved in a verbally abusive relationship, it might seem normal. An argument may devolve into name-calling, humiliation, blaming, threats and accusations.

Long-Term Effects of Psychological Abuse

There are long-term effects of psychological abuse, including medical problems that can affect people who have been emotionally abused, including:

  • Headaches
  • Eating disorders
  • Obesity
  • Substance use disorders
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

Recognizing Mental and Emotional Abuse

There are several behaviors and actions that demonstrate an intention to mentally abuse someone. They include:

Blame and Accusation

An abuser always blames their problems on someone else and accuses them of doing everything wrong. Also, they don’t take any responsibility for the consequences of their actions or words and will constantly use the other person as scapegoat. Abusers tend to be very jealous people and will use guilt to force someone to do something they don’t want to do. If you try to place any blame on them, they will deflect or minimize it.


Control may be about major issues like where to work and live, or it can be about small things like what to wear or what to eat. An abuser may not allow you to choose your own friends or what to watch on TV. If they are trying to control you in any way, it is a sign of mental abuse.


An individual committing mental abuse to maintain control may try to create a situation that makes their victim feel like they don’t have any choice but to be with them. In addition, abusers will sometimes try to interfere with or stop any family or friend relationships to make sure that you will continue to rely on them.


Whether it’s big or small, an abuser will constantly criticize their victim for everything they do. They may downplay or demean any accomplishments, either professional or personal. This includes making fun of you for how you look or what you’re wearing. Whatever you do, it’s not good enough.

Emotional Neglect

Abusive people put their emotional needs ahead of everyone else’s. They demand respect and obedience, and they may hold back care or affection unless they get their way.


One powerful way to mentally abuse someone is to humiliate them. It’s especially abusive if it’s done in a public setting. They might put embarrassing pictures or posts on social media. Or they might make fun of you and encourage others to join in.

How to Deal With Mental and Emotional Abuse

First of all, if you think you are being mentally or emotionally abused, get help. If you are in danger, get out of the situation as quickly as you can and call 911.

If you aren’t in immediate danger, reevaluate your situation and understand the following:

It’s Not Your Fault or Your Responsibility

You might have a strong belief that what is happening is your fault and that you need to find a way to solve it. However, that’s just not true. Don’t try to reason with your abuser because they won’t change unless they want to, and get professional help for it. This is not your responsibility.

Don’t Interact

Make up your mind that you won’t play into the abuser’s games or get drawn into arguments they might try to have with you. As much as possible, limit your exposure to them.

Walk Away

If you have a way to permanently leave the relationship, do it. Be clear that it is over and that you are moving on with your life. Don’t look back or overthink it.

Time Heals Everything

Once you have managed to separate yourself from your abuser, take a deep breath and realize that it will take time to heal. The worst is over, and the rest of your life lies ahead.


It’s challenging to free yourself from someone who is mentally abusing you. But you don’t have to do it alone. Get help from trusted family and friends. You may need to contact a therapist or mental health professional. 

recovering from abuse and addictionGetting Support for a Dual Diagnosis

If you or someone you love has a substance use disorder, it may be the consequence of a mental illness that developed as a result of emotional abuse. Whether you are out of the abusive relationship or not, you may still be suffering from trauma, anxiety, or depression and trying to treat it yourself with illicit drugs or alcohol. 

Or you may have numbed your emotional distress with alcohol and drugs and are not totally aware of its effect on your mental wellbeing. Evaluation and treatment by a medical professional can help you unlock the door to your recovery.

If you have a mental disorder and a substance use disorder, it is considered a dual diagnosis. These co-occurring conditions need to be treated simultaneously, preferably by the same treatment team. 

Find Help With New Directions for Women

At New Directions, we are experienced in the treatment of dual diagnoses. And we know that every client needs a tailor-made program to help them accomplish their goals. We have several levels of care, from detox to a sober living residence with an experienced and licensed professional staff of therapists. In addition, our medical staff will follow your progress with periodic evaluations to make sure you’re always headed in the right direction. 

We know what you’ve been through and that your situation was not your fault. New Directions for Women is ready to support your recovery every step of the way. Call us today.

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