What long-term effects does abuse have on a person?
I am a survivor of long-term emotional and psychological abuse. There was some physical abuse, but it was mostly mental. Over the years I’ve wondered what does more damage in the long run, physical abuse or mental abuse?
Any kind of abuse, whether mental or physical, is going to leave scars behind. Sometimes these are external, visible scars, but there are always internal scars that affect how an abused person will deal with the world for the rest of their lives. However, I have heard the question arise as to whether physical or emotional abuse does the most long-term damage to the individual who suffered through it.
I can’t say from my own experience which is worse, since the bulk of what I went through was completely psychological. I have however learned quite a bit from the constant physical abuse that someone in my family went through. I know that both forms of abuse have a lasting effect on how you deal with other people and the world in general. Both have a negative effect on your sense of self-worth and your ability to trust people.
I know that my relative, we’ll call her G, did suffer long-term effects from her physical abuse. Actually, she still is. She is a victim of spousal abuse. She is, to my knowledge, still under the power of her abuser. She is unwilling to leave him, and even after hospitalization still defended his actions and blamed herself for the beatings. I have seen others suffering from spousal abuse, both women and men as the victims, and it does seem to have a severe effect on their social interactions, self-image and impede their daily life.
From what I have heard and observed, it may be extremely difficult to discern if one form of abuse does more damage than the other. The reason for this is the fact that it appears rare for anyone to suffer physical abuse alone. Abusers also use mental tactics to weaken and control their victims, thus meaning that the victim suffers both physical and psychological abuse at the same time. One might assume that the combination would make the effects far worse, but it is possible, depending on the type of psychological abuse, for an abuser to affect their victim on far more levels than a physical abuser.
From my own experience I know that psychological and emotional abuse stays with a person well into adulthood, and can be extremely difficult to overcome. Now in my mid 30’s, I’m still fighting against the mental programming that was drilled into me for the first 20 years of my life. A great deal of the childhood abuse affected my adult life, causing me to make poor decisions and allow myself to be bullied and abused by others. I face issues from that abuse on a regular basis, and it is a constant struggle to be the person I want to be and not allow that programming to take hold again.
It seems that any kind of abuse can have long-term effects of the victim. It varies from person to person, but we all carry the scars and problems arise from them at least occasionally. For some, either one can be so damaging that they end their lives. Those of us with the inner strength to persevere and try to overcome may be the lucky ones, or perhaps not, as we live our lives with the memory of that suffering and must work to live with what it has done to us.