5 Steps to Leave an Abusive Relationship

Leave an Abusive Relationship

Leave an Abusive Relationship

 

We all need love and affection, so romantic relationships are one of the most important relationships we form in life. But, the romanticized dream of spending your life with someone, can have a twisted turn and become a nightmare. 

In this article, we will explain abusive relationships – what they are and their signs, how to spot abusers, and most importantly, how to leave them behind and never turn back. 

 

What is an Abusive Relationship?

An abusive relationship is a relationship where one is doing psychological, social, sexual, financial, or physical torture to the other to show and maintain power and control. 

In heterosexual abusive relationships, the abusers are predominantly males, but that is by no means a rule. One of the biggest problems in today’s domestic or relationship violence is that men are less likely to confess that they are being abused, mainly because people won’t believe them or they’re afraid of being ridiculed. That leads to a lot of unrecorded female to male abuses, thus misleading statistics. 

By modern social psychology theories, it is believed that men are more likely to abuse by causing physical and emotional pain. On the other hand, women abusers use means of psychological and social torture. Most of the time, an abusive relationship will have all of the previously mentioned contexts and not just one. 

 

Am I in an Abusive Relationship? 

The signs of an abusive relationship are: 

 

  • Psychological abuse 

Consists of the abuser calling the victim names, belittling them, making fun, giving their secrets, gaslighting, manipulating, threatening, etc.

 

  • Social torture 

Social abuse is the act of trying to turn other people against the victim, controlling the victim’s social circle, restricting their movement or freedom of choice, controlling their social media or phone/internet usage, and so on. Often, the abuser is trying to alienate the victim from their family and friends since those are the most likely to spot the abuse and stand up for the victim.

 

  • Sexual abuse

In a sexual context, the abuser can force or manipulate the victim into sexual acts that the victim doesn’t want to do. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) gives statistical data of “around 14% to 25% of women being sexually assaulted by their partners during a relationship. In abusive relationships, that number goes up to 45% of women being sexually assaulted, aside from other kinds of abuse.” 

 

  • Financial abuse

Financial abuse is consisted of taking money out of the victim; or, if they don’t work, restricting and controlling the money they use and what they use it for. It might also include restrictions about working and working hours or controlling how the victim spends their own money. 

 

  • Physical abuse

Physical abuse is the most common (and most easily noticed) type of violence. In physical abuse, the abuser is hitting, dragging, pulling, scratching, pushing, or using a weapon/tool to cause pain to the victim. 

 

How do you Spot an Abuser?

There isn’t a simple way to spot an abuser, but there are some characteristics that abusers are more likely to have. They include: 

  • Always wanting to be right
  • Having a high opinion of themselves
  • Being easily triggered 
  • Needing to control people and situations
  • Are prone to jealousy (this is not limited only to jealousy towards possible love rivals)
  • Want to belittle people

 

 

5 Steps to Leave an Abusive Relationship

 

Have a Support System

If you want to leave an abusive relationship, you first need to acknowledge the fact that you are actually in an abusive relationship. Since there is also psychological abuse, the victims are led to believe that the abuse is not real, that it’s their fault, that it won’t happen again, etc. 

Once you are aware that you need to leave that relationship for your good, you need a good support system. That can be friends, family, co-workers, therapists, hotlines, violence victim shelters – where ever you know you will be comfortable, but safe too. 

The Office of Women’s Health (OWH) explains that women’s shelters are free, safe, and warm places for violence survivors (and their kids) to stay. In this stage, you also might need a secret phone if you live with an abuser that is controlling and goes through your phone.

 

Make an Escape Plan

If you live together with the abuser, it’s very important to have an escape plan. The escape plan includes a date and means of leaving, a bag with necessities and clothes, important documents, cash on the side, and whatever else you think that you need. If you want to leave as soon as possible, a shelter (or a safe place with relatives) might be the best option. If you have kids, you might want to take them with you. This complicates things, so be sure that you start packing your and your kids’ bags once you are sure that you will have time to leave unhurt.

For some victims, leaving an abusive relationship includes a lot more planning. They might rent an apartment; gather evidence from the abuse to use in the future; get bus/plane tickets; make copies of important documents; and everything else they might need, depending on the situation. 

 

Stick to the plan and leave. Once and for all

This is the step of actually leaving. And leave the abusive relationship for good. The psychological abuse often goes to the extent that the victim is manipulated into trusting or pitying their abuser. This is usually accompanied by excuses like “he/she still loves me”, “he/she didn’t mean it”, ”It won’t happen again”, “I can change him/her”, “he/she will kill me or himself/herself”…

 

Stay safe with close and reliable people

Once you leave, it’s important not to tell a lot of people where you stay. This is a safety measure since a lot of abusers won’t easily let their victims go. They want to control and feel in power, and once the victim doesn’t comply, their rage increases. With that, chances of even bigger abuse increase too. 

If you are scared for your safety or think that your abuser might find you, make sure that you get a restraining order against them. If they appear, do call the police and don’t hesitate. Making a firm stance against your abuser is the first step towards them giving up.

 

Get Therapy or Counseling 

Abusive relationships are very damaging for the individual. They leave long-lasting stress, anxiousness, fear, uncertainty, low self-esteem, bad picture of the self, among other things. Sometimes, they might even leave physical scars. If you want to take the control back and remember that relationship as the event that turned you into a strong warrior, you can use the help of a therapist. 

 

Getting Professional Help

An abusive relationship is one where one person is trying to maintain control and power over the other, usually through physical, psychological, social, sexual, or financial abuse. For the victim to leave, they should have a support system of friends and institutions, have an escape plan and stick to it, go to a safe place, take any legal measures (if needed) and visit a therapist who can help with the long-lasting psychological effects.

If you or someone you know is struggling with abuse, or want to leave an abusive relationship or addiction, or looking for a supportive group of women in Orange County, California, call 866-600-7709 and talk to a member of the Anchored Tides Recovery team. 

Stigmas of Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction

 

The stigmas of mental health and addiction are entirely unwarranted, based on what we know scientifically about both. There was a time when we knew little about mental health disorders or addiction. Due to that lack of knowledge, there was often a misconception that you were weak or lacked morals if you were experiencing these conditions.

Unfortunately, those concepts were also associated with many mental health conditions and addiction. These misconceptions stopped society’s progress in understanding these are diseases. As with other chronic diseases, mental health disorders require evidence-based treatment.

When you learn more about substance use disorder, it can help you break down the stigmas you may personally feel still exist. Breaking down stigmas on an individual level can help you realize it’s okay to seek help. 

If you aren’t personally struggling with addiction or behavior disorders. Still, your loved one is, you can be a more effective support system for them when you learn more about the disease of addiction or a mental illness.

 

Why Do Stigmas Exist?

Chemical dependency or an addiction to substances is a chronic brain disease. When you have a substance abuse disorder, your brain compels you to seek out and use a substance.

  • From the early 1800s, we know there was a harmful view taken on substance abuse and mental illness, although it likely started well before then. We have more records of how people with these disorders were described in places like medical literature from later periods.
  • For example, by the early 1900s, people with alcohol addictions were described as moral inferiors. Their children were called born criminals, who couldn’t determine right from wrong.
  • In 1914, there was the passage of legislation called the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act. Addiction was criminalized, as were physicians who worked to treat substance use disorders.
  • Even in more modern times, the stigma of addiction and mental health has been reinforced. For example, in the 1970s the so-called War on Drugs started. There wasn’t a focus on treatment or rehabilitation, nor was addiction viewed as a disease. Instead, the war on drugs led to furthering criminalization of addiction. The results weren’t favorable, with the number of people going to jail for drug-related crimes have gone up enormously in the past few decades.

Recognizing these stigmas exist is one part of moving forward and away from these damaging viewpoints.

 

The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Brain

When you use drugs or alcohol, dopamine floods your brain. That dopamine hijacks your reward system. Because of the effects on your reward system, you want to continue seeking out the substance that initially made you feel good.  You may know there are negative consequences or that it’s not healthy, but you can’t stop.

  • Your brain adjusts to the use of the substance through the development of tolerance.
  • When your tolerance rises, you need larger doses of the substance to feel the same way.
  • Your brain’s function and structure can be profoundly affected. 
  • You’re also eventually unable to experience pleasure from healthy, everyday activities.

There are decades of research work that demonstrate the reality of substance use. When you’re addicted to drugs or have an alcohol addiction, it’s not because you’re morally weak, lack willpower, or don’t want to stop.

Many people use recreational drugs or alcohol and never become addicted. Most people don’t. When you first use a substance, you don’t think you will develop an addiction. No one does.

Researchers have identified some of the key area’s addiction effects in the brain.

  • Dopamine-containing pathways are the ones we know are most significantly affected.
  • Short-term drug or alcohol use may cause minor effects in the brain.
  • Long-term use causes significant brain changes that reinforce an alcohol or drug habit, like strengthening memory circuits associated with drug-taking. 
  • For years after someone stops taking drugs or alcohol, the brain changes can continue. That continuation is why addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease.

That doesn’t mean you’ll absolutely relapse with drug addiction or alcohol use disorders, but it does mean addiction requires treatment with relapse prevention in mind.

 

Understanding the Reasons for Stigma

Mental disorders and addiction often go hand-in-hand. These are co-occurring disorders.

People with mental illness are unlikely to get help for their condition, just like people with substance use disorders. Not getting help is very often due to the stigma or discrimination they worry they’ll experience.

There are different types of stigma that can affect you.

  • Public stigma involves other people’s negative attitudes about mental illness or addiction. 
  • Then, there’s self-stigma, which is internalized shame you may feel.
  • Institutional stigma is systemic and may mean you have limited opportunities because of your addiction or mental health issue. For example, there may be fewer treatment options for physical health conditions or less access to treatment. Even health insurance companies reinforce this stigma. Health insurance issuers can make accessing mental health benefits and addiction disorder services harder. 
  • Stigma can affect someone personally dealing with addiction or a mental illness. Stigma can also affect their families and loved ones.
  • Culturally, stigma may be a significant issue too. For example, there’s an even greater stigma about accessing addiction or mental health treatment or seeing mental health counselors in some cultures. There can also be distrust in treatment systems, including mental health & addiction services. 

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The Consequences of Stigma

In mental health and addiction, arguably the most significant consequence of stigma is barriers to substance use treatment. Addiction is a treatable disease. 

With successful treatment programs, you can manage symptoms and start your life in recovery.

You can retain your sense of control and live a self-directed life. Unfortunately, if you’re embarrassed or feel shame about your situation, you’re much less likely to seek help at treatment facilities or a mental health facility. 

  • You may worry about what people think about you, but addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. 
  • A progressive illness worsens over time, and more complications can develop.
  • Other mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can also progress without treatment. This worsening of addiction and mental health disorders can contribute to a behavioral health crisis. 
  • The effects of stigma include low self-esteem, more difficulties at school or work, and a reduced sense of hope.

Stigma can lead to social isolation, bullying or violence, or the belief that you can’t do anything to improve your situation, reinforcing the idea that you shouldn’t get behavioral health care. 

 

Addiction Treatment

We want to emphasize again that addiction is a disease and a treatable one. However, it’s nearly impossible to overcome a substance use disorder simply by deciding you want to stop. Treatment often includes a combination of therapy and medication.

Treatment and recovery have challenges, but you’ll find it’s worth it.

The opioid crisis has brought to our attention the effects of stigma in addiction services and mental health care more than ever. Tens of thousands of people are needlessly dying annually, in large part due to stigma. 

Our goal is always to reduce these effects. Anchored Tides Recovery helps people with addictions and their loved ones learn more about substance use and overcome it. To learn more about mental health and addiction services, please call 866-600-7709. We can provide you with information about the addiction recovery process for a substance use disorder.