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Recognizing and Understanding the Cycle of Abuse

Abuse can be hard to understand and recognize, especially when you’re not familiar with the cycle of abuse and how it works. However, knowing this information could potentially save you or someone else’s life! 

If you’re struggling with abuse and mental health problems, then keep reading to learn more about this serious topic. 

Cycle of Abuse

This four-part cycle helps distinguish certain behaviors and patterns that abusive partners tend to have. By knowing these patterns of abuse, you can better protect yourself in future and current relationships. 

The four-part cycle starts with tension building, then an incident where abuse or violence takes place. After that, reconciliation is made, followed by a calm state. This tragic cycle repeats itself over and over again until the victim becomes worn down.

1. Tension Building

Tension building can be brought on by anything. Some of the triggers for an abusive partner are fatigue, overworking, being hungry, and other family issues.

The abusive partner will then begin to show signs of anger, fear, and feeling unempowered in the relationship. The tension that builds up as a result of these feelings can weigh heavily on you.

You might try to find a peaceful resolution. However, there may not be a solution until the abusive partner feels in control again.

Because of this, you might start feeling anxious and even scared. It is considered emotional abuse. Often, abusive partners use this tactic to inflict pain on others. 

2. Incidents of Abuse or Violence

Once the abuser has reached the breaking point, they will externalize these feelings. Abusers will use physical and verbal tactics to gain back control.

For example, they won’t allow you to wear certain clothes, or they’ll make you cut off communication with family and friends. Sometimes these tactics turn into sexual and physical aggressions. 

It is the most dangerous stage of the cycle. In fact, a recent report stated that six women die every hour as a result of domestic violence.

3. Reconciliation 

This stage in an abusive relationship can be very confusing. Often, the victim thinks that the abuse has stopped because the abuser has calmed down.

The abuser will start to show the victim their preferred love language like gift-giving or physical touch. Unfortunately, this “honeymoon” stage only lasts for a little bit.  

Often, those in a normal relationship don’t understand why the victim “doesn’t just leave.” For starters, the victim might not be physically or financially able to leave the relationship. 

The abuser might also hurt them for trying.

Most importantly, mental abuse causes a shift in a person’s brain chemistry. During the “honeymoon” stage, the victim’s brain releases oxytocin and dopamine.

Often, the victim is longing for this gratification, but the abusive partner will withhold affection to gain control. This causes the victim to stay and chase this feeling of “happiness.”

4. Calm State

During the calm state, the abuser will try and justify their abuse by apologizing. However, the apology is never sincere. It is really just a tactic to make the victim think the abuse won’t happen again.

The abuser will also blame their actions on others or sometimes the victim.

Here are some examples:

  • “I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you made me mad.”
  • “Sorry for snapping you earlier; it’s just my job has been stressing me out.”
  • “The only reason I hit you was because you were provoking me.”
  • “I didn’t even hit you that hard; you should get over it.”

After their apology, the abuser will convince the victim that it won’t happen again. They might try to manipulate you by making the situation seem smaller.

You might start doubting yourself and think that you were dramatic. And slowly, you start believing that your partner will change. 

How Does Abuse Affect Mental Health?

This cycle of abuse can leave someone with permanent damage. Many times battered women and men show symptoms of PTSD.

This mental disorder can bring on intense feelings of anxiety and paranoia, even if the victim has left the relationship. Over time, being in an abusive relationship can diminish someone’s self-worth and confidence.

It happens because the abuser is constantly attacking them and making them feel less than them. The abuser will use this tactic to wear down an individual not to seek happiness outside of the relationship.

Battered women and men are also likely to develop depression and suicidal ideations. Overall, being in an abusive relationship can deteriorate someone’s mental health. That’s why it’s essential to get help immediately!

Gaslighting and Manipulation 

Gaslighting and manipulation go hand in hand with the four stages of abuse. For starters, gaslighting is a form of lying by creating a false reality. 

For example, if a person finds their spouse cheating on them and the abuser outright denies the accusations, this is considered gaslighting. 

This tactic makes the victim’s reality and perception unclear. Often, the victim will feel “crazy,” but just because they don’t know what’s real and fake anymore. 

Manipulation is similar to gaslighting. For example, an abuser will try and control a situation by providing false information or showing empathy. Nevertheless, the abuser is doing this to establish control over a person.

Red Flags to Look Out For

All of the abuse mentioned doesn’t necessarily begin at the start of a relationship. Sometimes abusers will withhold these strong emotions and actions until they feel secure. 

However, there are minor signs that you should look out for during the start of a relationship. For example, love bombing is when a partner shows a lot of attention and affection during the first few weeks of being together.

It may seem normal at first, but this will progress at an unusual pace. The abuser might tell you they love you and that they want you to meet their family.

The problem with love bombing is that when the abuser has “locked” you down, they begin to withhold love. Love bombing eventually turns into a cycle of abuse.

Living Your Truth 

Abusive relationships can leave you feeling hopeless. But knowing the cycle of abuse can give you back some power! If you or a loved one is struggling with an abusive relationship, get help immediately!

If you have any more questions, contact us today to receive more information on our different services!