There are days when my heart races and almost skips a beat when I experience situations that remind me of childhood trauma. PTSD from emotional abuse can show up in many ways in your life. It is important to address the triggers and symptoms that can wreak havoc on your life so that you can fully heal.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD) is often accompanied with other underlying mental symptoms such as general anxiety, paranoia, obsessive compulsory disorder, disassociation, and attachment style issues. PTSD can also lead to C-PTSD ( chronic post-traumatic stress disorder) which is a type of trauma that occurs long-term because a person is not able to overcome the stressors that come with traumatic events. Hence, the name “post traumatic stress disorder.”
- Denying anything is wrong
- Stopping yourself from feeling any painful or uncomfortable emotions
- Reverting back to infant-like behavior
- Projecting your uncomfortable feelings onto other people
Related post: Toxic Projection: How to Master Your Emotions Today
Symptoms of PTSD from emotional abuse
Flashbacks are when you are taken back to the traumatic event. You can feel yourself reliving moments with the emotional abuser. For some mothers, you may unexpectedly experience the flashbacks while washing clothes or dishes. It can be a smell, words, or sound that triggers the flashbacks.
PTSD symptoms can manifest physically in your body. When your body is in an extremely stressed and hyper-aroused state for long periods of time, your body is more susceptible to ailments and body aches. I remember being emotionally abused by my boss and landlord in one week. I was highly-stressed everyday and was not able to self-soothe. By the end of the week, I came down with a very high fever and chills. My body was manifesting the trauma of the words and actions made against me earlier in the week.
There are times that intrusive thoughts can play in your mind like a broken record. Intrusive thoughts are usually unwanted and can come on suddenly to evoke anxiety in your body (leading to feelings of fight or flight and sometimes hyper-vigilance).
Rumination is a close cousin of intrusive thoughts. It is a hyper focus on a problem by continuously thinking of all the possible scenarios that could happen. You often make up stories in your mind by creating character roles and story lines of what an emotional abuser might say to you.
I find that ruminating causes me to live in a state of panic and trying to be one step ahead of the emotional abuser. When things do play out the way that I imagined, it further validates and reinforces future ruminating episodes.
The brain ( Headaches)
Headaches live up to their name! When you ruminate and have constant intrusive thoughts, pain receptors get activated in your brain. Strangely enough, your brain remembers pain and will project images, toxic words, and actions as bait. If you participate by ruminating, your brain will go through a vicious cycle of being fed negativity. Unconsciously, you are so afraid that you assume the role of an emotional abuser. You punish yourself with your negative thinking pattern. Deep in your heart, you might believe the lie that you should be condemned and tormented with these negative thoughts.
In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.1 John 4:17-19 CSB
PTSD from emotional abuse looks like the inability to leave the prison of your mind. The mind is a powerful instrument that can take in a lot of incoming images, words, and situations. They can be pleasant experiences that the brain will process as being “safe” or positive. It may also process situations as “unsafe” ( the brain perceives a threat which causes the body to go into a fight or flight mode).
PTSD from emotional abuse- Triggers to look out for
Triggers are known to cause PTSD symptoms so self- awareness is an important step in your healing journey. Here are some triggers to look out for:
There were many times that the enemy ( the devil) would use people with a toxic spirit to belittle me. They would strategically use disparaging comments to attack my identity and sense of safety. The verbal attacks were often condescending, demeaning, and vicious. The end goal was to make me feel unimportant, doubtful of my skills and abilities, and powerless.
The emotional abuser may try to “force” you to take on their perspective, while invalidating your feelings and thoughts in the process. In their minds, they are right and will not give you room to share your perspective.
What they are really doing is trying to shut you up! Your voice is an important asset to not only yourself but to a voiceless generation of people that were abused and came before you.
When you are silenced, it gives the emotional abuser power over you.
Emotional abusers will mostly humiliate you in public or in front of an audience. This is where you may be called in for a meeting with a group of people, added to a group email addressed solely to you, or someone that is in partnership with you in some way ( colleague, husband, child, etc.).
The emotional abuser will try to guilt trip you by shifting blame onto you. Expect the abuser to share details about how your minor mistakes cost them hardships ( these details are repeated several times). Even if you acknowledge, what they tell you, it is still repeated over and over again.
They will also hold other people’s mistakes over you because in their minds it would be ridiculous to keep someone else at fault accountable.
I remember being told by my mother that I should be more like my brother whenever I did something that she did not approve of (e.g., ” you see your brother did this for me why can’t you?” ).
Emotional trauma/abuse statements are designed to do two things: 1)make you feel inferior and 2)succumb to their will or at least their expectations of what they want from you. This is witchcraft (a.k.a mind control and manipulation at its core level).
How to heal PTSD from emotional abuse
Accept that you are a daughter of God
It is important to accept God as your eternal father in heaven. You are first a child of God before the titles that others may assign to you. Your identity is in God’s nature which means that you carry His spiritual DNA.
Being a mother does not immune you from emotional abuse. Quite the contrary! Resting in who God says you are, keeps you from being swayed by lies and deceptive statements made against you.
You are not a victim
You are not a victim if you are emotionally abused. You are only a victim if you believe in the verbal attacks made against you. This is why it is important to know who you are as a child of God. God calls you to be a kingdom-overcomer and to live life here on earth victoriously.
God will defend you
You do not need to defend yourself against an emotional abuser. They do not care about your feelings, will, or thoughts on matters. Their goal is to bend your will, thoughts, and feelings to line up with their own. The more that you try to defend yourself, the more that you will be triggered with inflated anger, frustration, and stress. Let God be your great defender as you rest in him.
The Truth will set you free
The truth is that an emotional abuser will only abuse you because along the way you said yes to their mistreatment and the lies they told. You are responsible for your own feelings, thoughts, and will. An emotional abuser can not make you feel invalidated or unappreciated unless you allow them. Your core emotional needs should come from God alone. He is the one that validates and affirms you, NOT PEOPLE!
So even when you are being verbally attacked, the arrows will not be able to penetrate because of the shield of faith and your emotional needs always being met in God.
[Then] He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His truth and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow (the evil plots and slanders of the wicked) that flies by day,Psalm 91:4-5
Emotional abusers see their unresolved trauma in you. The insults, demeaning comments, etc. is really a direct reflection of how they see themselves. You are not responsible to feed their egos by being their punching bags. Do not engage and refuse to submit to their manipulative tactics. Rest in God’s grace. This is how you get your power back.
Continue reading the series on emotional trauma: