Addiction to alcohol and drugs may disrupt family life. These substances also cause harm to family members’ emotional and mental health, including that of children. Living in an emotionally abusive relationship can be both miserable and disorienting. Although emotional abuse is often difficult to recognize, its negative impacts can be long-lasting.
Defining Emotional Abuse
In a relationship, emotional abuse takes place when one party manipulates the other person’s emotions. There tends to be a consistent pattern of abusive words and behavior that eventually wears down the other partner’s self-esteem.
Emotional abuse may happen in any relationship including among family members, spouses, friends, employers and employees, and co-workers. Despite its ubiquity, emotional abuse remains the most difficult form of abuse to recognize because it can be subtle and manipulative. Emotional abuse may surface as:
- Isolating the individual
- Silent treatment
- Withholding attention
How do you know if you are suffering emotional abuse? You can reflect on how the interactions make you feel. Emotionally abusive people display unrealistic expectations. For example, they may show dissatisfaction with whatever you do. They tend to invalidate you and make you feel worthless. They are domineering and always start arguments to pick on you. Whenever they are around, you have a feeling of “walking on eggshells.”
Addiction and Emotional Abuse: A Close and Complex Relationship
Addiction and emotional abuse have a complex relationship because one condition may contribute to the other. On the one hand, drugs or alcohol may cause people to lose control and engage in risky or compulsive behaviors, these tend to create an emotionally unstable and toxic environment at home. On the other hand, families or relationships with emotional abuse may increase individuals’ risk for substance use as a way to self-soothe. The stress and anxiety caused by emotional abuse may accumulate before people seek out drugs or alcohol to numb the pain.
In the home, addiction and emotional abuse may become co-occurring conditions. Worse, they can expose children to traumatic stress that precondition them to engage in substance use as they grow up. Families struggling with both addiction and abuse are caught in a vicious cycle. They need family-based intervention to break free.
Benefits of Family-Based Intervention
Many addiction treatment centers offer family-based interventions designed to address unhealthy patterns in the home or in intimate relationships. Family-based prevention programs focus primarily on education and skills training to enhance communication and boundary-setting. When young people are involved, family-based interventions focus on proper parenting skills, effective monitoring, discipline, and communication.
Because family members who are caregivers often experience emotional abuse from their loved ones who have a substance use disorder (SUD), they can find supportive family therapy groups that are designed for caregivers. Sharing personal experiences among a group of caregivers who experience the same struggles at home can be a relief.
Unfortunately, addiction-related emotional abuse may escalate to domestic violence. Family members may need to consider entering their loved ones into residential treatment. Many treatment centers incorporate anger management classes to help recovering individuals. The key is to get help as soon as possible. Denying or covering up the problem of a family member’s addiction can only worsen the situation.
The Importance of Self-Care
If you live in a home with addiction and emotional abuse, it is important to prioritize self-care as a way to heal yourself. Avoid worrying about pleasing the person abusing you. Take care of your needs by doing things that will help you think positively and affirm who you are. First of all, be sure to get an appropriate amount of rest and eat healthy meals. These simple self-care steps can go a long way in helping you deal with the day-to-day stresses of emotional abuse.
It is important to set healthy emotional boundaries in the home. Firmly tell the abusive person that they may no longer yell at you, call you names, insult you, be rude to you, etc. Remind them that such behaviors can impact children in the home. Self-care also means that you begin building a support network around yourself. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or even a counselor about what you are experiencing.
If you have been in an emotionally abusive relationship for any amount of time, you may believe that there is something severely wrong with you. But you are not the problem. Despite your best efforts, you will never be able to change an emotionally abusive person by doing something different or by being different. The only thing you can do is probably engage less with an abusive person.
The relationship between substance addiction and abuse can go both ways. Families struggling with a member’s addiction may experience neglect or emotional abuse. Living in homes with abusive relationships may increase the risk of substance addiction. To recover from both, you need to work with a team of recovery experts and mental health specialists. At Capo Canyon Recovery, near Mission Viejo, CA, our team has trained recovery staff and mental health experts who make customized treatment plans for clients. We focus on each stage of recovery, both physical health, mental health, and emotional health. Our inpatient residential care and outpatient, long-term care programs offer unmatched benefits. We provide excess comfort with an in-house chef, luxurious beds, and an onsite organic garden during your sobriety journey. If you choose Capo Canyon Recovery, we will care or you and support your family. Call us at (800) 804-8714.