Where do these feelings come from?

There are many things that can impact our wellbeing and mental health.The reasons can be very different depending on our experiences. We may be feeling or thinking differently but cannot work out why. This feeling of confusion or uncertainty doesn’t make your symptoms any less valid.

Abuse can come in different forms. People usually divide abusive behaviour in categories of physical violence, like pushing or hitting, verbal abuse, like calling us names or threatening us. Emotional and psychological abuse often happen in the form of making us feel unsafe, doubting our own opinions and sense of self. For example, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse because it’s a pattern of behaviour from the abusive person that makes us doubt our own memories a lot more than we used to from before. We are not “weird” or “abnormal” for starting to feel like that.

The same is true for having a strong emotional reaction to any kind of signal from around you that reminds you of a situation when the abuse was happening. The abuse happens in the moment but how others decide to treat us also has an impact of how we think of ourselves and how we behave in the future as well.

All kinds of abuse can have an impact on our wellbeing as a person, often even after the abuse has ended in the outside world, we are still fighting some battles inside us.

One thing we do know is that women who have experienced abuse and violence have a greater risk of experiencing mental health problems- things that stop us feeling well and getting on well with others. This is not always the same as being mentally ill. There’s more information on the differences here.

“If it’s physical, you can put a plaster on it. But if it’s mental, it affects every single other relationship in your life. It filters through everything and the problem with mental abuse is that you don’t know what’s happening. And the GP can’t see it unless there is a physical sign. The abuse happened throughout my relationship - ten years.”
A survivor of Pukaar service

There is a lot of research that shows that physical or sexual violence can contribute to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. According to a recent study, traumatic experiences including physical, sexual or emotional abuse, losing someone you care about, or a difficult family situation can contribute to low wellbeing and other problems. This is the case regardless of who we are or where we live: the experience can cause psychological scars.

We are learning more about the effects that psychological abuse and stalking can have on women. Recent studies have found that they can alone contribute to PTSD and depression, even without the presence of physical violence. You can read more evidence from India, Pakistan, the US and a multi-country study.

What we want you to know more than anything is that your experiences and feelings matter. They can contribute to how you are feeling, and by understanding their role, you can better understand what support you might need. We hope this guide will help with that.

1 There’s a lot of debate about the differences between mental health and mental illness. You can be living with poor mental health, but not have a mental illness.

Mental health is generally how we feel and how we interact with others. It affects how we get on in our everyday lives- do we find it easy or not to get on with things? Mental illness is a group of disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. They often need support to help someone get better.

Disclaimer: This guide has not been put together by mental health professionals. It is not intended to be medical advice. It has been crowdsourced by survivors and volunteers of Chayn. Care has been taken in reflecting the experiences and knowledge of people around the world, including therapists but information in this guide should be taken instead of certified medical advice. Please seek professional support.

Getting better & moving on: A guide for mental healing after abuse and trauma by CHAYN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.