Emotional Abuse and Depression: Healing Through Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

The trauma of emotional abuse can be a trigger for depression, especially for people already susceptible to or suffering from it. Understanding how the two can be intertwined is key to getting proper treatment. Dual-diagnosis treatment in a long-term care facility can help a person learn how to overcome emotional abuse and manage their depression.

Anya didn’t think that anyone could love her, except for Matt. The reason she thought so was that Matt led her to believe it, in a million ways both subtle and overt. He undermined her. He kept her away from friends and coworkers. He constantly pointed out that no one else would put up with her moods, her attitude, her feelings and opinions, her everything.

Matt, of course, was wrong—his behavior nothing short of emotional abuse. But Anya didn’t know that her “moods,” as Matt called them, were not a reason she couldn’t be with anyone else. Nor were they just “moods”; they were the calling cards of depression. And her depression was triggered, in part, by the very real trauma of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse and depression are deeply intertwined. People already susceptible to depression can be triggered by abuse, and can find their symptoms exacerbated by continued exposure to abuse.

It’s difficult to break away from emotional abuse. Depression makes it harder. But it can, and must, be done. Understanding the signs of both pave the road to recovery. And the best place to find the help and support you need to walk that road towards healthier relationships and a better life is in a long-term, dual-diagnosis treatment program.

The Reality of Emotional Abuse

There is no one definition of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is often hidden by the thinnest patina of “care,” of the abuser playing the part of the only person who can help the person in question.

It can be roughly broken down into two broad categories. The first, belittling behaviors, include:

  • Constant criticism
  • Name-calling and otherwise putting you down
  • The dismissal of your feelings and opinions
  • “Gaslighting,” where reality and your lived experiences get distorted and denied
  • Ignoring or belittling accomplishments
  • Humiliating you in the presence of others

Then there are controlling behaviors. These can include:

  • Jealousy and possessiveness, including accusations of cheating
  • Activity monitoring, ranging from constantly asking you to check in to monitoring your GPS
  • Control of your finances
  • Control of your activities
  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Threatening harm if the relationship ends, including self-harm

That is the reality of emotional abuse. And knowing how it works, it is clear to see how it can cause or otherwise exacerbate depression.

How Emotional Abuse and Depression are Intertwined

To start with, dealing with this kind of behavior is exhausting. It takes an enormous amount of mental effort and emotional minefield navigation to negotiate the day-to-day. If you are being emotionally abused, you are always trying to avoid setting off your partner’s anger or frustration.

You’re being told everything you do is wrong, so you try to do everything right.

It’s tiring. Your mental energy is down. You are always looking inward, criticizing yourself, wondering what is wrong with you. Emotional abuse can systematically strip you of your self-worth. That’s why emotional abuse can lead to a nervous breakdown, and why it can cause or heighten depression.

People are susceptible to depression for a number of reasons, including genetics, brain chemistry, substance abuse, and stress. Any of the first reasons can be triggered by the abuse, and even if those aren’t present, the stress is enough to create it. Depression, in turn, can cause further isolation, sadness, moodiness, and mournful introspection about self-worth, which can make the effects of emotional abuse that much more devastating.

The two conditions are intertwined. Truly getting help means getting help for both.

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Treating Emotional Abuse and Depression

If emotional abuse is causing, or at the very least heightening, your depression, it is important to get dual-diagnosis treatment. Trying to treat depression without understanding the root cause is like shoveling when it is still snowing: there might be a momentary clear path, but it is quickly and blindingly occluded.

Of course, that means recognizing emotional abuse, which is very hard to do when you are in the middle of it. That’s why any place that treats depression needs to be able to recognize the signs of emotional abuse, and recognize how that is one of the driving causes of depression.

A long-term care facility can give you the time and space you need to work through why your depression is happening, and how it might also be linked to your experiences with emotional abuse. Know that depression doesn’t mean you are worthless, or that you can’t be happy—even without the source of the emotional abuse who may be trying to convince you otherwise.

Anya, thankfully, got treatment. She came to understand Matt’s manipulations, and that his actions came from a place of abuse, not love. She understood that she had worth as a person, and that her depression could be treated and didn’t have to define her.

Depression is, for many, a lifelong concern. Emotional abuse doesn’t have to be. Dual-diagnosis treatment can help you be like Anya, managing the first while finally finding the courage to break free of the second.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for mental health disorders as well as process addictions and phase of life issues. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles program and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to healing.