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You have probably encountered a perplexing phenomenon known as reactive abuse if you have faced narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship. Victims of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse experience great stress and suffering. It is normal for an abused victim to lash out at their attacker during an incident of violence. They may scream, weep, curse, or even violently protect themselves. In response, the assailant may react by saying that perhaps the victim is the abuser. This whole phenomenon is reactive violence/abuse and sometimes is also referred to as gaslighting.

It is highly harmful to a sexual assault victim because it gives perpetrators something to hold against them. However, it can occur in the context of verbal, psychological, or physical abuse.

What Is Reactive Abuse?

When an assault victim responds to the cruelty and injustice inflicted on them with abusive actions of their own, this is referred to as reactive abuse. It occurs when an abused person is forced to the point by their abuser where they can no longer tolerate the agony, hurt, and unfairness they are experiencing. It is frequently the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” The abuser will continue to prod the victim over time as the victim tries to remain calm and not respond. They will stay close to the edge for as long as they want to until they are shoved just a little too far. Then they will go full bonkers on the victim and strike out with their might. They may respond to verbal criticism with insults, match scream for scream, or strike back after being battered. They have been driven to the point where they participate in the precise conduct that they abhor in their abuser.

When this occurs, their abuser may seem to be astonished or saddened at how cruel they are. Others will smugly grin because they finally achieved the answer they want. They now have a treasure trove full of “evidence” that abusers can use to further deceive their victims.

What Are Its Long-Term Effects?

Long-term reactive violence gaslighting can result in serious trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD.

The following are possible long-term consequences of reactive abusive behavior:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Eating Disorders
  • Dysregulation of emotions
  • Inflammation
  • Stress hormone levels rise
  • Migraines with chronic stress
  • Loss of hair
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Ulcer

Apart from these effects, there are some major consequences of it. Some of them are:

Psychological and Emotional Stress:

Although there are certainly very few people who will genuinely blame you for responding to such abusive conduct in such an extreme way, you probably still feel horrible about it, partly because it is not common for you. You are not abusive or harmful to others. But now and again, your abuser drives you to the point where you no longer care about what they’re doing to you because you are so emotionally and mentally tired and overwhelmed. This puts you in an unhealthy mental and emotional condition, which can lead to a variety of issues, including C-PTSD.

Still In Control of Abuser:

The abuser may use your excessive reactions to indicate that you are the unstable one. A perfect example of reactive abuse psychology is that the abuser will spread stories and tell everyone how terrible you are for people to feel sorry for them thereby providing further narcissistic supply as well as being slightly terrified of you and/or feeling sorry for or disgusted by you. Of course, this will give them a permanent motive to continue abusing you since they will always hold your emotions against you. The abuser will constantly remind you of the times you were abusive to them and how much of a nutjob you are.

What Are the Signs of Reactive Abuse?

Reactive abuse often follows a three-part pattern.

  • Antagonism
  • Proof
  • Turning tables

The most evident sign of knowing if the person has faced abuse is that sometimes victims may begin trembling, sweating, shivering, and/or stammering if they are placed in an abusive or stressful setting. Their blood pressure or sugar levels may decrease, leading them to feel dizzy. Some may even faint, whereby the abuser may interpret as a sign that they are “dramatic.”

They become hyper-emotional, or some might disassociate themselves emotionally. Some people may have problems concentrating and feeling bewildered, making them appear chaotic and incomprehensible when speaking.

If they have usually been quiet or stoic, they may act in an odd way, such as sobbing at the drop of a hat or getting irritated. These signs are quite evident that the person has faced some serious and heart-wrenching trauma which has made them behave this way.

What you’re going through is unique to you, but you’re not alone. Reactive abuse and domestic violence should never be condoned. Even any kind of violence should never be tolerated. Talking to a therapist who specializes in this area can make a major difference in how you feel if you’re struggling with it. You and your therapist will work together to create a strategy to help you get through this circumstance and learn how to set better boundaries and recover.

Lisa Clontz

Author Lisa Clontz

Lisa Clontz is an experienced Executive Director at Shelter Home of Caldwell County, specializing in providing shelter and support services to victims of domestic violence, child support, rape, and sexual assault. With her years of expertise, Lisa passionately assists women and children, helping them access the necessary resources and care they need. Her unwavering commitment to creating a safe environment and empowering survivors has made her an invaluable advocate in the community.

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