Tips To Break The Cycle Of Abuse

emotional abuse healing tips toxic relationships Sep 09, 2022

We can be stuck in the cycle of abuse for years, even after we leave an abusive relationship. When we experience toxic and abusive behaviors, especially in childhood, those behaviors, thoughts, and actions can carry their way into our adult life and relationships.


The Cycle of Abuse

The cycle of abuse contains four elements:

Building tension

When tensions begin building because of work, family, health, and so on. These stressors can lead to feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and anger. If we are the person who is at risk of being on the receiving end, we could feel anxious, hyper-vigilant, and like we are walking on eggshells.

The incident of abuse

Abuse can come in a variety of ways, from mental, emotional, and physical. The person may result in name-calling, threats, destroying property, and manipulation.


In this phase, the tension begins to lessen, and the abuser attempts to move past the abuse. The abuser could love-bomb or use gifts to try to "show" you that they are sorry and that things will get better. The attempt here is to re-establish their connection with you.

The Calm

There is a brief calm where the abuser tries to justify or explain away their behavior. They apologize but try to shift blame to minimize what happened, and point to other people for being the cause. After this, the cycle starts over again.

The unfortunate truth is that anyone can experience abuse. There are risk factors that can determine if someone is at a higher risk of experiencing abuse or becoming abusive. But in the end, anyone can experience it.


What We Can Experience

Some symptoms that you can experience if you are stuck in this cycle with someone who is abusive include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Low self-esteem
  • Social Isolation from friends and family
  • Fear of the abuser
  • Sleep Issues

We can also experience different symptoms of this abusive cycle that not only affect us, but can affect our children and other relationships.

Studies over the years have shown that harsh physical and verbal "punishment" in childhood is not only ineffective, but these punishments can create behavioral problems that travel into adulthood. That adults that have experienced physical, emotional, and mental abuse are more likely to repeat those behaviors on their own children and relationships.

That's why it is important to break the cycle of violence. To not only free and begin healing yourself, but to stop the cycle from continuing in your family for generations.


Tips To Break The Cycle

So, what can we do to begin breaking the cycle of abuse?

Recognize the abuse

This can be a difficult step for many people who experienced abuse. The ability to recognize, understand, and accept that there were factors outside of your control. To recognize what happened was not okay and that it's not your fault. It could be difficult to recognize abuse because of fear, shame, and even guilt. Understanding emotional or mental abuse can be even harder to see and acknowledge because of the nuance and gaslighting that can take place.

Ask for help

Breaking free of abusive relationships and behaviors is something that takes time and effort. It can be extremely difficult to deal with on your own; asking for help is a great way to get the resources and support that you need to make these changes.

Identify risk factors

Once you can identify certain people or situations, you can be better prepared for how to handle those situations safely and effectively; or to recognize which situations that need to be avoided altogether.

Create and maintain supportive relationships

Having healthy and supportive relationships plays a large role in rebuilding and maintaining our mental and emotional health. Spending time with friends and family is great; starting a hobby or an activity where you can build new relationships with people who enjoy the same things as you is even better. The wider your support network is, the better it is for you in the long run.

Seek therapy or professional support

To help process abuse you have experienced or help change internalized abusive behaviors, it is important to seek professional help from someone who is educated in abuse and trauma. This could be a licensed counselor or some other professional who is knowledgeable with handling certain traumas that you have experienced.

Setting Boundaries

Establishing boundaries is possibly the most important step that you can take. When it comes to anything regarding mental and emotional health, we will always see something regarding establishing and maintaining boundaries. When you establish boundaries, you can create safer spaces for yourself when dealing with toxic or abusive people, and allows you to take the time you need for self-care. Boundaries are there as a way to protect yourself by letting others know how you will or will not be treated.