'In my 20s, the man I loved broke me down to nothing. I now realise he was emotionally abusive.'

The most harmful things are usually the ones that we cannot see with our naked eye.

I was in my early 20s when I entered into a romance with a man that would attempt to break me down to absolutely nothing. Not only did I leave the relationship with the trauma that I would deal with for the rest of my life, but I had no idea what to call what I was feeling.

This is the case with psychological or emotional abuse. There may be no physical scars to be seen with the naked eye, but the damage is vast and deep.

Watch: We lose one woman every week in Australia to domestic violence, but that's just the tip of a very grim iceberg. Post continues below video.

Video via Mamamia.

I left that relationship with a head and heart that was bruised, battered, and broken.

I want to share the signs that you may be in a relationship that is psychologically abusive based on my experience and how I changed.

1. You went from confident to insecure.

Growing up I was incredibly insecure. Over the years I cultivated my own strength and was in a great place.


That is until I entered a relationship that involved devaluation, gaslighting, and invalidation.

Slowly all of my flaws seemed to be coming out. If I cooked dinner for my ex he would hiss that I was terrible at cooking. When we went out he would stare at other women in a way that made me feel like he was longing to be with anyone else.

How could I feel confident when the person I was with constantly put me down every single chance that he had?

However, I want to remind you that the put-downs and ways that my ex caused me to feel insecure didn't happen overnight. It was much later in our relationship when we were already serious and I thought that he was the man I was going to marry.

2. You no longer trust yourself.

If you are in a relationship where you struggle to trust yourself due to your partner making you feel 'crazy' then you are most likely being psychologically abused.

"In your constant efforts to tiptoe around someone else's moods, in the hope of avoiding blow-ups, put-downs, criticism, sighs of disapproval, or cold shoulders, you constantly edit what you say and do. You second-guess your own judgement, your own ideas, and your own preferences. You begin to question whether the way you think is valid and right." - Psychology Today.

Gaslighting is the most common name for this method of the abuser causing the victim to doubt their own reality and it is absolutely devastating.


To this day I still struggle to fully trust myself after going through psychological manipulation that caused me to doubt my own reality.

3. You feel absolutely exhausted/anxious. 

When I was in the midst of my psychologically abusive relationship I constantly felt on edge/and as if there was a pit in my stomach.

I didn't realise until much later on why my body seemed to know what my head and heart refused to acknowledge. The man that I loved was destroying me slowly but surely.

The only thing that brought me any relief was when I would do yoga. There was a release at the very end of class where for a moment I could breathe, and normally tears streamed down my face. The peace would end the moment that I walked out of the studio as if I was remembering the chaos that was happening in my life.

Once again, my body knew what was happening even if I continually turned away from the truth.

There wasn’t a single morning that I woke up during that relationship feeling peaceful because I was always anxious and unable to find rest.

4. You don't even know what you believe anymore. 

My ex would rant and rant about conspiracy theories, lizard people, aliens, you name it. At night he would play the shows in the background even though he knew that I couldn't sleep with the noise. This resulted in a constant state of sleep deprivation which didn't help my already declining mental state.

Along with the ranting about what I should believe, my religious upbringing was constantly attacked. Near the end of our relationship, I didn't even know what I believed anymore. All I knew was that I was completely confused.


Walking away from that relationship didn't make everything fall into place. No, I was confused for a very long time and it took me years to figure out what I did believe and what my thoughts were.

Psychological abuse doesn't happen quickly. There isn't necessarily a moment that you can pinpoint that showcases everything that went wrong.

Please remember… this type of manipulation is subtle and it's a series of small changes that can happen over weeks, months, or even years.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

This post first appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission. Carrie Wynn writes to provide education on what emotional and narcissistic abuse looks like, how to cultivate a healthy relationship, and how you can work to realise your self-worth. You can find her on Instagram, or her blog here.

Feature Image: Getty. The feature image used is a stock image.