14 Ways that Abuse Affects the Way that You Show Up in the World

03 Jun 2020

Have you ever thought that abuse has affected the way that you show up in the world? How could it not?

Intimate relationship abuse, inevitably, undermines your sense of self. That applies to all kinds of abuse from narcissistic and emotional abuse to mental, physical and sexual intimate relationship abuse, also.

But what I want to look at, here, are the characteristic effects of abuse on a person. Mostly, we don’t think too much about the link between cause and effect.  We don’t think too much about how what we have been through causes us to show up in the way that we do.

Rather, we just blame ourselves for being a certain way.

I know I did.  Just like every other abuse survivor.

But a while back, I read something that shocked me to the core.

It brought how to me, as never before, that abuse affects how you are but not who you are.

In today’s blog, I share the 14 characteristic effects of abuse.

A while back, I came across, The 13 Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics.

It shocked me to the core.  It provided a perfect description of the life – or the straightjacket – that had been my lot through childhood and my miserable marriage.

And yet neither my parents nor my husband were alcoholics.

The article makes painfully relevant reading even if you are not the child of an alcoholic. As its author, Dr Janet G. Woititz, observes:

“If you did not grow up with alcoholism but lived… with another potentially dysfunctional system, you may find that you identify with the characteristics described here.”

Indeed you may.

The damage caused by a dysfunctional family system

I felt the need to rewrite it specifically for emotional and narcissistic abuse survivors. My point of doing so is to share the realization that the damage caused by a dysfunctional relationship results in characteristics that are common to an entire category – in this case, abuse survivors.

What is vitally important is for you to take on board that these are learned characteristics.

Learned characteristics translate into behaviors.  However, they are not the same as character or nature. Since they are learned, they can also be unlearned.

A great deal of healing from abuse is about unlearning.  It stands to reason that abuse has to be unlearned.

The essence of you, as an individual – your character or nature – may be eclipsed by those characteristics for months, years or even decades, but that essence endures. When you heal, you breathe new life into that essence.

Clear the characteristics – and let there be no doubt, you can clear away those characteristics – and your true character and nature will emerge, tempered, refined and strengthened by your experience.

The 14 characteristics that abuse survivors share

  • Abuse survivors have to guess at what is normal behaviour.
  • Abuse survivors have difficulty maintaining their focus and drive.
  • Abuse survivors are often paralysed by their own negativity so that they find it hard to start something new and an uphill struggle to see it through.
  • Abuse survivors judge themselves mercilessly.
  • Abuse survivors feel they always have to justify themselves.
  • Abuse survivors have difficulty being lighthearted.
  • Abuse survivors have difficulty trusting.
  • Abuse survivors take everything very seriously.
  • Abuse survivors overreact and catastrophize over even small problems.
  • Abused survivors faithfully record every last criticism they experience and they dismiss the praise that comes their way.
  • Abuse survivors need approval and affirmation and tend to look for it in all the wrong places.
  • Abuse survivors usually feel that they are different to other people as a result of their relationship.
  • Abused survivors are extremely loyal, even despite the evidence that their loyalty is undeserved.
  • Abuse survivors envisage a future that will be just as hard as the present.

Whether or not you feel able to shift these characteristics right now, please bear in mind that they have been superimposed on you by toxic people. They are not an integral part of your core identity. The real you is a much more confident, joyful, dynamic person. If you need coaching help to get back to that core joyful, confident person, get in touch.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

5 thoughts on “14 Ways that Abuse Affects the Way that You Show Up in the World”

    • Hi Maylene,

      That should have been the simplest thing to sort out.

      Curiously, it wasn’t. Thanks to some strange software problems, there was no obliging pop up on the blog offering you the facility of receiving it direct to your Inbox.

      Happily, after a fair bit of behind the scenes work, there now is.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  1. I feel this twofold, I have ADHD, and while I wouldn’t change that for the world, it’s made me who I am, I am funny, smart, creative, caring, overly excited about everything, and very caring. It has it’s down side, I feel as if I am maybe more susceptible to abusive people, as if they want to harness my energy and exuberance, and somehow make it their own.

    I have learned to love myself after almost 18 years of marriage to an extremely controlling man. I want to thank you for your help, I have an interest based nervous system, so I’m not always cognizant to what I’m reading, but I take in what I truly need, and am grateful for your time helping people like me. 💕


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