Stress, Abuse and the Brain
© 2013 NeuroInstincts | All Rights Reserved | No Unauthorized Reproduction Permitted in any form
Stress and abuse are difficult conditions to endure. For individuals who become involved with abusive partners, it is not uncommon for them to experience frequent frustration, pain, anxiety and perhaps even fear.
Under such conditions, it is easy for an individual to feel
- Emotionally Dysregulated
- Cognitively Compromised (reduced ability to think)
- A Change in Personality (e.g., withdrawn/ submissive)
The brain is a unique organ because it can have an immediate reaction to what is taking place in our environment. It reacts to people, smells, sights, information, sounds, threats, etc.
It is all processed in many ways, including through our emotional and stress systems.
A severe stressor, such as that experienced from victimization within an abusive relationship (physical or psychological), can set off a myriad of neurological processes.
Therefore, if someone in the environment is a threat of any type, the brain tends to activate specific systems. Such involuntary reactions are healthy neural responses, because they serve to alert and protect us from potential harm and danger.
So what happens in the brain?
Often in response to a stressor or dangerous situation, such as an abusive or dangerous partner, the limbic system (associated with emotions), can shift into a self-protective mode and function with a heightened alertness to minimize and avoid pain.
While other areas of the brain that usually help to calm and regulate us can become less efficient (i.e., portions of the prefrontal cortex).
The neuroendocrine system (e.g., hormones) is a vital contributing loop in the overall stress response and associated with the mind-body connection (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). This system also becomes dysregulated (out of balance) under conditions of abuse.
With such activity taking place within the nervous system, this can lead to feeling heightened sensitivity and hypervigilance.
Individuals living under these circumstances report feeling on edge, emotional, desperate, and confused about how to proceed and problem solve.
Many may even find they change their behavior and begin to cater to or anticipate the needs and preferences of the abusive partner in an attempt to create an environment of harmony.
Stress Abuse and Love?
The Impossible Relationship
Through the experience of abuse, the victims’ self-esteem, confidence, and reliance on their perspective tends to erode. The focus often shifts from a fun, happy relationship to one that is merely focused on keeping the peace, avoidance of pain (emotional or physical) and attempts at managing the pathology of another (e.g., “Please stop criticizing me, it hurts my feelings.”)
But is that a healthy life, attempting to lessen pain and manage or cope with the pathology of another?
Was this partner (abusive individual) brought into the target’s life to give her a burden and diminish her mental, perhaps even physical health?
Usually romantic partners are invited into our lives for love, caring support, and companionship. Harmony is tough to reach with an abusive partner (if not impossible).
In a healthy relationship, your partner is your teammate, not your competition or critical coach.
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