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When someone delivers a physical blow, no one questions whether or not damage has been done to the victim, and no one tries to deflect the blame from the perpetrator. The bruises, scratches and broken bones are there for all to see.

Until relatively recently, abusers have been able to hide behind the smokescreen provided by the societal perception that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’. Of course, verbal, psychological and emotional abuses go well beyond name-calling, and yet, victims of this most insidious and devastating form of abuse face an uphill battle when it comes to being taken seriously. Already in a depleted emotional and cognitive state, with energy levels at a lifetime low, they rarely have the wherewithal to pursue understanding, let alone deliverance, from their personal hell.

Legislation however, is beginning to catch up with the truth. There’s a long way to go yet but the first seeds have been sown, at least in my own county – Australia. Most other nations are lagging a long way behind.

But I’ll save the legislative changes for another post. Today, I want to shed a little light on what emotional/verbal abuse victims have known for millenia, and which is only now being backed up by the latest research from neuroscience. To put it in very plain English, recent studies have proved that the brain changes that occur as a result of physical abuse are exactly the same as the changes that occur as a result of emotional, verbal and psychological abuse. In other words, the source of the abuse doesn’t matter. The brain encodes it the same way, regardless. The bottom line is that all abuse is physical.

That means the long term effects are identical. Well … almost. It has also been established that only one form of abuse consistently leads to Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(CPTSD). Surprisingly, it’s not sexual or physical abuse. It’s our old foe – emotional, psychological and verbal abuse. Although physical and sexual abuse are usually accompanied by emotional control and abuse, on their own they don’t lead to long term CPTSD. Emotional/verbal/psychological abuse however, is a reliable predictor of CPTSD without any other form of abuse being present. It’s a sobering thought, and something few therapists or authorities are aware of.

Knowledge is empowering. Spread the word.






More on Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a future post.