Symptoms of an Abusive Relationship

Screen Shot 2015 08 25 at 1.37.06 PM 300x243 Symptoms of an Abusive RelationshipIf you have concerns that your daughter has already been hurt by an abusive boyfriend or has become enmeshed by a professor/coach/pastor, I have listed red flag indicators so you are able to move forward with some of the advice noted in the blog, Protecting our Daughters (2). At the end of this blog, I have also noted the importance of therapy and ways to discuss this with her.

The following symptoms and signs may indicate your daughter is in an abusive relationship: In short, she will appear depressed and this can be indicated by the following observable changes:

  • A sudden loss in her passions and interests.
  • Grades might be much lower or drop suddenly.
  • Disordered eating—compulsive overeating, anorexic (under eating) or obsessive calorie counting, vomiting or over-exercising after eating.
  • Sudden drop or gain in weight.
  • Sudden changes in her sleep pattern—she is unable to sleep (insomnia) or she is unable to get out of bed (hyposomnia).
  • Peer relationships suffer due to the time spent with her boyfriend, who may also be disparaging of her friends.
  • Unkempt appearance: perhaps dresses with less feminine flair or stops wearing makeup.
  • Obsessive about appearance to the point of changing fashion styles, hair and makeup.
  • Lowered immune system making her sick more often with viruses, infections, headaches and stomach problems.
  • Hopeless about future or stops planning her future and may want to withdraw from classes or may stop attending class in the middle of the semester.
  • Drugs and alcohol are suddenly used and/or they are being used in a more prevalent way.
  • Blames and shames others for not understanding her or meeting her demands.
  • Self-injury such as cutting or burning her arms, legs, and stomach area.
  • Addicted to the relationship and avoids other responsibilities or relationships.
  • More secretive/deceptive about her time and where she is going.
  • Suicidal due to a sense of responsibility for abuse experienced in the relationship.

As parents, you always have the right to ask your daughter whether she is in an abusive or controlling relationship. If she’s unwilling to talk with you, use your leveraging power to have her discuss these observable concerns with a therapist. In other words, you may need to say something like this:

Screen Shot 2015 08 25 at 1.36.38 PM Symptoms of an Abusive Relationship“You are not achieving and living life the way I know you can. You have the right to be loved and supported. I want you to visit with a therapist. I want to share with the therapist the things that I am concerned about—either with you present or before you speak with him/her. Your ongoing communication with a therapist is up to you. However, I will not continue to pay for your phone, your courses at school, fund your hobbies or sports until there is an agreement that you will be in therapy until this is resolved.”

If you introduce the need for therapy and your child shows no resistance, I still urge you to see if there is a way you can speak with the therapist about your concerns prior to your daughter’s session.

As a former abuse victim, my decline was subtle so I wasn’t able to grasp the ways I had been malfunctioning. I was knee deep in shame, confusion and fatigue. Providing a therapist a comparison of your daughter’s former functioning to what you are seeing in her now would give that therapist an optimal understanding of what might be happening in this abusive dynamic.

Former Shelterwood Academy Therapist:

Mary Ellen McDonald-Mann, MS, LCSW
President of Mann Counseling Group & Co-founder of Last Battle, LLC

Video: Mary Ellen presents her new book From Pain to Power

 

 

Good Intentions

Screen Shot 2015 03 03 at 11.53.18 AM Good IntentionsWell here I sit in the airport of Jackson Hole on my way home after a week long vacation. Sadly, instead of spending the week on the world-class slopes of the Jackson Hole ski hill, I spent the week in bed, watching television in tremendous pain from gout. Even a doctor’s visit to my room and a steroid shot in the arm was not enough to mitigate the pain and swelling. Depressed, frustrated and feeling like a failure, I am committed to whatever changes are necessary so that I never experience this pain again.

My motivation is sky high and with study I have learned some really useful tips that will help eliminate my risk of gout attacks in the future. I am going to take control of my life; I am going to get healthy, eat right and get my life in order. My confidence in myself is high until I remember that I said the same things to myself last year when I had the last attack.

My own experience with gout is sadly very similar to what I see in myself as a parent. So full of promise, I think through all of the things I want to do with my son and daughter that will deepen our relationships, but never seem to get on the calendar. As a counselor, I find that parents want all the information on how to end the arguments, cutting, or drug use, but rarely put it into action. Is that you? You, me, and almost everyone else on the planet has the same stupid way of doing this. We want to be done with the pain, so we run out there and learn everything we can about what to do, and then we actually do nothing!

My biggest challenge as a counselor and a gout sufferer is motivation and putting the knowledge that is readily available into action. Sadly, we all have such locked-in ways that our good intentions are never acted upon. That is why I still suffer from gout and maybe you continue to repeat old destructive patterns in your home, only to watch the symptoms of such behaviors come out in your kids.

I know you don’t want to watch your kids struggle just as I don’t want to keep experiencing the pain of gout. And as I sit in my hotel room watching happy people board the chair lift for another run it is hard not to feel like a victim…like this gout attack is happening to me and I have no control of my current situation. In families, this type of self-pity leads us toward even greater fractures in our relationships with our kids and or spouses.

I know I am not a victim of gout, but that I have actually unwittingly been giving myself to gout. Living a gout lifestyle. So what keeps me from changing those wicked gout-giving ways? Maybe the same thing that keeps your family in a bind: Inertia, momentum, misplaced intentions, and maybe a dash of good old-fashioned laziness. So let’s get off our butts and own our issues. Let’s take back control of our lives and make some changes before the intensity of the pain begins to fade into memory and we are tempted to fall back into old habits. I know that if I go back to drinking beer and eating beef I will be right back next year on the floor writhing in pain, crying for Mommy, and swearing that I would do anything to make the pain stop.