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

 

 

You are not alone

When parents have teenagers that are struggling, many times we feel alone and very often contend with feelings of failure and shame.

First, let me assure you that you are not alone. We have 5,000 families that call us each year, looking for hope and help for their teenagers. And we have over 80,000 people who visit our website for the same reason.

DSC 9302 300x200 You are not alonePerhaps, never at any time in history, has parenting been more challenging than it is today. It used to be that a teen with serious behavioral and emotional problems came from an obviously troubled family with serious dysfunction and brokenness, or the teen themselves had suffered some significant trauma or abuse. However, this is not always the case any longer.   Many of the teens in our program come from stable, loving, two-parent homes. Teens in our program often come from great families, with parents who have been active in their lives, taken them to church on Sunday, and worked hard at being good parents.

In fact, I think that most of the parents that place their children in our program are exemplary. They don’t have their heads in the sand regarding their teens’ behavioral and emotional condition.   On the contrary, they have been actively trying to address their concerns for their teens’ issues for months.   And by the time they get to the place of considering residential treatment for their teen, they have typically already spent countless hours in prayer, discussion, worry, and counseling.

IMG 4242 300x200 You are not aloneParents consistently tell us that leaving their teen at a residential program is the most difficult thing they have ever done.   They often feel like they have failed as parents and that they have failed their child.   However, this decision is actually one of the most courageous things that parents can do for their child.   It takes deep humility for a mom or dad to acknowledge when they need help in dealing with the behavioral and emotional development of their teen.

I find it interesting that none of us has difficulty going to a medical doctor for help when we need treatment for the physical development of our child. If our teen has something wrong physically, there is no shame in taking them to the doctor. Yet, when there is something wrong in the emotional or behavioral development of our children, many of us find it very difficult to ask for help.

For this reason, those parents who make the decision to place their child at Shelterwood are heroes in my estimation. They have been wise enough to know they need help. They have been humble enough to ask for help. And they have been courageous enough to take the steps necessary to get help.

Jim Subers
Shelterwood CEO