Can Emotional Abuse Drive You Crazy….Literally?

By Michele Nieves | Healing Narcissistic Abuse

Nov 23

What does it mean to be ‘crazy’? Some synonyms are: derailed, not in one’s right mind, unbalanced, unstable, disturbed, distracted… you get the idea.

We often think of emotional abuse as abuse that leaves no physical scars. However, as more information is spread regarding the depth of damage done due to chronic stress that often occurs behind closed doors, we are learning more and more what narcissistic abuse and coercive emotional abuse do the body. There are physical scars, you may not be able to see them with the naked eye but they exist, they are very real and they are extremely dangerous to the health of victims of hidden emotional abuse.

I’m not a neuroscientist, but I have come to learn what happens to our brains when under abuse. Just as alcohol has the ability to shrink and change the structure of the brain – chronic abuse changes the structure of the brain as well.

The emotional brain enlarges and takes over while eclipsing the logical brain. Rather than go into depth about the amygdala, hippocampus, limbic system, reptilian brain etc., if your brain has been affected by chronic, unrelenting coercive abuse this is what it looks like:

  • At one time you had an amazing memory, you could recall past conversations, events, people, names, places with ease. Now – you can’t remember what you did three days ago. Recalling things is difficulty, your brain feels foggy, events are like pieces of a puzzle that your mind cannot seem to put together in a clear coherent way, causing you to wonder if there is something wrong with you.
  • At times you feel as if the light bulb has gone off, you finally realize that the ‘reality’ you have been living in is a lie. You always suspected that something was ‘off’ but could never quite put a finger on what is wrong. But every now and then you see it clear as day – this is toxic, this is unhealthy behavior, this is WRONG, you don’t deserve to be treated this way, this is NOT a loving reciprocal relationship. And yet – poof – as quickly as the lightbulb went off, you cannot seem to hold onto that reality – it somehow evaporates as if it were nothing but a mirage of the mind. You may watch a video about abuse and feel completely 100% that this is what is happening in your life – but the next day you are right back where you were before watching the video. Information goes in and somehow seeps out before you can truly digest it.
  • Your mind never stops. You are constantly ruminating – thoughts uncontrollably ransacking your mind making it impossible to focus on the moment. Why is s/he angry? Maybe if I did this things would be better, maybe if I had said that s/he wouldn’t have been angry? What will happen when they get home? What will set them off? How can I make sure s/he doesn’t get angry? Why can’t I do anything right? Is there something wrong with me? Is it me? Am I too sensitive? Am I overreacting? Maybe this is normal? Maybe I shouldn’t be upset at that behavior? On and on and on and on. Your mind spins in circles trying to find answers, understanding, normality; desperately trying to make sense of chaos.
  • You used to be calm, laid-back and had a long fuse. Now – you are so easily triggered that the person you formerly were is more like a rumor than anything else.

If any of this sounds familiar – this happens because trauma changes the structure of our brain – it takes away the brains executive functioning and well. when your brain is not functioning the way it is supposed to – you feel crazy, others begin to wonder what is wrong with you and sadly the abusive person loves this because all of the attention is on what is wrong with you as opposed to WHY you have changed.

Emotional abuse creates trauma – trauma changes the brain. Thankfully, thanks to neuroplasticity it is possible to reverse the damage. There are two ways to address the problem – from a top to bottom approach as well as a bottom up approach to healing.

If anyone would like to try the bottom up approach, please check out my course entitled Breakthrough Cptsd: http://


About the Author

Nobody understands what you're going through more than someone who has been there. I grew up with narcissistic family member and had intimate relationships with malignant narcissists. For the majority of my healing journey, I felt as if I was all alone. I now dedicate my life to being the person for others, that I needed on my own healing journey, so that YOU never feel alone.