Being in an emotionally abusive relationship can be an incredibly isolating experience. By nature, Covert Emotional Abuse (CEA) is subtle, difficult to detect and hard to confront. Many CEA victims are left suffering without having a clear understanding of why everything is challenging and complicated. For these men and women, knowledge is the most freeing and empowering thing they can gain. Learning abuse terms and how they manifest within relationships often provides the clarity a victim needs in order to identify the tactics being used by their partners against them. Clarity is the first necessary step in a victim’s healing journey, often empowering them to set healthy boundaries against such behaviors or to leave the abusive relationship altogether when change does not take place.
Today, we are talking about catastrophizing, one covert behavior that may be used to harm others. Catastrophizing is when someone instills fear and a negative co-dependence in another person by blowing situations out of proportion or inventing the worst possible outcome. The person who is causing harm through catastrophizing may use this tactic in an attempt to justify their own angry or egregious responses to situations. Catastrophizing is often used to falsely shift the abuser to the victim position and it may be used to cause fear or insecurity in the mind of the victim immobilizing them and keeping them dependent on the relationship.
In addition to intimidating victims into staying with them, an abuser may utilize catastrophizing to cripple their partner’s sense of security, making them perceive situations inaccurately. In reality, that kind of relationship is far more debilitating than most as it strips the victim of their independence.
Consider the following examples of catastrophizing and examine if you have experienced similar situations in your relationship, or have witnessed it happening to someone you love:
Although these are merely a few examples of how an emotional abuser may catastrophize, they each have the same result: the victim is falsely blamed, the abuser becomes the victim, and the true victim becomes less confident about their perspective as they try to appease the abuser.
Survivors of this kind of abuse confirm how damaging it can be on an ongoing basis within a relationship. According to one study from the National Library of Medicine, children who grow up in abusive households are very likely to carry catastrophizing behavior into adulthood. This is another reason why it is so important to understand covert behaviors enough to be able to identify and prevent them early on. The clarity that knowledge provides allows the victim to construct healthy boundaries against abusive behaviors and empowers both individuals to take necessary steps that can change their behavior if they choose to do so.
Covert behaviors can sound simple from the outside, but remember when just one emotionally abusive tactic is repeated over and over in a relationship, it qualifies as abuse and can be incredibly damaging, both physically and psychologically to the victim. It does not make someone weak or unreasonable to experience negative personal and relational effects as a result of catastrophizing.
If you know someone who experiences catastrophizing behavior within their relationship, consider forwarding this blog or directing them to our website. If you would like to learn more, consider checking out our course, “Finding Clarity and Healing in Difficult, Confusing, Stressful or Abusive Relationships.”
As we move into the middle of the holiday season, The M3ND Project would like to thank you for your constant support. The M3ND Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that relies on charitable contributions to educate, equip, and restore those impacted by abuse. We educate on covert emotional abuse and train individuals and organizations on the frontlines who are addressing and responding to victims. Please consider helping us continue our work by making supporting our Giving Tuesday campaign with a small monthly or one-time donation here: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/m3nd-project-inc/become-a-m3nder-2020