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Emotional Abuse Silent Treatment can affect your physical, as well as emotional, health.
Silent Treatment can affect you in more ways than one.
Is the silent treatment making you sick?
As detailed in the introductory article, Are you a Victim of Silent Treatment Emotional Abuse, manipulative, controlling silent treatment has a variety of negative psychological effects on the person on the receiving end of it. However, quite apart from the mental anguish that comes with feelings of isolation, anger, depression, confusion, hurt and/or stress, silent treatment victims may additionally experience physical ailments such as tension headaches, bloodshot eyes, diarrhea or constipation, cold sores, and/or stomach pains, not to mention insomnia and fatigue. Their emotional state might mean they develop an eating disorder e.g. binge eating, not eating enough. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, blood clots, and cancer are some of the more worrying physical health consequences which have been linked to extreme, extended emotional stress. Pre-existing health concerns and complaints will not be aided by emotional stress.
Of course not all stress that leads to physical symptoms is as a result of silent treatment emotional abuse, and not all stress is bad for you. There are a multitude of other reasons why people experience stress and often a combination of reasons are present. However the examples recounted below show how silent treatment, often used by passive aggressive and/or narcissistic personalities, can seriously affect a person’s physical, as well as mental, welfare.
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The link between stress and physical ailments
When recurring silent treatment is causing you tension, the resultant stress can activate the body’s fight or flight reaction during which hormones are released that impact body processes, (for example, accelerated heart rate, slowed digestion, decreased blood flow). Ongoing stress causes ongoing alterations to normal body systems and this can lead to long term physical symptoms. Click here to read more about emotional stress and physical illnesses.
1. Silent Treatment Emotional Abuse and Stress in Action
Franklyn, in his mid forties, has been married to Helen for over 25 years and they have 4 children. To onlookers, Franklyn and his wife had a great marriage and partnership, but what nobody realised was that there were often long periods of time when Helen would not be on speaking terms with Franklyn - weeks on end. The merest of triggers could spark a new chapter of silent treatment. If truth be told, Franklyn was just as likely to be the instigator of a period of not speaking as his wife. The significant difference was that Franklyn could not hold out as long as his wife. After half a day or so he was “over” whatever the problem was and ready to restore the equilibrium and be normal. However Helen was a stubborn and hardy individual who would brood and give him the cold shoulder for what seemed like forever.
Franklyn loathed and dreaded the lengthy silences so much that he fell into the habit of telling his wife what he thought she wanted to hear, just so as to keep the peace. For the most part he actively avoided potentially contentious conversations. Although most of their silent treatment episodes kicked off from things so insignificant that a couple of weeks down the line they often couldn’t even remember what had triggered it, occasionally there was something a little more serious. A few incidents during their 25 year marriage had caused Franklyn to have some misgivings about his wife’s fidelity. Indeed on one or two occasions in the early days he had ventured to ask questions of her about his suspicions, but the initial response he was met with, backed up by weeks of silent treatment, meant that future questionable behaviours on his wife’s part were shelved indefinitely. Franklyn simply closed his eyes to certain dubious behaviours from Helen, and would never raise them with her. He simply didn’t want to go there, knowing from experience that he would be summarily shut down, ostracised and made to feel bad for even thinking, let alone questioning, that Helen would do such a thing as commit adultery.
Franklyn grew accustomed to squashing his intermittent feeling of insecurity, but one day something happened that he simply could not ignore or shake off. This incident warranted a deep conversation. Franklyn kept resolving to talk to Helen about it but failed every time.
Unfortunately the stress of not confronting Helen with his questions as to her fidelity began to take a toll on his mental and physical well being. In keeping quiet to avoid a verbal outburst, followed by silent treatment, withdrawal of affection and intimacy from Helen, Franklyn suffered insomnia, headaches, a bad taste in the mouth, restlessness, stomach upset/indigestion, over-eating, not eating at times, depression, loss of concentration leading to difficulties at work, anxiety, bloodshot eyes, cold sores, colds and he eventually ended up in the emergency room due to palpitations and chest pains. In total it took nine months for Franklyn to blurt out his fears to Helen. During these nine months he experienced more health issues than he had through the entirety of his life.
Now it is not the case that throughout the entire nine months Franklyn and Helen were not on speaking terms. On the surface things were relatively normal for them but in the background during this period Franklyn was literally sick with worry and trepidation about whether or not his infidelity fears were true.
He lost count of the number of times he set himself a date for raising the issue only to chicken out at the last minute. Seven months in, following the ER incident, he got himself some individual counselling and then at the nine month mark he finally blurted out his misgivings to Helen.
Whether or not his adultery suspicions proved true or not is not the issue for this article. The essential point here is that year upon year of unhealthy relationship destroying silent treatment led to him being too apprehensive to raise an important emotive problem with his partner. This took a very significant toll on his health, both mentally and physically.
More on Silent Treatment from Ebonny
- How to cope with the Silent Treatment Emotional Abus...
Here's what you can ACTUALLY DO to feel better when your partner gives you the silent treatment -rather than be miserable, angry or isolated.
- Specific Examples - How to cope with the Silent Trea...
Coping with, and breaking the cycle of, Silent Treatment abuse – examples of strategies in action to deal with this form of emotional abuse.
- Further Strategies - How to cope with the Silent Tre...
Further ways to cope with silent treatment emotional abuse in relationships. Self help for becoming upbeat rather than beset with negative feelings.
- When and how to Discuss/Confront. How to cope with ...
When you cannot tolerate the silent treatment - When/how to talk to partner. Aim for discussion rather than confrontation.
2. Emotional Abuse Silent Treatment and Stress in Action
Another case study: Without realising it, Mona was always on her guard about “provoking” her partner Robin into yet another silent episode. She was forever walking on eggshells and over many years became attuned to which topics would precipitate an upset and would skirt around certain issues or avoid them altogether. Mona wanted to tackle Robin on the issue of gambling as money was missing from their savings account. She had done so once before and had been immediately on the receiving end of a tirade of verbal abuse, the threat of physical abuse, all topped up with an excruciating eight week period of silent treatment.
Mona was never sure if it was the fact that she had dared to question his gambling that prompted Robin to overreact to her raising her misgivings, even thought he may not in fact have reverted to gambling, or whether his changing/killing the subject so furiously was so that he would not have to account for actually having been gambling. Either way, like Franklyn, Mona suffered physical as well as emotional health effects and was at one point admitted to hospital with a deep vein thrombosis. Thankfully Mona's blood clot was discovered before it became life threatening.
Be good to yourself when experiencing emotional stress such as that caused by silent treatment.
Given that long term silent treatment emotional abuse creates anxiety, and anxiety in general, can lead to chronic stress and an assortment of medical concerns, those on the receiving end of the cold shoulder from their spouse need to take good care of themselves to help preserve both their mental and physical health.
As detailed in the other articles in this series, aim for time limited cooling off periods and do not allow yourself to become overwhelmed with negative feelings when you are being shunned by your partner. Please do not allow silent treatment to break you. By taking ownership of your own peace of mind, stress related physical ailments can be lessened and/or avoided.
PART 6 - How to help STOP the silent treatment affecting your physical health and well being - find out how to help negate potential negative physical and mental health effects caused by emotional stress such as repetitive silent treatment emotional abuse. Varied, useful practical methods.
Things to consider when you are on "good" speaking terms with your partner
You should seek the services of a qualified and experienced counsellor or doctor as necessary if you are experiencing phychological or physical ailments, or if your partner is potentially violent.
© 2013 Ebonny