Psychological abuse can be hard to recognize because it doesn’t produce physical scars. Yet many women agree that it is actually much harder to bear than physical abuse, according to Elaine Weiss, Ed.D. of the Department of Family Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Weiss is author of Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free.

Who Are the Abusers?

No one knows exactly why some people are abusers. Researchers agree that abusers may share certain characteristics. For example, many grew up in violent homes themselves. Many abuse alcohol or other drugs. If you are afraid that your partner may have abusive tendencies, you should trust your instincts.

Dr. Weiss recommends thinking twice about continuing a relationship if your partner:

  • ignores your wishes
  • makes you feel guilty
  • acts excessively jealous or possessive
  • ignores your personal boundaries
  • does not listen to you or disregards your opinions
  • has a history of fighting, loses his temper quickly, or brags about hurting others
  • breaks or hits objects during an argument
  • becomes hostile when you say “no”
  • makes you feel sad or afraid

Helping Someone You Care About

If you know someone who is being abused, it may be hard to approach her. “Begin by realizing that your friend or relative probably does not see the situation clearly; if you are not careful, she or he will react by defending the abuser or becoming angry with you,” Dr. Weiss says.

Dr. Weiss recommends telling her that you care about her, and you’re worried about her. Tell her that you are there for her if she ever wants to talk.