Reactive abuse is a type of narcissistic abuse that occurs in response to a real or perceived threat. It’s characterized by an escalation of cruelty, manipulation, and control. The abuser may seek to undermine the victim’s sense of self-worth, stability, and safety.

It can occur through gaslighting, creating doubt, fear, and anxiety. Reactive abuse can significantly impact the victim’s mental and physical health.

The abuser may feel threatened by their partner’s independent streak or have trouble dealing with their success or strength. Reactive abuse can happen in any relationship, but it’s most common in intimate partnerships.

If you’re in a narcissistic relationship with someone who engages in reactive abuse, it’s essential to seek professional help.

Reactive abuse can be damaging to your physical and emotional health, and it can escalate over time. Getting couples therapy might be the key to stopping the person from reacting negatively.

What is reactive abuse?

Reactive abuse is a term used to describe the abusive behavior that can occur in response to someone else’s actions. It’s most commonly seen in relationships where one partner is a narcissist, as they may react angrily or violently to perceived slights or threats.

However, it can also occur in other situations, such as when an employee reacts angrily to a boss’s criticism. It can also occur in mutual abuse situations where both people are engaging and responsible.

Reactive abuse is harmful and destructive, as it can escalate the conflict and lead to domestic violence.

What are the five types of emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse can also called reactive abuse

Emotional abuse takes on many shapes and forms, making it difficult to recognize at times. Because intimate relationships differ so significantly, so can the types of abuse. Here are the five most common types of emotional abuse.

  • Physical violence or domestic violence

Physical violence or domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior characterized by the use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury. Domestic abuse can occur between family members, intimate partners, or roommates.

Victims of domestic abuse may experience a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and difficulty trusting others.

They may also have difficulty concentrating, sleeping, or eating. In severe cases, victims of domestic abuse may attempt or succeed in suicide. Do not tolerate physical abuse; seek help immediately.

  • Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse is a type of maltreatment that can have serious negative consequences for both children and adults. It can involve a range of abusive behaviors, such as derogatory name-calling, threats, and shaming.

Psychological abuse can occur in all types of relationships, including those between parents and children, siblings, spouses, and roommates.

It can also occur in different settings, such as the workplace or in online interactions.

Psychological abuse can have a profound impact on mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It can also interfere with personal relationships and disrupt social bonds.

  • Narcissistic abuse

Narcissistic abuse is a form of emotional abuse inflicted by a narcissist on their partner, child, or another family member. Narcissists are manipulative, controlling, and often abusive people who lack empathy for others.

They may use various forms of coercion and intimidation to control and manipulate their victims.

Common features of narcissistic abuse include gaslighting, economic abuse, verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, and spiritual abuse.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the narcissist convinces the victim that they are crazy or delusional.

  • Reactive abuse

Reactive abuse is a form of emotional abuse that occurs in response to the actions of another. It is often directed at those who are perceived to be a threat to the narcissist’s ego or position of power.

Narcissists are especially susceptible to reactive abuse because their inflated sense of self-importance makes them quick to anger and slow to forgive.

They may believe they are entitled to mistreat others since they see themselves as superior. As a result, narcissists are often manipulative and controlling individuals who seek to dominate others.

  • Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is severe domestic violence involving rape or forcing a victim to unwillingly engage in sexual acts. It’s the worst kind of abusive relationship, and victims of sexual abuse suffer long-term mental health consequences.

If you’re suffering from sexual abuse, call the national domestic violence hotline and seek help immediately.

How does reactive abuse work?

The primary abuser in reactive abuse

Reactive abuse is kind of an umbrella term under which many types of abuse fall. In general, reactive abuse occurs when a victim reacts to something with reactive outbursts.

It may be because they’ve been putting up with so much and holding it in that they can no longer control it, or their mental health is suffering. In these cases, it can be difficult for people to control their temper and reactive abuse occurs.

Here are some common ways that reactive abuse takes place.

  • The abuser’s behavior causes a reaction in the victim’s behavior

If a person is suffering from psychologically abusive behavior or their partner is physically aggressive, it can cause reactive outbursts in the victim.

This turns a one-way abusive relationship into a mutual abuse relationship. Let’s face it — that’s not good for anybody.

  • The victim reacts through self-defense, which the abusers perceive as an attack

Abusers rely on the assumption that their victims won’t react. But, if someone has been suffering at the hands of abusive behavior, they may react out of self-defense.

This doesn’t mean they’re mentally ill; rather, it indicates that they should consider opting for a partner they feel safe with.

  • There is mutual abuse in both parties

Mutual abuse occurs when an abused person reacts to their abuser with reactive abuse. Instead of simply taking the abuse, they give it back.

Having once been the abused person, they’ve become abusive too.

These vicious cycles make for the worst kinds of relationships, and your mental health will invariably suffer in a relationship like this.

How to deal with abusive behavior:

  • Dissolve the trauma bond

If you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s probably affecting your mental health more than you know. There’s really no reason that a person should have to live like that.

If you’re living with an abusive intimate partner with domestic violence, consider leaving. The mutual abuse isn’t doing you any favors.

  • Talk to a family member or therapist

It’s often difficult to see things clearly from inside the box. That’s why speaking with a (sane) family member, friend, or therapist can be highly valuable. It’s difficult to know who to blame in an unstable, reactive relationship. So try getting some outside perspective.

  • Try to ignore reactive outbursts with the gray rock method

The gray rock method is a technique that can be used to help deal with an emotionally or verbally abusive partner. The idea is to make yourself as uninteresting and unengaging as possible to reduce the amount of attention and energy the abuser directs toward you.

This includes:

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Speaking in a monotone voice

  • Refusing to rise to the bait when the abuser tries to provoke a reaction

    By removing the emotional value of their target, the hope is that the abuser will eventually become bored and move on.

While this technique will not work in every case, it can effectively diffuse a volatile situation and regain control over an abusive relationship.

  • Focus on your mental health & emotional wellbeing

By focusing on your own mental health and well-being, you shift the focus of your life from the abusive elements to the positive elements.

Try to spend less time thinking about the abuser, focus on self-care, stop reacting, and zone in on cultivating a solid and fulfilling sense of self.

While this may not stop the abuse entirely, it gives you the upper hand. Start journaling about your feelings and repeat affirmations to attract the life you deserve. If you need help with this, seek out a professionally trained therapist.

  • Improve your sense of self and confidence

Working on your self-esteem and self-confidence will make you much less susceptible to abusive attacks. Though they may still occur, they won’t hurt you as much, and you won’t feel as unstable as you may have before.

Don’t feel guilty for focusing on yourself; instead, try to embark on your spiritual healing journey as soon as possible.

  • Control your own response

While it can be challenging to control your responses and reactions when your body is pumped to the nines with stress hormones, try to stop reacting negatively when abuse occurs. Just tell yourself, “at least I’m not the one being abusive here.” It can be helpful to find a mantra that works for you.

  • Cultivate healthy relationships

Relationships don’t have to be abusive. In fact, they’re supposed to be beautiful, nurturing, and enjoyable. Try to focus on cultivating these types of relationships instead of letting abusive relationships consume your entire life, so you can manifest your ideal partner.

Can you escape an abusive relationship?

Of course, it’s possible to escape an abusive relationship. It takes courage, strength, and support, but it can be done.

If you are in an abusive relationship, the first step is to reach out for help. There are many organizations and individuals who can provide support, both practical and emotional.

Once you have made the decision to leave, there are several things you can do to make your escape safely. If possible, create a safety plan with the help of a professional.

This may include getting a restraining order, changing your phone number, and arranging a safe place to stay.

Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy, but it’s always worth it — why be a victim of continued abuse? With the proper support, you can make a new start and live a life free from fear and violence.

Final thoughts

Abusive relationships are more common than people think, with 29% of all women claiming to have been in an abusive relationship at some point. Don’t put up with narcissistic abuse until you reach your breaking point, and don’t fall into the cycle of reactive abuse.

If you’re struggling with an abusive relationship, consider seeking professional help. At least consult a trusted friend or family member to tell them what’s happening.