* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.
Thanks to globally ingrained gender stereotypes, it’s natural for us to automatically think of women as victims of abuse, setting men in binary opposition as perpetrators, but the truth of the matter is male physical abuse is far more common than people realize. But what does physical abuse do to a man?
Another truth is that physical abuse of men can be remarkably tricky to identify for a number of reasons, meaning not nearly enough people get the support they need to free them from their problematic circumstances.
While there are some significant overlaps in the effects of physical abuse in women and in men, there are also a few unique, often covert indicators that can apply to the male sex exclusively.
Common Effects Of Male Physical Abuse
Physical abuse can have a plethora of terrible, long-lasting effects on men, especially as such a scenario clashes with traditional ideals of masculinity, which can intensify certain feelings and psychological impressions.
Feeling Emasculated & Shameful
It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator is a man or a woman, if the victim is a man, as a product of Western culture, he will inevitably experience some level of emasculation and shame, as the violence establishes a hierarchy, one in which the victim is submissive.
Conversely, the abuser claims the classically masculine dominant position, symbolically stripping the victim of their manhood, potentially triggering a number of negative states of mind.
Physical abuse may bruise the body, but the mind doesn’t come out unscathed either. When a man is the victim of sustained violence, as mentioned above, it can shift his perception of himself, creating a gulf between the person he thinks he should be and the perceived person that he is.
Consequently, resentment for the perceived individual builds over time, a self-loathing that gnaws away at confidence, reducing the chances someone will seek help or try to distance themselves from an abuser.
Low Self Esteem
Low self-esteem comes part and parcel with shame and self-loathing. When abused physically, it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming yourself, to start thinking that these violent outbursts are a rational reaction to something you are doing wrong.
Sustained physical abuse over a significant period of time can snuff out any confidence the individual had before the violence began, again, making it far more difficult for them to seek help and flee the abusive situation.
A physical abuser can cause their victim a tremendous amount of stress. Even when they’re not exhibiting violent behavior, the thought that it could happen at any moment creates tension in the mind of the victim.
Imagine being around someone who might snap at any moment. Not conducive to relaxation, is it? This can lead to a whole host of problems, one of which is insomnia.
Men or women in physically abusive relationships exist in a perpetual state of fight/flight/freeze/fawn, which triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisone, keeping the mind and body alert, even when incredibly exhausted.
In light of this, sleep will often be hard fought for, which itself has a domino effect on physical and mental health.
Insomnia sufferers are more likely to experience weight gain, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, memory issues, and a diminished sex drive.
With reduced cognitive ability, lack of regular sleep can also lead to disorientation and any number of accidents due to lapses in concentration.
As is the case for countless victims of the many types of abuse, men who are physically abused are far more susceptible to falling prey to substance abuse, as drugs and alcohol become a coping mechanism for a situation they feel they can’t escape any other way.
General Changes In Personality
A distinct change in personality can be caused by a number of things in life, but physical abuse is most certainly one of them.
For example, a very confident, chatty man might become quiet and insular, and a composed individual may suddenly become prone to mood swings, aggression, and irresponsibility.
This is evidence of the man losing himself, of him becoming submissive in his relationship with an abuser and allowing the fear and anxiety stemming from the situation to take hold.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can momentarily trap people in the horrors of their past, even if the events in question occurred decades ago.
Men who experience PTSD after physical abuse will sporadically experience disturbing thoughts and feelings relating to their trauma.
In severe cases, an individual may relive traumatic events over and over again via flashbacks or night terrors.
Intense Desire To Please Abuser
The anxiety caused by physical abuse can lead to the victim becoming obsessed with pleasing their abuser in order to avoid future violence, a response that is usually identifiable in seemingly normal day-to-day situations.
Constantly checking in with a partner, for instance, is a worrying sign, as it exceeds common courtesy and signifies a distinct lack of agency on the victim’s part. It shows they feel that permission is required from their abuser to live their life.
This anxiety to please can also manifest itself as a state of high emotion when considering what an abusive partner will think about or respond to a situation.
A man can be so consumed with avoiding punitive action, that they forfeit all sense of self in order to appease their abuser.
A common coping mechanism and deterrent of physical abuse is to establish oneself as submissive or “wrong” by apologizing emphatically even when unnecessary in an attempt to quell the potential rage of the abuser before they reach boiling point and become violent.
A habit-forming, fawning behavior, being overly apologetic out of fear can spill over into other areas of the victim’s life
For example, they may become overly apologetic towards friends and family, even when they’re in no immediate danger.
Depression & Anger
It’s no secret that physical abuse can cause or exacerbate depression, but the cocktail of negative emotions stirred up in male victims of physical abuse can have an interesting outcome.
Conditioned from a very young age to grapple with harmful facets of masculinity, men are encouraged to repress tears and any emotions that may betray a perceived inner femininity/weakness. But these emotions don’t just disappear.
Much like energy within the context of physics, the emotion has to go somewhere, and seeing as it can’t play out naturally, men will often engage in psychological acrobatics to channel the “energy” into an emotional vein more suited to the gender stereotype they subscribe to.
Rage is the common portal through which males are permitted to vent emotion, and in light of this, male victims of physical abuse may develop a propensity for anger.
Male victims of physical abuse are far less likely to open up and share the burden with those that might help. In fact, they may stifle all manner of emotion until it makes them physically ill.
Although female victims are far more likely to be seriously injured in an abusive relationship, the physical abuse of men can have equally damaging and long-lasting psychological consequences complicated by the labyrinthine prison of traditional masculinity.
Unfortunately, conforming to antiquated gender stereotypes can make identifying potential victims difficult, and getting someone to admit they have a problem is even harder, but with patience and an open heart, we can help the men in our lives move on with theirs.
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