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Trauma Splitting: One Side Effect of Verbal Abuse

February 29, 2024 Cheryl Wozny

Trauma splitting (a type of emotional detachment) can be a common side effect after facing verbal abuse. This coping mechanism can happen to individuals of any age. However, children with verbally abusive parents will often develop trauma splitting to separate their normal personality from the traumatized one. 

Stephen Blumenthal describes trauma splitting in his work, "A State of Inbetweenness: The Challenges of Working with Disavowal,"1 as an emotional detachment or splitting of consciousness where an individual denies awareness of traumatic events. This detachment provides a safe space from overwhelming negative emotions but at the cost of their mental health. 

Not everyone will experience the same side effects from verbal abuse. Unfortunately, trauma splitting is just one of the many adverse reactions I've had after being in a verbally abusive relationship.

Is Trauma Splitting Like Disassociation From Verbal Abuse? 

Some individuals consider trauma splitting to be the same as dissociation. In some situations, it can be. In my life, I've experienced several instances where I've lost time and memories. Unfortunately, it's just one side effect I've used as a coping tool. 

When I was younger, I noticed odd, confusing things. They included situations where:

  • People would tell me they saw me somewhere doing something, and I don't remember going there or doing the activity.
  • Depending on the day, my penmanship would change drastically from scratchy, thin lines to large, looping, curled letters.
  • I would look in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at me. 
  • Sometimes, I would zone out and then forget where I was or what I was doing. 
  • I would be in situations where I should react emotionally but feel nothing at all. 

At first, I would chalk these situations up to being overtired or distracted and inattentive. Now, I realize I've had many trauma-splitting moments throughout my life.

How Trauma Splitting Helps Verbal Abuse Recovery

Although my coping mechanisms started as a result of verbal abuse, trauma splitting helped me when I needed it most. The ability to separate harmful words and protect my psyche got me through some of the worst circumstances. 

Of course, dissociation from reality isn't ideal as a typical response to everyday activities. As I recover from verbal abuse, the coping skills I once relied on are no longer useful. If I experience trauma-splitting behaviors now, I would be in contact with my therapist.

A professional counselor helped me work through many past situations where my dissociation interfered with my daily life. Thankfully, these coping mechanisms aren't as common as they once were. 

If you're experiencing some trauma splitting because of verbal abuse, you aren't alone. You shouldn't feel ashamed if you notice this behavior. It can help to talk to a professional who understands trauma splitting and its effects on your life.

Source

  1. Blumenthal, S. (2021b). A State of Inbetweenness: The Challenges of Working with Disavowal. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 38(1), 4–16. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjp.12699

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2024, February 29). Trauma Splitting: One Side Effect of Verbal Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2024/2/trauma-splitting-one-side-effect-of-verbal-abuse



Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

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