How I Overcame My Childhood Trauma from Psychological Abuse

How I Overcame My Childhood Trauma from Psychological Abuse

As a child, can you imagine trying to go to sleep next to a bomb? And then being threatened to not tell or you would be killed? That’s what happened to me. As a young child, I was given a beautiful perfume bottle as a Christmas present — a perfume bottle that looked like a bottle of hair mousse. My brother, who was 3 years older than me, shook it violently and then placed it very gently and carefully at the bottom of my bed. He told me not to move or it would blow up. I believed him and didn’t sleep well that night.

I was bullied relentlessly. By my brother. No cuts. No bruises. No scratches.

One imagines a bully as a person that punches. Someone who would physically hurt you. But my bully was a psychological abuser. The invisible wounds went deep. My brother was sly, constraining me to spit in my face, lick me or perform tickle torture. He took pleasure in dominating me and playing on my fears – relishing his control over me, his younger sister. His lies and manipulations terrified me. Witnessing my brother torture animals, left no doubt in my mind that my tormentor would follow through on his threat that he would kill me if I told.

And, where were my parents? Rather than investigating my deteriorating situation, they believed my brother’s continuous lies as he denied his abuse of me. When they did catch glimpses of my brother’s cruelty, they put it down to sibling rivalry. But it was not sibling rivalry. It was ruthless, relentless, psychological and physical abuse. And, by not dealing with it, my parents were complicit. Unheard, unprotected, I was completely on my own.

These were the awful memories that I chose to forget and bury.

When an aunt died a few years ago, I started to administer her estate. It was the first time since my childhood that I was dealing with my brother who I had been told had changed. But, as we started to communicate, I was shocked to find out that my brother had not changed. He was bullying me again with lies, manipulations and deceit. I was also shocked at how my body was reacting. I had post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. I felt panic. I felt intense anxiety and my whole body was tense. I had heart-palpitations and was shaky. Something was very wrong.

Since then, I have worked out my trauma from my past. It was not an easy thing for me to do. I was taught to keep secrets and not to tell. I was told that psychological abuse was inconsequential. I was told that sticks and stones would break my bones and words would never hurt me. (That is an old wives tale that I want to tell you is an outright lie.)

In 2014, the American Psychological Association revisited a study that was published in the Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy publication.

The APA paper was titled: Unseen Wounds: The Contribution of Psychological Maltreatment to Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Risk Outcomes.

What the study confirmed was that children who experienced psychological maltreatment were dealing with the same, or perhaps even worse, mental health problems than those children that had experienced physical and sexual abuse.

The study also found that children who experienced psychological abuse experienced post-traumatic stress disorder just as often as children experiencing other forms of maltreatment and abuse. The paper concluded that there was a need for greater attention on psychological maltreatment.

So, what might a child experience with this type of abuse? Eating disorders, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, withdrawal from society, rebellious conduct and sleep problems — to name a few. Psychological abuse has taken a backseat to physical and sexual abuse. Psychological abuse deserves some much-needed attention. Sexual and physical abuse have been receiving a lot of attention in recent years, which is extremely important. Now, it’s time to talk about psychological abuse.

Why is psychological abuse so harmful?

Psychological abusers have an intentional pattern of behaviour for exerting control over another person using very planned and specific means.

There is an assumption in society today that yelling, screaming, name-calling criticisms, put-downs would be psychological abuse. Although this is true in some cases, this type of abuse is not that obvious and visible.

It is very insidious and very covert. Sneaky. Psychological abuse comes from someone who has a pattern of intimidating others; lack of empathy; lack of remorse and guilt; incessant lying; gaslighting; threats to their safety. There can be isolation and financial abuse as well.

The most concerning behaviour is that people who perpetrate this type of behaviour have a unique ability to charm others. They have two sides to their character and can speak in half-truths. If they are caught in a lie, they will simply re-invent a new truth. They usually will blame a victim. The other concerning behaviour is that they will believe their own lies.

Being a victim of psychological abuse, I had trauma that was deeply buried and I needed help from a professional. I got it. I saw a Psychologist that helped me work through my very painful and scary symptoms of PTSD.

I want others suffering from this sort of trauma to know that they are not alone. You may be suffering in silence but, it can be worked out. You can work through your trauma with evidence-based therapy. Talk therapy, journaling, mindfulness and prayer were instrumental in my healing.

Reach out and don’t be afraid to get help. Your inner child can heal and will love you for it.


For more information about Laura, visit her website at:

Twitter: @laura_corbeth

Laura’s newly published novel and memoir, ‘My Courage to Tell: Facing a Childhood Bully and Reclaiming my Inner Child’ is out now and available to order through



World suicide prevention day – Wheres the link between child maltreatment and suicide?

World suicide prevention day – Wheres the link between child maltreatment and suicide?

Sunday 10th September marks the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day. We talk about the potential for child maltreatment to push people towards taking their own lives and how the 70/30 campaign plans to reduce the number of people affected by reducing child maltreatment by at least 70% by the year 2030.

The number of suicides per year has reached around 800,000 worldwide, with an average of 13.1 per 100,000 people aged 10-29 being affected. People who experience four or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – such as child abuse, neglect or witnessing domestic violence – are a full 14 times more likely to attempt suicide. [1]

Ben Zeller was a talented programmer who took his own life at age 27. Following much torment and abuse as a child, in his last letter he wrote, ‘The darkness is with me nearly every time I wake up. I feel like a grime is covering me. I feel like I’m trapped in a contaminated body that no amount of washing will clean. Whenever I think about what happened I feel manic and itchy and can’t concentrate on anything else.’ [2]

There has been a vast amount of research dedicated to establishing a link between child maltreatment and suicidal ideation, showing some strong patterns. Child maltreatment, the umbrella term used for sexual, physical, emotional abuse and neglect, all show a link towards the likelihood of suicide attempts.

It is well documented that those who are victims to sexual abuse as a child are especially likely to have attempted suicide or self-harmed before early adulthood. Often, these attempts are brought on by other coping mechanisms such as substance abuse and other risk-taking behaviours.

However, other forms of maltreatment have been linked to suicidal ideation in young people through, for example, the increased incidences of having an anxiety disorder. Suicide in young people has been described as ‘a consequence of their experiences, which tends to de-stigmatise it and lead to it being viewed as a reasonable option’.

It can be difficult for younger people to identify anxiety and depression as symptoms and realise that outside help is available to them. Learning to identify mental illness and understanding alternatives is something that can aid those with suicidal ideations long into adulthood. Prompting to seek social support, help and guidance is a strong protective factor.

The sentiment of this year’s campaign is ‘Take a minute – save a life’. One small action from you today could make real a difference to someone’s wellbeing. Something as simple as taking an extra five minutes to play your child’s favourite game, giving them a hug or giving a neighbour a bit of moral support if they look stressed – these little things add up and give us resilience.

On the 70/30 campaign website, you can make a pledge to give just this kind of moral support to someone in your community. Take a moment to go to and then let us know what you did with the hastag #pledgefor7030 and tag @7030Campaign. You never know what difference you could end up making.

Worried about someone? Follow world suicide prevention: