In a relationship there are many different forms of abuse that can be inflicted - emotional, verbal, physical and mental. Of all of them mental abuse is perhaps the most abstract and difficult to define or even identify, but can also be one of the most cruel and damaging whereby the individual begins to question their very mind and leave you feeling confused, stressed and even depressed.
Mental abuse can take many forms, but mostly it consists of a series of ‘mind games’ that can be traumatic for the victim. This can mean scare tactics, emotional blackmail, unpredictable mood swings, random acts of cruelty, humiliation, ignoring your emotions, flirting with strangers, being condescending or demeaning of your feelings, lying or even theft. An example of mental abuse then could be to go out for long periods of time without telling your partner and then yell at them when they inquire as to where you were. At the same time you might shout if they go out, or continuously ring them for checks as to where they are. Another completely different example could be to steel a partner’s money then accuse them of paranoia if they ask where it is gone. Similarly you might force sex when they are tired and tell them they are a bad partner if they do otherwise, or shout at them and tell them they are useless only to them come back and act as though nothing had happened. Or they might insult you viciously in front of your friends. All these are examples of mental abuse and all of them are damaging.
Essentially it is treating the individual not as someone you love but as someone you resent, or a stranger, or switching between extremes. This then leaves the victim unable to relax and constantly on their guard and as such this can give way to severe stress, paranoia, or other similar issues. If you then complain about the situation you will be told you are being stupid or overly sensitive and in your current mental state you might be inclined to listen. This in itself is a form of mental abuse that can be damaging and can also prevent you from escaping from the situation.
To recognise mental abuse in your relationship then see if you feel this way. Do you trust your partner? Do you feel relaxed around them? Do they trust you? Are they supportive? If you find that your partner makes you unsettled and nervous then something is certainly wrong. In many cases it will simply be that your partner themselves is mentally unstable and so unwittingly takes it out on you. In others they will feel insecure and feel the need to control you or torment you to make themselves feel better. In either case it is unacceptable and you should ensure that you separate from them, either permanently or until they’ve had help. Most importantly of all you mustn’t respond to it and mustn’t let it affect your sense of self.