Health and Wellbeing

8 Signs of a Psychologically Abusive Relationship

Natalie, student Wellbeing Champion, discusses signs of a psychologically abusive relationship.

Are you in a happy and healthy relationship? Having a partner is supposed to make feel you happy and secure. If you don’t feel this way, then there may be problems you need to recognise.

If you don’t feel secure, comfortable and loved, perhaps you may not be in the right relationship.  Here are 8 signs that you may be in an abusive relationship.


Demanding control

Your partner tries to control your behaviour, such as trying to stop you from contacting your friends and family. When you are out with your friends, you may experience feelings of guilt or even fear when you have done nothing wrong. Sometimes this controlling behaviour is so subtle, you don’t realise until you don’t have any friends left. Control can also extend to how you dress, how much money you spend or how much time you spend doing your hobby. Your partner may encourage you to strain or end your relationships with other people, until eventually you feel that your partner is the only person you have.


Being possessive

Your partner tries to control where you go or demands to know when and why you are going somewhere. They are constantly checking up on you and keeping an eye on every little thing. This may  include going through your messages or emails, checking your internet browser or showing up unexpectedly at the house. They do not respect your personal boundaries and get extremely jealous of other people in your life. They try to control where you go and who you see, and get angry if you do not do what they say.


Putting you down in private and public

This includes your partner calling you names, ridiculing your thoughts or opinion or making you feel bad about yourself in any way. They also constantly compare you unfavourably with others, attack your intelligence and looks, or blame you for all the problems in the relationship.


Manipulative actions

Your partner uses manipulative techniques to get what they want from you, even when you do not want to do it. This is usually done by targeting your beliefs or self-image. Examples include complimenting and bringing up something you feel guilty about (for example, “this meal is okay, would be better if you did this…”), asking you for something and calling you selfish if you do not do it, or asking you for something in a social context because they know you would find it harder to say no with others around.


Using intimidation

Your partner may use a variety of tactics designed to scare you into doing what they want, such as making threatening gestures, smashing crockery, punching the table, destroying property, shouting, throwing things or putting weapons on display. It is a clear message that if you do not do what they want, there could possibly be violent consequences.


Using isolation

This involves controlling what you do, who you see and talk to, what you read and where you go. Your partner is trying to limit you to outside involvement and tries to prevent you from continuing relationships with others around you, including friends and family. Isolation may also include them trying to stop you from using your vehicles or from accessing internet or your phone.



Your partner threatens to do something that could be emotionally or physically damaging if you do not do what they say. This include threatening to leave you, to hurt themselves, to hurt you or to hurt your loved ones. Threatening may also include yelling, sulking, deliberately breaking things that you value or saying things like ‘no one will want you.’


Physical or sexual violence

This includes any intentional and unwanted contact on you or close to your body, even if it doesn’t leave any mark or cause pain. Examples include: scratching, pulling your hair, punching, throwing something at you, forcing you to perform a sexual act, grabbing you to stay or forcing you to go somewhere.


Getting support

If you are experiencing all or some of the above signs, noticing and acknowledging them is the first step to ending an abusive relationship. No one deserves to be in a relationship in which they do not feel safe or secure. If you are able to recognize and relate to the signs, reach out and get help.

  • Talk to people you trust about the problem, including close friends and family
  • Cardiff University’s Counselling, Health and Wellbeing team is also here to listen, support and give you direction on what to do next. No matter how big or small you may think the problem is, there is always someone here to talk to you. You have the option of either booking an appointment or coming in to drop-in sessions Monday-Friday at 3pm.
  • Alternatively, you also have the option of talking to someone from the TALK programme. It is independent of Cardiff University (working across different universities in Vale of Glamorgan). The service is confidential and specialises in relationships and domestic violence. If you think you would benefit from talking to someone who is specialised in this area, and is there to listen and give advice, here are the contact details:

Tel: 01446744755




Contacting Counselling Health and Wellbeing

If you are struggling to improve your wellbeing, please know Cardiff University Support Services are here for you – there is no problem too big or too small and we would be happy to provide you with some support. We offer a range of flexible support options including:

Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire. We also offer a Wellbeing Walk-In Service, Monday to Friday, 3pm to 3.45pm and Wednesday mornings, 9.30am to 10.15am, at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place.  We also hold a walk-in service at our Student Support Centre in Cardigan House at the Heath, on Wednesday afternoons 3pm to 3.45pm.

 Watch our video and see for yourself that we have friendly and approachable staff. Staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.

If talking to a member of staff is something you are not sure about, why not chat to one of our Student Wellbeing Champions. They are trained student volunteers who can signpost you to support, offer you a peer ear and give you basic health and wellbeing advice. If you would like to see our Champions in action, check out their video.

If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options. The University also has its own GP Practice – Park Place Surgery for those in their catchment area.


Your feedback and help please

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Best wishes,

Natalie, Student Wellbeing Champion.


Your Student Life, Supported.

The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including:Advice & Money, Careers & Employability, Counselling, Health & Wellbeing, Disability & Dyslexia and International Student Support.

The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.

For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.


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