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Is Mental Illness to Blame for Abuse? 


It is assumed by many that where there is abuse, there is mental illness underlying it. The National Domestic Violence Hotline emphasizes that this is a misconception. While there could be abuse in a relationship where a partner has a mental illness--those two issues are separate and must be treated as such. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), narcissistic personality or bipolar disorders are not what cause abuse.  


How do we know this? Although the issue is complex, an abusive person does not commonly show their “ugly side” to anyone else but their partner. This is what makes them hard to spot, as they have a mask for the rest of the world that only comes off at home. With this, you have an extreme sense of isolation for the victim: where is the abuse if they’re the only one seeing it? When questioning whether someone is abusive with a mental illness or just abusive, consider how they treat other people vs. how they treat their partner. If mental illness was the cause of abuse, then the abusive person would physically or emotionally abuse everyone around them (coworkers, friends, or other family members) and not just their partner.  


Can mental illness and abuse happen at the same time? Absolutely. There are many times when a partner is mentally ill and abusive. On the other hand, there are also many times when a partner is mentally ill and not abusive at all. Even if a person has a mental illness, it does NOT excuse the abuse. Abuse is NEVER okay. Abuse is about control and power over a partner. No one deserves to be treated without respect. Everyone has the right to a relationship that is ALWAYS healthy, supportive, and loving. Do not be afraid to reach out. You are worth it.  


If you or someone you care about is in this situation, please seek help and visit or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for 24 hour assistance and support. 


Written by: Alessandra Merino 


Abuse and Mental Illness: Is There a Connection? | The Hotline. (2015, May 6). Retrieved from