A Look At The Cycle of Abuse
Addressing the stages so you can prevent the cycle from starting over.
The Cycle of Abuse is a social cycle theory developed by Lenore E. Walker in 1979. It was designed to explain patterns of behavior in abusive relationships. These abusive relationships can occur with another person or with a substance. Akua understands the Cycle of Abuse and the best way to treat those trapped in its dangerous cycle. We have found that the best way to treat our patients is to find the reason behind their addiction through an examination of their mindset. At the same time, they also help their loved ones learn their role in the addiction and what they have to change in their own lives.
The Cycle of Abuse is defined by four key steps that are repeated until the pattern is broken.
- Tension begins building around the stresses of daily life. It can build from marital strife, children, or even simple misunderstandings. Tensions can also build from outside sources, such as illness, legal, or financial burdens. This causes the abuser to feel ignored, threatened, annoyed, or wronged.
- The Incident is when the abuse actually occurs. It can be verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. Although the event is triggered from within the abuser, they will often try to find fault with the victim–blaming them for the abuse.
- Reconciliation happens when the abuser apologizes and tries to mend feelings with the victim. They will often give excuses for their behavior, which can also include blaming the victim. The abuser will promise it will never happen again and if the victim believes the abuser they will proceed to step four.
- As the time moves on there is a calm. No abuse takes place and the prior incident is forgotten. This is also known as the honeymoon phase. However, tensions will start to grow again, which will start the cycle over.
Let’s look at Christy’s story through the four parts of the Cycle:
- Tension started building early in Christy’s life because of the constant comparisons to her siblings. Even if Christy got straight A’s for the semester it would have just been overshadowed by her brother getting straight A’s in his Advanced Placement classes. This pressure could result in depression, which could inevitable lead to self-harm even this early in the cycle.
- Christy tried her first drug at a party at her friend’s house. The drug gave Christy a feeling of calm and she felt at peace for the first time since middle school. She wants to recreate this feeling as often as she can. This is the first incident.
- Early on, Christy is still functioning normally in society. She is still getting good grades and participating in after school activities. The drugs are starting to make her feel healthier both mentally and physically. At this point, the drugs are helping fill the void in her life.
- Once the substance has reached its peak the user hits the “honeymoon” phase. Christy feels content and okay with herself. There is a sense of ease in her life.