I have personally experienced both (giving and receiving) the silent treatment.

I also have a lot of people that I deal with that did not even see that “silent treatment” is a severe form of mental and Phycological abuse.

My definition of this is:   A way to inflict pain without visible bruising and to punish or manipulate the person/s

Research has shown that the act of ignoring or excluding activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain.

The sad truth is that people may not realise the emotional or physical harm that is being done. Because they do not have the knowledge of the mental state of the person they are subjecting this kind of treatment of.

The ability to detect being ostracised is hardwired within us – it doesn’t matter if you are being ignored by a group, a loved one or a person you view as maybe an enemy.  The truth is the pain is still registering, leaving you feel powerless, frustrated and very angry.

Giving the silent treatment is extremely damaging to any and all relationships. It decreases relationship satisfaction for both parties, diminishes feelings of trust and intimacy, reduces the capacity to communicate in a way that’s healthy and meaningful.

Another shock is that this is an incredibly hard pattern to break!

When people become locked in this “silent treatment”, the damage can be both emotional and physiological which can include anxiety and aggression as well as various other problems (health e.g. bowls etc)

The silent treatment should not be confused with taking time to cool down after heated or difficult exchange of words.

I would like to suggest that instead of reverting to the silent treatment, try to set clear statement that “I am not able to talk about this now, if it is in order can you give me (and then give the time frame) and we can discuss it then.

Nobody engages the silent treatment expecting it to damage the relationship, and that’s the danger.

Generally, it’s called on as the weapon of choice because it’s powerful and it’s easy to get away with. There is nothing subtle about a physical or verbal lashing, but an accusation of the silent treatment, ‘Are you ignoring me?’ can easily be denied.


There is a saying, “Silence is golden” – but please do not confuse the term.

Silence can feel like a dignified, high road response but it’s not. It’s a way to inflict pain but without the physical marks.

Being noticed is so close to being loved, that sometimes they feel the same.

Being ignored is just as powerful and make you feel powerless, invisible, insignificant and this can lead to frustration and anger.

  • Mental abuse is not normally seen by anyone on the outside looking in because they see the abuser as a strong, calm, caring and sincere person and will not be able to see the true character behind the person in front of them that they think they know so well.
  • Do you really know the person standing next to you?
  • “If they do not use their hands to physically abuse then it isn’t abuse.”


  • It is abuse to ignore someone’s needs emotionally and make them feel worthless, depressed and will cause long term damage so much so that in many cases it can lead to the victim’s physical health being harmed.
  • To deliberately cause harm to someone by use of the silent treatment, deny a person any emotional care, deny them any praise, starve them of love, affection, compliments, positive feedback, to regularly reject, degrade and deny a person any emotional responsiveness and to ignore a person’s needs is mental abuse or also known as psychological abuse. It is repetitive abuse that’s aimed at controlling, diminishing another person’s wellbeing in order to hurt, punish, harm or control them.
  • The silent abuser is able to switch himself/herself off emotionally to the pain and suffering he/she is causing his victim and will deny he/she is the problem and he/she may tell himself/herself or others that he/she is the victim.
  • You stop being a victim when you become the abuser!



  • The abuser is capable of closing down all reasonable sense of emotions and turn into a cold heart very fast as he/she withdraws into his/her own world without any care for his/her victim’s distress.
  • The abuser will behave in society charming, calm, happy, he/she will be seen by others as a pillar of society, gentle natured, helpful, kind, caring and fool the outside world into thinking he/she is abused and his/her partner is the abuser.

This is classic of a mental abuser. They will have their partner labelled a mental case whilst he/she plays the victim and saint and makes him/her the subject of every ones’ rejection by labelling him/ her with an unbalanced mind.

  • The true victim will be further rejected not only by his/her abuser but also by his/her friends, work colleagues, family and others he/she is likely to meet.
  • The abuser needs to feel in control and he/she will seek constant approval from those around him/her and convince them that he/she is the true victim. They will offer him/her advice and he/she will feed off their pity which will make him/her feel even more in control as he/she plays the victim.
  • The true victims may withdraw from all social activities, work, stop seeing family, they stop being fun, will see everything in a negative light, stop eating which is the start of dangerous health issues, cry alone, send text terror messages as a means to fight back which only gives the abuser more ammunition to abuse him/her with as he/she will use that as a further excuse to ignore and make him/her look bad in front of others. The abuser will happily share the text messages because he/she wants everyone to see him/her as the victim. The true victim will stop functioning on all levels as the mind games take over his/her life. He/she will find it hard to think of anything else but what is happening to him/her. The victim will fight with his/her own mind and struggle to work out if he/she is being abused or is he/she truly the problem. The victim may start behaving irrationally from the stress caused by the mental abuse.




  • Mental abuse is not normally seen by anyone on the outside looking in because they see the abuser as a strong, calm, caring and sincere person and will not be able to see the true character behind the person in front of them that they think they know so well.

Out of all the abuse I suffered (I am female), the one part of the abuse I have always struggled with is “being ignored” and made to feel I was in some way, the problem. When I begged for the abuser to stop he didn’t listen and when I sought help, no one listened. The more I was ignored the more it built up an extreme and unlikely intolerance for being “ignored” which has stayed with me as an adult.

  • I grew more intolerance to the ugly side of human nature that often sees many people misuse the silent treatment to harm others. Some justify this behaviour and kid themselves that it’s in some way an honourable stance to take. Ignoring someone briefly when done to express dissatisfaction is very different to the silent treatment. To ignore someone as a regular means to punish, hurt or upset someone as payback or for whatever reason, is in my opinion and the opinions of experts to be considered, one of the worst forms of mental abuse that exists in human nature. It causes irreparable damage to a person’s mind and will see the victims behaviour change slowly but noticeably when it’s out of control, especially by others who are close and on the outside looking in. There are times the abuse continues and the victims show now outward signs to those who are close while the mental abuser witnesses the dramatic and extreme behaviour change in a direct response to his/her mental abuse in the “silent treatment”.
  • The silent treatment is a form of punishment and control and the person using it to harm another, feels a lack of care, responsibility or remorse and cannot or will not communicate as she/he watches the victim slowly deteriorate. Someone who was once a lively, happy and fun person to be around turns into a whole new personality and becomes withdrawn, reclusive or maybe verbally aggressive to the abuser in a vain bid to stop the abuse of the mind. The person dishing out the “silent treatment is FULLY aware of the damage they are doing and they are FULLY aware that all they need to do to stop the abuse is to simply talk to the victim. The abuser will not talk to the victim when in control mode and when he/she does he will constantly lead the victim into a false sense of security at leisure, only to ignore again.


  • The abuser will provoke any situation with silence which inevitably triggers off the victim who can never work out what has happened to warrant more silent treatment. Each time the victim finds himself/herself fighting desperately with the abuser in a vain bid to stop her/him giving the silent treatment all over again. It’s a “catch 22” for most when dealing with a narcissistic personality.
  • The victims behaviour can change so dramatically he/she is hardly recognized as being the same person. Every time the silent treatment begins the victim is pulled further and further down and the abuser sits back and carries on with daily chores, blatantly ignoring the victim whom is obviously so distressed that no normal thinking individual person could or would sit back and watch such a shocking display of suffering. The victim may withdraw completely, stop talking i.e. friends, stop socializing, stop eating, start drinking, stop working, start text terrorism against the abuser as a defence mechanism of protection but it never works, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and that’s just a few of the side effects of a victim suffering from mental abuse.
  • The “silent treatment” otherwise named as “deliberate intent to ignore” or “ATCH” which means ‘absent to cause harm’ which is where an abuser completely cuts the victim off and the abuser will not budge. They often acknowledge in their own minds that the victim is suffering but do nothing about it, walk away and simply ignore it.

(The latter is a very dangerous form of mental abuse.!)

  • I have often heard stories of men/woman ignoring their partner, even after causing such distress that he/she has taken to self-harm or attempts to take his/her own life. The mental abuse has weakened him/her once strong mind into a nerve wrecking display of self-doubt and depression. The abuser will hear his/her calls of desperation and he/she will empty himself/herself of all emotions and walk away. He/she will show no emotions as he/she tries to take her own life. He/she will convince themselves that they deserve it for hurting his/her feelings by trying to fight back.
  • It’s not often friends get to witness the mental abuse of the systematic silent treatment or mind games from a partner because it is silent. In some cases, friends will witness erratic behaviour of the victim but can’t quite understand what’s going on because the victim will blame everything but his/her abusive


partner. It is rare anyone on the outside of the relationship sees the suffering of the victim as the abuse often like most forms of abuse stays “within the immediate relationship”. The male/female abusers’ friends will only see their charming friend who they all love because he/she will do anything for them but seldom do his/her friends or family witness what he/she is doing to his partner. They will only see the abusers’ partners displays of distress especially when triggered in a public place or social gathering.

  • The “silent treatment, ignoring or “ATCH” abuser is fully aware of their actions and fully aware they are causing a significant amount of harm to the victim in most cases but there are those who do believe they are the victim. The victim may at times have the odd outburst in front of others or in a public place. The abuser will then inform his/her family of every little thing his victim/partner does as he seeks refuge in their company and portrays himself as the victim in need of support, because he has a totally “maniac” partner who’s lost the plot. He/she is then seen as the wonderful soul who is good enough to tolerate such a manic person in a relationship.

This form of mental abuse is used by both the man and woman. Men especially suffer more as they feel they have to remain silent because they do not want to be seen as emasculated. 

  • Eventually once the victim has been totally broken down by the mental abuser, he/she will give up fighting back, beg for forgiveness and beg the abusive partner to forgive him/her. He/she may well go to the extremes to try and make it up to him/her because he/she has been slowly drawn in and is now under his/her mind control.
  • The man/woman will continue to use this method of mind control and ignore, use the silent treatment or ““ATCH”” tactics until his/her partner has been totally exhausted, feels totally helpless and it opens him/her up to being controlled just so he can get what he/she wants.

Sadly, this form of abuse has seen the deaths of men and woman who self-harm or taken their lives when their cries for help are ignored by the abuser. It can be a consequence of the action.

  • Self-harm – deliberate cutting or mutilation of one’s own body including ripping hair out, stop eating, stop going out, withdraw from society, cut off hair, stay in bed, over eat or attempt suicide.

The reason I am touching on this subject is because I have seen a number of men/women email me on Facebook and through my website, who are going through this right now with their partners or they have just left such an abusive relationship and sit in silence blaming themselves.

I also want to touch on this subject because I am a survivor of domestic abuse, and I myself have gone through the mental abuse process and contrary to what people believe, it is not easy to leave such a controlling relationship.

Regardless of the circumstances, mental abuse and the negative power of the “silent treatment, being deliberately ignored or the “ATCH” abuse is never the less very damaging for those on the receiving end and needs to be addressed by either the abuser entering therapy or for the victim to leave the situation.

If the abuser recognizes the signs they have to seek help from a professional.

The victim must seek professional help to get out of such an abusive relationship before he/she is so worn down it will diminish his/her life slowly but surely.



Nelie Olivier

For more assistance, please do not hesitate to contact I am Not a Mistake Foundation


*ATCH         :        “deliberate intent to ignore”

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