The Effects of the Silent Treatment

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The silent treatment, where one ignores or ostracizes another in a relationship, is more than just not talking. It is a form of abuse that can lead to severe emotional problems for those on the receiving end.


The silent treatment is damaging to emotional health. According to clinical psychologist Linda Roberts of the University of Wisconsin, it can be just as harmful as pure anger.


Feelings of ostracism from the silent treatment cause the brain's anterior cingulate cortex to detect pain. Sufferers report feelings of unworthiness, not belonging, loss of control and low self-esteem.


According to Kipling Williams, professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University, most people who are given the silent treatment nowadays don't have a support network of friends and family to turn to to deal with the pain.


The silent treatment affects perception, physiological conditions, behavior and attitudes, all of which can lead to aggression. According to a study at Macquarie University in Australia, ostracized people respond aggressively when they feel that they lack control in the situation.


Men and women deal differently with the silent treatment. Women work hard to win back the attention of abusers, while men do not.


People and animals use the silent treatment as a form of control. Families often use "time-outs" to teach children lessons. Certain animals, like lions and wolves, ostracize the weakest link to increase a group's chances of survival.