Burstyn, who has written a memoir, "Lessons in Becoming Myself," told Oprah Winfrey on Thursday's show that her mother was violent and her husband stalked her for a decade before his death in the 1970s.
"It's so humiliating to put all this stuff out there," the 73-year-old actress said. "Finally, you have to say, `It's all right. I can be powerful and be a woman and be loved all at once."'
Burstyn won an Oscar for 1974's "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." She has received Oscar nominations for "Requiem for a Dream," "Resurrection," "Same Time, Next Year," "The Exorcist" and "The Last Picture Show."
When she was young, Burstyn said, she learned to use her sexuality as a means for survival.
"When I was 18 or 19, I wasn't earning very much money, so I ate when I had a date," she said on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." "But that was all the food I got. So I felt the least I could was say `thank you."'
It took nearly 25 years of study, therapy and meditation to feel ready for an emotionally healthy relationship, she said.
"This is quite a book," Winfrey said. "It's easily one of the most candid and most thought-provoking memoirs."