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Emotional Abuse – Meaning, Impact, Types and Telltale Signs – Complete Guide

janhavi kelasker

Table of Contents

What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse can be extremely elusive. You may not understand whether it is happening to you, and it may be a long time before you realise you are a victim. It simply means someone wants to have control over you. And is clearly against your wish. While physical abuse, involves physically hurting a person, emotional abuse hurts the person on an emotional level.

Impact of Emotional Abuse

Research shows that emotional abuse can be more damaging than actual physical abuse. It may cause a person to lose his/her self-esteem and self-worth, preventing the person from growing, leading to shaping a person’s belief about himself or herself, hamper the usual healthy way of growing.

The aim of an emotional abuser is to deprive you remove your feelings of self-worth and independence. In such a relationship, the victim may feel that there is nothing s/he can do and without that person, they can’t survive.

It’s normal for physical abusers to dish out emotional abuse as a way of maintaining power and control over you.

Role of Emotional Abuser

In many cases the perpetrator of emotional abuse doesn’t understand that s/he is being abusive. In fact, they may feel insecure whether their partner loves them or not, thus, they feel they are compelled to accuse him or her of cheating, blame him or her for their unhappiness, or perpetually find mistakes, etc. The accusations, the blame, and the constant checking acts as emotional abuse for their partner.

The person might imagine that they know what’s best for the other person and hence, they may try to manage every move of their partner. They may criticise the partner so much that the partner would be afraid to do anything without their approval.

Some might verbally attack their partner when the partner tries to raise his/her voice because this indicates to the abuser that the partner is not under the abuser’s control. Some emotional abusers may criticise their partner’s way of dressing, talking, walking, interactions with others, and more, in order to gain and maintain control over the other person.

Types of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse may involve –

  1. Verbal violence – yelling at you, insulting you or swearing at you.
  2. Rejection – pretend to not notice your presence or ignoring your verbal communication.
  3. Put-downs – calling you names or telling you that you’re stupid, publicly embarrassing you, blaming you for everything.
  4. Causing concern – making sure you feel afraid, intimidated or vulnerable.
  5. Isolation – limiting your freedom of movement, stopping you from contacting others (such as friends or family).
  6. Financial dependence – dominating or withholding your cash, preventing you from spending, stealing from you.
  7. Bullying – deliberately and repeatedly saying things or doing things that are hurtful to you.

Telltale Signs of Emotional Abuse

  1. Neglect:
    Neglect can prove worse than ignoring.
    Is your friend or partner giving you a cold shoulder, being unfriendly, delaying your work, rejecting you, stonewalling, or giving you the silent treatment?

    And all of this, without you even knowing why they are treating you this way?

    If yes, you are being emotionally abused.

  2. Domination or Control:
    Someone may be dominating or controlling your life. Here are the signs:
    • Has someone belittled you? Treated you like a child?
    • They may have tried controlling your spending too or acted as if they’re superior to you.
    • Does this person think you can’t successfully reach your goals because you’re small and stupid Everything you try to do has their control over it?
    • Have you been under someone’s control for so long that you can barely think for your own self now?
  3. Being Degraded:
    Ask yourself:
    • Are they Degrading you?
    • Putting you down in front of others?
    • Do they use sarcasm as a way to hurt your feelings?
    • When you react, they say you’re being too sensitive!
    • They make jokes on you.
    • Most of the times they negate how you’re feeling!
  4. Enmeshment or Codependency:
    • Do you feel you’re dependent on someone in an unhealthy manner?
    • Is someone treating you like you’re like a part of them and not as an individual in your own right?
    • Has this person ever considered your needs? Or what you wish for?
    • Are you allowed to act as you wish to act upon life?
  5. Accusing and Blaming:
    • Do you know of someone who struggles to laugh at themselves?
    • They never apologise and you think they’d never apologise even after someone demands their apology!
    • Do they blame everything on someone else if something wrong is happening?
    • They think they don’t have any shortcomings. But they sure will highlight your shortcomings and make you apologise when if in your perception you weren’t wrong.
    • Does this person think whatever they do is the best? And if anyone questions, criticises or puts them down, they freak out and lose it.

If you or a loved one is a victim of emotional abuse, it is important to recognise it and seek professional help from a therapist.

If you are a mental health professional and want to build your skills so that you can help victims of emotional abuse, check out this unique course that seamlessly integrates different approaches to psychotherapy (cognitive, behavioural, psycho-dynamics and Humanistic) with techniques from Hypnosis, NLP, Mindfulness and Metaphor Therapy TODAY!