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The National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Child Abuse Hotline
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Emotional Abuse is a form of abuse where the perpetrator uses fear, humiliation or verbal assault to undermine the self-esteem of their victim.
Many people think that if they're not being physically abused, they’re not being abused. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Emotional abuse is extremely difficult to identify because it is often subtle. Emotional abuse leaves no physical "marks."
Emotional abuse often accompanies other forms of abuse, but it can happen on its own as well. No abuse - neglect, physical, sexual or financial - happens without psychological consequences, therefore all abuse contains elements of emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse doesn’t just "go away." Emotional abuse gets worse over time as it erodes a person's self-esteem, confidence, and trust in their own judgment. It is similar to brainwashing - it can cause a victim to question reality and their own sanity, which leaves them at the mercy of relying on the very person who is abusing them.
Like other forms of abuse, emotional abusers strive to overpower the other person - the one with all the power has all of the control.
Emotional abuse is every bit as damaging as physical abuse.
How Does Emotional Abuse Happen?
Very few people willingly enter into an abusive relationship, but many of us who were emotionally abused as children find ourselves in emotionally abusive relationships as adults. We did not learn how to develop our own standards, viewpoints, or validate our own feelings as children, so as adults, the controlling/defining stance of an emotional abuser is familiar.
The first step in recovery from emotional abuse is to evaluate and understand your relationship patterns (especially family relationships).
Knowing where you came from and why you're like this can help prevent future abuse.
Signs You’re In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship
- You often feel afraid of your partner.
- You avoid certain topics for fear of angering your partner.
- You feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner.
- You believe you deserve to be mistreated.
- You wonder if you’re crazy.
- You feel emotionally numb or helpless.
- Your partner yells at you or humiliates you.
- Your partner criticizes you and puts you down.
- Your partner treats you so badly that you’re embarrassed that your friends or family might see it.
- Your partner ignores or mocks your opinions or accomplishments.
- Your partner blames you for his or her own abusive behavior.
- Your partner sees you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person.
- Your partner is jealous and possessive.
- Your partner controls where you go or what you do.
- Your partner keeps you from seeing your friends or family.
- Your partner limits your access to money, the phone, or the car.
- Your partner constantly checks up on you.
Signs You Are Emotionally Abusive
Although not an exhaustive list, here are some signs that YOU may be emotionally abusive:
- You feel your partner pushes your buttons.
- Your partner puts you in a bad mood.
- There are times you don't want to speak to or be around your partner.
- You feel you have to criticize your partner for not being more efficient or more reliable or a better person.
- You treat your partner in ways you couldn't have imagined when you first started loving her.
- You sometimes make your partner feel like a failure as a provider, partner, parent, or lover.
- You automatically blame your partner when things go wrong.
- You resort to name-calling, swearing at your partner or putting him down.
- You threaten to take his children away.
- Your family and friends would be surprised to know how you treat your partner behind closed doors.
From Psychology Today
Children are sensitive to what is going on around them and to the environment in which they live. Emotionally abusive actions towards children may include:
- Ignoring your child when he or she is in need.
- Not calling your child by his or her name.
- Making your child feel unwanted.
- Comparing your child to siblings or peers.
- Isolating your child from family and friends.
Types of Emotional Abuse
Abusive Expectations - Makes impossible demands, requires constant attention, and constantly criticizes.
Aggressing - Name calling, accusing, blames, threatens or gives orders, and often disguised as a judgmental "I know best" or "helping" attitude.
Constant Chaos - Deliberately starts arguments with you or others. May treat you well in front of others, but changes when you're alone.
Rejecting - Refusing to acknowledge a person's value, worth or presence. Communicating that he or she is useless or inferior or devaluing his or her thoughts and feelings.
Denying - Denies personal needs (especially when need is greatest) with the intent of causing hurt or as punishment. Uses silent treatment as punishment. Denies certain events happened or things that were said. Denies your perceptions, memory and sanity by disallowing any viewpoints other than their own which causes self-doubt, confusion, and loss of self-esteem.
Degrading - Any behavior that diminishes the identity, worth or dignity of the person such as: name-calling, mocking, teasing, insulting, ridiculing,
Emotional Blackmail - Uses guilt, compassion, or fear to get what he or she wants.
Terrorizing - Inducing intense fear or terror in a person, by threats or coercion.
Invalidation - Attempts to distort your perception of the world by refusing to acknowledge your personal reality. Says that your emotions and perceptions aren't real and shouldn't be trusted.
Isolating - Reducing or restricting freedom and normal contact with others.
Corrupting - Convincing a person to accept and engage in illegal activities.
Exploiting - Using a person for advantage or profit.
Minimizing - A less extreme form of denial that trivializes something you've expressed as unimportant or inconsequential.
Unpredictable Responses - Gets angry and upset in a situation that would normally not warrant a response. You walk around on eggshells to avoid any unnecessary drama over innocent comments you make. Drastic mood swings and outbursts.
Gaslighting -A form of psychological abuse involving the manipulation of situations or events that cause a person to be confused or to doubt his perceptions and memories. Gaslighting causes victims to constantly second-guess themselves and wonder if they're losing their minds.
What Do I Do If I'm Being Emotionally Abused?
Leaving an abusive relationship is difficult and can be dangerous. If you do not have friends or family that can help you, please contact a local women’s shelter or other organization that can help you safely leave the abusive relationship. You can visit the State Coalition page to find local resources.
If your safety has been threatened, don't hesitate to contact the local authorities.
Educate yourself about emotionally abusive relationships.
Remember that you're not alone. The abuse is not your fault. No one deserves to be abused. Help is out there.
How Can I Help Someone In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?
If safety is ever a concern, don't hesitate to find outside help. Here's the State Coalition page for a state-by-state list of resources.
Educate yourself about emotionally abusive relationships.
Be gentle when you talk to the victim in an emotionally abusive relationship. Criticism of the abuser and his or her behavior may cause the victim to withdraw from you. Offer to lend an ear if they'd like it.
Help the person disconnect from their abuser so that they can see the situation in a more balanced light. You may be able to help provide the distance and clarity needed for the victim of emotional abuse to see the patterns of abuse.
Suggest continued therapy to overcome the abuse and work through their issues.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (2-24453)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE (4673)
State Coalition List - Directory of state offices that can help you find local support, shelter, and free or low-cost legal services. Includes all U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
Domestic Violence Coalition: State-by-State directory of the Domestic Violence Coalitions.
Domestic Violence Shelters: State-by-State Directory of Domestic Violence Shelters.
RAINN: The nation’s largest anti-sexual assault network.