What is Emotional Abuse?

Thoughtful and sad little girl


Recognizing and Dealing with Emotional Abuse

While physical abuse is easy to identify, emotional abuse can be so subtle that sometimes neither the abuser nor the victim realizes that it is happening. Emotional abuse occurs when one person tries to control or dominate another by creating a regular pattern of verbal assaults, threats, humiliation, intimidation or manipulation. Being in an emotionally abusive relationship can have devastating effects on your confidence, self-esteem and emotional well-being. Recognizing the signs of emotional abuse can help you take the first step towards stopping it and beginning the healing process.

Intimidation and Threats

Does your partner regularly fly off the handle about the smallest things? Does he often scream at you hysterically, threaten you or say things that make you feel scared of him? If you feel like you have to constantly walk on eggshells because you are worried that any little thing will send your partner into a rampage, then you are likely experiencing emotional abuse.

Insults and Humiliation

Does your partner often call you names, insult you or make comments about you that are humiliating or hurtful? An emotionally abusive partner uses words to undermine his victim’s confidence and self-esteem. If he regularly teases you in ways that make you feel bad about yourself and then accuses you of being too sensitive if you complain, that is a sign of emotional abuse.

Financial and Social Control

Emotional abusers typically use financial and social avenues to control their victims. Does your partner withhold money from you or try to prevent you from feeling financially independent? Does she isolate you from friends and family by preventing you from going places or seeing certain people? If your partner does not let you make any financial decisions on your own or tries to stop you from doing certain things or spending time with specific people, then she may be emotionally abusing you.

Effect of Emotional Abuse on Kids

Kids who witness or experience emotional abuse also suffer. Whether direct or indirect, exposure to emotional abuse may cause a child to exhibit symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger or low self-esteem.

Stopping Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse gives the abuser effective control over his victim because it leaves her feeling weak and vulnerable, which makes it harder for her to stand up for herself. If you are being emotionally abused, reclaim your power by behaving assertively and stating reasonable expectations. For instance, you can calmly but firmly ask your abuser to refrain from insulting you and to treat you with the dignity and respect that you deserve. If the emotional abuse continues despite your attempts to be more assertive, seek the help of a professional therapist who can help you navigate repairing or exiting the relationship with your abuser.