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Subtle Forms of Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Updated on April 18, 2020
NateB11 profile image

I have been working in the Human Services field since 1996, primarily working with people with developmental disabilities.

"The abuser tries to get under your skin, using various sneaky psychological tactics."

There are many types of violence and abuse, and not just physical. Many times, these take subtle forms, forms difficult to detect and so create even more torture. Sometimes you discover them accidentally. But one thing is certain: You can feel them when they are happening to you whether you are able to pin-point exactly what is happening. The abuser tries to get under your skin, using various sneaky psychological tactics. Here we are going to expose the surreptitious abuser to learn how to better understand her tactics and so defeat her by exposing her.

The Competitor

This person is constantly comparing or setting up a situation in which comparison occurs. They treat others better than you, listen more attentively to others; the idea is to show how you have less value and others have more value. They create separation, alienation, ill-will, and degradation.

The Vampire will drain you of your resources and leave when you're used up.
The Vampire will drain you of your resources and leave when you're used up. | Source

The Vampire

They leave you little space to move, dominate your time and energy, are demanding; and they give nothing back in compensation, except more demands. This is otherwise known as exploitation. They are simply making use of you and willing to discard you as soon as you've served your purpose and are completely drained.

Have you been a victim of subtle abuse?

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The Magician

The idea here is to make it look like you're doing something you're not. This is a form of Gaslighting. They set up the precedent and also set up your failure to meet it. The idea is to make you and others think there's something wrong with you.

Some abusers are illusionists, making it look like you are or are doing something you're not.
Some abusers are illusionists, making it look like you are or are doing something you're not. | Source

The Criticizer

You are always wrong. They tear you down, make you think you can't say or do anything right, simply by consistently telling you you're wrong or criticizing and questioning what you do or say.

BBC Reporter Confronts Abusive Internet Troll

The Antagonist

Everything you say is up for debate, can be questioned. But this is not a dialogue, it's meant to shut you down and degrade you. The Internet Troll is a classic example of this.

The effects of subtle abuse can have lasting damaging effects.
The effects of subtle abuse can have lasting damaging effects. | Source

The Degrader

What you do or say has no value or hurts them. They want to down-play everything that you've done or that has happened to you, belittle your own experience as if it's not true or has no worth.

The Frightener

They create fear, panic, even blow things out of proportion so that they have control and you lose control.

"The idea is to make you feel like you don't matter."

The Snob

You walk by them and say Hi and they ignore you and don't say a word. The idea is to make you feel non-existent, worthless. The idea is to make you feel like you don't matter.

The Gossiper

They try to control image, isolate you, spread lies about you, make people think you are something you're not or that you do things you really do not do. Simply another way to control.

The Mob Boss

It's group coercion. Follow along with the mob or be alienated, ostracized, or worse. You must fall in line with all the underlying assumptions and rules and policies of the group and maybe its leaders.

Group coercion is a common form of subtle psychological abuse, found in gangs, cults, and the workplace and schools.
Group coercion is a common form of subtle psychological abuse, found in gangs, cults, and the workplace and schools. | Source

As with all forms of abuse, the more aware you are of the abuse, the better off you are. If you can identify a problem, you can deal with it. Half the battle with subtle forms of abuse is in identifying the abuse; it is insidious and hidden. Once you are able to see it, you can tackle it; remove yourself from the abuser, call him out, counter her games with truth.

The purpose of this article is to broaden awareness of these kinds of abuse to better equip the victim in eradicating the abuse once and for all.

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