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Signs Of Emotional Abuse In Adults

Updated on October 14, 2013

Finding signs of emotional abuse in adults can be tricky, especially if they hide it well. There are a few signs that you can pick up automatically and finding them can be easy to spot. But what do you do when your good friend is not talking to you about current abuse they are going through or maybe a situation where they are being abused by a boyfriend, mother, or even their own father?

Emotional abuse signs

Let’s look into a few emotional abuse signs to find out what you are looking for. Check out the list below.

1. Humiliation, judging, and criticizing

Being made fun of is definitely emotional abuse, even if it is your older sister that is doing it to you or another family member. Being sarcastic or teasing you in front of other people is just a way of trying to degrade you. This can definitely cause emotional distress. Whenever you call them out, they may say that you are too sensitive. This is another way to humiliate you and you shouldn’t put up with it.

2. Domination, control, and shame

Having a boyfriend who controls you is a red flag and you should get out right away. If you need his permission to go out somewhere or even visit family members, it’s time you rethink the relationship. If you happen to live with him and he always makes you feel as if you are wrong even though you are right, this is called manipulation.

3. Dismissive, Condescending and Rude

If you are around someone who belittles all of your accomplishments that you’ve made, you should take a step back. They may even try to remind you of things that you have not done in life. For example, you landed a great job that pays very well but since they are jealous of you, they act very rude whenever you talk about your job.

4. Unreasonable demands and No apologies

Someone who can’t apologize to you is someone who doesn’t really care for you. They might ask you to do things that are out of your way. Whenever you do them, they still treat you horribly. Don’t subject yourself to this sort of treatment and try to remove yourself from the persons life.

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Symptoms of psychological abuse

There are many symptoms of psychological abuse that can last for many years. Some of these include:

  • A lowered self esteem. Not believing in yourself is one of these symptoms.

  • Withdrawal from other people around you. This could be friends, family or even a boyfriend/girlfriend.

  • Trouble establishing relationships. Now, you are so guarded that you want to stay away from individuals, in fear that they will hurt you again.

  • Fights or verbal arguments with family. The person abusing you may be effecting your family life, especially if they want that person to leave you alone.

  • The inability to let go of the past. We often forgive but we never forget, especially for those of us who have “mental” scars lurking.

Signs of emotional abuse in adults - Exploring emotional manipulation

Most emotional manipulation is usually from a spouse, boyfriend, or sibling. In one case, you could be a fourteen year old boy who gravels at your brothers feet and does whatever he says. The reason behind this is because everytime he wants you to do something and you don’t want to, he say’s that he will tell your parents about the time you stole $10 from your mother’s purse. Actually, you were only 9 when you did this and he still puts this over you. This is definitely considered manipulation. You should tell your parents what you did and this way he doesn’t have you “trapped” where he wants you.

The most common case of manipulation is within spousal abuse. Your wife might be threatening to leave with another man if you don’t do as she says. She wants you to stop going to football games, going out with the guys, and also asking for money. Basically, if you don’t give her anything she wants - she say’s the word “divorce” right away. This is also emotional manipulation.

What you should know about emotional neglect

Neglecting someone’s emotions is just as bad as ignoring them or giving them the silent treatment. It can really cause a person to feel unloved. This is one of the top signs of emotional abuse in adults. Acknowledging someone in a positive manner and treating them the way you want to be treated is very important. Those who have experienced emotional neglect are 20% more likely to commit suicide.


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      and... stupid as this may sound ... NEIGHBORS! I grew up under the tyrany of his kind of soul-crushing abuse, enacted a "no (further) contact" policy with my family, only to fall victim all over again to a psychotic neighbor and her enabling husband (and ex-employer city officials) who seem to not only believe her every crazed ranting, but also enjoy meting out punishment to me. I suffer verbal assaults and property attacks, slander, ongoing trespass and petty vandalism, unreasonable surveillance and excessive by-law enforcement (well beyond their actual jurisdiction) - for everyone who says, "just move!", .... believe me, it is far easier to "just leave" an intimate relationship! Besides, there are ZERO guarantees I won't run into this again in the next move!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      emotional abuse is a crime these these ppl tend to dominate more and criticism is drastically increased and yes even though its not visibly seen in persons but i do affects them deeply inside and which slowly leads inferiority nd makes then lonely and isolated and in many a places happens mostly in schools and colleges tat slowly start wid fun nd spreads day by day and finally the victim undergoes serious mental difficulties so it must be strictly avoided

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      while this article ideally is aimed toward intimate relationships, the context is the same for work life experiences. So much more emotional abuse occurs within the workplace dynamic. Which translates into ones home, family and health. Emotional abuse should not be tolerated in any environment.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      You really start to believe that you are the crazy person. And you add six children to the mix with a blended family and staying at home to be the stay at home mom he always wanted, and also two hurt individuals who had horrible pasts with abuse that both led to addictions and or alcoholism, matter of fact that is how we found each other and made the decision to slowly become the nightmare family we are today and both feel so stuck...... Its paralizing I walk around as a prisoner in my own home and tell my husband everyday what I NEED in order to go on with this just for the next day to come to be the same exact thing. And I am so afraid of the unknown and still hold on to hope. And I am sitting in a situation where my children have been affected from it all especially emotionally one my own biological child who was also hurt by my step son and I went on to love all my kids the same like a mother is supposed to do while I have to ask my husband almost everyday to give my daughter any attention whatsoever while I sit and try to figure out what I did or where I went wrong so that a miracle somehow falls into my lap so that my other two biological children that I have with this monster can still get the father that I see him be to my three step sons that I raised with the love of a mother they needed......yes is the answer to the question...... Yes I did continue to parent all six children the way you should even after two of my step sons similar to my daughters age hurt her in more than one way :(.

    • webdesignsbyapw profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Petaluma, CA

      That's very true, denise. It's sad to see someone who suffers in silence but hopefully they will get out of the relationship they are in or set the person straight.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Emotional abuse is definitely a larger problem than most people think. The signs are not readily visible, and those who suffer do so in silence. Primarily because they think that what they are suffering from is due to their own weaknesses and imperfections. Those who abuse others emotionally are very good at making the victim think that it is their fault that they are suffering.


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