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Recognizing Emotional Abuse

Updated on October 21, 2012

What is emotional abuse?

Abuse is all about control ~ an imbalance of power that leads one person to dominate another. None of us say to ourselves, “I am going to willingly enter into an abusive relationship” ~ at least I hope not. However, many of us have found ourselves fully engaged and entrapped in such a relationship.

Not all forms of abuse are physical. People can experience emotional or psychological abuse. Emotional abuse is control that is enacted without overt or direct violence. It can come in many forms ~ from aggressive emotional attacks to subtle manipulation.

Whether or not we may realize it, emotional abuse is a type of violence onto another person. Emotional abuse is designed to control and beat you down emotionally so that you are weak and unable or less willing to stick up for yourself. In such a relationship, you might find yourself “walking on eggshells” to avoid attracting the other person’s attention and causing a negative reaction.

Aggressive types of emotional abuse . . .

  • yelling and snapping at you with no warning, berating you, verbal attacks that leave you in tears
  • being overly critical and putting you down, especially in front of others ~ putting down your ideas, thoughts and dreams
  • false accusations, accusing you of wrongdoing and offenses, finding fault
  • stalking and following you to see if you are doing what you said you were doing, showing up at your work or house or when you are out with others
  • threatening to hurt those you care about, threatening violence to you
  • enacting violence against your pets or destroying your possessions, committing violent acts in your presence
  • relentless teasing, making fun of you and everything you care about

These acts are all committed in a loud and overt way, often in front of other people.

Subtle acts that may not be obvious to outsiders . . .

  • excessive texting, calling and checking up under the pretense of being "worried" about you
  • isolating you from family and friends, saying that they want you all to themselves, making you cancel plans with others out of guilt
  • withholding affection, being cold and distant
  • silent treatment, getting mad and refusing to speak for long periods of time as "punishment" for a perceived wrongdoing
  • telling you how to dress and what to think and what to do
  • minimizing your concerns, opinions, and thoughts ~ dismissing your feelings as if you have no right to them
  • neglect, ignoring you for long periods of time and failing to meet any of your needs in the relationship
  • controlling all the finances, making you turn over your paycheck to the "family account" and giving you an "allowance" that is insufficient, questioning your purchases and not checking with you on big item purchases
  • preventing you from doing what you want ~ working, spending money, going out

These subtle attacks are often committed under the guise of "protecting" you or looking out for your best interests as if you should be grateful for these gestures and not upset. As a result, the person will deny that they are trying to control and instead accuse you of being cruel or unappreciative or even dismiss you as "crazy."

In conclusion . . .

It is hard to leave an emotionally abusive relationship because the abuse has a way of tearing down your self-esteem, making you feel worthless so that you are more easily controlled. The scars are lasting as you have to take the time to restore yourself and find yourself again, making you weary of trusting others or in danger of repeating the emotionally abusive relationship pattern. Knowing the typical characteristics and behavioral patterns involved in emotionally abusive relationships can help you know when to get out and end the relationship. You can take this quiz find out some of the feelings of an emotionally abusive relationship. You don’t have to buy the book at the end of the quiz. This quiz is just an interesting walk through of some of the feelings associated with a psychologically abusive relationship.


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    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Thanks for your support ishwaryaa22.

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      A helpful & engaging hub! I could relate well to your hub as I experienced this quite often. This form of abuse could be extremely detrimental and affect the victims very much. Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Interesting. Voted up

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Unlike physical abuse- emotional abuse is harder to indicate mainly because people can put on a good show in public. But it still can do alot of damage to people in the long run by destroying their trust and self-esteem. This was a very informative and interesting read.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      @ Amy Becherer, being FREE is the best outcome. So, glad you are happy now.

      @ Minnetonka Twin, That is great about your sister that she now is able to help others after all she has been through. God Bless.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Your spot on in your article on abuse. My sister was with a abusive man for thirteen years. Her faith and courage, support of family, friends and a therapist who specialized in family violence, she was able to leave and have a full and beautiful life again. The scars will never be fully erased but it has made her stronger. She now goes out in the community and speaks on family violence and gives others in a abusive relationship hope. Thanks for writing this important article.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      It took many years of emotional abuse to create my self-doubt and second guessing, heightening my increasingly low self-esteem, guised under the pretense of care, before I was aware this was destroying me. The awareness gave me the courage to get out. The effects last forever. I prefer the mistrust I learned through several experiences to keep me safe as opposed to ever living with the fear inherent with being crushed and confused under someone elses thumb. I love living alone. I have friends, but prefer to keep them at a distance, as I abhor feeling I must be joined at the hip to anyone in order to fulfill their idea of normal. I put no demands on anyone and I expect the same. Life is good as long as I am free to maintain my boundaries. If I start feeling pressure, I walk. Damaged? Yes, but having been a prisoner to someone elses control issues, giving away my youth, has left me only feeling free on my own. So be it. It is all good since my independence and happiness are no longer the cost. I have taken myself back, I am not for sale and I am free!

    • The Invincible profile image

      Hitesh Bubbar 5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      It's the bearer's flaw to let go off emotional abuse by the doer. Reckon this Hub will help all those that suffer.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I agree teaches12345. I think someone just expect to be treated poorly and put up with it. It is very hard to break the patterns and demand something better for yourself.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      You have written well on this topic. People who suffer from abuse some times don't even know that they are being subject to unnatural treatment. It makes me sad to read through the bullet points. I hope that many find help through your advice.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Thanks for your support billybuc!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hopefully this hub will be read by those who need it. Abuse of any sort is unacceptable! Great message!