Let’s start with explaining the word abuse. It can be defined as exploiting one’s goodwill. Within this context, we can say that it’s basically using one’s emotional state against them in a way that would serve the abuser’s purpose. It can be done by a family member, a partner or spouse, a friend, a boss or colleague.
What are the types of emotional abuse?
20 examples to emotional abuse:
1. Criticizing someone all the time counts as emotional abuse. This criticism can be about your weight, your choice of clothing, your way of speech etc. It can eventually lead you to believe that you’ll never be good enough to the person in front of you. Especially if the criticism is coming from a parent, the child can grow up feeling extremely worthless.
2. The abuser can put a lot of pressure on you. In bilateral relations, this situation arises through jealousy. But the abuser is likely to deny the fact they’re jealous. They can try normalize their jealous behavior by claiming that they simply love you too much. Some of them may accept that they’re jealous but they refuse to acknowledge that this is a problem. They can try to justify their behavior by saying things like “anyone who loves gets jealous every once in a while, otherwise they simply don’t love you”. Sometimes we see certain murder cases being called a “crime of passion”. We should avoid putting feelings like jealousy and possessive behavior in the same pot as love and passion.
3. The abusers can refuse taking responsibility for their actions and they can claim that even the most possessive behaviors of theirs are actually “for our sake” because “they want the best for us”. This sly type of emotional abuse does not only apply to romantic relationship but also parent-child relationships. The possessive family members can try to justify their controlling behavior by saying such things.
4. They can try to find out where you are whenever you go outside and text you frequently. It can get so overwhelming that you can get nervous even when you’re about to go out to do groceries without them. Young couples can take this frequent texts and calls as their partner being too attentive. But constantly being asked questions about where you are, how you are and who you’re with counts as emotional abuse. Abusers don’t really care about the possibility of you being busy. Therefore, they always expect you to answer instantly.
5. They can go through your web history, your e-mails, your phone, your computer, your personal folders and other belongings. If you notice this and confront them about it, they can accuse you of hiding something. Even if you were someone who used to be quite open and genuine, you can start getting nervous about leaving your phone on the table while going to the bathroom.
6. They can ask for your social media and e-mail passwords. If you refuse to give them to them, they can feel like you have something to hide. In some cases, they can offer to give you their own passwords. Either way, that isn’t enough to let someone invade your privacy.
7. There can be double standards in emotional abuse. In other words, something that applies to you may not apply to them. For instance, while they’re allowed to go out with their friends whenever they feel like it, you are not. While they’re allowed to wear whatever they want to, they can judge you for your own choices.
8. The abuser can try to humiliate you all the time. They can talk about your embarrassing memories or expose your weaknesses in public. Sometimes they degrade you with their facial expressions alone. Like rolling their eyes or giving a conceited smile when you say something.
9. Making fun of or calling names count as emotional abuse. If you tell them that you’re annoyed by such things, they can say that ‘you have no sense of humor’ or ‘can’t stand humor’.
10. They can blame you for their own feelings. They can try to dump their unhappiness and the responsibility of their anxieties on you. Besides, they can completely ignore your own feelings, in fact, they can tell you how you should be feeling.
11. They can blame you for their own failures. Even if they’re obviously the guilty party, the can continue blaming you for things. For instance, let’s assume one of them cheats on the other. The cheater may blame the other for their mistake. They can accuse their partner of neglecting them.
12. They can expect you to agree with them all the time. In fact, you’re expected to read their minds. While a perfectly healthy person could acknowledge the fact different people cannot always be thinking of the same things, it can be quite difficult to understand for an emotional abuser. Eventually, you can find yourself constantly being afraid of saying something you shouldn’t have said.
13. They can threaten to leave. They make you feel like each fight might be the last fight.
14. They can love you conditionally. They can appreciate you only when you do something they wanted you to, and reject you when you don’t. A conditional love is no real love!
15. They can expect the impossible. They can expect you to be perfect and flawless in every way, to look beautiful/handsome at all time or to be polite and calm no matter what. Perfectionism within this context counts as emotional abuse.
16. They can decide on things on your behalf. For example, they can cancel your appointment without asking you, engage in a conversation with your boss about your work or throw away something of yours without your knowledge and consent. All these show that they don’t respect your boundaries and that they feel like you’re a mere extension of theirs.
17. They can scold you like a child.
18. They can constantly accuse you of being too sentimental and fragile.
19. They can frighten you with other people’s possible opinions. They can make you feel desperate by saying things like “everyone knows what kind of a person you are, no one would believe your word over mine.”
20. They can directly threaten you. They can try to frighten and intimidate you. They can yell or swear at you.
What isn’t emotional abuse then?
First of all, not every conflict you have with someone is abuse. Not every single fight, argument or break up count as abuse. It isn’t abusive to react negatively or to stand up for yourself when you’re hurt or mistreated.
Emotional abuse has the desire to control someone, to use their fear, love or shame against them.
Although in most cases the abuser knows exactly what they’re doing and why; sometimes they act purely on instinct. Perhaps they’re trying to rationalize the abuse in their own mind. But whether the abuser is doing it deliberately or not, it’s abuse nonetheless.
Why is emotional abuse so dangerous?
Emotional abuse damages one’s confidence and self-respect. Long-term emotional abuse can lead to depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and many other psychological problems. Apart from those, it can cause many physical symptoms such as stomach ulcer, insomnia, erratic heart palpitations, anorexia or obesity.
Besides, emotional abuse is something hard to comprehend. Physical and sexual abuse leave marks. No matter how hard their ordeal was, people who went through physical or sexual abuse tend to resist less when it comes to healing. But emotional abuse is less visible by nature. People who suffer from it can remain oblivious to it for years. Therefore, an emotional abuse victim can easily deny their ordeal. They can find it harder to describe and talk about what they’ve been through. In fact, sometimes they can develop certain feelings for the abuser (Stockholm Syndrome). All these reasons can make the victim feel trapped and make it hard for them to leave even if that is what they want to do.
Some people may accept the fact what’s been done to them wasn’t normal, but they can still find it hard to call it abuse. They can try to minimize the situation. They can tell themselves that “such things can happen in every relationship” or “it wasn’t that bad”. Truth be told, nobody would like to imagine themselves in an abusive relationship.
Also, most of the time physical and sexual abuse follow emotional and psychological abuse. Therefore, emotional abuse can leave one more vulnerable against other types of abuse.
Just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean emotional abuse isn’t real, destructive or painful. Just because others can’t see your scars doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
In order to avoid emotional abuse:
- If you think you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship,
- If you’ve started to feel like this relationship is harming you,
- If you feel unhappy in your relationship,
- If you’re afraid to leave them because you don’t want the other to get angry at you while often wishing something unacceptable would happen (being cheated on etc.) so that you could have a valid excuse to leave,
- If you’re afraid of them leaving you while deep down wishing the relationship could just end, please don’t ignore these thoughts and feelings.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help from a psychologist, a lawyer or a reliable friend.
Don’t forget that what you’ve been through was quite traumatic and therefore you need some time to heal.
And lastly, don’t forget that you’re not alone. If you ever feel like nobody around you would understand or care about what you’ve been through, remember the author of this article. Because I understand and care about you. I know how difficult, how confusing and draining a long-term emotional abuse can be. I also know that you possess the power to stand up to it, to stop tolerating evil for your own sake.
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You can also find the articles on https://medium.com/@narsistsiz:
Health Line. “How to Recognize the Signs of Mental and Emotional Abuse”. Access 2 July, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/signs-of-mental-abuse.
Very Well Mind. “How to Identify and Cope With Emotional Abuse”. Access 2 September, 2018. https://www.verywellmind.com/identify-and-cope-with-emotional-abuse-4156673.
You can also check out my other articles on forms of abuse: