Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse involves attempts to frighten, control, or isolate you. This type of abuse doesn’t include physical violence, though it might involve threats of violence directed toward you or your loved ones. It’s characterized by a person’s words, actions, and the consistency of these behaviors. Abuse may start gradually, but it happens again and again.

People of any age or gender can abuse or experience abuse. And abuse doesn’t just happen in the context of romantic relationships. The person abusing you could be your spouse or romantic partner — but they might also be your business partner, parent, caretaker, or even your adult child.

Recognizing the signs of emotional abuse.

There are several signs of emotional abuse to look out for. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, some signs of emotional abuse within a relationship include:

  • using weapons as a means of threatening

  • withholding affection as a punishment

  • calling someone names, insulting them, and continually criticizing them

  • trapping a partner at home or preventing them from leaving

  • threatening to hurt children, pets, or other members of a partner’s family

  • demanding to know where a partner is at every minute

  • refusing trust, such as by acting jealously or possessively

  • trying to isolate a partner from their family or friends

  • destroying a partner’s property

  • gaslighting

  • monitoring where a partner goes, whom they call, and whom they spend time with

  • humiliating a partner

  • making accusations of cheating

  • being jealous of outside relationships

  • serially cheating on a partner and then blaming them for the behavior

  • attempting to control a partner’s appearance

  • cheating to “prove” that they are more desirable than a partner

  • telling a partner that they are lucky to be with them

  • telling a partner that they will not find anyone better

Recognizing the impact of emotional abuse is essential for intervention, counseling, and creating a safe environment for emotional healing.

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