Emotional Abuse, unlike physical abuse, can be complicated to identify. While physical abuse often comes with obvious signs, emotional abuse isn’t that obvious especially when you are the victim as you must be in some kind of relationship with the abuser. Emotional abuse can lead to serious mental health conditions such as low self-esteem and confidence and depression. This is why understanding how to recognize emotional abuse could help you overcome this negative behavior on your mental health.
Emotional Abuse is described as the use of emotions to criticize, embarrass, shame, and/or blame others as a way to manipulate and control them.
While emotional abuse is prevalent in married and dating relationships, it can also exist in common relationships amongst family members, friends, and co-workers. A relationship is said to be emotionally abusive when there is consistent emotional bullying and the use of abusive words which derail the victim’s self-esteem and mental health, in extension.
Hardly identified, emotional abuse is a form of domestic violence that goes undetected and should be given much more consideration as a form of abuse. It is degrading, humiliating, and terrifying and leads to a long-lasting feeling of helplessness and worthlessness completely messing with the victim’s mental health.
How to Recognize Emotional Abuse
As stated earlier that emotional abuse can happen in any kind of relationship, it can also happen across all ages, people of any age or gender can abuse or be abused. Nonetheless, it is not your fault and you do not deserve to experience it.
Some behaviors you experience every day can be normal in a relationship but when it happens consistently and with intensity, they can be tools for emotional abuse.
1. They Always Want to Control You
Emotional Abusers use abusive behaviors and sometimes shame in an attempt to control. When you have someone who is overly interested in your social life, trying to limit who you engage with, they want you to do what they want without regard for your desires, then you might just have an emotional abuser.
They mostly try to control you by making threats, monitoring your whereabouts, and depriving you of making your own choices either overtly or covertly.
2. They Isolate You
In their effort to manipulate their victims’ lives easily, emotional abusers often isolate their victims. Isolation keeps the victim dependent on the abuser and prevents them from getting support from their loved ones that could help them recognize emotional abuse. Emotional abusers may isolate you by limiting your access to people who would support you such as family and friends. Also, they often tell you that they are the only ones who care about or can put up with you.
Signs that someone is isolating you could be that they become angry when you contact a loved one, they restrict your social life and they insist on going everywhere with you.
3. They Yell At You
Yelling at someone might seem normal in certain situations but when it becomes often and with great intensity, it can be the early signs of an emotionally abusive relationship. Emotional abusers use yelling as a tactic to create or display an unequal power dynamic, where the person whose voice is essentially louder and more aggressive has more power and can instill fear in the other. The abusers use this fear to control their victims.
When your partner, parent, or boss often yells at you as a way to get you to do something they want, then there’s a great chance you are a victim of emotional abuse.
4. You Are Always In the Defensive
Another way to recognize emotional abuse is that the abusers always feel superior to their victims and try to show the victims that they can’t do anything without them. They seem to always want to find faults in any action or decision the victims make without them in the bid to keep their victims dependent on them, so they question everything the victims do.
As a result of this excessive questioning, you always feel the need to defend yourself and everything you do.
5. They Gaslight You
Another common tactic emotional abusers use is gaslighting. Emotional abusers deny that events their victims talk about have happened to make their victims doubt themselves, and their judgments and question their perception of reality. This helps the abuser maintain control because their word becomes more realistic than the victim’s own beliefs, memory, or experience.
An emotional abuser might use some of these phrases to gaslight you; “I never said that”, “You’re crazy for thinking that” and “You’re making a bid deal out of nothing”.
6. They Use Insulting Language at You
To attack your self-esteem and worth, self-confidence, and value as a person, emotional abusers use insults and name-calling to degrade you. They might say things to you like “I’m the only one that can love you”, “You’re too stupid to earn a degree” and “you’ll never get a job”.
When such phrases are repeatedly said to the victims they might start to believe them, and this can affect the victim’s mental health. This tactic wears down the victim’s self-esteem and value.
7. They Are Extreme Jealousy
In addition, extreme jealousy is another way to recognize an emotional abuse. While jealousy is common in relationships, it is important to know that they are positive and negative levels. When jealousy leads to intense anger or controlling behaviors, it can be a warning sign of emotional abuse.
Such extreme jealousy stems from the abuser not feeling like they have power or control over you and your decisions. Some controlling behaviors the abuser may use are; monitoring your calls, texts, or emails, constantly accusing you of cheating, excessively calling you when you are not together, and controlling your appearance, including what you wear.
What To Do When Someone Is Abusing You Emotionally
The most important step in dealing with emotional abuse is identifying and acknowledging the abuse. By being honest to yourself about what you are experiencing you can begin to take back control of your life. Below are practicable steps to reclaim control of your life.
1. Prioritize Yourself
Always put yourself first when it comes to your physical and mental health. Take care of yourself, and stop worrying about pleasing the person abusing you. Be sure to practice self-care by exercising, eating, and resting appropriately. It is also important that you realize you are not to blame for the decisions and behavior of the abuser.
2. Establish Boundaries
Establish achievable boundaries by firmly letting the abuser know that you can’t tolerate their yelling, name-calling, insults, and so on. Also, let them know the consequence if they should choose to re-engage in their abusive behaviors. For example, anytime they call you names, you’ll leave the conversation.
3. Understand You Can’t Fix Them
Remind yourself that the abuser decided to behave in an abusive way and you are not to blame for their decisions. Also, understand that you cannot control their actions but you can control your response.
4. Build a Support Network
Sharing your experience with someone can be difficult but it could also be if great help. Talk to friends and family or even a therapist about your relationship with the abuser. Stay away from the abuser for some time and spend some time with loved ones who will provide you with the support you need. This network of friends and family will help you feel less isolated and their truths can help you put things into perspective.
5. Develop an Exit Plan
If the abuser has no intention of changing or stopping their abusive behavior, know that you can’t stay in this unhealthy relationship forever. You may need to take steps to end the relationship.
Each situation is different, so discuss your exit plan with trusted friends, family, or a therapist. Also, understand that such abuse often escalates when the abused decides to leave the relationship, so make plans for a safety net. You’ll need help from trusted friends, family, and a therapist to heal from the abuse you’ve experienced.
Emotional abuse may not leave scars and scratches but it can be as harmful as physical abuse or even more. How to recognize emotional abuse is important in understanding and addressing emotional abuse. Signs such as gaslighting, yelling, isolation, and others explained above, can be experienced in relationships with partners, family members, or coworkers.
Emotional abuse can be self-consuming, leading to a range of mental health issues. Reaching out to a mental health professional can be lifesaving.
What are the effects of emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse directly affects the mental well-being of the victims. The criticism, verbal abuse, gaslighting, and name-calling degrades the victim’s self-esteem, and self-confidence and amplifies self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness and helplessness.
Emotional abuse also leads to health problems like depression and anxiety, stomach ulcers, eating disorders, rapid and irregular heartbeat, and insomnia.
How do I deal with emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse unlike physical abuse is difficult to identify, but when you do, here are some tips to address it; make yourself and how you feel a priority, stop blaming yourself, establish boundaries, work on an exit plan and reach out for support.
Why is emotional abuse difficult to identify?
Most victims of emotional abuse do not know they are being abused because they believe that everything they experience is common in a relationship. They believe everything the abuser says to them as such agreeing that they are being abused is extremely difficult and most times takes the help of a friend or family to recognize the abuse.
When is the right time to leave an abusive relationship?
Once you’ve been able to realize that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, imagine the kind of relationship you want and compare them with the abusive one. Knowing what you want in a relationship will help you decide when to leave.
How do I help someone in an emotionally abusive relationship?
If you suspect a loved one or friend is in an emotionally abusive relationship, try to be supportive without judging or blaming them for staying. Educate yourself about emotional abuse about what they are going through, you can gently push them towards available resources or professionals that can help, and lastly, know that the decision to leave the relationship isn’t yours.