Emotional abuse can be incredibly difficult to recognize and even harder to deal with, since its impact can be both physical and mental. While emotional abuse does not leave physical scars, it takes away feelings of worthiness, self-confidence, and security from the victim, leaving them feeling powerless and helpless. This type of manipulation is especially dangerous because it often remains under the radar.
In this blog post, I will discuss what emotional abuse is and its impact, the different types of emotional abuse that exist, and the signs that you need to look out for. I will also touch on the healing process after suffering from emotional abuse.
What is Emotional Abuse?
Many people have a hard time recognizing emotional abuse as it isn’t always blatant and obvious. It can also be easy to dismiss signs or convince yourself that what’s happening isn’t really abuse, but emotional abuse is real and should not be ignored.
So, what is emotional abuse? This type of abuse doesn’t leave physical scars but causes mental anguish, fear, and deep emotional pain for its victims. It involved taking away the feelings of worthiness, self-confidence, and security from a victim.
Types Of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse comes in many forms including:
Verbal attacks: yelling and name calling; belittling; mocking or shaming; criticism or put-downs; threats.
Isolation: preventing someone from seeing friends and family; preventing someone from working or going to school; trying to control who the person has contact with and where they go.
Controlling behaviour: restricting access to money; monitoring someone’s time; constantly checking up on them; constantly texting/calling/messaging when they are not together (which then leads to isolation).
Intimidation: making someone afraid by using threatening behavior such as destruction of property, abusing pets, excessive possessiveness.
Gaslighting: causing one to question their own thoughts, memories, or perceptions by leading them to believe something was their fault when it wasn’t or that something happened when it didn’t.
The goal of the abuser is to destroy your self esteem and make you feel powerless. That way you will be less likely to leave or stand up for yourself.
Signs Of Emotional Abuse To Look Out For
A key aspect of identifying emotional abuse is paying attention to verbal patterns in your interactions with someone such as small put-downs or subtle criticism which make you feel bad about yourself.
Other signs include giving you “the silent treatment” for long periods – withholding communication so you feel uncomfortable – this can lead to feelings of confusion because you don’t know what outcome you need to strive for as there’s no clear resolution available from the abuser.
They may also display extreme jealousy if you try and spend time with others outside of them, even though they might have refused any contact with you prior. Even if an abuser says they are “just joking” when they engage in abusive language – this shouldn’t ever be tolerated nor excused as each person deserves respect in all aspects of their relationship.
If you’re worried that you or someone you know is being emotionally abused, there are some signs to look out for:
- You are constantly on edge or feeling anxious.
- You lose interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
- You’re always apologising or making excuses for your partner’s behaviour.
- You find yourself walking on eggshells or tiptoeing around your partner.
- You’re constantly second-guessing yourself.
- It is difficult to make decisions.
- Your feel hopeless or helpless.
It’s important to point out that emotional abuse does not leave bruises or any external signs, so it can be easy to miss. Also keep in mind that many victims of emotional abuse end up believing that they deserve it or that it’s their own fault. If you’re worried about someone, reach out to them and let them know that you’re there for them.
The Cycle of Emotional Abuse
There is a common pattern that many victims of emotional abuse find themselves in. It’s often referred to as the “cycle of abuse.”
The cycle of abuse starts with the “honeymoon” phase, where everything is perfect, and the abuser seems like their dream partner.
This phase is followed by the “tension” phase, where small arguments or incidents begin to occur. The abuser may start to exhibit controlling behaviour or become more critical.
Then comes the “explosion” phase, where the abuser loses control and there is a major incident of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse.
This is often followed by the “honeymoon” phase again, where the abuser is sorry and promises to change. The victim believes them and forgives them, and the cycle starts all over again.
What is the impact of emotional abuse?
The impact of emotional abuse can be both mental and physical. Victims of this type of abuse often suffer from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and insomnia. They may also experience physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, and ulcers.
Mental Effects Of Emotional Abuse
The mental consequences of emotional abuse can be extreme. Victims subjected to this type of abuse may feel ashamed or guilty, believing that they somehow deserved or caused the mistreatment. This leads to them suffering from depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
Additional issues could include self-esteem problems due to the constant criticism which makes them doubt their own value as a person. In extreme cases they can also end up struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or even complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) due to long-term exposure or build-up of trauma.
In some cases the victim may also develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia if they struggle with body image issues due to bullying; and thoughts/attempts at suicide due to hopelessness/despair brought on by their situation.
Physical Effects Of Emotional Abuse
Some common physical signs of emotional abuse may include nausea, headaches, chest pain or heart palpitations. In addition the victim might suffer from chronic fatigue due to interrupted sleep patterns from being overly alert/worried about what will happen next. It is also possible that they will struggle with gastrointestinal problems such as reflux, which is linked to prolonged stress, along with colds/infections that refuse to go away brought on by suppressed immune system functioning due to high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
What should you do when you recognize the signs of emotional abuse?
It is important for those affected by emotional abuse to recognize that it is never too late to seek help. Getting out of any form of unhealthy relationship is crucial for healing.
Firstly, acknowledge your own strength in recognizing the situation. Gather your courage and take steps to set yourself free from the darkness that emotional abuse brings with it.
Secondly seek out professional help from counsellors who specialize in family violence or domestic violence. Depending on how severe your particular situation is the practitioner can provide an action plan which will ensure safety – some concrete advice could include creating a safety plan in case of an emergency (such as packing an escape bag) plus attending support groups for people who have suffered similar experiences or seeking legal assistance if applicable depending on your country/region’ laws regarding domestic violence/abuse.
Lastly remember that healing takes time – create supportive environments via friends and family members whom you trust plus use healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise, yoga or meditation which promote both relaxation and self-care practices during tough times ahead while moving forward towards eventual recovery after leaving an emotionally abusive partner.
If you are currently suffering in an emotionally abusive relationship, then reach out for support ASAP. Talk openly with friends and family. Scout out counselling services that specialize in domestic violence. Check out online resources or join therapy groups where many people have gone through similar experiences.
There’s no need to suffer alone so don’t hesitate nor wait any longer than necessary before making a change. Each individual deserves respect and should never accept anything less in their relationships.
The healing process can be long and difficult, but it IS possible to heal after suffering from emotional abuse. With the right support, you can begin to rebuild your life and create a healthy, happy future.