Signs Of Emotional Abuse And How To Help


Emotional and mental abuse are serious issues that can be noticed by some signs, whereas other forms of abuse can be more challenging to see or understand. From the outside looking in, they can be obvious, but to a person that is in the situation may miss or be unaware of the abuse. Let’s break down what emotional and mental abuse is. Emotional and psychological abuse is when a person controls, isolates, or scares someone else to control the relationship/situation. The form of abuse can be in statements, threats, or actions that are a pattern or regularity to the behavior. Learning these signs can help people identify if they are in an abusive situation/relationship and seek out the help that they may need. Some people may feel like they can deal with the abuse or try to justify it by saying that it is “not as bad” as physical abuse. Still, emotional abuse has its long term effects on mental abuse and could be a sign that physical abuse will follow.

Where can it happen
Abusive people usually abuse those who are close to them. For example, a partner, a business partner or close team member, a parent, a caretaker, or even a close friend they rely on. The National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse states that emotional and mental abuse can be subtle. The victim may not even notice that they are being manipulated. Emotional abuse can be in many different forms, depending on what the abusive person is attempting to do. 

Controlling behavior can be a red flag in any relationship and can include:

  • Making demands or orders and expecting them to be done
  • Making all decisions, even canceling another’s plans without asking
  • Continually monitoring another person’s whereabouts
  • Insisting on regular calls, text, or pictures detailing where the person is, and even showing up to those places to make sure they are not lying
  • Requiring immediate responses from calls or texts
  • Exerting financial control over the other person, such as keeping all accounts in their name or only giving the other person a allowance
  • Spying by going through the other person’s phone, checking their internet search history, or looking through their messages with others
  • Having a rule in place demanding the person’s passwords for access to their social medias, phone, and email at any time
  • Treating the other person like a child by telling them what to eat, what to wear, or where they can go
  • Yelling, frequently using it as a scare tactic and can be a way for an abusive person to let the other person who is in control
  • Using the other persons fears and manipulate their fears to control them
  • Withholding affection as a punishment. Abusers may withhold affection or make the other person feel they are undeserving of love
  • Giving excessive gifts with the implication that the gifts may disappear at any time or to remind the victim of what they could lose if they leave the relationship

Abusive people might try to make the other person feel shame for their shortcomings or feel like they are much worse for the shortcomings. There are multiple forms this may show including:

  • Lectures: The abusive person may give lectures about the other person’s behavior in such a way that it makes them feel inferior.
  • Outbursts: This involves aspects of control as well. Not doing what the abusive person wants can result in an outburst of angry behavior from them in order to both take control and make the other person feel shame for “not listening”.
  • Lies: Abusive people may blatantly lie, giving them false opinions from their friends about their “bad” behavior.
  • Walkouts: Abusive people may leave a situation rather than resolve it in the middle of a disagreement at home. For example, making remarks on how the other person is “crazy” and put all the blame on the other person to make them feel ashamed.
  • Trivializing: If the other person wishes to talk about their issues, the abusive person may criticize them for even having issues or telling them that they are making a big deal for no reason.

Blame usually stems from the abusive person’s sense of insecurity by blaming others, and they do not have to recognize their shortcomings. This can be shown in many ways, such as:

  • Jealousy: Jealousy can be an abusive tactic. The abusive person may regularly confront the others for talking to or “flirting with” other people. The abuser may accuse the other person of cheating on them regularly.
  • Playing the victim: The abusive person may try to turn the tables on the other person by blaming them for the issues that the abuser has not yet dealt with and even accuse them of being the abusive one in the relationship.
  • Egging the person on: The abusive person typically knows how to get under the other person’s skin to make them angry. They may irritate them until the other person becomes upset, blaming them for even getting upset.

Most of the time the abuser’s actions or words serve no purpose other than to humiliate the other person. This behavior can look like:

  • Blatant name calling: The abuser may blatantly call the other stupid or “an idiot”, or other hurtful names and if confronted they may try to pass it off as sarcasm.
  • Joking or Sarcasm: Sometimes abusive people disguise their derogatory remarks as sarcasm. If the other person gets offended, the abuser may make fun of them for “lacking a sense of humor”.
  • Harmful Nicknames: Nicknames or pet names may be normal in relationships, but a name that is hurtful is unacceptable.
  • Public Displays: Abusive people may openly pick fights and make fun of the other person in public and blame the other person for becoming angry.
  • Patronizing: This can include talking down to another person for trying to learn something new or make the other person feel like they are not “on their level”.
  • Insults on Appearance: An abusive person may insult the other’s appearance around other people.
  • Cheating: The abuser may cheat on their partners in order to hurt or humiliate them or to show that they are “highly desirable”.

Abusive people seem to make situations chaotic for no good reasons than to keep the other person in check. This kind of behavior can look like:

  • Drastic mood swings like being very affectionate to full of rage and breaking things
  • Emotional Outbursts
  • Starting arguments for no reason
  • Self-contradiction such as kaming statements that contradicts the one they just said
  • Gaslighting such as denying facts or making the other feel like they do not remember the situation correctly
  • Acting two faced such as being charming in public but the complete opposite the minute they get home

Abusive people act in many ways in order to make the other person feel isolated from others including:

  • Telling another person they cannot spend time with friends or family
  • Hiding the person’s car keys
  • Stealing, hiding, or even destroying the other person’s cell phone or computer
  • Making fun or belittling the person’s friends or family resulting the other person to feel bad for spending time with them
  • Taking up all of the person’s free time
  • Locking the person in a room or the house

What can you do to help?
It would help if you encouraged anyone you know that feels they are in immediate danger of physical harm to call 911. If anyone is seeing signs of emotional abuse but is not in immediate danger, encourage them to seek out help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers anonymous support by phone, text, or even online chat. The hotline is available 24/7 and can help people find shelter as well as other services. If a person is feeling uncomfortable reaching out to get assistance, they can reach out to a family member or a trusted friend that could help them feel supported and less isolated. Taking steps away from an emotionally abusive situation is essential for the other person to take back control over their own life. This can include:

  • Setting boundaries with the abusive person and standing up to them in any degree necessary in order to get the abuse to stop. In some cases it could include ending the relationship or cutting ties with a partner and never speaking to them again.
  • Changing priorities: abusive people manipulate the other person’s sense of sympathy to the point they are neglecting themselves while taking care of the abuser and putting an end to this habit is important in order to put their own priorities first.
  • Get professional help: Seeking professional help like therapy and support groups can help strengthen the person’s resolve and believe that they are not alone in recovering from the abuse.
  • Exit plan: Anyone who feels that they are in an emotionally abusive situation should have a plan for getting out of the situation when the time comes and working with those that love and support them can help their plan feel stronger and get the person to take action when the time is right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.