Confronting Emotional Abuse: Know the Signs and Take Control

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You may have been a victim of emotional abuse in your life at one time, albeit without realizing it.


I know. Right?

It could have happened to you both as a child and as an adult.

But what exactly is emotional abuse?

A couple in an emotional argument

Diva Plavalaguna on Pexels

It is a vast topic and can take many forms, from verbal insults to manipulation to extreme possessiveness.

The sources of emotional abuse can surprisingly spring from all quarters—parents, friends, colleagues at work, and most commonly, relationship partners.

While physical abuse may leave visible scars like a black eye, emotional abuse impacts one’s inner world. It damages your self-esteem and emotional stability.

Similarly, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The signs of emotional abuse are not always obvious.

Let me, at this instant, walk you through this wide topic and guide you on how to confront it.

First, there are some common indicators that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, obviously:

Belittling and Demeaning Remarks

These may start with outbursts and yelling, progressing to aggressive and insulting language. The abuser can’t seem capable of controlling their emotions.

Name-calling, put-downs, insults, and threats are major red flags that need addressing before they get out of control in a relationship.

An emotionally abusive person will make frequent critical or demeaning comments about your appearance, intelligence, abilities as a spouse or parent, or basic worth as a human being.

Pexels/Timur Weber

In some extreme cases, they’ll humiliate and embarrass you in public. This can not only make you feel ashamed, but worthless as well.

The verbal abuse chips away at your self-confidence, ultimately eroding it and leaving you with low self-esteem.

The result?

Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand brake on.’  Maxwell Maltz

Here are a few awful remarks you may encounter that signal abuse:

  • You are worthless. If said to a child, a majority will grow to adulthood believing this to be the truth.
  • Why do you dress like an old hag?
  • You snore like a pig
  • Your cooking is terrible
  • You can’t make just one correct decision.

Controlling, Possessive Behavior

An emotionally abusive person may dictate what you wear, who you talk to, how much money you can access, or try to cut you off from family and friends.

They play on jealousy and try to isolate you from these people or make you feel guilty about spending time with them. At length, they seek to make you feel responsible for your condition, shifting the blame from themselves.

A case in point: a cheating husband who justifies his amorous actions by portraying you as neglecting your marital duties. He says you are no longer attractive, clouding your mind with doubts.

With time, you neglect your duties…

It becomes a passive cycle, in light of which you end up degrading your value.

They control, intimidate, and manipulate you, like a marionette.

A controllable puppet

Pexels/Min Thein

You see my point, right? Ultimately, you will need help to maintain your relationship. Know the sign early and take control. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated.

Gaslighting Breeds Emotional Abuse

Picture this:

It wasn’t your fault…

At least, as far as you can remember.

Well, the accident was…

Just like any other.

But it unfortunately claimed your daughter’s life.

After the burial, your partner plants a seed in you (you killed our daughter).

And doubts set in immediately. You believe it was your fault.

That is what gaslighting does. It brainwashes you.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that involves distorting reality to make you question your sanity.

An abuser may deny things that happened, blame you for things you didn’t do, or make you feel crazy. At this point, you question your memory and perceptions.

It is harmful and could lead you to have suicidal tendencies. Recognizing it as a sign of emotional abuse early will help you take control of any shock wave that could result from it.

Explosive Anger

A strong telltale sign of emotional abuse is explosive anger.

Everyone gets angry occasionally. But frequent, intense outbursts and accusatory statements characterize the emotional abuser.

Their disproportionate rage is used to dominate and induce compliance. Their outbursts destroy you. Indeed, they kill something inside you.

Explosive anger aims to scare and intimidate you. An abuser may threaten to leave you, take your children away, or even harm you altogether.

This trait becomes extreme, so much so that the abuser is always on the lookout for trivial excuses to be angry. Some [excuses] are so flimsy.

A weeping lady with writing on her hand: silence is violence


Constant Criticism  

Habitual criticism is a precursor to emotional abuse.

The emotionally abusive person persists in picking apart every little thing you say and do. Additionally, their running commentary against you makes it difficult to function.

It becomes so ingrained in your mind that you fear doing something. After all, they’ll see nothing good in anything that I do, you reason.

True, we do not live in a perfect world, and mistakes will happen. Nonetheless, the way we relay the information about the mistake matters a lot.

Instead of telling someone: ‘ What were you thinking when doing this?’…

Try saying something like: “Perhaps it would have been good if you…”

Better still, you can offer a solution to something by doing it yourself. Your partner will perceive you as considerate and will do a similar task in the future, in your way.

Effects of Emotional Abuse

Physical Effects

Emotional abuse affects us physically in the following ways:

  • It affects our work output
  • There is a negative effect on learning for those going to school.
  • For couples, the sex drive diminishes
  • It isolates us from our friends and loved ones by the same token
  • For extended periods, we have constant pain and 
  • Fear of an uncertain tomorrow

Mental Effects

  • We become susceptible to depression
  • Emotional abuse increases our anxiety levels, which can lead to high blood pressure afterward
  • There is confusion and shame, as well as guilt
  • Suicidal tendencies grip us
  • Inability to have good sleeping patterns as one is jumpy by and large
A woman in an emotional gesture
Photo by RDNE Stock project on

Healing and Recovery for Emotional Abuse

Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship can be difficult, but it is possible. If you are in such a relationship, it is important to get help. With help and support, you can break free from the abuse and rebuild your life significantly.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Talk to someone you trust, particularly a friend, family member, therapist, or counselor. They can support you and help you develop a plan to leave the relationship.
  • Document the abuse. Keep a journal of the abusive behavior. This can help you remember what happened and become evidence in court. Otherwise, they may play the card of making you the abuser.
  • Contact a domestic violence hotline: Domestic violence hotlines offer 24/7 support and can help you find resources in your locality. They’ll help you better understand your options, set boundaries, and determine the next steps with emotional support. You deserve to feel safe, heard, and cared for in your relationships. There are kind people out there who will love and appreciate you.
  • Get legal help: A lawyer can help you get a restraining order or file for divorce. There are plenty of lawyers who offer pro bono services for abuse victims. Look out for their services in local law societies.
  • Eat well for your well-being
  • Have adequate rest and a good night’s sleep
  • Engage in more physical activities
  • Volunteer in your local community

In the final analysis, these will help you maintain your sanity.

However, it won’t be an easy roller coaster. Abusers deny and rationalize their bullying conduct when confronted, so expect pushback. And resentment.

Leave your comments and share this article on your social platforms. It may come in handy for an emotionally abused person.

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