Emotional abuse is a covert form of control that can happen in various relationships, including friendships, families, and even workplaces, not just romantic partnerships.
In emotional abuse, the abuser wields emotions as weapons to criticise, shame, blame, and manipulate the victim, leaving them feeling worthless and trapped.
The impact on mental and emotional health can be devastating. Recognising emotional abuse is vital for breaking free from its cycle.
Spotting red flags of emotional abuse begins with paying attention, and identifying your feelings after interacting with the other person.
If you frequently feel hurt, angry, anxious, or unworthy, it may indicate emotional abuse.
Unrealistic expectations, constant invalidation of your emotions, and experiencing mood swings and contradictory remarks are common warning signs.
Emotional abusers often display arrogance and superiority, belittling your beliefs and demeaning your viewpoints to maintain power and control over you.
Isolation from your support network is another red flag. Emotional abusers may control your online contacts and movements, making it harder for you to escape.
While emotional abuse may start subtly, over time it can escalate with accusations of dishonesty, verbal abuse, epithets, and persistent criticism.
It’s crucial to differentiate emotional abuse from regular conflicts in relationships. If you find yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship, prioritise your well-being, set boundaries, and seek assistance from trusted friends, family, or counsellors.
Recovery from emotional abuse takes time, but with self-compassion and help, you can liberate yourself and reclaim a life free from control and manipulation. Remember, you deserve to be treated with respect and love.
Emotional Abuse Video
Covert Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is considered covert because it operates in subtle, hidden, or less obvious ways compared to other forms of abuse, such as physical abuse.
It involves manipulative tactics that are often not easily recognisable, even to the victim themselves. The abuser may employ psychological and emotional strategies to gain control over the victim without leaving visible marks or physical evidence of harm.
This covert nature makes it challenging for the victim and others to recognise and address the abuse, allowing it to persist for extended periods.
Emotional abuse can manifest in various ways, and no single item on a checklist can definitively determine the presence of emotional abuse.
It’s essential to consider the overall pattern of behaviour and the impact it has on your well-being.
To better understand emotional abuse, and decode its manipulative pattern, let’s first understand the difference between healthy conflict and emotional abuse.
The Difference Between Healthy Conflict And Emotional Abuse
Understanding the difference between healthy conflict and emotional abuse is crucial for maintaining and fostering positive, respectful, and supportive relationships.
Healthy conflicts can lead to growth and stronger connections, while emotional abuse can cause significant harm and should be addressed promptly.
If you suspect that you are experiencing emotional abuse, seeking support from friends, family, or professional resources can be essential for your well-being and safety.
Healthy Conflict Versus Emotional Abuse Table
|Respectful and open communication
|Disrespectful, demeaning, and hurtful communication
|Resolution-oriented, seeking solutions
|Non-resolution oriented, conflicts recur
|Equal and balanced power dynamics
|Imbalance of power, the abuser seeks control
|Acceptance of Differences
|Acknowledges and accepts differing perspectives
|Invalidates the victim’s thoughts and experiences
|Duration and Impact
|Temporary and specific to issues
|Pervasive and persistent, impacting various aspects
|Focused on improving the relationship
|Focused on asserting control and manipulation
|Tone of Communication
|Constructive and empathetic
|Destructive, insulting, and belittling
|Intent is to resolve conflicts in a healthy manner
|Intent is to control and manipulate the victim
|Supports emotional well-being and growth
|Undermines emotional well-being and self-esteem
Now that we clearly understand what emotional abuse is, let’s delve deeper into the emotional abuse check list and detail some practical examples and tips to help you recognise the red flags in your relationship, and protect yourself.
Emotional Abuse Checklist
1. Identify Your Feelings
Identifying your feelings is a crucial step in recognising emotional abuse because emotional abuse often operates beneath the surface, making it harder to detect than physical abuse.
Here are some practical examples and tips to help you better understand and identify your emotions in the context of emotional abuse.
Keep a journal. Start writing down your thoughts and events with the other person in a journal. This can help a lot when feelings are complicated or hard to understand. Writing things down can help you understand how you feel about certain things more clearly.
Pay Attention to how your body reacts. Emotional abuse can cause your heart rate to go up, your breathing to get shallow, your stomach to hurt, or your head to hurt from stress. Notice if these things happen to you after you’ve talked to the person in question.
Ask for feedback from other people. When you’re in a relationship that’s emotionally abusive, it can be hard to see things clearly. Reach out to people you trust, like friends or family, and tell them what you’ve learned.
They might tell you something important about how you feel and help you see warning signs you might have missed.
Explore Your Gut instincts; trust your instincts. Don’t ignore the feeling that something is wrong or uncomfortable in the relationship. Our instincts often pick up on minor signs that our conscious mind might miss.
Think about how your behaviour has changed. Over time, emotional abuse can hurt your self-confidence and self-worth. If you notice a big change in how you act, like avoiding things you used to enjoy or getting nervous when you’re around the person, you might want to figure out why.
Think About Emotional Patterns – Pay attention to patterns that keep happening in your relationships. Does the person often put you down, question your accomplishments, or dismiss your feelings? Seeing the bigger picture can help you see patterns.
Talk to the person about how you feel – If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, try telling the person how you feel. How they answer can tell you a lot.
A person who is emotionally supportive will listen, acknowledge your feelings, and try to understand and solve conflicts, while someone who is emotionally abusive may ignore or make fun of your feelings.
Learn About Emotional Abuse: Find out more about what emotional abuse is, how it happens, and what it does to people who are abused. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to tell what the signs are.
Seek Professional Help – If it’s hard for you to figure out what you’re feeling or if you’re being emotionally abused, you might want to talk to a therapist or counsellor.
They can give you advice and help you work through your worries in a safe place where no one will judge you.
Figuring out how you feel is not about blaming yourself or being hard on yourself. Emotional abuse can be hard to spot, and it can sneak up on you. Be kind to yourself as you go through this process, and remember that asking for help and support is a sign of strength, not weakness.
2. Unrealistic Expectations
Emotional abusers often use unrealistic standards as a way to control and manipulate their victims. They place unreasonable demands, standards, or conditions on the target, making it hard for them to meet these expectations.
Here’s a closer look at how emotionally abusive people’s unrealistic demands show up, along with some tips to help you spot and deal with them:
Criticism all the time: Emotional bullies may criticise and find fault in everything you do, no matter how hard you try. They might expect you to be perfect or meet impossible standards in different parts of your life, like how you look, how you act, or what you accomplish.
For example, a person who emotionally abuses you might criticise how you cook, how you look, or how you handle housework, making you feel bad about yourself and neglected.
Blaming and shaming – Abusers often put the blame on the victim, making them feel like they are to blame for the abuser’s own sadness or mistakes.
They might make you feel bad about yourself if you don’t live up to their standards. This could make you think that you are the reason why they are unhappy.
Unreasonable Demands for Control – People who emotionally abuse you want to control every part of your life, including who you spend time with, where you go, and what you do.
They might demand that you talk to them all the time or tell you how to spend your days. The goal of this behaviour is to cut you off from your support group and make you totally reliant on them.
Conditional Love and Approval – People who emotionally abuse you might not show you kindness, love, or approval unless you do what they want.
They might make you feel like you have to work for their love or that you are only good enough for them if you do what they want.
Moving the Goalposts – When you meet one of their standards, an emotional abuser may change the rules or make new demands, making it impossible for you to ever feel like you’ve satisfied them.
This constant shifting of goals makes you feel like you’re never good enough.
How to deal with expectations that aren’t realistic
Recognise the Pattern: Be aware of the relationship’s repeated requests and criticisms. The first step to getting out from under these standards is to realise that they are unrealistic and unfair.
Set boundaries – Set clear boundaries and tell people about them in a firm way. Tell the abuser what kind of behaviour you won’t stand for and that you won’t put up with unreasonable requests or constant criticism.
Practise self-compassion. Remind yourself that you are not to blame for the abuser’s actions or sadness. No matter what the abuser says, be kind to yourself and accept what you’ve done well.
Reach out for help – Talk to friends, family, or support groups about what you’re going through. Talking to people who have been through similar things can help you feel better and give you a new outlook.
Consider Getting Professional Help – If the emotional abuse continues or gets worse, you might want to talk to a therapist or counsellor for advice. A professional can help you figure out how to handle the complicated parts of the relationship and help you learn how to cope and be strong.
Always keep in mind that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. It’s important to deal with unrealistic demands if you want to regain your independence and self-esteem.
By recognising and dealing with this part of emotional abuse, you can take big steps towards breaking the circle of manipulation and control.
3. Mood Swings and Confusion
Mood swings and confusion are powerful tools emotional abusers use to maintain control over their victims. These tactics create a chaotic and unpredictable environment that leaves the victim feeling disoriented, emotionally drained, and dependent on the abuser for stability.
In a relationship where your partner is emotionally mean, you may have mood swings and feel confused because of how they act. The goal of these tricks is to keep you off-balance and reliant on them.
Let’s look at how emotional abuse causes mood swings and confusion, as well as some ways to deal with these issues:
Unpredictable Emotional Outbursts – Your partner may respond very strongly and quickly to small things. One minute they might be friendly and caring, and the next they might be angry, mean, keep a distance.
This makes you nervous because you don’t know what will set off the next explosion.
Shifting Responsibility and Blame – If you talk to your partner about their strange behaviour, they may try to put the blame on you. They might blame you for their outbursts or say that your actions are what makes them so unstable emotionally.
Creating confusion – Your partner may use gaslighting to change the truth and change how you see things. They might say or do hurtful things, but then deny it, making you doubt your memory and reasoning. Over time, being confused can make you question your own feelings and decisions.
Between Love and Punishment – Your partner may show you love sometimes and then take it away as a punishment other times. This intermittent reinforcement builds a strong psychological bond with them, as you want to get their love and approval more than anything.
Mixed Messages – Your partner might give you messages that don’t agree with each other, leaving you confused about the relationship. For example, they might give you harsh criticism one day and then a lot of love the next, giving you emotional whiplash.
Emotional Rollercoaster – Living in a place where moods change and people are confused is both emotionally and physically tiring. You might feel worried, on edge, and like you don’t know how to handle the relationship.
How to Deal with Changes in Mood and Confusion
Recognise the Manipulation – Be aware that your partner’s mood swings and confusing behaviour are deliberate attempts to control and confuse you. The first step to getting away from mental abuse is to realise that you are being used.
Reach out for help – Talk to friends, family, or support groups who can give you a safe, understanding place to be. Having people who care about you outside of the harmful relationship can help you keep a clear head and keep your emotions in check.
Trust Your Feelings – Go with your gut and your feelings, even if your partner tries to tell you they are wrong. Your feelings are real, and emotional attackers often use gaslighting to make you doubt yourself.
Self-Care – Take care of your mental health by doing things for yourself. This could mean spending time with helpful friends, doing things you enjoy, and, if necessary, going to therapy.
Make Space – If you can, make some space between you and your partner, both physically and emotionally. Spending time away from them can give you the space you need to get clear and look at the relationship in an unbiased way.
Seek professional help – It can be hard to deal with mood swings and confusion in a relationship that is emotionally cruel. A trained therapist or counsellor can give you advice and help as you work through these problems.
People who hurt you emotionally use mood swings and confusion to keep control and power over you. Breaking out of this loop takes time and work, but you can slowly regain control of your life and find a way to heal by getting help, setting limits, and putting your health first.
4. Emotional Blackmail
In an emotionally abusive relationship, you may experience emotional blackmail, where your partner uses your shame and guilt as tools to manipulate your behaviour. Emotional blackmail can be incredibly distressing and damaging to your mental well-being.
Let’s explore how emotional blackmail manifests as emotional abuse and some tips to help you cope with this challenging situation.
Threats and ultimatums: Your partner may try to get you to do what they want by making threats or giving you an ultimatum. For example, they might say that if you don’t do what they want, they’ll end the relationship or stop giving you love and support.
Threats like these can make you feel stuck and out of control.
Playing on Your Guilt: People who want to use your guilt to get what they want are very good at it. They might always bring up mistakes you’ve made or use your weaknesses against you to make you feel like you’re to blame for their bad feelings or actions.
Silent Treatment and Withdrawal: If your partner doesn’t get what they want, they might give you the silent treatment and refuse to talk to you or do anything with you. This strategy can make you feel anxious and like you’ll do anything to get their attention and support again.
Twisting the Truth: People who try to get you to feel bad or responsible for things that are not your fault often twist facts and distort reality. They might do this to avoid taking responsibility for what they did and putting the blame on you.
Emotional manipulation: Your partner may use the love and respect you have for them as a bargaining chip. They might tell you that you have to show how much you love them by doing what they want or giving up your own needs and wants.
Conditional Love and respect: People who use emotional blackmail can withhold love, respect, or support if you don’t do what they want. This makes you feel mentally hungry and like you have to work hard to earn their approval.
Advice on How to Handle Emotional Blackmail
Recognise the manipulation: admit that emotional bullying is a form of control and manipulation in the relationship. Knowing this can help you get out of its grip.
Set limits. Set clear limits and tell your partner about them in an assertive way. Tell them that emotional blackmail is not okay and that you won’t let yourself be used in this way.
Self-Compassion: Remember that your partner’s feelings and behaviours are not your fault. Self-compassion is important, and you should put your mental health first.
Reach out for help. Talk to friends, family, or support groups about what you’re going through. Talking to other people can help you feel better about yourself and give you a new outlook.
Assert Your Needs: Be clear about what you want and express your unmet needs in the relationship. A healthy partnership is based on respect and compromise from both sides, not demands from just one person.
Limit Contact: If your partner keeps trying to mentally blackmail you, even though you’ve tried to stop them, you might want to limit your contact with them or get help from a professional. Your safety is the most important thing, and you must keep yourself from getting hurt more.
Consider getting help from a professional – Dealing with mental blackmail can be hard on your emotions. A therapist or counsellor can help you figure out how to deal with this tough situation.
Emotional bullying is a way for people who emotionally abuse others to control and take advantage of them.
By noticing the manipulation, setting limits, and putting your own needs first, you can start to break out of this unhealthy cycle and work on making healthier connections.
5. Arrogance and Superiority
In an emotionally abusive relationship, you may encounter arrogance and superiority from your partner, as they demean your beliefs, mock your viewpoints, and belittle your opinions.
This behaviour is aimed at establishing dominance and control over you, causing you to question your self-worth.
Let’s look at how arrogance and superiority manifest in emotional abuse and some tips to help you deal with this challenging situation.
Constant Criticism: Your partner may give off the impression of being better than you if they constantly criticise and put down what you think and do. They might make fun of your choices, ideas, or accomplishments, making you feel bad about yourself and insecure.
Mocking and ridiculing – People who hurt you emotionally often use sarcasm and ridicule to make fun of your thoughts and beliefs. They might talk down to you or make jokes about you, which hurts your self-esteem and sense of worth.
Dismissive Attitude: Your partner may act as if they are better than you and that their thoughts and wants are more important than yours. They might not care about how you feel or what you need, which would make you feel unimportant and ignored.
Talking Down to You: People who hurt you emotionally may talk down to you by using condescending language or acting as if you are less smart or capable than they are. This is a way for them to stay in charge and keep control over you.
Manipulating Conversations: Your partner may try to use conversations and fights against you to make you feel bad or crazy. They might use logical errors or twist your words to show that your point of view doesn’t make sense, leaving you confused and down.
Isolating You: People who think they are better than you might try to keep you from your friends, family, or anyone else who might question their power. They might try to stop you from getting other people’s ideas or help, which would make you rely on them more for validation.
How to deal with arrogance and superiority
Recognise the Red flags: Watch out for your partner’s behaviour that shows he or she thinks they are better than you. If you notice these warning signs, you may be able to do something about the problem.
Assert Your Worth: Remind yourself that you deserve respect and fair treatment in the relationship. Stand up for your ideas and views, and don’t let your partner put you down or make you feel less important.
Get help from outside of yourself – Talk to friends, family, or a support network who can help you feel understood and validated. Having a strong support system can help you deal with how your partner’s attitude makes you feel.
Learn about mental abuse and the methods used by people who think they are better than others. The more you know about what’s going on, the better you’ll be able to deal with it.
Self-Care: Take care of yourself by doing things that make you feel good about yourself and improve your health. Develop skills and interests that remind you of what you’re good at and how much you’re worth.
Consider Couples treatment: If you think the relationship is worth saving, you might both benefit from going to couples treatment. A trained therapist can help people talk to each other better and deal with problems of arrogance and feeling better than others.
Know When to Leave: If your partner keeps acting arrogant and superior despite your efforts, it may be best for your mental health to end the relationship.
Ego and feeling better than others are bad for a relationship. You should be treated with respect, kindness, and fairness. By recognising these patterns and taking steps to prove your worth, you can start to break free from emotional abuse and build better relationships with others.
6. Isolation and Control
In a relationship where one person is emotionally abusive, isolating and controlling the other person are powerful ways for the abuser to maintain power and dependence.
They want to cut you off from your support network, control who you talk to and where you go online, and make it harder and harder for you to get out of the circle of abuse.
Let’s talk about how separation and control show up in emotional abuse, and I’ll give you some tips on how to get out of this bad situation:
Cutting off Support: An emotional abuser may try to stop you from spending time with friends, family, or anyone else who could offer you emotional support or insight into the violent relationship.
They might criticise the people you care about, start fights, or insist on being the only person who can make you feel good.
Monitoring and Surveillance: Your partner might watch you too much, like by checking your phone, texts, or social media without your permission. This invasion of your privacy is a way to keep you under control and make sure you stay alone.
Restricting Independence: An emotional abuser may make choices for you, control your finances, or limit your access to resources, making you feel dependent and powerless.
Creating Dependence: The abuser might do things on purpose to make you need them for emotional support, money, or basic wants. They might make you feel like you can’t do anything to keep you dependent on them.
Emotionally isolating you: People who abuse your emotions often make you feel like you can’t trust anyone but them. They might make you doubt other people and think that they are the only ones who really care about you.
How to Get Out of Isolation and Control
Ask for Help: Tell your friends, family, or a support group about what’s going on. Get back in touch with the people who helped you and ask them to help you get back on your feet.
Keep track of your partner’s controlling or distancing actions and write them down. This paperwork can be very important if you decide to go to court or see a counsellor.
Create a Safety Plan: If you feel unsafe leaving the relationship, write down steps you can take to protect yourself, such as finding a safe place to go if you need to leave quickly.
Get help from a professional – Talk to a therapist, counsellor, or domestic violence supporter who can give you advice and support that fits your situation.
Learn about good relationships and how to tell if you are being emotionally abused. Knowing what’s going on can give you the power to do something about it.
Build your independence by making choices on your own, taking care of your money, and pursuing your interests and hobbies.
Set limits. If your partner is controlling, set clear limits with them about how they can act. Tell people what your limits are, and stick to them.
Self-Care: Put your health and happiness first and do things for yourself that are good for your mental and physical health.
Consider Legal Options: If you need to, you can look into legal options, like getting a restraining order, to keep yourself safe from more abuse.
You have the right to live a life that isn’t lonely or controlled by others. To get away from mental abuse, you need courage, help, and a strong will.
Surround yourself with people who care about your health, and, if you need to, get help from a professional.
By taking steps to regain your freedom and set your own limits, you can start to heal and create a healthier, more empowering future for yourself.
7. Patterns of Hurtful Behaviour
Patterns of hurtful behaviour are common in emotional abuse, where the abuser says, does, or acts in ways that hurt the target over and over again.
These bad habits can hurt your self-esteem, mental health, and general well-being in big ways.
Let’s look at how harmful patterns of behaviour show up in emotional abuse, and I’ll give you some tips to help you spot and stop this cycle:
Verbal Abuse: People who hurt you emotionally may attack you verbally, call you names, or use insulting language to put you down and shame you. They might make fun of your skills, looks, or knowledge, which would hurt your self-esteem.
Blaming and shaming: The person who hurts you often blames you for their own problems or mistakes and uses shame to control how you act and feel. They might make you feel like you’re to blame for their bad moods or bad luck.
Hostile Jokes and Sarcasm: The abuser may try to hide mean comments and sarcasm behind jokes. They may make fun of your hobbies, opinions, or weaknesses, which can make you feel bad.
Emotional abusers are skilled at using your feelings against you to keep you under their control. They might use your fears, insecurities, or bad experiences from the past to control how you act and respond.
Threats and intimidation: The person who hurts you may threaten to hurt you physically, emotionally, or leave you. This is done to scare you and make you afraid. This makes them feel helpless and like they have to do what they want.
Tips for spotting patterns of hurtful behaviour and dealing with them
Trust Your Gut – If the other person always makes you feel hurt, worried, or small, pay attention to how you feel around them. Trust your gut, because it may be telling you about patterns of mental abuse.
Keep track of hurtful events by writing down the dates, times, and details of what happened. This paperwork can help you see the trend more clearly and, if necessary, give you proof.
Reach Out for Help: Tell trusted friends, family, or support groups about what you’ve been through. Talking to people who have been in similar situations can help you feel better and see things from a different angle.
Self-care: Put yourself first to build mental strength and resilience. Do things that make you feel good, and spend time with people who make you feel good.
Find out what your rights are – You should know that you deserve to be treated with respect and honour. You don’t deserve to suffer harm from the same things over and over again.
Remember that harmful patterns of behaviour that are part of emotional abuse are not okay and are not your fault. You can break the cycle of emotional abuse and regain your sense of self-worth and well-being by recognising these harmful patterns, setting limits, and getting help.
HotPeachPages.net offer international directories of domestic violence agencies and support services that may include emotional abuse support groups in various countries.
Breaking Free From Emotional Abuse
Breaking free from emotional abuse is a brave journey that starts with taking back your power and worth. You deserve to live a life free from influence and control, where love and respect grow. As you take the first step towards freedom, focus on the power you already have.
Recognise that the abuse is not your fault. You deserve love and kindness, and being abused doesn’t change that. Now is the time to put yourself and your health first.
Set clear limits and remember that saying “no” is your right. Trust your feelings, because they will lead you to what feels right for your healing and growth.
Ask for help from friends, family, or trained counsellors who can help you through this hard time. Talk about your past, your fears, and your hopes with people who care about you.
Their understanding will give you the strength to break away and build a life full of love and happiness.
Get away from the person who hurts you, both physically and mentally. Get back to the things you love to do and the things that make you feel like yourself. Surround yourself with good people, and drop any bad ties that are holding you back.
It takes time to heal from emotional abuse, so be kind to yourself. Celebrate each small win, and know that every step you take gets you closer to the life you deserve. There may be bumps on the road to freedom, but know that you are strong enough to get through them.
You have the power to break free from the chains of emotional abuse and start a journey of healing and finding out more about yourself. Stand tall, embrace your inner strength, and take back your life.
You decide what will happen in the future, and you can live a life full of love, happiness, and the respect you truly deserve.