Emotional abuse, also referred to as psychological abuse, is the act of controlling or manipulating an individual; either verbally or emotionally. Much like other forms of abuse, emotional abuse does not discriminate and is perpetrated on individuals from all demographics —-your age, gender, nor culture prevents you from becoming an unwilling victim.
Many individuals mistakenly believe that physical abuse is the most detrimental form because it involves punching, kicking, pushing, grabbing, or any additional method that causes harm externally to the body. But words (or lack of them, in some instances of emotional abuse) matter. This abuser wields emotions as their weapon to punish another.
Emotional abusers are around us in our everyday lives, in fact, they may not even be aware that their behavior is abusive. They appear in the workplace, in our close relationships, and commonly, in our families. Often, they are unable to accept that their point of view is not the only one that matters.
Having difficulty acknowledging another’s perspective, he/she often relates easily to those who only share his/her same beliefs. Influenced by societal prejudices, he/she frequently discriminates against individuals who are viewed as being different. Emotional abusers love a “soft target” or an individual whom others may also view as unworthy of respect and common decency.
Psychologically speaking, an emotional abuser finds it nearly impossible to forgive and only views situations as right or wrong. There is no middle ground or compromise with this individual and they are not open to discussing differences in opinions. Because they are often charming, initially, they are harder to detect. Emotional abusers are usually beloved by others, making it harder for those closest to them to recognize and understand the abuser’s true intentions until it is too late.
Having a minor disagreement with your spouse, friend, child, or coworker is not what this post is referring to. We all have disagreements with others, sometimes raising our voices in the mistaken belief that this will help in getting our point of view across. Typically, reaching a compromise happens once all parties involved have a chance to regroup and rethink the situation. This type of scenario is entirely normal and does not constitute emotional abuse. When an abuser chooses to use words or actions that create an imbalance of power in a relationship (which cause harm), that is considered emotional abuse.
The victim of this form of abuse may often find themselves doubting their sanity or questioning whether they are overreacting to a situation.
Provided below are Ten Signs of Emotional Abuse:
Recognizing some of the signs of emotional abuse can help victims identify what is happening to them and create a plan to remove themselves from harmful behavior.
Some strategies that may be helpful in regaining control of your life include:
- Engage in Self-Care Strategies that nourish you. Ensure that you are getting enough sleep at night by setting a routine bedtime. Avoiding caffeinated drinks close to bedtime, turning off electronics (television, cell phones, tablets) to decrease stimulation, and taking a warm bath are all great activities that contribute to ‘winding down’ for the evening. Journaling or writing about your feelings is another form of release when you are unable to speak with a trusted source about the issues you’re facing. Often, writing one’s feelings is easier than speaking them and there are many online resources (Pinterest, Google) where you can find tons of positive affirmations and journaling prompts to guide you.
- Prioritize your Mental and Physical Health. This might include scheduling and maintaining routine physical and/or counseling appointments. Setting reminders on your smartphone is helpful or ask a family member or friend to accompany you for support, if needed. If you have a trusted source participating in your care plan, the more likely you are to attend appointments to discuss your concerns.
- Establish Boundaries. Let the abuser know that you will no longer tolerate their behavior towards you (sarcasm, threatening comments, cursing, etc.) in a calm manner. Giving an example of the negative behavior is helpful and indicates your awareness and inability to accept it any longer. Ensure that you follow through on your boundaries as well.
- Create a Support Network. If you are able to confide in a trusted friend or family member, doing so can create a ‘space’ where you feel uninhibited and safe. Or, you can contact a physician, counselor, or pastor for emotional support. Discussing your experiences with these individuals will help you feel less alone and they may be able to help you create a plan to remove yourself from the abuser’s reach.
Regardless of whom you decide to trust with your experiences, you deserve to have peace. You are not responsible for others’ behaviors and should not blame yourself for the emotional abuse that you have endured. Understand that your feelings are valid, you matter, and help is available if you need it.
If you or a loved one are a victim of emotional abuse, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233). Counselors are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and all calls are confidential.
Photo Credit (Featured Image): Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash
Sources: Emotional Abuse: Everything from Fast Facts, Symptoms, and How to Help. (2019). Retrieved on June 12, 2019, from https://www.crisistextline.org
Mathews, A. (2016). When Is It Emotional Abuse? Psychology Today. Retrieved on June 13, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com