5 Signs of Emotional Abuse

In the past several decades, people have become increasingly aware of the risks and effects of domestic violence and physical abuse. Psychological abuse — which can involve verbally abusive language, isolation, tearing down a person’s self esteem and numerous other tactics– has, however, been more elusive and there is little public awareness of its potential effects. Non-physical forms of abuse can be just as damaging as physical violence, and psychologically abusive relationships are frequently as difficult to escape. People who verbally abuse their partners are also substantially more likely to batter their partners. If you’re concerned that you might be in a psychologically abusive relationship, here are 5 telltale signs:

Verbal Abuse
Verbal abuse is one of the most common forms of psychological abuse. Words can often do more long-term damage than violence, and verbal abusers are experts at figuring out their partners’ weaknesses and insecurities and then exploiting them. While everyone says things they regret from time to time, if your partner rarely compliments you, criticizes every choice you make or calls you vulgar or mean-spirited names, you could be in an abusive relationship.

Controlling Behavior
A hallmark of all abusive behavior is the desire to control one’s partner. Many abusers start out with very low-level control, such as demanding an accounting of your actions at all points during the day, refusing to allow you to go places or drive by yourself, or reading your e-mails. While many non-abusers engage in some of these behaviors to some extent, this behavior is abusive when it controls and limits your movement and activities. It frequently escalates to a point where abuse victims feel like they have no autonomy within their own lives.

Similar to the controlling behavior exhibited by many abusers, abusive partners frequently attempt to isolate their victims from friends and family. Early in a relationship, this might manifest by telling you that everyone else in your life is bad, attempting to limit contact with friends and family because the abuser dislikes them, or using jealousy as a weapon to limit friendships with the opposite sex. As the abuse progresses, abuse victims may find that they have no one to rely on but the abuser.

Financial Control
Financial control is common in many abusive relationships, and is sometimes a precursor to domestic violence. Abusers do not allow their victims to have control over their own finances. They may encourage their victims to quit working, to keep all money in a common pot, or to give their money to the abuser. This limits the victim’s opportunities for self sufficiency and to leave.

Angry Outbursts
Psychological abuse frequently involves angry tirades by the abuser. He might break inanimate objects, punch walls or engage in other physically threatening behavior without actually hitting his victim. This behavior forces victims to cater to the abuser’s will, encourages them to become fearful, and in some cases can make them more likely targets for physical abuse.

If you believe you are the victim of emotional abuse, don’t suffer in silence. Seek help from a trusted friend or family member and understand that the abuse is not your fault. Nothing you did caused it. Contact the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

No Visible Wounds: Identifying Non-Physical Abuse of Women by Their Men- Mary Susan Miller
Emotional Abuse: The Trauma and the Treatment- Martin Tamm Loring

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