Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse


Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be a complex thing that doesn’t fall neatly into a singular description. It comes in many flavors and detecting abuse with certainty is a matter of clinical evaluation of self and partner. Because it can’t be perfectly defined and identified with absolute precision, persons in abusive relationships may not even realize the situation. Abuse may leave victims with conflicting feelings. This is especially true because often the abuser is someone to whom we have committed significant time, effort, and emotion.

Being on the receiving side of emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse but it is simply not as evident because there are no physical manifestations. The internal, emotional and psychological scars can manifest in blaming one’s self instead of the person delegating the abuse. Other issues can emerge from the emotional roller-coaster such as depression, anxiety, and even some stress-related illnesses.

While abuse may indeed be limited to private time and experiences, it is more often rather pronounced and obvious. Some common signs of emotional abuse will arise in day-to-day activities and interactions rather consistently especially in relationships that have lasted through initial stages of abuse. With practical and honest evaluation you can identify in your relationships — or the relationships of others — elements of behavior that serve as strong warning signs that a relationship is an abusive one. These include degradation, domination, assigning blame, neglect, isolation, and propagation of fear.


As part of the abuse, degradation is when someone puts their partner down, consistently belittling and making jokes at the other’s expense. This can occur in public or private and can encompass assignation of vague traits such as telling the victim “you smell,” “you are stupid,” or “you are ugly.” This can make the abused second-guess their own feelings, experience and reality (they shower, are cleanly, use deodorant, but remain criticized). It can cause the abused to feel uncomfortable around the abusive partner and perhaps even cause avoidance behaviors to situations where they feel assured of emotional pains. This can affect interest and performance in the bedroom as well as in public and in the gathering of friends and family. Accomplishments are buried, disregarded as unimportant or belittled. Nothing is ever ‘good enough.’


If you have to plan your whole day around what another person wants and desires, it may not be a completely healthy situation. Loving relationships work by give and take and mutual respect, and not by one partner’s dominance and control. If a partner comes home from work and demands obedience, particular behaviors (“have my drink and dinner ready”), and responds with anger to even simple situations (“Why isn’t there any toilet paper?”) they are exhibiting controlling behaviors.Slated to this position, the submissive partner may be forced to act apologetic, sympathetic, and perhaps a little pathetic, especially if their struggle with their abusive partner has been going on for a long time.

Assigning blame

An abusive partner will never be wrong.They blame any issues they have on everyone else in their life and find every reason to excuse something except their own behavior.They are also intensely sensitive to any personal criticism. This will leave the abused in a situation where they receive attacks and likely have no recourse to defend. Acceptance of the blame for everything that goes wrong is a very heavy burden to bear.


An abusive partner knows the power of the silent treatment. If there is no discussion, the abused may easily be twisted to wondering what they have done, while silence is perhaps even enacted for no reason at all. This seriously passive aggressive show of force can force admissions to guilt about issues which the abuser was unaware. Neglect may involve withholding activity in the bedroom and other relatively passive behaviors that keep the abused walking on egg shells.


Usually, a product of longer term abuse, isolation is a powerful means for the abuser to enhance control over the abused. Separation from family, friends, and even isolation within the home (“Go watch your TV program in the bedroom [or office]”) can make the abused more strongly emotionally dependent on the abuser, even if that emotional dependence is not very pleasant.

Propagation of fear

The ability to cultivate fear is empowering for the abusive partner. Fear again can come in a variety of flavors from the abusive partner threatening harm to themselves and/or others. The abusive person will use this as a means of manipulation, often as a means of keeping the abused in the tumultuous relationship.

Anyone or all of these signs may be evident in an abusive relationship, but often most or all of them appear in different density based on the abuser’s personality. Being aware of the evidence is the beginning of relief from the pains of the abuse. Seek help in attempts to either rectify the symptoms and work with your partner.

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