What is emotional abuse? Emotional abuse is a bit difficult to define as an absolute.
While it is generally considered prevalent and rather common and people will have a good sense of what it is, the difficulty in putting a finger on exactly what it entails can be a challenge because it takes many forms.
The actions are chronic aggressions whose aim is to purposely belittle the victim. Many of the categorizations overlap or proceed in tandem.
A few other symptoms of emotional abuse include patronizing, character assassination, looking down at your interests, taking control of your finances, stonewalling and bullying.
Long term effects of emotional abuse
As a result of continued stresses, the victim may react with various emotional responses such as:
Consideration of suicide
The over-riding sense that an emotionally abused person might feel is of helplessness and a loss of a normal sense of reality.
Emotional abuse in a relationship is the playland of narcissists and sociopaths who lack the sort of empathy that would keep them from such tactics of manipulation.
An interesting twist to the assaults in emotionally abusive relationships is that they often simply turn on and off to further the confusion, lack of consistency and raise fear.
Emotional abuse examples include gaslighting or pervasive master manipulation.
Gaslighting is when an abuser purposely sets out to make a victim confused about or doubt what they know as reality.
The perpetrator will act like known events never occurred and create situations that contradict beliefs. The overall goal is demoralization and making the victim doubt their sanity by providing what are essentially alternative facts.
The smokescreen becomes a haze through which the victim is eternally entrenched and doubts themselves and their own sensibility.
2. Intimidation, verbal abuse, or bullying
Intimidation may cover a range of behaviors from personal threats, verbal admonishment, and the use of vulgar language.
Acts may include displays of rage meant to suggest physical violence. This intimidation and verbal abuse can likely overlap with humiliation and criticism.
One of the types of emotional abuse is where abusers belittle, trivialize victims and their accomplishments and laugh at hopes and dreams.
3. Humiliation or harsh criticism
An emotionally abusive person may resort to simple humiliations and criticism at every turn.
The victim will be pronounced to be ugly, stupid, incapable of performing well or doing absolutely anything credibly well.
The repetition is, again, systematically demoralizing, leaving the victim in a constant state of distress.
Each new attempt to improve and show that the claims of incompetence are true is met with additional admonishment until the point where the victim assumes they are indeed incapable of doing anything correctly.
The abuser will readily laugh at those around them, but cannot in any sense laugh at themselves.
4. Confinement or isolation
An emotional abuser may push to isolate you from everything and everyone you know to become your lone liaison to the world.
One of the effects of emotional abuse is feeling isolated with walls closing in on you.
This may not include physical containment such as being locked in a room or a basement, but the result might be functionally the same.
Friends will not be welcome to the house and the abused will feel the need to request permission to perform even common behaviors or risk repercussions.
An abuser will use many forms of controlling behaviors to keep the abused under their thumb. They might shut down by not talking, withholding physical relations, withholding finances (or access to them) and shunning any attempts to connect.
In an emotional abuse in marriage or relationship, abusers use elements of intimidation, bullying, criticism, and isolation to reprimand the abused and align the abused to desired behaviors.
6. Assigning guilt, blame or resorting to shaming
Abusers are quick to make excuses for their behavior and failures, usually by blaming someone or something else, and the target is most often abused.
Linking the abused can sometimes fall in the shadow of gaslighting where reality becomes quite distorted in order to make blame stick.
It is a means of dismissing that the abuser is imperfect, and it is the environment that is responsible for every failing.
Emotional abusers become expert at removing passion, interest, and control from the lives of the abused to make them dependent, weak and reliant.
The abuser swings in and out of moods and behaviors only to leave the abused more confused and never know what to expect.
It is like poorly training a dog, and on the surface, the callousness and lack of empathy may seem like it is exactly that.
In reality, the abuser is a deeply flawed and wounded personality that has retreated so much from their own flaws that they are in denial and fear of admitting that they are the ones who are broken.
Finding an exact answer to what is emotional abuse is implausible.
How to deal with emotional abuse?
Identifying and addressing any signs of abuse, irrespective of their nature and type, can save a person from getting victimized cruelly.
If your situation resonates with these emotional abuse symptoms, it is best to seek timely help from a credible expert.
A professional is an equipped specialist who can help you identify covert signs of abuse, step out of the toxic shadow of your abusive partner, re-evaluate your relationships, and provide emotional help and counseling to reclaim your confidence and self-belief.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.