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Signs of Emotional Abuse

Updated: Feb 8

Warning signs of emotional abuse can often be easily missed by the victim as the abuser's aim is to manipulate, frighten, control or even isolate the victim. Often if emotional abuse occurs within a romantic relationship, family dynamic or even a close friendship the victim may make excuses for the abusers behaviour due to the close bond they feel they have with the abuser.

People of any age and gender can become victims of emotional abuse and emotional abuse can come in many forms. However, this doesn't make it acceptable and in no way is emotional abuse the victim's fault.

One sign or 'tactic' of emotional abuse is to humiliate or undermine the victim's self esteem, examples of this might include:

Name calling: This might include calling you 'stupid' or 'a loser' or other derogatory nicknames or terms. Importantly is becomes abusive if they ignore your request to stop and continue calling you names.

Character assassination: This is a deliberate attempt to damage your reputation or credibility as a person. They might make comments directly to you or to others.

Patronising comments: This is a way of belittling you, often to make the abuser seem more powerful, important or knowledgable.

Insulting your appearance: A direct insult regarding your personal appearance or clothing.

Belittling your accomplishments: Similar to patronising, someone who is emotional abusive might brush off your accomplishments or take credit for your own achievements making comments such as 'you couldn't have done that on your own or without me'.

Another 'tactic' of emotional abuse might be to obtain control or power. Examples of this might include:

Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a common emotional abusive tactic, which can be easily missed by the victim. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation whereby the abuser will deny that specific events, arguments or conversations happened leading to the victim to question their own memory, reality or perceptions.

Threatening: A tactic used to make the victim feel afraid, this might be a threat of physical abuse or violence or a threat of behaviour for example 'if you don't do this you will be fired'.

Monitoring you: This might include wanting to constantly know your whereabouts, demands for you to prove your whereabouts, insisting that you respond to calls or texts immediately. Furthermore, this might also include monitoring you digitally for example checking your phone, emails, or demanding to have access to your passwords.

Controlling / making your decisions: This might include telling you what to wear, eat (and how much), who to spend time with. It might also include taking control of your personal decisions (i.e. finances, health etc.) or controlling your access to your own finances.

Further tactics might include:

Guilt tripping: This includes causing the victim to feel guilty or that the 'owe' the abuser something as a way of changing their behaviour. The abuser might use terms such as 'you owe me this' or 'look at everything I have done for you' in an attempt to get their own way.

Passing Blame: The abuser might blame the victim for their own problems.

Trivialising: When you share how the abuser's behaviour is making you feel they might say things like ' you're overreacting' or 'misunderstanding' the situation.

If you believe you are experiencing emotional abuse, trust your instincts, don't ignore any warning signs. If you fear that you are in immediate danger call your emergency local services or 999 or get to a safe place if you can.

There are plenty of people and services who can support you if you feel like you are in an abusive situation. Do not suffer in silence.

Some abuse support services in the UK:

The Men’s Advice Line run by Respect is a confidential helpline specifically for male victims: 0808 801 0327

Victim Support run these services for victims and survivors of any abuse or crime, regardless of when it occurred or if the crime was reported to the police:

Free, independent and confidential 24/7 Support line: 08 08 16 89 111

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