Breaking the Silence: Recognizing the Signs Of Emotional Abuse

Last Updated
March 7, 2023

Emotional abuse is when someone makes another person feel bad on the inside, like how physical abuse can hurt on the outside. It can be hard to spot because it doesn't leave visible marks like bruises. Some people might not realize they are experiencing emotional abuse, so they don't seek help.

It's super important to know the signs of emotional abuse, like when someone always puts you down or tries to control you. Learning about these signs is the first step to get help, talk to someone about it, and stop the abuse from happening.

The definition of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is when someone hurts your feelings on purpose. It can happen with words, when someone makes you do things you don't want to do, or when someone doesn't let you interact with people close to you.

If you learn to recognize these behaviors, you can start to protect yourself from them. [1]

Types of emotional abuse

  • Verbal abuse
  • Emotional blackmail
  • Gaslighting
  • Isolation
  • Financial abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Spiritual abuse
  • Withholding affection
  • Ignoring or neglecting someone
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Controlling behavior
  • Shaming or blaming you
  • Silent treatment [2]
A table with four columns highlighting the types of emotional abuse, their impacts, the most likely abusers, and how it's executed.

Recognizing Emotional Abuse

The Subtlety of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can be sneaky and hard to notice. It unfolds gradually, so the people it affects might not recognize it immediately. Others don't take it seriously since it doesn't leave any bruises. That's why it's essential to know and remember the warning signs.

Signs that someone is emotionally abusing you

They act superior to you

  • They treat you unfairly because they don't think you're equal.
  • Blame you for their own mistakes and problems.
  • They doubt you and try to show that you are wrong
  • They make jokes at your expense
  • They tell you that your opinions, ideas, values, or thoughts are stupid, illogical, or don't make sense.
  • They speak in a way that is meant to make you feel small or unworthy.
  • They act like they're always right, know what is best, and are smarter than you.

They try to control you

  • They control who you spend time with, including your friends and family.
  • They monitor you online, including reading your text messages, looking at what you post on social media, and checking your email.
  • Your partner accuses you of cheating or being jealous of your other relationships
  • They hide or take your car keys away
  • They ask you where you are all the time or use GPS to track your every move.
  • They treat you like an object
  • They criticize or make fun of you
  • They try to make you feel bad about yourself, so you will not want to be with anyone else
  • They coerce you into spending all your time together
  • They control all your finances

Emotional blackmail

  • They make you feel guilty all the time
  • They humiliate you in public
  • They use your feelings and values against you
  • They punish you by withholding affection
  • Denying that something happened or telling a lie about it
  • They exaggerate your flaws to deflect attention away from their own poor choices or mistakes

They create chaos in your life

  • They control who you spend time with, including your friends and family.
  • They start arguments for the sake of arguing
  • They make confusing and contradictory statements is sometimes called "crazy-making."
  • They have sudden changes in mood or sudden emotional reactions.
  • They criticize every little detail of your clothes, hair, work, and more.
  • You feel like you have to be very careful around him/her because they might get mad or upset easily, and you are "walking on eggshells." [3]

The impact of emotional abuse

Research shows that emotional abuse can be just as bad as physical abuse. An emotionally abusive relationship leaves invisible wounds;

  • Low self-worth and self-esteem
  • Guilt, shame, and self-blame emotions
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions
  • Trauma-related stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Having trouble building good relationships and trusting other people
  • Isolation and retreat from society
  • Physical signs such as migraines, stomach aches, and persistent pain
  • Self-injurious behavior and suicidal ideas or actions
  • Alcoholism and other bad coping methods
  • Inability to control one's emotions and mood swings
  • Problems making decisions and addressing problems
  • Adverse effects on academic or professional performance
  • Establishing limits and standing up for oneself can be challenging

Long-Term Impact on Mental Health and Well-being

The long-term effects of emotional abuse can be severe and impact a person's mental health. Victims may experience depression, anxiety, and even PTSD. It's essential to recognize these effects and seek help to heal from the damage caused by emotional abuse.[4]

A teen girl showing signs of emotional abuse

Emotional Abuse in Different Situations

Emotional Abuse in the Workplace

Emotional abuse at work means that someone is being mean or hurtful to others, making the workplace unhappy. It can manifest as bullying, belittling, manipulation, excessive criticism, financial manipulation, or even isolation. This abuse can make people stressed, depressed, and not want to come to work.

Because of this, companies need to pay attention to and stop emotional abuse. They should ensure everyone is respected, people can talk openly about their problems, and everyone supports each other. This way, the workplace can be a happy and safe place for everyone to do their best work. [5]

Emotional Abuse Among Friends

Emotional abuse between friends means that sometimes a friend can be mean or hurtful, and it's not always easy to notice. They might criticize, use mean words, lie, or purposely leave someone out. It's important to recognize when this occurs so the person experiencing the hurt can learn to stand up for themselves and seek kind and supportive friends.

This kind of mean behavior isn't okay. It's important to recognize when this occurs so the affected person can learn to stand up for themselves and find kind and supportive friends. Every person deserves friends who help them feel happy, safe, and valued. [6]

What to Do if You Are Being Emotionally Abused

Finding Support and Building a Safety Net

Finding support is vital when dealing with emotional abuse. Confide in trusted friends or family members, join support groups, or seek professional help from a therapist. Establishing a strong support network can make a significant difference in the healing process.

One option for seeking professional help is online therapy. It provides convenient and accessible support for individuals experiencing emotional abuse. To learn more, visit our affiliate partner's website: Online Therapy.


Knowing the signs of emotional abuse is essential to stop it from happening. If you or someone you care about is going through this, it's okay to ask for help and support.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on getting help - you can tell us in the comments below. Let's discuss how online therapy can be an excellent way to deal with emotional abuse.


How can I get help if I'm in an emotionally abusive relationship?

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional abuse, it is important to reach out for help. This can include talking to a trusted friend or family member, seeing a mental health professional, or contacting agencies like the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

What are some coping mechanisms for dealing with emotional abuse?

Coping with emotional abuse can include self-care activities such as spending time outdoors, engaging in creative projects, or connecting with supportive people. Also, creating boundaries and maintaining open communication can be essential for protecting yourself from further harm. We also recommend seeking professional help.


  1. Springer Link: Beyond Correlates: A Review of Risk and Protective Factors for Adolescent Dating Violence Perpetration
  2. Research Gate: The Impact of Psychological Aggression on Women's Mental Health and Behavior: The Status of the Field
  3. Science Direct: Reconstructing the Risk–Need–Responsivity model: A theoretical elaboration and evaluation
  4. Research Gate: Awareness for Emotional Abuse
  5. Faculty Experiences with Bullying in Higher Education
  6. Research Gate: Overt and Relational Aggression in Adolescents: Social-Psychological Adjustment of Aggressors and Victims

⚠️Disclaimer: The information provided on this health blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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3 comments on “Breaking the Silence: Recognizing the Signs Of Emotional Abuse”

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