5 Signs of Emotional Abuse

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Why is it so prevalent in today’s culture not to take emotional and verbal abuse seriously? 

While physical abuse is dangerous and leaves physical wounds, emotional abuse leaves internal injuries that are just as damaging. Both can lead to symptoms of PTSD and can make a profound, lasting impact on the victim. 

Here is a simple definition for emotional abuse: “It involves a regular pattern of verbal offense, threatening, bullying, and constant criticism, as well as more subtle tactics like intimidation, shaming, and manipulation. Emotional abuse is used to control and subjugate the other person.” (via liveboldandbloom.com)

So what are some potential warnings signs of emotional abuse?

The abuser regularly points out your mistakes, flaws, or weaknesses.

In fact, the abuser may even make up weakness about you that aren’t true or criticize you for something that is actually a strength. Abusers have no patience for you being a human. And even fundamental human error will be perceived as a flaw on your part. You aren’t allowed to make mistakes, and if you do, it will likely be used against you. 

You will experience gas-lighting.

You may be blamed for things that aren’t true. It can, at times, feel utterly absurd the things you’re accused of. The abuser may blatantly do something wrong and find a way to twist it so that their mistake is all your fault. 

Abusers make excuses or take no responsibility for their behavior. 

Whether that encompasses blaming you or another person, they will consistently make excuses for their behavior or lack of follow-through. Even if they’ve been caught in a lie, they will make excuses or get angry at you for finding out the truth and twist the conversation and point a finger back on how you’ve done something wrong. Therefore, never really getting to the real issue of what they’ve done. 

You are the source of all the abuser's problems

Maybe the abuser will make a comment like, “I’ve never had these problems in past relationships.” “I always had plenty of money before you came into my life.” “You cause me so much stress, I’m miserable!” Mostly, anything that brings them dissatisfaction in life is your fault. This often leaves the victim feeling so full of guilt and shame that it can be difficult not to look inward and believe lies about yourself. i.e., I’m so worthless, I’m such an inconvenience, I suck, I’ll never be good enough, etc. When we go inward, it keeps our eyes from seeing the abuser for who he actually is and that the accusations that we are entirely responsible for all his problems for what it is - utterly ridiculous!

Abusers can be, and most of the time are, emotionally unavailable.

Abusers often don’t see their victim as someone they love and cherish. They see you as an object to control, whose purpose is to meet all their needs and not cause them any inconvenience. And If you’re just an object to someone, then they don’t need to emotionally engage with you in a way that a healthy relationship requires. 

Often, the only reason they show you any sort of affection or kindness is to keep you trapped. If you start to see him or her for who they really are, then they have to throw you some bait to keep you around. If the abuser shows you the love you’re likely desperate for, then you’ll think to yourself, “She’s changed” “Things are getting better” or “See this is the man I knew he was” etc. Abusers often know their victims well enough to know what they want to hear, therefore, knowing how to keep you trapped. 

While this is not an all-inclusive list, it does give some general red flags. 

It’s an unfortunately common occurrence to hear of people who have been abused who haven’t been taken seriously. Unless someone is being severely physically beaten people don’t think it’s a serious matter. Victims of emotional abuse are often so psychologically tormented and manipulated, that they tend to defend their abuser, be in denial about the severity of the injury, or make excuses about why it isn’t so bad or how things are getting better. Combine ignorance and a lack of education about emotional abuse and the dynamics that come into play within a victim and it’s a recipe for disaster!

It’s important to recognize when emotional abuse is happening and to remove the victim from the situation and seek help! To keep someone in this situation is to put their lives in danger and to enable the abuser.