Emotional abuse happens when someone tries to control you by bullying you, making unreasonable demands or causing you to question your reality. While this form of abuse can take many forms, the ultimate goal is to discredit you and undermine your self-esteem.
Recognizing Emotional Abuse
One of the most insidious things about emotional abuse is how subtle it can be. Because ongoing criticism, dismissal and belittling can make you doubt your self-worth, you may become trapped and isolated. If you have trouble figuring out whether your partner is emotionally abusive, take time to evaluate how your interactions with them make you feel. If words like “anxious,” “misunderstood,” “confused” or “frustrated” come to mind, odds are that your partner is manipulative.
A relationship should be mutually beneficial, with both parties treating each other kindly and respectfully. If your partner routinely does things like these, you may be a victim of emotional abuse.
- Dismisses your feelings as invalid
- Is overly critical of your perceived flaws, no matter how minor
- Insults or demeans you in front of others
- Accuses you of being “too needy”
- Starts arguments for no apparent reason
- Attempts to control where you go or who you spend time with
- Trivializes your concerns
- Gaslights you
- Withholds their attention or affection
Effects of Emotional Abuse
Due to ongoing emotional abuse, you may feel unsafe in your home or lose your sense of self due to worthlessness and doubt. Worst of all, you may begin to see yourself through your abuser’s eyes, becoming overly self-critical. Once this happens, many victims become trapped in the abusive relationship, believing they’re undeserving of love and affection.
Though emotional abuse does not leave physical bruises or injuries, the psychological scars are undeniable. Eventually, emotional abuse victims may end friendships because they become convinced that nobody likes them. The chronic stress can lead to severe health problems, including depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, self-harm, eating disorders and substance abuse. These long-term issues are why some states are changing their domestic violence classifications to include emotional abuse.
How to Overcome and Heal From Emotional Abuse
The first step in breaking the cycle of emotional abuse is to realize your partner is perpetuating a form of violence against you. You should also understand that your partner’s treatment of you is not your fault. Only then can you take steps to stop the onslaught of negativity and regain control of your life. Here are some additional tips for getting past emotional abuse.
- Practice self-love: Stop trying to live up to your partner’s unrealistic standards and begin taking better care of your needs.
- Establish boundaries: Firmly tell the other person that you will no longer tolerate their abusive behavior, then define the consequences of not respecting you.
- Avoid engaging: If an abuser tries to argue with or insult you, do not apologize or try to smooth things over. Instead, realize that there’s no way to live up to their expectations, and walk away if you can.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, including emotional abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advisors. You can also talk to a therapist if the abuse escalates and you feel unsafe or traumatized.
For help healing from an emotionally abusive relationship and recovering from a substance use disorder, reach out to us at Canyon Crossing. In our supportive, women’s-only treatment environment, you can learn to lead a healthy lifestyle and achieve personal growth away from the influence of alcohol and drugs. Contact us for more information about our treatment options.