Top 7 Signs of emotional abuse

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Top 7 Signs of emotional abuse

Here’s the thing: Emotional abuse can be pretty nasty because it always comes across in different ways and is therefore often not even consciously perceived as abuse. Because it encompasses any type of abuse that isn’t physical, there are a number of behaviors that fall under this term: “It can range from subtle things like criticism to more destructive abuse like manipulation, intimidation and bribery,” says Dr . Lea Lis , specialist in adult and child psychiatry, in conversation with SELF .

If you think you’ve been affected, it’s important to recognize the signs of emotional abuse—and understand how and why people use it—so you can restore your self-esteem and extricate yourself from the destructive situation.

It’s mostly about gaining power
As with physical abuse, emotional abuse involves gaining power over another person, whether it be a spouse or another family member. “Emotional abuse aims to create psychological weakness by undermining a person’s self-esteem and self-worth,” Kathy Nickerson , Ph.D., clinical psychologist, told SELF .

“The true goal of most abusers is to make the other person feel so weak, so inferior, and so damaged that they stop questioning the other and let the other person do all their thinking and decisions.”

1. Gas lighting
Gaslighting describes behavior in which a person tries to make the other person doubt things they actually know are true. For example: You accuse your friend of having an affair – he/she denies it, responding with phrases like “You’re just being paranoid. I’ve never done anything like that. You’re clearly crazy”. The aim is to let the other person become insecure in their own perception and to look for mistakes in themselves instead of with the abuser.

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2. The other makes you feel like you can’t do anything right
The person makes you feel like you’re being watched all the time and making mistakes all the time. You experience a lot of criticism and therefore no longer dare to let yourself fall near the other person – maybe even when the other person is not there at all. You think everything is your fault and you keep apologizing.

3. He*she jokes, at your expense
“Wow, you look pretty today. I guess you’ve finally decided to put in a little effort” — um, thanks? Sentences like this are actually not a compliment, they’re just mean and another sign that someone emotionally abused, nicknames that the other person knows you don’t like, and seemingly friendly statements that are actually belittling you fall into this category.

4. He*She ignores your boundaries
You’ve already told him/her umpteen times that he/she shouldn’t help yourself to your things without asking or that you need some time for yourself after work – he*she doesn’t stick to your wishes ( and perhaps for the repeated time?). Intentionally crossing another person’s boundaries, according to Dr. Lis another clear sign of emotional abuse and an attempt to wield power.

5. Your feelings are not taken seriously
If you speak your thoughts and feelings openly, the other person reacts with disinterest or comments like “It’s not that bad” or “You’re exaggerating”. This can lead you to distrust your feelings in every situation or to build up inner anger towards the other person.

6. He*She behaves passive-aggressively
Being passive-aggressive means expressing negative feelings indirectly, rather than addressing them openly. Many people use this type of communication as a form of “punishment”. “For example, one person might be angry and decide to silence the other or intentionally ‘forget’ to buy them a birthday present,” Dr. Lis.

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7. Self-injurious behavior
It sometimes goes so far as to attempt to manipulate or retain others by engaging in or threatening self-harm. This can be very stressful for people around you and is definitely a reason to seek professional help.

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