Sometimes the signs of emotional abuse are difficult to see. The evidence of physical abuse is often glaring but the subtle nature of emotional abuse makes it challenging to recognize. It’s not only hard for the family and friends of the victim but even the victim themselves.

Emotional abuse is a psychological form of abuse used to gain power of and control over another person. This tends to take place in romantic relationships but also happens in families between parents and children.

If you know what to look for, it’s easier to identify. Emotionally abusive behaviors include:

  • Calling you names or insulting you in other ways
  • Harshly criticizing you for small missteps or even no reason at all
  • Threatening you either verbally or physically
  • Gaslighting (making you believe something that took place didn’t actually happen)
  • Using intimidation tactics
  • Controlling where you are, who you are with, or when you go somewhere
  • Monitoring who you talk to and when you talk to them
  • Humiliating you either alone or in front of others
  • Preventing you from leaving your home
  • Telling you how you should look, what you should wear, etc.
  • Blaming you for the abuse

When you meet an emotional abuser they often start off as loving, caring people. This “grooming phase” helps them gain your trust. As this phase wears off, the controlling and manipulative behaviors begin.

What are some signs of emotional abuse? Continue reading to learn what to
look out for.

1. You feel like you can’t go anywhere or hang out with unless you check in.

A quick check-in to find out when you’ll be home for dinner isn’t a problem. Open communication is an essential part of a healthy relationship. A line exists between casually checking in and needing to know where you’re at all the time, though. When it feels like you can’t make plans with someone or change plans without first “asking permission,” it is emotional abuse.

2. Your partner seems to constantly criticize or has something to say
about what you’re doing.

It might seem like your partner cares about your wellbeing when they point out your mistakes. If they do it in a kind and loving way then they probably do. When they seem to criticize your every move, though, they’ve veered into the territory of emotional abuse. If you feel like you can’t say anything in response, this further confirms it.

3. You feel like you’re walking on thin ice to try to keep your partner happy.

If it feels like you have to walk on eggshells in order to not upset your
partner, they are likely emotionally abusing you. While everyone has an “off day” from time to time, you shouldn’t have to feel constantly on edge with your partner.

4. Your partner says mean or hurtful things but says they are “only joking.”

Emotionally abusive people maintain power and control by putting others down. If your partner masks their insults by claiming them as jokes, this is another form of emotional abuse.

5. It feels like you have little to no privacy.

Privacy doesn’t mean hiding things or keeping secrets from your partner. It means maintaining basic mutual respect for one another’s personal space and private time. When your relationship is emotionally abusive, you’ll feel that you have little to no privacy. Your partner may go through your purse, phone, or internet history. Even if you have nothing to hide, the invasion of your privacy isn’t acceptable.

6. You receive many gifts after particularly nasty fights.

Showering you with gifts after a big fight is a form of manipulation. Your emotionally abusive partner tries to make up for it by buying you things or taking you out for a meal. This might make you question whether it was really “that bad” but this is exactly what they want you to do.

7. Your partner withholds affection, whether emotional or physical, as a form of punishment.

Withholding affection is another tactic of emotional abuse that helps maintain control. By holding out on providing comfort and love, they keep the upper hand. They indirectly force you to cooperate with them in order to receive the love you seek.

8. You question whether the emotional abuse is actually happening.

Also called “gaslighting,” an emotionally abusive partner may turn things back on you. They might make you wonder whether the emotional abuse is all in your head or if you’re making it a bigger deal than it actually is. This questioning your reality keeps you trapped in a loop and wondering if anything really is wrong.

9. Your relationship constantly feels like it’s “back
and forth.”

This might be the simplest way to describe the cycle of abuse. Things seem like they’re going well for a while before the tension begins to build and eventually bubbles over. Your partner will once again try to win your affection back then the cycle starts over.

10. Your partner blames you for the emotional abuse.

Blaming you for the emotional abuse is similar to gaslighting. It makes you feel like if you only did this or that then you could have kept them happy and the fight might not have happened. By blaming you they only hold onto the control.

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How Can You Escape a Relationship of Emotional Abuse?

From the outside, getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship seems simple. “Just leave,” people say. But people would leave if it were as simple as that. The cycle of abuse keeps you guessing and the control they hold makes it feel like you have no other option.

There is a way out, though. Dozens of organizations exist to help both women and men escape abusive relationships. Afterwards, a road of rebuilding stands ahead of you. Seeking treatment at a facility like Hawaii Island Recovery can help.

Trained teams of case managers, therapists, psychiatrists, and doctors exist to help you find your way back to a normal life. Once you get out from the chains of abuse, you can find freedom. Give us a call today at 877-721-3556 to find out how we can help.