How to Recognize Emotional Abuse

Identifying Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is just as devastating as other types of abuse. Emotional abuse also tends to be more subtle, making it much more difficult to recognize.

You can protect yourself by learning about the signs of emotional abuse, though. Here are 6 markers of emotional abuse so you know what to look for.

1. Your partner is controlling

Abusers often try to control their environments in an attempt to avoid their own feelings of anxiousness, anger, and guilt. An emotionally abusive partner might try to control you in any number of ways — as you read through the remaining signs of emotional abuse, challenge yourself to think about how these actions could give the other person a perceived sense of control.

2. Neglecting to support you emotionally

When something bad or sad happens we generally want our partners to be there to support us emotionally through the tough times.

However, an emotionally abusive person might be entirely unable to offer you this type of support. That’s because they need your focus to be on them (it’s another way they can remain in control).

3. Criticism is more common than compliments

Emotionally abusive people rely on criticism for a number of purposes. For example, they might want to keep you dependent on them, knowing that if you felt confident about yourself you might leave.

Pay attention to how often someone compliments and criticizes you — if the scales are dramatically tipped in favor of criticism, emotional abuse could be at work.

4. Everything that goes wrong is your fault

It’s important to recognize our shortcomings and mistakes, and to take responsibility for them. However, that doesn’t mean that every little thing that goes wrong is your fault.

Emotional abusers can’t see their own roles in the way events play out, so arguing your point is often ineffective at best. If it feels like the other person refuses to be pleased, don’t be shocked — it’s yet another sign of emotional abuse.

5. A lack of support

The people in your life should support you and you should feel comfortable sharing your hopes, dreams, and thoughts with them.

Emotional abusers might try to make you feel silly for having a certain opinion. They might dismiss your dreams and goals as foolish. If you aren’t feeling supported and can’t figure out why, think about how the other person is treating you when you open up to them.

6. Non-verbal signs of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse doesn’t have to be verbal. Each of the following non-verbal behaviors can play a role in emotional abuse:

  • Eye rolling

  • Smirking

  • Refusal to make eye contact

  • Stomping out of a room

  • Inappropriate noises, like a deep sigh or sarcastic laugh

  • Withholding affection

These six issues are hardly the only signs of emotional abuse. If you feel as if your confidence, self-worth, and overall emotional state are declining, it’s worth learning more about emotional abuse and how to cope.

This article about emotional abuse and how to recover from Psychology Today is helpful. Therapy is also incredibly healing and can help you find the courage to fill your life with healthy, loving relationships.