Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control another person by using fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, or manipulation. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval.
Emotional abuse is like brain washing as it systematically wears away the victim's self-confidence, sense of self-worth, and trust in their own perceptions. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the pretense of giving advice, the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim's self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.
Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.
Types of Emotional Abuse
The other person places unreasonable demands on you and wants you to put everything else aside to tend to their needs.
It could be a demand for constant attention, or a requirement that you spend all your free time with the person.
But no matter how much you give, it's never enough.
You are subjected to constant criticism, and you are constantly berated because you don't fulfill all this person's needs.
Name-calling, accusing, blaming, threatening, and ordering. Aggressive behaviors are generally direct and obvious. The parent-child pattern of communication (which is common to all forms of verbal abuse) is most obvious when the abuser takes an aggressive stance.
Aggressive abuse can also take a more indirect form and may even be disguised as"helping." Criticizing, advising, offering solutions, analyzing, proving, and questioning another person may be an attempt to belittle, control, or demean rather than help. The underlying judgmental "I know best" tone the abuser takes in these situations is inappropriate and creates unequal footing in peer relationships. This and other types of emotional abuse can lead to what is known as learned helplessness.
The other person may deliberately start arguments and be in constant conflict with others.
The person may be "addicted to drama" since it creates excitement.
Denying a person's emotional needs, and done with the intent of hurting, punishing or humiliating.
The other person may deny that certain events occurred or that certain things were said.
The other person may deny your perceptions, memory and sanity.
Withholding is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusing to listen, refusing to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment, sometimes called the "silent treatment."
In addition to lowering self-esteem and creating conflict, the invalidation of reality, feelings, and experiences can eventually lead you to question and mistrust your own perceptions and emotional experience.
Denying and other forms of emotional abuse can cause you to lose confidence in your most valuable survival tool: your own mind.
Someone wants to control your every action. They have to have their own way, and will resort to threats to get it.
When you allow someone else to dominate you, you can lose respect for yourself.
The other person plays on your fear, guilt, compassion or values to get what they want.
This could include threats to end the relationship, totally reject or abandon you, giving you the "cold shoulder," or using other fear tactics to control you.
The abuser seeks to distort or undermine your perceptions of their world. Invalidating occurs when the abuser refuses to acknowledge reality. For example, if you tell the person you felt hurt by something the abuser did or said, the abuser might say "You are too sensitive. That shouldn't hurt you."
Minimizing is a form of denial. When minimizing, the abuser may not deny that a particular event occurred, but they question the recipient's emotional experience or reaction to an event. Statements such as "You're too sensitive," "You're exaggerating," or "You're blowing this out of proportion" all suggest that the recipient's emotions and perceptions are faulty and should not be trusted.
Trivializing, which occurs when the abuser suggests that what you have done or communicated is inconsequential or unimportant, is a more subtle form of minimizing.
Drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts. Whenever someone in your life reacts very differently at different times to the same behavior from you, tells you one thing one day and the opposite the next, or likes something you do one day and hates it the next, you are being abused with unpredictable responses.
This behavior is damaging because it puts you always on edge, and you can never know what's expected of you. You must remain hypervigilant, waiting for the other person's next outburst or change of mood.
An alcoholic or drug abuser is likely to act this way. Living with someone like this is tremendously demanding and anxiety provoking, causing the abused person to feel constantly frightened, unsettled and off balance.
Berating, belittling, criticizing, name calling, screaming, threatening, excessive blaming, and using sarcasm and humiliation, and making fun of you in front of others. Over time, this type of abuse erodes your sense of confidence and self-worth.