Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it’s happening.
It can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends.
The abuser projects their words, attitudes or actions onto an unsuspecting victim usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others.
In the following areas, ask these questions to see if you are abusing or being abused:
- Humiliation, degradation, discounting, negating. judging, criticizing:
- Does anyone make fun of you or put you down in front of others?
- Do they tease you, use sarcasm as a way to put you down or degrade you?
- When you complain do they say that “it was just a joke” and that you are too sensitive?
- Do they tell you that your opinion or feelings are “wrong?”
- Does anyone regularly ridicule, dismiss, disregard your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings?
- Domination, control, and shame:
- Do you feel that the person treats you like a child?
- Do they constantly correct or chastise you because your behavior is “inappropriate?”
- Do you feel you must “get permission” before going somewhere or before making even small decisions?
- Do they control your spending?
- Do they treat you as though you are inferior to them?
- Do they make you feel as though they are always right?
- Do they remind you of your shortcomings?
- Do they belittle your accomplishments, your aspirations, your plans or even who you are?
- Do they give disapproving, dismissive, contemptuous, or condescending looks, comments, and behavior?
- Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings:
- Do they accuse you of something contrived in their own minds when you know it isn’t true?
- Are they unable to laugh at themselves?
- Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect?
- Do they have trouble apologizing?
- Do they make excuses for their behavior or tend to blame others or circumstances for their mistakes?
- Do they call you names or label you?
- Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness?
- Do they continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?
- Emotional distancing and the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect:
- Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?
- Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment?
- Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes?
- Do they not notice or care how you feel?
- Do they not show empathy or ask questions to gather information?
- Codependence and enmeshment:
- Does anyone treat you not as a separate person but instead as an extension of themselves?
- Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you have not approved?
- Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you?
- Do they require continual contact and haven’t developed a healthy support network among their own peers?
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Feb 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Bogdanos, M. (2013). Signs of Emotional Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/02/20/signs-of-emotional-abuse/