What is Emotional Abuse?
So, you got in a fight with your partner. And you’re mad—like, really mad. In a healthy relationship, you’ll take some time to cool off and eventually move on or work through the argument together. This is totally normal. Because, guess what? People disagree all the time.
There is a line, however, in which your run of the mill disagreement transitions to abuse. Abuse—sometimes known as domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV)—is consistent behaviors used to assert power or control over a partner in a relationship.
Abuse can take so many forms. The first thing’s first: abuse of any kind is never okay. And, if you are being abused it is not your fault. You are not alone. We’re here for you—always.
Emotional abuse is one type of relationship abuse. It is often sneaky and hard to detect because there are often no physical signs. Even though it flies under the radar, it’s very serious. Sometimes it’s a precursor to physical abuse. Other times, it’s relentless and ongoing. Over time, emotional abuse can be extremely damaging to your mental wellness.
Sometimes known as psychological abuse, emotional abuse is consistent actions and behaviors intended to psychologically manipulate someone else. (Think making someone feel shame or guilt over and over and over again.)
The bottom line: emotional abuse is hurtful. It can be detrimental to your identity, dignity, and self-worth, sometimes leading to anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Myths about Emotional Abuse
Particularly because emotional abuse can be hard to spot, myths about what it is and when it happens can make it hard to seek help. Read on to get to the bottom of emotional abuse.
MYTH: Emotional and physical abuse always occur together.
REALITY: Emotional abuse can happen with no physical signs–that’s part of what makes it so hard to spot.
MYTH: Emotional abuse only happens to women.
REALITY: Like any abuse, emotional abuse can happen to anyone and in any relationship. Often, emotional abuse occurs between intimate partners, but it could occur among friends and peers, too.
MYTH: Emotional abuse isn’t “as bad” as physical abuse.
REALITY: Anything hurtful is just that—hurtful. There is no need to compare or judge one painful experience against another. Any abuse is never okay. And, if you are experiencing it in any way, you deserve help.
Help for Emotional Abuse
So, you think you might be experiencing emotional abuse. Now what?
Reaching out for help is brave. It’s especially brave if someone you are close to has used your emotions to assert their own power. We believe you and we’re here for you. Your emotions are valid. Let’s do this together.
Here are a few ways to get help and stay safe:
- Reach out. Sharing your emotions with someone who can help you process and validate what you are going through can help you see light in even the darkest of times. Text HELLO to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.
- Pro-Tip: For your safety, it may be wise to delete your texts after the conversation, particularly if your abuser has access to your phone.
- Tell someone in your life. The benefits of confiding in someone in your life are two-fold: you can find an ally in your corner to process what you’re going through and you can spend some quality time away from the person who is abusing you.Work to build a core group of people who you know will always have your back.
- Safety plan. Even when emotional abuse is not coupled with physical abuse, it is still unsafe. Think through and plan for all the ways you could get out of the relationship when you need to and are ready.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
Because emotional abuse can be hard to pinpoint, it is important to look for patterns of behaviors that could indicate abuse.
- Criticism. Unrelenting criticism of what you say or do with a specific intention to display power.
- Shame and blame. Sometimes emotional abuse manifests as incessant blaming and shaming for anything and everything. And, this goes two ways. Abusers may deflect blame or their responsibility for any hurtful actions, leaving the survivor feeling like they are the one at fault (read: gaslighting)
- Threats. Threatening in emotionally abusive relationships often happens two ways: threatening physical harm and threatening you to do something you do not want to do.
- Control. Emotional abusers may control your finances in an attempt to force you to stay in an abusive relationship. (Sad fact: survivors often cite financial manipulation as a primary reason they stay with an abusive partner.)
Crisis Text Line can help you deal with emotional abuse, whether you’re in an abusive relationship or recovering from an unhealthy situation. Reach a Crisis Counselor by texting HOME to 741741.
How to Deal With Emotional Abuse
If you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship, know that you deserve love and support. Nobody deserves to be abused. Recovering from emotional abuse may take time. No matter who is abusing you, or how big of a part of your life they are, recovery is possible.
Here are a few ways to put yourself first in your recovery:
- Find a pro. Recovering from abuse is not linear. And, it’s normal (healthy, even!) to get need help processing your emotions in a healthy way. Many therapists are trained specifically to work with survivors of abuse. Reaching out to a for help from a professional could help you transform the way you think and act in about and process the emotions around your relationships.
- Self-care. If you’ve been living in any sort of abusive relationship, it’s likely that you’ve put caring for yourself on the backburner. Practicing self-care (going for a walk, eating the right food, listening to music) reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety that you may be feeling. Prioritizing your self-care could be the first step to resetting your life after abuse. So, put yourself first!
- Find your people. Rebuilding your life after abuse can feel overwhelming. Like anything in life, the hard stuff is easier when you’ve got people in your corner. Try joining a new club, starting a regular workout class, or scheduling some quality time with the people who matter to you.
- Text us. We’re here for any and all of the hard stuff. Even if you’re well on your way to recovery, you can reach out to us any time you are in crisis and need to chat with a real human. Text HELLO to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor
We can help. Reach a Crisis Counselor by texting HOME to 741471.