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Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is a way to control another person by using emotions to criticize, embarrass, shame, blame, or otherwise manipulate another person. In general, a relationship is emotionally abusive when there is a consistent pattern of abusive words and bullying behaviours that wear down a person's self-esteem and undermine their mental health.

The underlying goal of emotional abuse is to control the victim by discrediting, isolating, and silencing.

In the end, the victim feels trapped. They are often too wounded to endure the relationship any longer, but also too afraid to leave. So the cycle just repeats itself until something is done.

How Do You Know?

When examining your relationship, remember that emotional abuse is often subtle. As a result, it can be very hard to detect. If you are having trouble discerning whether or not your relationship is abusive, stop and think about how the interactions with your partner, friend, or family member make you feel.

Here are signs that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Keep in mind that even if your partner only does a handful of these things, you are still in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Do not fall into the trap of telling yourself "it's not that bad" and minimizing their behaviour. Remember: Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.

If you feel wounded, frustrated, confused, misunderstood, depressed, anxious, or worthless any time you interact, chances are high that your relationship is emotionally abusive.

Have Unrealistic Expectations

Emotionally abusive people display unrealistic expectations. Some examples include:

  • Making unreasonable demands of you

  • Making unreasonable demands of you

  • Expecting you to put everything aside and meet their needs

  • Demanding you spend all of your time together

  • Being dissatisfied no matter how hard you try or how much you give

  • Criticizing you for not completing tasks according to their standards

  • Expecting you to share their opinions (i.e., you are not permitted to have a different opinion)

  • Demanding that you name exact dates and times when discussing things that upset you (and when you cannot do this, they may dismiss the event as if it never happened)


Emotionally abusive people invalidate you. Some examples include:

  • Undermining, dismissing, or distorting your perceptions or your reality

  • Refusing to accept your feelings by trying to define how you should feel

  • Requiring you to explain how you feel over and over

  • Accusing you of being "too sensitive," "too emotional," or "crazy"

  • Refusing to acknowledge or accept your opinions or ideas as valid

  • Dismissing your requests, wants, and needs as ridiculous or unmerited

  • Suggesting that your perceptions are wrong or that you cannot be trusted by saying things like "you're blowing this out of proportion" or "you exaggerate"

  • Accusing you of being selfish, needy, or materialistic if you express your wants or needs (the expectation is that you should not have any wants or needs)

​Create Chaos

Emotionally abusive people create chaos. Some examples include:

  • Starting arguments for the sake of arguing

  • Making confusing and contradictory statements (sometimes called "crazy-making")

  • Having drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts

  • Nitpicking at your clothes, your hair, your work, and more

  • Behaving so erratically and unpredictably that you feel like you are "walking on eggshells"

Control and Isolate

​Emotionally abusive people attempt to isolate and control you. Some examples include:2

  • Controlling who you see or spend time with including friends and family

  • Monitoring you digitally including text messages, social media, and email

  • Accusing you of cheating and being jealous of outside relationships

  • Taking or hiding your car keys

  • Demanding to know where you are at all times or using GPS to track your every move

  • Treating you like possession or property

  • Criticizing or making fun of your friends, family, and co-workers

  • Using jealousy and envy as a sign of love and to keep you from being with others

  • Coercing you into spending all of your time together

  • Controlling the finances

Coping With Emotional Abuse

These are some strategies that can help you if you are or have been in an abusive situation:

  • Seek help and support: Victims of abuse are often too scared or ashamed to tell others about the abuse. However, it’s important to reach out to a friend, family member, therapist, or organization that can offer help, support, or protection.

  • Write down your experiences: Abusers often gaslight their victims and make them doubt their reality. It can be helpful to write down your version of events so you have a record of what happened.

  • Don’t blame yourself: You may blame yourself for what happened to you or think that you did something to cause it or deserve it, but you need to remember that if someone has abused you, it’s their fault and not yours. Remind yourself of this fact over and over again if you need to.

  • Refuse to engage your abuser: If you are in a situation where you need to interact with your abuser, step back and refuse to engage with them on any level.

  • Recognize unhealthy patterns: If you have grown up in an abusive home or been in an abusive relationship, emotionally abusive behaviours may seem normal to you and you may seek them out or perpetuate them in other relationships. It’s important to break the cycle by recognizing unhealthy patterns and working toward healthier relationships with mutual trust, respect, affection, and independent agency.

Hypnotherapy for trauma is gentle, sensitive and caring. We understand that the events and experiences that have led you to us are likely to be very raw. Trauma Hypnotherapy works with you to release and clear the toxic and frightening messages. Treatment will depend on the symptoms you are experiencing as a result of the trauma. It may involve psychotherapy, self-care, or a combination of these approaches. Treatments often focus on helping people integrate their emotional response to the trauma as well as addressing any resulting mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD.


Treatment may also involve the use of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) to help people evaluate thoughts and feelings related to trauma and replace negative thinking with more realistic thoughts.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is another approach that utilizes elements of CBT combined with eye or body movements.


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