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Emotional Abuse Warning Signs of Emotional


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)

​Invalidate You

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 You

​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

Types of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can take a number of different forms, including:

  • Accusations of cheating or other signs of jealousy and possessiveness

  • Constant checking or other attempts to control the other person's behaviour

  • Constantly arguing or opposing

  • Criticism

  • Gaslighting

  • Isolating the individual from their family and friends

  • Name-calling and verbal abuse

  • Refusing to participate in the relationship

  • Shaming or blaming

  • Silent treatment

  • Trivializing the other person's concerns

  • Withholding affection and attention

It is important to remember that these types of abuse may not be apparent at the outset of a relationship. A relationship may begin with the appearance of being normal and loving, but abusers may start using tactics as the relationship progresses to control and manipulate their partner.

Tips for Dealing With Emotional Abuse

The first step in dealing with an emotionally abusive relationship is to recognize the abuse. If you were able to identify any aspect of emotional abuse in your relationship, it is important to acknowledge that first and foremost.

By being honest about what you are experiencing, you can begin to take control of your life again. Here are seven more strategies for reclaiming your life that you can put into practice today.





When it comes to your mental and physical health, you need to make yourself a priority. Stop worrying about pleasing the person abusing you. Take care of your needs. Do something that will help you think positively and affirm who you are.








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