How to Spot Emotional & Psychological Abuse

When we first hear the phrase “domestic abuse” we often first think of physical abuse, but domestic abuse can come in many other forms including emotional and psychological abuse.   Below are some signs to watch for:

How to Spot Emotional & Psychological Abuse

Accusations, denial, and blaming

This looks like:

  • Jealousy. They come at you with accusations of cheating or spending too much time at work, with friends, etc.
  • Gaslighting.  This is when they deny something you know is true.  It is meant to make you question and doubt yourself.
  • Accusing you of abuse.  The abuser will tell you that you are the one with control and anger issues and make themselves the victim.
  • Blaming.  According to them, you are the one that always starts the fights and that you are the reason for all the issues in the relationship.

Emotional neglect and isolation

Examples of this include:

  • Withholding affection. When you approach them with a loving touch or try to kiss them they pull away and act uninterested leaving you feeling rejected.
  • Shutting down communication.  They refuse to have important conversations with you and often change the subject when you want to talk about something specific.  They may not text or call you back during these periods, essentially stonewalling you.
  • Call you needy. When you’re feeling down and reach out to your partner for emotional support they tell you that you are needy or that you are always so negative and need to let things go.

Control and shame

This can look like:

  • Monitoring where you are.  They have an obsessive need to know where you are at all times and may show up where you said you were going to be.
  • Outbursts. They blow up because you didn’t take the trash out before they got home or because you were told to cancel plans that you wanted to keep and went anyway.  Now you have to hear a tirade about how uncooperative you are and that you never listen.
  • Using others.  The abuser will tell you that your family or friends don’t want to hang out with you or see you because you are crazy or unwanted.

Criticizing, humiliating, and negating 

Some examples are:

  • Insults on your appearance. They may make a rude comment about the clothes you are wearing or the way you did your hair.
  • Putting down your interests. Often they will tell you that your interests are a waste of time or pointless endeavors.
  • Name-calling and derogatory pet-names. They will outwardly tell you that you are dumb, stupid, crazy, or use a derogatory pet name such as “chubby monkey.”
  • Yelling and screaming.  Abusers will use this tactic to undermine what you have to say in an attempt to intimidate and control you.
  • Dismissiveness. When you tell them something important or exciting to you and it is met with eye-rolling, sighing as if uninterested, shoulder shrugging or head shaking.

While the signs of emotional and psychological abuse might be harder to spot at first, over time they become more and more obvious and are no less dangerous than physical abuse.  Often times, this form of abuse can lead to physical abuse in the long run.  Trust your instincts and know when it is time to seek professional help or to leave this toxic type of relationship.  Contact us.

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