Emotional Abuse in Relationships

Emotional abuse is a harmful and insidious form of abuse that can occur in a variety of relationships, including romantic relationships and parental relationships. It involves the systematic manipulation, belittling, and undermining of a person’s emotions and sense of self-worth, often resulting in long-term psychological damage.

Examples of Emotional Abuse

There are many ways that emotional abuse can manifest in romantic relationships. Some common examples include:

  • Criticism and belittling: Criticizing or belittling a partner’s thoughts, feelings, or behaviours can be a form of emotional abuse. This can make the victim feel unworthy and lacking in self-confidence.
  • Isolation and control: An abuser may try to control their partner’s social circles, activities, and decisions, in an attempt to isolate them from others and maintain control.
  • Threats and intimidation: Threatening to harm the victim, themselves, or others can be a form of emotional abuse. This can create a sense of fear and anxiety in the victim.
  • Manipulation and gaslighting: Lying, manipulating, or denying events or behaviors can be a form of emotional abuse known as gaslighting. This can make the victim doubt their own reality and feel confused and uncertain about what is true.
  • Emotional neglect: Ignoring or dismissing a partner’s feelings or needs can be a form of emotional abuse. This can leave the victim feeling unsupported and unimportant.

It is important to recognize the signs of emotional abuse in a romantic relationship and seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing it. Emotional abuse can have serious consequences on a person’s mental health and well-being, and it is never okay to accept or tolerate abuse in any form.


One particularly insidious form of emotional abuse is gaslighting, which involves the manipulation of a person’s perceptions and memories through lies and deceit. The abuser may deny events or behaviours that have occurred, or manipulate evidence to make the victim question their own recollection of events. This can lead the victim to doubt their own reality and feel confused and uncertain about what is true and what is not.

If you are experiencing gaslighting, it can be a confusing and unsettling experience. Here are some suggestions for overcoming gaslighting:

  • Recognize and validate your own feelings and experiences: It is important to trust your own perceptions and experiences, even if someone else is trying to convince you that they are not true.
  • Seek out supportive and trustworthy relationships: Surrounding yourself with people who validate your feelings and experiences can help counteract the effects of gaslighting.
  • Keep track of the facts: Write down or keep a record of what has happened, including any incidents of gaslighting. This can help you stay grounded in reality and provide evidence if needed.
  • Take care of yourself: It is important to prioritize your physical and emotional well-being during this time. Make sure to get enough rest, eat well, and engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
  • Seek professional help: If you are struggling to cope with the effects of gaslighting, it may be helpful to seek the support of a therapist or other mental health professional. They can provide a safe and supportive space to process your experiences and help you develop strategies for coping with gaslighting.

Remember, you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity, and you do not have to tolerate gaslighting or any other form of abuse. It is important to seek help if you are in an unhealthy or unsafe situation.

Emotional Abuse In Relationships

Predisposition to Abuse

There is no predisposition to abuse, and anyone can be a victim or perpetrator of emotional abuse. However, some people may be more vulnerable to abuse due to past trauma or low self-esteem. It is important to recognize the signs of emotional abuse and seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing it.

RD Laing, a Scottish psychiatrist, explored the concept of cognitive dissonance in the context of emotional abuse, particularly in the context of mixed messages in relationships. When someone receives conflicting messages from their abuser, they may experience a sense of confusion and uncertainty, leading to a breakdown of trust and a lack of self-worth. This can be especially damaging to a person’s mental health and can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Are All Abusers Bad?

It’s important to remember that abusive behaviour is wrong and harmful, and we should hold abusers accountable for their actions. But it’s not fair or helpful to just label all abusers as “bad” people. Abusers are complicated, with their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Some of them may have had rough stuff happen to them that led to their abusive behaviour, or they may have learned it from someone else, or they may have a personality disorder that causes them to act abusive.

It’s important to understand that abusive behaviour is a choice, and it’s possible for an abuser to change their ways and learn to interact with others in a healthier way. But it takes a lot of work and a willingness to take responsibility and seek help, like therapy or counselling.

If you’re experiencing abuse or think someone you know is being abused, it’s crucial to get help and support from people you trust, like friends, family, or professionals. You deserve to live in a safe and healthy environment, and there are resources out there to help you.”

How Therapy Can Help With Abuse

Therapy can be an effective way for people who have experienced abuse to process their experiences and cope with the impact of the abuse. It can also be helpful for abusers to understand the root causes of their abusive behaviour and learn healthier ways of interacting with others.

In therapy, people who have experienced abuse can work through their feelings of fear, shame, guilt, and other emotions that may be related to the abuse. They can also learn coping skills to help them manage their emotions and improve their overall mental health.

For abusers, therapy can help them understand the dynamics of abuse and the impact of their behaviour on others. They can work on taking responsibility for their actions and learn healthy ways of expressing their emotions and resolving conflicts.

Emotional Abuse In Relationships

It is important to note that therapy is not a quick or easy process, and it may involve challenges and setbacks. However, with a commitment to change and a willingness to engage in the therapeutic process, it can be a valuable tool for healing and growth. If you are interested in seeking therapy for issues related to abuse, it is important to find a therapist who is experienced in working with these issues and who can provide a safe and supportive environment for you to work through your challenges.


Psychotherapy resources, information and support for people, professionals and businesses