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What is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional abuse or psychological abuse, is a pattern of behaviour that aims to control, manipulate, or dominate a person through fear, intimidation, or manipulation. It can take many forms, including verbal abuse, isolation, control, gaslighting, and economic abuse.
Recognising The Signs of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse can be as harmful as physical abuse, yet it is often overlooked or minimised. Receivers of emotional abuse may experience long-term effects such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and difficulty trusting others. Recognising the signs of emotional abuse can help people to get the help they need and to break the cycle of abuse. It can also help friends, family members, and others to support and advocate for the victims.
It’s important to mention that emotional abuse can happen in any relationship, not just in romantic relationships. It can happen between parents and children, siblings, friends, and even the workplace.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
- Verbal abuse: Verbal abuse takes many forms, including name-calling, belittling, threatening, and other forms of verbal aggression. It can make the victim feel worthless and cause long-term damage to their self-esteem.
- Isolation: Isolation is a tactic used by abusers to control the victim by limiting their access to friends, family, and activities. It can make the victim feel isolated and dependent on the abuser.
- Control: Abusers often try to control their victims by making decisions for them, monitoring their actions, and controlling every aspect of their life. This can make the victim feel like they have no autonomy or agency.
- Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a tactic used by abusers to manipulate the victim into doubting their sanity. The abuser may deny events, lie, or manipulate the victim into thinking they are crazy.
- Economic abuse: Economic abuse is a tactic used by abusers to control the victim’s access to money or resources. The abuser may control the victim’s finances, limit their access to money, or prevent them from working.
It’s important to note that emotional abuse is not always obvious and can be subtle, insidious, and cumulative. And emotional abuse is often accompanied by other forms of abuse, such as sexual, financial, digital and physical. Also, emotional abuse can happen in any relationship, not just in romantic relationships. It can happen between parents and children, siblings, friends, and even the workplace.
Impact of emotional abuse
It’s important to note that emotional abuse affects each person differently, and not everyone will experience the same symptoms. But emotional abuse can severely impact the victim’s physical, emotional, mental and social life. And it’s essential to seek professional help if you or someone you care about is experiencing emotional abuse.
- Low self-esteem and self-worth: Emotional abuse can cause victims to question their worth and value, leading to low self-esteem and self-worth. This can be a long-term effect that can take time and professional help to overcome.
- Anxiety and depression: Emotional abuse can cause the victim to feel anxious and depressed, leading to a decline in mental health. These feelings can be exacerbated by the isolation and control that often come with emotional abuse.
- Difficulty trusting others: Emotional abuse can make the victim distrust others, including friends, family members, and even professionals. This can make it difficult for the victim to seek help or to trust others even after they have left the abusive situation.
- Difficulty making decisions: Emotional abuse can make the victim feel like they have no autonomy or agency, leading to difficulty making decisions. This can make it difficult for the victim to leave an abusive situation or to make decisions about their own life.
- Physical symptoms: Emotional abuse can cause physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches and worsening pre-existing conditions. It’s important to note that emotional abuse can have a cumulative effect on a person’s overall physical and emotional well-being.
- Reach out to a therapist or counsellor: A therapist or counsellor can provide support, guidance, and resources for victims of emotional abuse. They can help the victim to process their experiences, work through their feelings, and develop coping strategies.
- Contact a domestic violence hotline or organisation: Domestic violence hotlines and organisations can provide information, resources, and support for victims of emotional abuse. They can also help the victim to create a safety plan and to understand their options.
- Create a safety plan: A safety plan can include a) identifying a safe place to go in an emergency, b) making a list of significant phone numbers and c) creating a code word or phrase to use in case of danger. It’s essential to have a plan in place in case the situation escalates.
- Consider leaving the abuser if it is safe to do so: Leaving an abuser can be difficult and dangerous. It is crucial to consider the risks and have a plan in place. It’s essential to seek professional help before deciding to leave.
- Seek legal action if necessary: In some cases, legal action may be required to protect the victim from the abuser. This can include filing for a restraining order or seeking a custody order. It’s vital to seek professional help before taking any legal action.
Do Not Underestimate Emotional Abuse.
Yes, emotional abuse is a serious issue that can have severe and long-term effects on the victim’s physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. It is vital to recognise the signs of emotional abuse and to seek help if you or someone you know is a victim. It’s essential to remember that help is available, and the victim is not alone. Many resources, support and professional help are available, such as therapists, counsellors, domestic violence hotlines and organisations, safety plans, and legal actions if necessary. It’s important to remember that healing and recovery are possible and that the victim deserves to live a life free of emotional abuse.