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The people we choose to spend our time with can greatly impact our state of mind. If you often find yourself in situations where you feel helpless and worthless, chances are you are surrounded by an abusive person. Mental and emotional abuse can take on many faces, it often involves using verbal comments or subtle actions to bring down a person emotionally by chipping away at their self-esteem and self-worth. There are many signs of emotional abuse that you can use to identify.

An emotional abuser’s main motive is to control and manipulate their victims using any necessary means. An abuser may criticize the victim’s actions, blame them for every little thing and, guilt-trip the victim into justifying their actions. It is also important to note that most of the time the abuser (like in some types of personality disorders) is unaware of their actions and the damage they may be causing.

“An effective abuser gains compliance through shame and fear without ever being violent.”

Steven Stosny, Ph.D., Anger in the Age of Entitlement

You are more likely to have an emotionally abusive relationship with a close family member or partner, generally, someone who you interact with regularly. This also makes it tough to discern the signs as the abuser is someone you share a deep bond with.

Signs of Emotional Abuse

1. Victims start to believe it’s their fault

An abuser will make you feel like you are never good enough. They will have unreasonable expectations of you and will “punish” you if you fail to meet them. These punishments often include the silent treatment, arguing, withholding affection, belittlement, public embarrassment and, even shouting or cursing. The abuser may play the victim card and convince you that “it was all your fault”. It is important to realize though that it is impossible to satisfy an emotional abuser.

“You can get caught in a trap of catering to him, trying to fill a bottomless pit. But he’s not so much needy as entitled, so no matter how much you give him, it will never be enough.”

Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

2. Why they are always right, and noble–?But Not You

An abuser will convince you how trivial and insignificant your complaints and problems are. They will label your concerns as “too needy”, “too sensitive” or “too controlling”. They will go out of their ways to disintegrate and disregard your arguments. And they will bring up little details which are often insignificant to prove how they were the better person and how they were mistreated.

“No matter how badly he treats you, he believes that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. The privilege of rage is reserved for him alone. When your anger does jump out of you—as will happen to any abused woman from time to time—he is likely to use your anger against you to prove what an irrational person you are.”

Lundy Bancroft

3. Constant arguing and fighting will drain you.

In an emotional abuser’s presence, you will often feel the need to explain yourself. You will have the feeling of walking on eggshells. You will often feel anxious and be on the lookout of things you might be doing wrong so as not to displease them. Fights and arguments are very common and, in the end, all the confusion and chaos will leave you drained. You will begin to question your integrity and feel like you are the root of all problems. This is often the predicament of continuous emotional abuse and may leave the victim scarred for life.

4. Ways you are being manipulated.

The main goal of an abuser is to force control. They will go to lengths to stay in control and will avail of any tactic to achieve this. Emotional blackmail lies high on this list. An abuser may make you feel guilty for their shortcomings and problems. This way they manipulate you into doing things according to their pleasure and satisfaction. Whenever an abuser feels their control loosening, they will go crazy.

They label jealousy as of love and expect you to sympathize with them. Abusive behaviors may include stalking your socials, following you everywhere, keeping track of your activities, asking you questions regarding how and with who you spend your time. They will then use this information to guilt you into spending more time with them, giving them attention all the time and catering to their needs. An emotional abuser will isolate you from other people and use you as their object.

5. You are an object to them.

An abuser can objectify you in many ways. If they often joke about your serious problems, embarrass you in front of friends and family, put down your achievements, and treat you badly chances are you are being treated as an object.

“With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism, and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until he or she is incapable of judging a situation realistically.”

Beverly Engel, The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing

6. Other common signs to watch out for.

The following are some signs common to an emotionally abusive relationship:

  • You are constantly scared of displeasing them.
  • You feel unworthy of love and attention.
  • Feel clueless as to what you did wrong.
  • You often feel embarrassed in public because of them.
  • Feel helpless and unheard of in every argument.
  • You are constantly sad for no reason.
  • You sacrifice your time with others to tend to them.

What You Should Do If You Are Emotionally Abused

Like any other problem, acceptance of the existence of emotional abuse is the first step to recovery. It is important to realize that the relationship will not improve on its own and you can’t change an abuser as it is their choice to abuse and they do it willfully. You can, however, take simple steps to get your life back together and make the most out of it.

“The only person that deserves a special place in your life is someone that never made you feel like you were an option in theirs.”

Shannon L. Alder

a. Focus on your physical and mental health:

Go for a walk, focus on personal hygiene, and get on top of your pending tasks. Many past experiments show that taking care of yourself can make you feel ten times better and can uplift your mood. It is the beauty of human body, it already has all the tools to recover from a bad situation and the answer lies in itself. Take out more time for yourself. Make yourself a priority in the first place. Treat yourself to a nice dinner every once in a while and celebrate the good things in life.

b. Surround yourself with positive people:

The best way to break free from an abusive relationship is to form positive ones. Hangout with people who appreciate you for who you are and make you feel good about yourself. These people can also help you see clearly when you are sad and confused and can help lift you when you are feeling down.

c. Prioritize things you are passionate about:

Take part in activities that you enjoy doing. Try out new things to figure out what makes you happy. Some activities include swimming, singing, dancing, drawing, etc. Moreover, join clubs and find people with similar interests. Be proud of who you are and let it reflect on you.


If you are experiencing one or more of the signs of emotional abuse mentioned above, then you should start taking action against it. Firstly, it is important to realize that you are not alone and you have to stay positive that you can make your situation better. Cut all your ties with the abuser or at least maintain a safe distant from the abuser. You should always consider reaching out to the positive connections in your life, like friends or family if you ever feel like you need help.

If the situation is too worse, you should seek certified professionals help. They can also help you cope with the emotional abuse in your life and help you move on from it. It can feel really difficult to make such a big step but you should realize that it is an important step and a good professional may become the beginning of step towards a happy and successful life.

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