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What Is Emotional Abuse and How to Cope with It

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Disagreements or conflicts are a normal part of almost any relationship. How conflicts are dealt with can be anything but normal. Do you find yourself or your partner getting angry? That happens. Frustrated? Yes, that too. What about name-calling, belittling, or giving ultimatums? Those classify as abuse. How about dismissiveness, patronising, and public humiliation? Yes, those are signs of abuse too.

Most people are so accustomed to name-calling and mocking during arguments that they consider it normal. In fact, research suggests that more than half of all individuals experience emotional abuse at some point. Perhaps this is why people are challenged when identifying emotional abuse.

If you, too, are unsure of what classifies as emotional abuse, here’s a quick look.

A conflict is a healthy approach for two people to vent feelings, recognize an issue, and speak about whatever is upsetting them. Emotional abuse is an intentional behavior aimed at instilling fear and gaining power and control over another person. So if conflicts leave one partner consistently feeling terrified or confused, it is a sign of emotional abuse.

If you or a loved one are facing emotional abuse and require guidance, this article will help you learn how to identify it and guide you on how to deal with it.

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is defined as a pattern of conduct in which a perpetrator uses feelings such as shame, blame, guilt, etc., to humiliate and terrorize their victim. Like other forms of abuse, it tends to repeat itself.

To avoid taking responsibility for what happened, the abuser tries to justify their behavior. The abuser then continues this same conduct regularly as if the abuse never happened. The abuser may even appear to be extra charming, even contrite, to persuade the victimized party that they are sorry. 

While most common in romantic and marriage relationships, mental abuse can occur with any connection, including family members, friends, even coworkers.

When is a relationship considered emotionally abusive? A single instance of mistreatment may not always constitute emotional abuse. However, a habit of such conduct instills anxiety and such high levels of guilt that a person’s confidence and even mental wellbeing are compromised.

If you’re interested in learning more about varying forms of emotional abuse, you’ll find that the Sensera app has extensive resources that can help you.

Signs of emotional abuse

Do you often feel guilty, humiliated, silenced, violated, or uncomfortable around someone? These feelings could be indicators of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse isn’t physically evident. There are no bruises, cuts, or scars. Plus, it can be underhanded or deceptive, making it extremely difficult to spot. 

Because abusers are effective manipulators and emotional abuse is a destructive practice, it’s critical to recognize signs early on.

The following are five common indicators when people are emotionally abusing you:

Extremely critical or judgmental of you

Criticising or judging others is natural, but in emotionally abusive situations, someone goes above and beyond. Here are the early warning signs you need to watch out for.

  • When someone constantly has a negative opinion of what you say, do, or think
  • When someone constantly embarrasses or humiliates you by putting you down in front of others
  • When someone constantly makes you feel horrible about yourself by using teasing or sarcastic jokes

Deceiving and persuading

To make you feel awful and force you to do what they want, an emotionally abusive person may use a variety of tactics, including:

  • Withdrawing affection when you’ve done something that does not favour them
  • Guilty pleasures
  • Making you doubt your abilities
  • Denying what you know to be true
  • Ignoring or excluding you

Dismissal of your emotions

The abuser may try to disregard your feelings or emotions by:

  • Calling you crazy or insane
  • Accusing you of being overly sensitive
  • Being unconcerned about your feelings
  • Refusing to discuss or accept responsibility for their conduct
  • Making fun of your accomplishments, as well as your goals and dreams
  • Blaming you or someone else for their actions

Possession and control of personality

The abuser may try to limit your conduct or display unreasonable jealousy by:

  • Keeping an eye on your behaviour
  • Calling or texting very frequently when you’re not around
  • Demanding full access to your phone, email, or social media accounts
  • Getting irritated when you want to spend time alone or with anyone such as family, friends, or colleagues
  • Isolating you from other people in your life, as well as hobbies, jobs, and any other activities that you enjoy

Intrusion of your privacy and no respect for boundaries

Everyone has the right to their personal space. It can be difficult to distinguish between the pleasure of starting a relationship versus a violation of your personal space since you may feel compelled to spend all of your time with this new amazing person. Signs to be wary of include:

  • Checking of your text messages, emails, chats, or any social media accounts without your consent or permission
  • Rushing an emotional connection more quickly than you are comfortable with, such as saying ‘I love you’ early on and pushing you to respond the same
  • Pressuring you to engage in sexual activities or urging you to move in together

Ask yourself and try your best to answer honestly: Are some of the common visible indications of emotional abuse and manipulation mentioned above recognizable to you?

If so, get some help. If you’re unsure of where to start, try the Sensera app.

Effects on victims of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse victims cannot recognize destructive behaviour.

Why? Because accusations, name-calling, critiques, and gaslighting gradually destroy a victim’s sense of self, and they can no longer view themselves or their relationships objectively.

As a result, the victim may agree with the abuser and become critical of themselves. They are more likely to absorb emotional abuse as their shortcomings than consider the abuser as the perpetrator of violence. Emotional abuse can also lead to physical issues, such as sadness, eating disorders, and insomnia. 

Victims of emotional abuse may begin to have issues such as low self-esteem, leading to anxiety. 

According to psychology experts, the effects of emotional abuse can be just as severe as those of physical abuse. This makes it even more critical to help victims identify what constitutes emotional abuse and teach them how to handle or cope with it.

How to cope with emotional abuse

If you spot any signs of such abuse in any of your connections, you may regain control of your life by being honest about what you’re going through.

Here are eight ways to cope with emotional abuse so you can start reclaiming your life:

  • Prioritise yourself. Prioritise your mental and physical wellbeing. Keep in mind that your abuser will go to any length to maintain power over you. Do not hide from the person who is abusing you! When you start doing so, you may be able to reach a point where you can set boundaries, leave the situation, and seek help.
  • Define boundaries. Avoid being drawn into conflicts and consider how you’ll respond to manipulation beforehand, so you’re not caught unaware. However, if you can’t keep away from conflicts, learn how to say ‘no’, then honour your decision. Express your limits and stick to them. Tell your abusers that they are no longer allowed to mistreat you the way they used to. Inform them of the consequences if they choose to indulge in such activities. Be confident when you speak and let your tone reflect your conviction.
  • Avoid getting involved. Setting boundaries with an abusive individual entails sticking up for oneself to any extent required to end the abuse. In many circumstances, this entails leaving a household, breaking up with a partner, or cutting ties with a friend. What’s important is to not speak with the abusers again. Respond to their text messages, phone calls, or emails with silence. Do not make any contact with them at all. If you can’t avoid spending time or working with the abusers, spend as much time as possible away from them.
  • Never ever blame yourself. The abuser may have manipulated you to think that there is something wrong with you to deserve the abuse. However, know that you are not the issue. You will never be able to make things right in your abusers’ eyes, no matter how hard you try. In other words, do not try to explain yourself, soothe their feelings, or apologise. Abusers are aware of their behaviour, and abusing you is a conscious effort.
  • Do not attempt to fix abusers. You may want to help your abuser or change them. But trying to do so without expert assistance is generally difficult. You can encourage them to see a therapist, but you cannot force the abuser. They must take the first step and recognize that they need help. The only thing you have control over is your reaction.
  • Create your support system. Learn how to ask for help. Asking for assistance merely demonstrates your will to make a move. Create a group of people who can be of help to you. They will help you develop a clearer, unbiased, and more realistic perspective.Discuss your feelings with a trustworthy family member, friend, or perhaps a professional such as a psychologist or counselor. Opening up about what you’ve gone through might be terrifying at first, but reaching out to your trusted people can go a long way toward getting the care you need.
  • Plan your exit. Anyone who suspects they are in an emotionally abusive environment should have a plan to leave if necessary.  Work with your support network or trusted professionals to help you plan. If at all feasible, tell your abuser that your relationship is over. Then, cut all your connections and avoid any attempts to contact your abusers.  Emotional abuse can have severe consequences, including being a precursor for physical aggression. Note that when a victim decides to leave, the abuse typically worsens. Therefore, be prepared with a safety plan in case the violence escalates.
  • Help yourself and allow healing. It takes time to recover from emotional trauma. Allow yourself time to focus on your needs. This may entail developing a new self-care regimen, consulting with a therapist, and using self-help programs like the Sensera app. Self-help apps or programs contain sessions to help you regain your sense of self. Therapy can aid abuse survivors in moving on by allowing them to process their experiences or even manage insomnia.

Bonus tip: What is the best way to deal with insomnia?

  • Make it a habit of exercising regularly.
  • Reduce your level of anxiety.
  • Try cognitive therapy to improve your mental health.
  • Establish a routine to fix your body clock.
  • Get rid of all your worries before going to bed.
  • Do not eat or drink anything before going to bed.
  • Remove alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine from your diet.


Emotional abuse can happen to anyone at any stage in life. Victims of emotional abuse constantly seeking validation or reassurance, and have difficulty maintaining relationships.

Educate yourself about emotional abuse and recognise the signs. Accept aid from your trusted support group or professionals, but most importantly, learn to help yourself. Get the Sensera app to assist you in dealing with and coping with abuse.

Sensera is a mobile app that contains personalised courses and exercises that assist people in improving their mental health and overall quality of life. Sensera offers self-treatment audio sessions designed by certified psychotherapists. Users will also receive quick assistance in the event of disagreement, conflict, or emotional abuse.

Remember: You are never to blame for the abuse, and you do not have to put up with it. Whatever the case may be, you do not deserve the abuse, and it is never your fault.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.


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