In working with people, we often come across all forms of abuse. Physical and sexual abuse are the most common of all the different types of abuse and people seem to focus more on them. People often forget that there is also verbal- and emotional abuse. This usually starts way before the physical violence and does more harm than we think. The amount of violence that we currently experience in this country is horrific. But what is emotional abuse? Emotional abuse can be viewed as any kind of behavior used by your partner in order to control, belittle or maltreat you.  There will be no physical scars or wounds, but the pain it causes can live inside you for a very long time. Both men and woman can be equally emotionally abusive. During this article I would like to take a look at this very sensitive subject in hopes to shed some light unto the types of emotional abuse and also the effects that it could have on the abused individual. Let’s take a look at the different types of emotional abuse:


1. Rejection

Rejection means that your partner refuses to acknowledge your presence, opinions or worth. They will tell you that you are worthless and inferior. Some people also give their partner the silent treatment for days (I also consider this emotional abuse).  Your partner can also reject your feelings and make them seem less worth or untrue: Here are some example sentences:

“I don’t know why I put up with you!”

 “You’re crazy!”

“Your feelings don’t mean anything to me”

“You are stupid and don’t know what you are talking about”.

2. Degrading

Degrading your partner includes: insulting, ridiculing, name calling, imitating, infantilizing, yelling, swearing, publicly humiliating or labeling your partner. Degrading can cause allot of emotional problems for the victim because after a while they start to believe that they have no worth. This leads to allot of doubt, guilt and emotional pain. Here are some examples:

“You’re so stupid!’

“You look disgusting.”

“You’ll never be good enough for me.”

“You’re a horrible father/mother”

“You are the worst husband/wife and I can’t believe I married you”

“You’re not worthy of being called a wife/husband”

3. Withholding emotional support

When you fail to give care and support to your partner in a sensitive and caring way, it can be labelled as emotional abuse. We all enter into a relationship with the expectation of being emotionally supported and safe. When you deny your partner emotional support you are taking away their ability to talk to you (taking away their power and safety). You can never just ignore your partner’s needs – that is one of the reasons why we enter into relationships in the first place. Examples:

“I don’t feel like talking to you”

“Don’t bother me with your issues”

“I don’t care about your feelings”

“Get over yourself and move on”  

4. Terrorizing

This occurs when a partner tries to induce terror or fear in his/her partner. This person is intimidating, demanding and violent. The motivation behind this is to keep you in a state of fear so that he/she can control you. This is done by making threats to harm you or to harm someone else if “you don’t behave yourself”.  Living in constant fear like this is horrible and many victims might end up running away, killing themselves or killing their partner. Examples:

“If you talk to me like that again I will punch you in the face”

“I will kill you and no one will ever find you”

“If you behave yourself I will not kick you tonight”

“If you tell someone; I will kill you and the children”

“If you try to run I will find you and kill you all”.

“I will take all the money and make you lose your job”

“I will take the children away from you and you will never see them again”

5. Isolating

Isolating is one of the first events that occur in abusive relationships. The more I can isolate you from family and friends, the more control I will have over you. This is where partners will say “I don’t like your friends, you can’t see them anymore” or “your family is not welcome in our house”. For me isolation is the first red flag to know that something is not okay in the relationship. Examples:

“Nobody else would ever want you.”

“Your friends don’t really care about you”

“I’m the only person who will ever love you”

Living in a family or in a relationship is a gift – a gift that can very soon turn into a nightmare when it becomes violent. What surprises me the most is how easily it’s justified by people. People have the ability to justify their bad and violent behaviors: “She made me so angry – that is why I punched her” or “It’s his fault that I belittle him because he doesn't respect me”.  For me there is NO JUSTIFICATION FOR VIOLENCE and nobody can make you do it. You choose to react in a violent manner and you can control it. Nobody deserves any amount of physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse. Emotional abuse can be more hurtful than physical abuse at times because it makes you feel worthless and alone. You feel like nobody and you are in constant fear to be at home. The scars might never fade.  The following is possible trauma reactions on the emotional abuse that you might be experiencing:

  • depression
  • low self-esteem
  • severe anxiety and fearfulness
  • feelings of shame,  guilt, self-blame and self-hatred
  • frequent crying
  • overly passive and compliant
  • social isolation
  • refusal of any kind of professional help
  • discomfort or nervousness around people
  • suicide and suicide attempts
  • substance abuse
  • Can cause severe anxiety, headaches, back and neck issues and stomach and digestive issues.

As you can see in the above mentioned; the effects of emotional abuse can be very serious. People ultimately give up on love and on life.  They become fearful, sad people who just exist and the sad part is that most of them will stay in the relationship until it kills them (physically or emotionally). Some people will also move from the one abusive relationship to the other because it’s the only thing they know.

I plead with you and ask you this: BREAK THE CYCLE OF ABUSE. It can end with you. You don’t have to stay in an abusive relationship – you can break free. Get out of the relationship before you lose yourself completely. Some of us actually don’t view the above mentioned acts as abusive – to us it might be a normal way of communicating. But it’s not. Become aware of your own abusive behavior and change it. If you feel that there might be emotional abuse in your relationship come and see us at the Vita Nova Counselling Centre and we will try to listen and support you. We will give you and your partner skills in order to make the relationship healthy again. There is always hope when two people still love each other and if they want it badly enough. It might not be too late for you and your partner to get help.