Emotional abuse can be insidious. Since it encompasses any type of abuse that is not physical, there are a range of behaviors that fall under the umbrella. “It can range from subtle things like criticism to more destructive abuses like manipulation, intimidation and bribes,” said Lea Lis, M.D., a double-board adult and child psychiatrist. If you think you may be a victim, it is important to be able to recognize the signs of emotional abuse – and to understand how and why the abusers deploy it – so that you can regain your self-esteem and get out of the situation. violence.
Emotional abuse, like other types of abuse, is about control.
Like physical abuse, emotional abuse is about gaining power over another person, be it a partner or another family member. “The goal of emotional abuse is to create psychological weakness by undermining confidence, self-esteem and self-esteem,” says Kathy Nickerson, Ph.D., certified clinical psychologist. “The real goal of most abusers is to make you feel so weak, so inferior, and so damaged that you stop questioning them and handing over all your thoughts and decisions to them.”
This can take many forms, including coercion, humiliation, threats, insults, gas fires, guilt, rage and shame. “It can manifest in many different ways, but it aims to silence, demean and intimidate,” says Perri Shaw Borish, LCSW and founder of Whole Heart Maternal Mental Health.
Victims of emotional abuse are taught to believe they deserve it.
The harmful effects of this type of abuse are numerous, particularly because it is designed to cut victims off from their support systems. “Emotional abuse is toxic and dangerous because it creates fear, and fear hinders our ability to access our inner resources,” says Shaw Borish. “When we are driven by fear, as is often the case with emotional abuse, it cuts us off from the full experience of who we are. In other words, it lowers our self-esteem and makes us doubt ourselves, then give us our power. “
It can also result in the victim feeling depressed, anxious, unlovable, terrified, hypervigilant (feeling nervous all the time), or feeling “crazy” and doubtful of what they know. “An abused person may feel anxious when their partner talks to them,” says Nancy Kislin, LCSW. “She may feel angry at her partner, even when she speaks nicely or does nothing wrong at any time. An abused person may feel a sense of hopelessness or hopelessness, as well as resentment, guilt or disgust. may be a decrease in personal care and a loss of interest in things the person has been looking forward to, especially when these are things you would do with the abuser. “
Emotional violence is accompanied by many red flags.
Since emotional abuse is about asserting power over another person, controlling behavior is often the biggest warning sign. Often, an attacker will try to cut contact with friends and family of a victim and limit access to the outside world. Abusers can also exercise control over the victim’s finances and appearance. “The biggest red flag, however, is your feeling of being understated, dismissed and intimidated,” says Shaw Borish. “It’s crazy. But you’re not crazy and it’s not normal for someone to make you feel one of these ways.”
Emotional abuse by a parent can be particularly insidious, with a parent claiming that their love is conditional: it can depend on grades, parent’s loyalty to the child, or certain behaviors. “Usually an emotionally abusive parent is very narcissistic and acts out of narcissism,” says Shaw Borish. “The power imbalance between a child and a parent can make the impact of emotional abuse even more damaging, as the child can be afraid all the time and develop a distorted sense of self.”
Other behaviors that can be a sign that a person is an emotional abuser:
- Turn on or convince the victim to doubt what they know to be true.
- Criticize the victim on small questions.
- Invalidate or dismiss the thoughts and feelings of the victim.
- Stonewalling and silent treatment.
- “Negotiate” or use derogatory nicknames.
- Frequent violations of limits.
- Sexual coercion.
- Physical threats.
“It’s really about how the abused person feels during and after interacting with the abuser,” says Kislin. “The tricky part is that many of us project our feelings onto others, so it’s best to sort out your feelings when you’re not in the middle of an escalation or immediately after.”
It is possible that a relationship will survive emotional abuse – but it takes work.
If you have to separate, have a plan in place first. Tell your friends and family and have a lawyer on hand. “Overall, knowledge is power,” says Kislin. “If you decide to make an important decision, such as separation, to get your affairs in order and know your financial situation. If you ask your partner to come with you for professional help, have a escape plan. Many people who abuse others may have low self-esteem or addiction problems and can quickly get angry. Know if there is a gun in your house or if your partner carries a gun on them. “
If you do not want to separate, it is sometimes possible to return an emotional abuser. “Set limits with the partner, saying things like, ‘If you yell at me or call my names, I’ll go”, ” said Dr. Lis. “Or, if the person’s emotional abuse is in the context of alcohol, make sobriety a condition of an ongoing relationship. You can also make therapy or medication a condition of an ongoing relationship. a network of friends and family who can help you maintain your limits or be there for you in a crisis, and come up with an exit plan if you need to be able to enforce the limits you have set. “
Of course, the most important thing is that you have support for yourself. “Start by telling the truth to yourself and your close friends about the abuse and how your partner treats you,” says Shaw Borish. “Saying it out loud will diminish the shame. Having someone else’s point of view who can tell you that it’s not okay to be treated like this will be powerful and important.”
Once you have established the support and the limits, there is still work to be done. “Go into therapy on your own and ask your partner to go into therapy as well,” says Dr. Nickerson. “Do not start couple therapy until after you have done individual work. It also increases your time away from the relationship and spends more time with family and friends. Start doing things that improve your mood and your independence. Remember that someone who really loves you wants to make you feel happy, strong, secure and confident. “
Victims of abuse can find help at the national domestic violence helpline: call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
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