Emotional Abuse
A general statement about abuse: Those who hold the least power and resources in
society are most often those who are abused (women, children, disabled, elderly). Bear in
mind that anyone can be abused, this includes men and women, rich or poor, educated or
illiterate, employed or unemployed - abuse is no respecter of persons or boundaries, and
can occur at any time during a person’s life.

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Self help books for healing from abuse

About Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is difficult to detect, mostly because all types of abuse contain elements of
emotional abuse, however, emotional abuse can easily occur separate from the other forms
of abuse.

Psychological maltreatment, also known as emotional abuse, refers to "a repeated pattern of
caregiver behavior or extreme incident(s) that convey to children that they are worthless,
flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value in meeting another's needs."

Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional in nature as opposed to physical in
nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle
tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased. Emotional abuse
is constant instead of occasional, is intended to devalue and denigrate instead of simply
complaining; is intended to dominate and control instead of providing constructive criticism;
shows an overall attitude of disrespect to you the victim, instead of not liking a specific event
or behavior.

Many states have laws about psychological abuse in their state codes, don't assume that
because you are only being emotionally abused that there is no legal recourse to help you.

Possible indicators of emotional abuse

It should be understood that the following lists of indicators may or may not be complete,
and that no one person is going to exhibit the same set of indicators nor will some people
show all of the indicators. The following list is only a guideline of possible things to look for.

In children:
under achievement, inability to trust, depression, inappropriate behavior for age or
development, overly passive or compliant, fearfulness, aggression, suicide talk/attempts,
withdrawal, failure to thrive in infancy, stealing, low self-esteem, emotional instability,
extreme dependence, severe anxiety, sleep disturbances, physical complaints with no
medical basis.

In adults:
depression, withdrawal, self-blame/depreciation, overly passive/compliant, substance
abuse, low self-esteem, social isolation, suicide attempts/talk, severe anxiety, delay or
refusal of medical treatment, fearfulness, discomfort or nervousness around caregiver or
relative, feelings of shame and guilt, avoidance of eye contact, frequent crying, other forms
of abuse present or suspected. Often, adult women who are being emotionally abused find
themselves continually doubting everything they do or think, denying the damage the
emotional abuse causes, and giving the abuser the benefit of the doubt.

Forms of emotional abuse

Domination - controlling every aspect of your life, abuser must have his or her own way and
will use threats to accomplish this.

Verbal assaults - berating, belittling, criticizing, name calling, screaming, threatening,
blaming, using sarcasm and humiliation.

Abusive expectations - unreasonable demands, expectation that you are to put aside
everything to meet the abuser's demands or needs. What you do is never good enough,
never pleases the abuser.

Emotional blackmail - the abuser plays on the victim's fear, guilt, or compassion to
manipulate or coerce the victim into doing what the abuser wants.

Unpredictable responses - the abuser responds differently or unpredictably to situations,
has drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts for no explainable reason.

Constant criticism - continuous fault finding, unrelenting criticism of you, can never be

Character assassination - blowing your mistakes out of proportion, gossiping about your
past failures and mistakes, lies about you, humiliates, criticizes or makes fun of you in front
of others, discounts your achievements.

Gaslighting - use of a variety of techniques to make someone doubt their own perceptions,
memory, or sanity. Done by continually denying that events happened, that something was
said, by insinuating that you are exaggerating or lying  - when you both know otherwise.

Constant chaos - continual upheavals and discord.

Sexual harassment - unwelcome sexual advances or physical or verbal conduct of a sexual
nature. Anyone can sexually harass - including a spouse or live-in partner.  Whenever
someone is pressured into becoming sexual against his or her will it is considered sexual

Rejecting – refusal to acknowledge a person’s presence, value or worth; communicating
uselessness or inferiority to a person; devaluing a person’s thoughts and feelings.

Degrading – insulting, ridiculing, name calling, imitating; behavior which diminishes a person’
s identity, dignity, and self worth.

Terrorizing – inducing terror or extreme fear in a person; coercing through intimidation;
threatening to or actually placing a person in a dangerous environment or harm.

Isolating – physical confinement; restricting normal contact with others; limiting freedom in a
person’s own environment.

Corrupting/exploiting – socializing a person into accepting ideas or behavior which oppose
legal standards, using a person for advantage or profit.

Denying emotional responsiveness – detached or uninvolved as a parent or caregiver;
failure to provide care in a sensitive and responsive manner; interacting only when
necessary; ignoring a person’s mental health needs.
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Please note that neither the author, nor anyone affiliated with this website, will bear any responsibility
for anyone taking the information contained herein and misusing it or attempting to claim it is
professional advice. It is simply information, how it is used is the responsibility of the reader.
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433

National Elder Abuse hotline: 1-800-922-1660

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
TTY: 1-800-787-3224