Emotional Abuse: Signs Women Need to Know

Emotional abuse is one of the most insidious forms of abuse a woman can suffer. Often, a woman doesn’t even realize that the unhappiness she feels has a name: abuse. According to mental health experts today, even if it is never physical…it is still abuse.

Emotional abuse or psychological abuse has only recently been recognized as a legitimate form of abuse, and is hard to identify or prove. It affects everyone within a home no matter who is the target of abuse. Emotional abuse can be subtle and gradual, so that the victim does not recognize she is being abused until it has become a significant trauma to her. It can happen to any woman, from any walk of life. It can happen to children, and if you are being emotionally abused, your children are too. And most importantly, it is not what you deserve and there is a way to healing.

Effects on Victims of Emotional Abuse:
*Emotional abuse saps a woman’s self esteem, creates anxiety and panic attacks, depression, and makes a woman feel trapped and alone.

*It teaches children to distrust the world, and isolate themselves in pain, anger and fear.

*It can cause lifelong, deep emotional pain.

*Most experts agree that emotional abuse can be more damaging to a woman than physical abuse. However, since emotional abuse does not leave scars and bruises that one can see, it is difficult to convey the level of seriousness to those who have not been victims. “Sticks and Stones” is a lie, ladies. Not feeling supported or taken seriously further degrades the woman’s self esteem, and spirals her into a circle of pain and secrecy that is difficult, but not impossible to break free from.

*Fortunately, recent studies are changing the way most people view emotional abuse, and are providing more support and resources to help women escape the cycle.

Signs you are being emotionally abused:
*You feel like you are walking on eggshells, watching what you say or do to prevent a bad reaction out of your partner.

*Your partner yells, swears, throws things or breaks things in a show of force and anger, even if it isn’t directed toward you. Doing it in front of you implies your partner is seeking to control you with whatever means necessary.

*Your partner hurts pets when he is angry, then brags about it.

*Your partner uses physical intimidation, even if he never touches you. This includes rushing across the room at you in anger, glaring hateful stares, shaking a finger in your face, or throwing things across the room.

*Your partner uses emotional blackmail to win arguments or disagreements…guilt, shame or my personal favorite…uses anger towards the children in the house or others you love to “shut you up”. You comply in order to spare the loved ones his wrath.

*Your partner feels his needs are the only ones that matter.

*He does not respect simple boundaries such as knocking on bedroom doors before entering a child’s room, even ones of the opposite sex.

*He belittles you or members of the family, calling names, casting hateful stares or making sure they know they are not accepted members of the family. Examples of this might be not allowing that family member to sit near them, or even be in the same room as them, for absolutely no reason other than to express his control over the victim. He may lead a campaign to convince other members of the family unit to tease just as merciless as he, or he may simply leave that member out of conversations or family events or traditions.

*Teasing crosses into cruelty hidden behind attempts to “help”: for example, he might ask “Why you stuff your face like a pig”, and then in the next instant claim he is trying to help you with your weight worries.

Signs of an abuser:
*An abuser has different rules for him than he does for everyone else.

*An abuser refuses to take responsibility for his behavior, often accusing you of overreacting.

*When confronted, he will use emotional blackmail to make you stay in the relationship. Ie. Subtle threats to commit suicide, pleading emotional instability, crying, guilt…you name it.

*Abusers often have substance abuse problems, which they refuse to recognize or get help for.

How to heal from abuse:
Abuse is defined as any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc.

The first step to healing from emotional abuse is to realize that it’s exactly that… abuse. Denial is prevalent among victims. Your self esteem has already suffered enough under the insidious attacks of the abuse; admitting to abuse is hard. Really hard. No one wants to believe someone they love would hurt them this way, so they deny it’s happening. They even make excuses for their abuser. It can also be hard to accept the fact that you allowed yourself to become a victim. Take note ladies, you did not ask for this, and it can happen to anyone! I know how difficult it can be to accept this. I also know that you CAN heal and find a healthy place in your life!

An abuser is also a master at turning things around on you, and making you wonder what role you had in the abuse. Comments like “Why didn’t you tell me earlier if I was so bad?” or “If it was really as bad as you say, why didn’t you leave me?” serve to relocate the responsibility for the situation on YOUR shoulders. Don’t buy it. An abusers prime method of denial is to minimize what is happening. “You made too big a deal out of it, I don’t remember it that way at all”. Sound familiar? And I bet you started wondering about whether he was right. This is the toughest part in escaping emotional abuse. You must learn to recognize the patterns of dysfunction and not allow them to sway you. Your self esteem has already been battered, and I know it’s easy to second guess yourself and feel confused when faced with an abusers tactics. For this reason, it is often better to remove yourself from the situation.

Abuse always gets worse with time. You are not going to heal him. If he won’t seek help for himself and stick to a long term pattern of change, you owe it to yourself to get out of the relationship. You owe it to your children to provide them with a learning experience that might prevent them from repeating the same old abuse patterns, and to protect them from exposure to further abuse. You have a lot to offer this world, but as long as you are trapped in a cycle of abuse that degrades your self esteem and keeps you in a living hell, you will never realize your full potential.

Emotional abuse is unhealthy, and it creates a cycle for you or your children that can be very difficult to break free from. If you can’t seek help for yourself, than do it for those you love. Call domestic violence services in your area for help, they are not just there for the physically abused. They can offer advice, and help you decide if you are indeed being abused, and how to get help. Find counseling, go to a minister, call your Mom. And be honest. Cry, sob, tell the story, relate the guilt, let out the anger… then stand up and get help. Emotional abuse can only be stopped if we stand up. People will only take it seriously if we stand up. And we will only stop this cycle with our children if we, the victims, STAND UP. When you stand up and do something about abuse, you cease being a victim, and you become a survivor.

Author note: While this article is directed at women, the reader should take note that emotional abuse can be perpetrated by either gender.

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