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Stop Violence Against Women

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse: It’s a bigger problem than you think

When people think of domestic abuse, they often picture battered women who have been physically assaulted. But not all abusive relationships involve violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. Many men and women suffer from emotional abuse, which is no less destructive. Unfortunately, emotional abuse is often minimized or overlooked—even by the person being abused.

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Understanding emotional abuse

The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship or that without your abusive partner you have nothing.

Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want. 

You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so.

Economic or financial abuse: A subtle form of emotional abuse

Remember, an abuser’s goal is to control you, and he or she will frequently use money to do so. Economic or financial abuse includes:

  • Rigidly controlling your finances.
  • Withholding money or credit cards.
  • Making you account for every penny you spend.
  • Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).
  • Restricting you to an allowance
  • Preventing you from working or choosing your own career
  • Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)
  • Stealing from you or taking your money.

The psychological warning signs of abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
  • Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn).
  • Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.

(Reprinted with permission from Helpguide.org © 2001-2010. All rights reserved. For more articles in this series, visit www.Helpguide.org).

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This site is not intended to replace the need for counselling. The information provided is intended to inform the viewer, giving information to help you be informed to make the best decision possible for you and your family. Please, always seek professional help and legal advice if you find yourself in an abusive situation.