What is Emotional Abuse- 10 Signs to Look Out For

Condescending, belittling, yelling, the silent treatment- if it happens once, it’s a toxic behavior. If it happens habitually, it’s emotional abuse.


Each of us deserves a healthy relationship. It’s our right as humans. We should feel uplifted, encouraged, empowered- not devalued, a feeling emotional abuse so often creates. When we find that relationships are destroying our self-esteem it’s time to get out.


“You may not think you are being abused if you’re not being hurt physically. But emotional and verbal abuse can have short-term and long-lasting effects that are just as serious as the effects of physical abuse” Office of Women’s Health 

So what is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse- like all other forms of abuse- is about one person getting control over another person. It’s using non-physical actions to manipulate the victim.


Emotional abuse is quite sneaky and can come from a seed of what seems like a healthy behavior:

  • A wife wants to make sure her husband isn’t cheating on her, so she makes him show her all of his texts messages and emails.
  • A father wants his son to be “manly” so he makes fun of him when he laughs “like a girl.”  
  • A boyfriend wants to keep his girlfriend “safe” from dangerous people so he isolates her and hand picks who she can be friends with.


See? Sneaky.

So how can you tell if you are being emotionally abused? Look out for these signs.


10 Signs of Emotional abuse



It’s not ok for someone to insult you. It is not ok for someone to call you fat, ugly, crazy, stupid, lazy,  loser or any negative jab- even in the name of “a joke.” ‘Just kidding’ does not magically erase the hurt caused by the previous words.  

2. Repeatedly humiliating you in public

Knocking someone down in public is the fastest way to utterly crush their view of themselves. Once the world see’s one thing, it’s hard to see another.

Insults, insinuations, revealing embarrassing weaknesses- all of those are different ways to humiliate you. None of them are ok.


3. Someone threatens to harm and /or take away children

Threats. The fastest  way to sprout fear. If someone says anything, ANYTHING to make you feel unsafe, that is emotional abuse.

“If you break up with me, I’ll tell the cops you raped me.”

“If you call him up, I’ll take your phone away.”

“If you don’t go out with me, I’ll kill myself.”

Yes. Those are quotes from real life.


4. Refusing to accept your word

People need to respect that you mean what you say.

“No I don’t want to go out with you,” does not mean, “no, I don’t want to go out with you unless you bug me relentlessly.” Although it has been a huge part of  RomComs, standing on lawns or not leaving the person alone are not healthy and are in no way romantic.

5. The silent treatment

Silence is a way to keep the upper hand in relationships. If someone repeatedly refuses to discuss problems with you, that’s actually abusive. Storming out of conversations, giving the cold shoulder, speaking to everyone except a specific person- that’s all stone-walling and it’s all toxic.  


6. Makes you feel unsafe in ways such as destroying property or driving recklessly.

You don’t need to be hit in order to be feared into submission. Punching a hole into a wall, smashing a lamp, ripping clothes- those are all scare tactics used to gain control.

7. Isolation from family and friends

It’s not loving or protective to isolate you from all other forms of support. It’s controlling and manipulative. You should always be able to keep outside support networks.

8. Excessive jealousy

It’s not “cute” when someone gets angry at you for talking to someone else. It’s not “romantic” when someone gets aggressive with you for looking at another person. It’s not “love” when someone makes you cut out certain people because they think you might cheat.

Its toxic and not ok.

9. Demanding to monitor all phone calls, text messages and emails.

Trust is vital, especially with the technological advances of our day. People in your life should trust you and trust how you communicate with others. People do not get to demand to monitor your laptops. Partners do not get to monitor your phone.

Now, I have full and complete access to my husband’s email and phone. For us, access is ok. And I think it’s healthy.

It’s healthy to pull up his email to find the address of the mortgage broker we used. It’s healthy to use his phone to get the contact information of a mutual friend.

What’s not healthy, would be checking to see that his communication with other females is what I deem ‘appropriate.’ What’s not healthy, would be me forcing him to show me every conversation with every friend.

It’s all about motivation. If there’s force or control behind the access, it’s not ok.


10. Telling you  how you should be feeling.

No one else gets to decide how you feel. If I’m sad, my husband can’t look at me and say, “You’re not sad. Baking muffins can’t make you sad.”  (btw, my husband would NEVER say that.

Baking muffins can make me sad. They might remind me of my mom who passed away. Or maybe its a trigger for an abusive situation that happened.

Point is, we have a right to feel whatever emotion we want too. People in our lives need to validate those feelings, not condescend them.


Bottom line, relationships should build you up not tear you down. If you feel devalued, or your self-esteem plummets, chances are its emotional abuse.

If you think you might be being emotionally abused, please see my resource page for support.




















One Comment

Comments are closed.