Emotional Abuse

breakups coach mentalhealth narcissist relationships Feb 22, 2021

Emotional abuse is something that isn’t as widely recognized the way physical abuse is. It’s something we need to talk about more for awareness and education. While everyone is aware of what physical abuse entails, our society doesn’t put as much emphasis on emotional abuse as it should. We were never really educated on the topic growing up. Physical abuse is black and white, whereas emotional abuse is more gray and trickier to spot if you haven’t been taught what it is.

So what is emotional abuse? How do you know if someone is emotionally abusing you — whether it’s a family member, romantic partner, or friend?

When we hear about abuse it’s mostly about physical abuse. Emotional and physical abuse are under the same umbrella, with control being a common denominator. Someone abusive can’t handle their own feelings or normal things in life so they react, and want control over another person. The point of any abuse is control. Physical abuse is controlling with physical force, whereas emotional abuse is brainwashing and getting into the other person’s head.

It’s understandable why emotional abuse is not protected in a court of law and is difficult to spot. There are no physical scars because they are in our minds. This is why this topic is so important. What a person does to emotionally abuse you can create so many other issues in your life. Both physical and emotional abuse are horrific to go through, and it’s so important that society continues to talk about it so we can protect ourselves.

Emotionally abusive people were emotionally abused as a child. It’s a learned behavior, and is created in childhood, just as with narcissists and psychopaths. The percentage of people born with severe mental illnesses like those are very small. A lot could be within our DNA but I don’t think it’s enough to create a “monster.” Something happened to them to create this inside of them to this degree. They may not have seen all of these tactics but they saw enough to learn what emotional abuse really is. Now they go about life just thinking this is the norm.

There are many common tactics used in emotional abuse.


Here are some tactics to be aware of:


Testing Boundaries

The emotional abuser is constantly testing your boundaries. They don’t accept “no” as an answer and they don’t like the word “no.” They constantly push to get what they want out of you.

Boundaries are important and we have to know when a boundary has been violated. Emotional abusers seek out weak people and can tell who has low or no boundaries.

Silent Treatment

Emotional abusers love to use the silent treatment. By giving you the silent treatment, they are worrying you which in turn punishes you. They know ways to irk you and get under your skin. Someone who loves themselves and is self confident won’t let the silent treatment bother them, so they seek out the weak.


Passive-aggressiveness is when someone is constantly saying things that are not full-blown insults, but are hurtful, and then just walk away from it. It’s like a quick jab.

Disregarding Your Feelings/Needs/Opinions

Emotional abusers disregard your feelings, needs, and opinions. It just doesn’t matter to them at all. They are so self absorbed and wanting full control that they can’t hear you or understand your feelings. Your opinions don’t matter at all to them. They might listen to you, but they aren’t hearing you, because it’s always about them. They ignore what you say or disregard it and bring it back around to their needs, wants and feelings. This is because their feelings were never validated in childhood when growing up. A lot of conflict starts when a person doesn’t feel validated or heard. Validating someone’s feelings is absolutely huge to deflect any fights or arguments. You are holding a space for the other person when validating their feelings. This is how healthy communication begins.

Ignoring You

Emotional abusers completely ignore you when you’re speaking. I don’t know if it’s done on a conscious level, but I think it’s subconscious programming that they learned and use on other people. Someone who can completely ignore you when you’re speaking is a sure sign of emotional abuse. By not acknowledging you spoke, they don’t respect you in any way. That’s not someone who’s looking for a mutual relationship. That’s a one-way street. This is emotional abuse and a lot of people don’t recognize that. Emotional abusers don’t respect other people.


This is an emotional abuser’s best friend. When they manipulate you and shame you in order to get what they want, they are looking to control you, the situation, and the outcome. They use manipulation along with shame, making you feel bad, and guilt, and then they get nasty. That’s when they start to threaten you; verbally abusing you. They say things like, “You’re too emotional,” “You’re too sensitive,” “I always do things for you,” and “You don’t do anything for me.” As the threats and backlash are coming because you set a boundary or said no, then bullying starts to happen. Emotional abusers are true bullies. They don’t give up. They are relentless, selfish, and completely self absorbed.


Gaslighting ties in with manipulation, guilt and shame. This is when you feel a certain way or you know something happened in a particular way and the emotional abuser is making you second guess and doubt your reality. If you don’t trust your intuition or trust yourself, or you’re not healthy or whole and love yourself, you’re going to be easily manipulated into thinking “Am I really thinking this?” When you ask that question, you are doubting yourself. That’s part of the game.

The overall picture to all of this is we don’t have to be in horrific situations growing up to have abuse. Not being validated is abuse, and that will affect the type of partner you will attract. Being aware of how we behave and educating ourselves is also huge for raising healthy children. Children learn based on what they see, and learning about emotional abuse and these tactics are so important.