Emotional abuse, also called psychological abuse, happens when one person—the abuser—regularly does things to another person that results in emotional trauma, such as anxiety or depression. Emotional abuse can consist of bullying, threatening, constant criticism, intimidation, manipulation, shaming and stonewalling. This type of abuse is used to control the other person, and the abuser might not even realize he or she is doing it. Emotional or psychological abuse isn’t limited to romantic partnerships. It can occur between parents and children, friends, coworkers, and relatives.
Emotional abuse can be difficult to spot. It’s much more subtle than physical abuse and doesn’t always include outbursts. The abuser may disregard your opinions or needs, constantly correct your behavior, point out flaws or mistakes, call you names or “tease” you in a way that makes you feel bad about yourself. They may also always try to place blame on you for a number of things, including their problems, unhappiness, and even their own behavior. If you try to bring up their actions to them, they may accuse you of being too sensitive.
Once you realize you are in an abusive relationship, you need to break free of it. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as talking it out with the other person. When you do address it, you have to be firm and tell the abuser that while you care about them, you will not tolerate this behavior any longer. If they are willing to make a change and work things out, it may require the help of a professional therapist or counselor. If they’re not willing to listen to your concerns, or continue to write you off, you may need to end the relationship or at least distance yourself from that person. You deserve to be treated with kindness, love and respect.
If at any time you feel afraid for your safety, or if your partner physically abuses you in any way, leave immediately.