How to Recognize the Signs of Mental and Emotional Abuse



Most people are now aware of the clear signs of mental and emotional abuse by now, but the question is; Do you know the undercurrent that was there that led to that ‘Oh hell no’ moment when the abusive behavior became clear.

Psychological abuse frightens the person, control and isolation are used too and often the abuse comes from the very person who is supposed to love you, but it can also be a work colleague, a parent and friends, not just your romantic partner.

What is important to recognize is that no matter who it is none of what they do is your fault.

Humiliation, negating, criticizing

They use these tactics to erode your self-esteem and it is unrelenting in their continued abuse no matter whether it is big or small.

Here are some examples:

Name-calling.

They call you ‘stupid,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘useless,’ and plenty more that leave you feeling destroyed inside.

Derogatory “pet names.”

They love to give you pet names that whilst to outsiders they sound cute and loving, you know the real meaning behind the pet name.

Character assassination.

They love to use the word ‘always’. They match it with phrases like ‘You’re always messing up’. They work on destroying your confidence.

Yelling. 

Screaming abuse, shouting abuse, yelling at the top of their voice again wears you down, you find yourself flinching especially when they start matching the yelling with pounding their fist on a table or into doors.

Patronizing.

Perhaps you have an opinion on a subject and rightly so, but they say something like ‘Sweetie hush now you don’t really understand what we are discussing’.

Public embarrassment.

They love doing this to you. You could be out with friends and they will talk about something secret to you and then act all coy and say something like, ‘Oh was that a secret babe, sorry my bad.’

Dismissiveness.

You make them aware of something that is important to you and they act like it is nothing at all. They smile and roll their eyes, shake their head and walk away.

 “Joking.”

They say hurtful things to you and then roll their eyes when you make it clear you don’t like what they have just said and the response you get is ‘My God woman I was joking.’

Sarcasm.

When you make it clear you are not happy with a comment they make, they tell you they are just teasing you and to lighten up.

Insults of your appearance.

You’ve spent ages getting ready for a night out and just as you are leaving, they say ‘Are you really wearing that?’

Belittling your accomplishments.

Should you be doing well in your career for example and are given a promotion that brings in more money they will hate that and won’t congratulate you or be proud, often comment back to you will be along the lines of, ‘No idea why you got promoted you are hardly that intelligent.’

Put-downs of your interests.

Perhaps you enjoy sport and have joined a team and you ask them to come and support the next event, and they accuse you of being pathetic and childish and you should really stop trying to old the ageing clock back.

Pushing your buttons.

Once they know which words hurt you the most, they will insert the insults into as many conversations as possible and sit back and enjoy your pain.

Control and shame

They love and feel powerful when they see you feel ashamed it is one of the best tools for control, they have over you in their eyes.

Threats.

You have a fight and they grab hold of one of your most precious items, or worse a child and tell you to behave or they will throw your item away/take your child away where you will never find them.

Monitoring your whereabouts.

They have to know exactly where you are going and for how long, a time limit will be applied and if you are even 1 minute late all hell breaks out. They send you text messages and if you are slow to respond they accuse you of some imagined crime.

Digital spying.

They will demand your passwords for your email, phone, Facebook, laptop etc. If you don’t comply, they will hack you, change all your passwords as punishment then you are left asking for the passwords to your own accounts.

Unilateral decision-making.

They cancel appointments such as doctors or dentists knowing you will turn up and be embarrassed. They will close joint bank accounts and you don’t know until to try to withdraw money.

Financial control.

So, the joint account is closed and your money was in there too, so you have to ask for money, attempts at taking back control such as opening your own account will be hampered again by them hacking and closing your bank account, if your partner is able to do this easily, they could have a keystroke software on your laptop.

Lecturing.

You make a mistake after all you are human, but they can almost be seen jumping for joy that they have caught your mistake and then the lectures begin, making you feel smaller and smaller.

Direct orders.

Being told what to do is something we left behind as children, now as adults we make our own decisions, the abuser starts telling you what to do such as ‘We will eat dinner at 6 pm every night,’ ‘You are allowed no alcohol,’ just so they have control over you.

Outbursts.

They tell you to cancel your plans as they don’t want you going out, you ignored them and when they get home and you are not there when you do get home the tirade goes on for hours about how you disobeyed them.

Treating you like a child.

They tell you what to wear, what to eat, who you can be friends with, what books you can read the list is endless.

Feigned helplessness.

This is often used if they can’t be bothered to do something so they pretend they can’t do it, so you do it for them, then they attack you for not doing it as good as they would have done.

Unpredictability.

They shower you with affection when they see you are perhaps thinking of leaving and then will suddenly explode at you with no warning and tell you if you try to leave they will make your life a living hell like it already isn’t!

They walk out.

You could be out at a social gathering and are relaxed and enjoying yourself and they storm out the room and disappear. You go to find them and they have left you and you now need to find your way home knowing when you do get home the abuse will continue.

Using others.

They love to use the third-party option; they will tell you that ‘Everyone knows you’re crazy.’

Accusing, blaming, and denial

These actions are because the abuser has so many insecurities, they have to put that feeling on you too, that way they then feel powerful and in control, they are top dog and you are way down the food chain as far as they are concerned.

Jealousy.

They will accuse you of cheating on them.

Turning the tables.

They will claim it is you and your behavior that causes them to have such anger.

Denying something you know is true.

You can know quite clearly that something took place, yet when you talk about it with your abuser, they will deny it, gaslighting you is another weapon in their arsenal.

Using guilt.

They will tell you that everything you are and everything you have is because of them, that you owe such a great home, life, car all to them.

Goading then blaming.

They will bait you into a fight then claim it was you who started it and that you are the crazy one.

Denying their abuse.

When you feel able to speak to them about their abuse, they will deny any abuse is ever taken place and that you are lying.

Accusing you of abuse.

They will turn any accusations you make to them around and tell you that you are the abuser, they will often tell third parties that you are an abuser too.

Trivializing.

When you tell them how the abuse is hurting you, they tell you that you are overreacting and being a drama queen.

Saying you have no sense of humor.

They love to make jokes at your expense especially in public, and when everyone laughs at you the pain runs even deeper.

Blaming you for their problems.

Everything wrong in their life will be down to you, a failed promotion, your fault because you didn’t support them enough.

Destroying and denying.

They will break something of yours and deny they did it, hide your house keys or car keys and deny it, yet as you are hunting for them, they turn up where you have already looked.

Emotional neglect and isolation

The only person whose emotional needs are important is theirs. They will remove supportive people to you as they are jealous that you have that and they don’t. They do this by:

Demanding respect.

You have discussed everything with them and any perceived slight will not go unpunished.

Shutting down communication.

They will suddenly stop communicating with you, phone calls will go ignored/sent to voicemail. Texts will go unanswered and when you are together you will get the silent treatment.

Dehumanizing you.

They won’t pay attention to you when you talk to them, they will avoid eye contact and suddenly just walk away as if you are not even talking to them.

Keeping you from socializing.

They will stop you going out, right at the last minute they will suddenly become ill and beg you to stay with them as they are sick, yet an hour later they are fine but by then it is too late to go out.

Trying to come between you and your family.

They will have no problem telling lies to your family about you and making up excuses that you don’t want to see them, they know you have accepted the wedding invitation and you have gone all out to look amazing for this treasured family event, and with a short time to go before you leave they turn around and say ‘We are not going.’

Withholding affection.

They stop holding you, cuddling you, kissing you, sexual relations stop all as punishment they claim you only get love when you show them, love.

Tuning you out.

They put on headphones when you are talking to them and ignore you or point to the headphones and shrug making it obvious, they can’t hear you.

Actively working to turn others against you.

They tell everyone they meet that you are crazy, totally unstable and hysterical and everyone feels sorry for them that they put up with so much from you.

Calling you needy.

You try to tell them how unhappy you are and they tell you that you are needy and pathetic.

Interrupting.

It doesn’t matter who you are talking to or on the phone to they will interrupt you and expect you to stop what you are doing instantly.

Indifference.

They don’t care if you cry, to them it’s a score for them.

Disputing your feelings.

No matter whether you are more informed about something and are right, they will tell you that you are wrong until you accept it.

Co-dependence

A co-dependent relationship is when everything you do is in reaction to your abuser’s behavior.

You’ve forgotten how to be any other way. It’s a vicious circle of unhealthy behavior.

You might be co-dependent if you:

Find yourself unhappy in the relationship, but fear what the alternatives may be.

Find yourself consistently neglecting your own needs for the sake of theirs.

Find yourself ditching friends and your family to please your partner.

You seek out your partner’s approval on everything.

You always critique yourself through your abuser’s eyes, ignoring your own instincts.

You make a lot of sacrifices to please the other person, but they never make one single sacrifice for you.

You would rather live in the current state of chaos than be alone.

You always bite your tongue and repress your feelings to keep the peace.

You feel responsible and take the blame for something they did.

You defend your abuser when others point out what’s happening.

You try to “rescue” them from themselves because you think you can fix them.

You feel guilty when you stand up for yourself every time so back down.

You believe you deserve this treatment

You believe they are right when they say that nobody else could ever want to be with you.

You change your decision to leave your abuser when they say to you, “I can’t live without you,” so you stay

What to do

Trust your instincts, deep down you know all that you are living through is abuse and that it is wearing you down, you know living this life is dangerous for your mental well-being and your personal safety.

If you fear immediate physical violence, call 911 or your local emergency services.

If you aren’t in immediate danger and you need to talk or find someplace to go, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233. This 24/7 hotline can put you in touch with service providers and shelters across the United States.



Your decisions will be specific to your situation, there is no magic one answer fits all, some things you can do whilst preparing to make your escape are:

Accept that the abuse isn’t your responsibility.

Never try to reason with your abuser, the behavior is a deep inset pattern that they repeat with everyone. You can try asking them to seek professional help, but first, they need to accept they are the problem so that won’t happen, all the abuse is down to them, remember this is not your fault.

Exit the relationship or circumstance.

Leave as soon as you can, find a therapist if you can afford one, speak to your doctor and use the available support sites online, perhaps look at some forums of other survivors as they are a great resource of information.

Disengage and set personal boundaries.

Set boundaries, yes, they won’t like it but the boundaries must be in place, you have left them and they have to have it made clear they can’t just walk in and out of your life.

Give yourself time to heal.

Spend time on your healing, get back in touch with friends and family, tell those you know you can trust that you are taking time to heal and you may need space from everyone and everything. This is your time now and make sure you take as much as you need.