Understanding Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is the act of belittling, ignoring, corrupting, acting cruel, isolating, rejecting, and scaring another person, which can lead to ultimately winning control over them. It could come from a parent, spouse, co-worker, friend, classmate, or caregiver. Emotional abuse is a form of brainwashing. An extreme example could be locking a child in a bathroom for hours as a punishment. An example of abuse that subtly builds over time could be telling a spouse they are ugly and useless repeatedly. Emotional abuse slowly eats away at a victim's self-confidence until they feel they can no longer trust not only anyone else, but possibly even themselves, as they lose their sense of self-worth. It can sometimes be outwardly displayed in a person’s behavior or it can be something completely hidden, so emotional abuse is not always easy to spot by the eyes of an outsider.

A person may be continually yelled at or humiliated when abused. They may be told they will be hurt or killed, thus they constantly live in fear for their life. They may be teased or have confusing inconsistencies in their life, like when an alcoholic parent or spouse comes home happy one night and angry the next. They never know whom they will be dealing with. Any and all of these events, among others, can create deep emotional scarring. Often, if treatment is not provided, a person who has been abused as a child will continue the cycle as an adult with his or her own family.

Emotional Child Abuse

Being yelled at is often only the tip of the iceberg for a child who is consistently emotionally abused. As children internalize emotionally what is done to them, their social development is at risk. Their emotional as well as physical health may be affected. There are many forms of emotional abuse and all can be equally detrimental to a child. Even when physical abuse is a factor, the underlying problems will lie in the emotional abuse a child suffers. When abuse of any kind comes from someone who is supposed to be a caregiver and a part of daily life, it steals from the core of the child as they feel defeated both mentally and physically. Emotional abuse is not always recognized, being written off as some sort of emotional disorder.

Rejecting – A child needs the acceptance and love of a parent or caregiver. Rejection is when the caregiver denies a child of this need. Instead, they make the child feel like they have no worth. Rejecting usually starts at a very young age, although it can begin later, usually if the caretaker has some unsettling change in his or her life. When babies are rejected, they almost always cannot function as adults. This was noted in untouched orphaned infants in the U.S.S.R. years ago. Many of these orphans later developed syndromes or brain damage that isolated them permanently. However, rejected children can sometimes overcome abuse by finding ways to soothe themselves, as no one has ever done it for them.

Ignoring – As a child grows, they require interaction. Children need it to develop intellectually, socially and emotionally. Depriving such stimulation by ignoring a child is abuse.

Terrorizing – Terrorizing is when a child is threatened or intimidated. These actions create fear and stress for a child. Constant terrorizing becomes an ongoing stressor and can devastate every part of life. This continual stress can cause their health to fails. Terrorized children often become susceptible to disease, mental issues, and anti-social behaviors. A child can also be terrorized when they witness violence.

Isolating – Taking a child out of normal experiences and isolating them often coincides with other forms of emotional abuse. Isolation takes away from the experience of childhood and the child does not learn how to build friendships. Preventing a child from normal social interaction often leads to social development issues.

Corrupting – If a caregiver is actively doing or selling drugs, stealing, or some other socially unacceptable act, one could expect that the child is learning the behavior. The child is being raised in an unhealthy environment and suffers because of it. Corruption is severe when parents openly teach such actions to there own child, perhaps even rewarding a child for their participation in activities that are illegal or harmful. Corrupted children often feel severely isolated, as they don't see a healthy place for themselves in society.

Exploiting – Exploitation is a very severe type of emotional child abuse. Some examples include a child being blamed for the actions of others, sent out as a prostitute, used for sexual imagery, or being given unreasonable responsibilities and work. They are often the vilest of actions that could be perpetrated on a child and the effects can be a life-long psychological battle.

  • Safe Child - Sections on observable, behavioral, and family or parental indicators.
  • Teen's Health - Article covers things like teen abusive relationships, having a healthy relationship and bullying.
  • Girl's Health - Examples of abuse and hotlines one can call when in trouble.
  • This is Abuse - Frequently asked questions and discussion about how physical abuse usually starts with verbal and emotional abuse.

Emotional Abuse in Adult Relationships

Emotional abuse is the most prevalent form of abuse. It is also the most accepted in today’s world. Abuse is when someone misuses his or her authority or mistreats someone else. They show no regard or concern for the individual and they often use words to create an unstable relationship that leans in their own favor. An abuser usually likes to have total control of their victim. They are manipulators and their victims are ultimately put into a submissive or compliant role, compelling them to do according to their way of thinking. Emotional abuse in adult relationships can be verbal. Some examples include telling a partner they are worthless, and degrading by name-calling or frequent negative comments about looks or abilities. Emotional abuse can also be carried out by ignoring or withholding love or touch, making the victim feel isolated.

Emotional abuse leave victims with moderate to serious psychological issues. They may begin to think it is their fault and that they deserve the way they are being treated. Victims of abuse often lack confidence and may even be ashamed. Some feel that the abuse they suffer is a normal part of life, which is usually due to the fact that they grew up either seeing or being in a similar situation as a child. Along with taking place at home, emotional abuse can also become an issue in the workplace or with friends. The victim can ultimately become so accustomed to the emotional abuse that they begin to disregard personal worth and health. If not taken care of early enough, this can lead to issues that progress severely with time.

Aggressing – Aggressive forms of abuse include blaming, ordering about, threatening, accusing, criticizing, and name-calling. Aggressing may also be quite subtle, yet just as judgemental. An abuser may offer advice or or try to prove they can better analyze a situation. Using words or actions to show they are the deciding factor is a way for the abuser to maintain control. Aggressing is often used to invalidate the victim and their ideas.

Denying – Denying the emotional needs of another is abuse, and is often used as a form of punishment. An abuser will often deny their victim by not listening or talking to them, acting as if they are not in the room. Thus, the abuser is able to emotionally withdraw from the situation and the victim. Another type of denial is when an abuser denies that they ever used harsh words or did anything that the victim accused them of. They will say they recollect no such happening. This may include the abuser overruling anything the victim says, thinks, or feels. The result is often the victim’s reality being shaken. They may no longer rely on their own judgment or want to trust from personal experience.

Minimizing – Minimizing occurs when the abuser doesn’t deny what he or she has done. Instead, they trivialize the incident and make it seem like the victim is blowing it out of proportion. They may say things like, “Stop exaggerating,” or “You are being way to sensitive.” Again, this makes the victim’s emotions seem exaggerated, faulty, or unimportant to anyone else, further scarring his or her psyche.

  • Emotional Abuse - Pages that cover what emotional abuse is, the types, characteristics, what the signs are, basic needs, and more.
  • Hidden Hurt - An article titled "The Link Between Alcohol and an Abusive Personality".
  • Emotional And Verbal Abuse - Varying articles such as "Unsilencing Emotional Abuse" and "Symptoms of Emotional Abuse", also contains sub categories and suggested reading materials.
  • Counseling Center - University of Illinois offers descriptions as well as talks about addictive relationships, being assertive, and loneliness. Also offers counseling center resources.
  • Help Guide - Signs of abuse and abusive relationships.
  • Abuse disorders - The surgeon general talks about the disorders that can occur from abuse.

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