Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse is often difficult to spot. It can can slowly creep up on a person, the signs can be subtle, but make no mistake - the results can be just as devestating as physical abuse.
So here are a few warning signs to look out for, in case you or a loved one is ever in trouble.
1. You feel powerless
Relationship charity Relate states:
If your partner’s behaviour makes you feel small, controlled or as if you’re unable to talk about what’s wrong, it’s abusive.
2. You feel guilty
This can range from emotional blackmail, to sulking or giving you the silent treatment, according to the charity. This is a method of manipulation.
3. You’re undermined
If your partner constantly dismisses your opinion, or makes you doubt your own opinion about the relationship by acting as if you’re being oversensitive towards something they’ve done. They can also dispute your version of an event, Relate says,
4. You’re criticised
Psychotherapist Abby Rodman writes in the Huffington Post:
Seems like everyone is complimenting your new wardrobe, recent weight loss, or latest blogpost. Everyone, that is, except the one person who should be leading the cheering section. Your emotionally abusive partner is far more invested in tearing you down and keeping you down. He really doesn’t want you feeling good about yourself. If you do, you might realize you could do better elsewhere. So, instead of loving praise, you’ll get reactions that take you down a notch or two. Or ten.
5. Your partner is indifferent
You could be really sad about something, and your partner isn’t upset or supportive. That, according to Rodman, is because, “In order to stay in control, emotional abusers need your focus to be on them. Their tolerance for your woes is limited because they need to quickly get back to their fix: abusing you”.
6. You’re treated to grand gestures
Obviously, a big bunch of flowers doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being emotionally abused on its own. But it can be a sign in and amongst others psychologist Sally Brown told the Daily Mail:
When an abusive partner knows they have overstepped the line and you are questioning the relationship, get ready for a grand gesture – an expensive meal out, a surprise weekend away, an unexpected gift or bunch of flowers.
The original problem remains unresolved, or not even acknowledged – a grand gesture buys your silence, and your part of the deal is not to insist on talking things through.
7. Your finances are being controlled
This is a classic sign of emotional abuse, Brown writes. They may have started by giving you advice that really helps, helping you sort out debts, or being more financially responsible.
Soon, your partner steps up the pressure to 'be careful' with money. But somehow, it seems like it's always you who has to cut back, earn more and stop spending.
Your partner doesn't consult you before they spend money. But if there's something you want, particularly if it involves a threat to your partner's control over you, like training for your career, or a weekend away with friends, there will be a reason why you can't afford it.
8. People notice a difference in you
People who care about you say you seem quiet these days, or just not yourself.
They wonder why you rarely go out or why you've changed the way you dress.
And you find it hard to give them an explanation.
9. You doubt yourself
Gaslighting is when you're given so much false information across a period of time that you start doubting yourself. Brown writes:
Gradually, you get the feeling that things just don't quite add up – your partner contradicts something they have told you previously, or you suspect you're not getting the whole picture (about their last relationship or why they left their last job). They may also deny doing or saying something that you clearly remember, but they deny it with such conviction and confidence that you start to doubt yourself.
This insidious form of manipulation is called 'gaslighting', and it's designed to make you doubt your mental health.
10. Your friends have disappeared
According to charity Living Without Abuse, another sign is when someone purposefully isolates someone from their family and friends.