12 Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse and How to Seek Help


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If there’s one thing I’d love to see everyone understand better, it’s emotional abuse. As someone who has experienced it firsthand years ago, I can’t stress enough how important it is to recognize the signs and take appropriate action.

Emotional abuse isn’t always as obvious as physical abuse. It can be subtle, manipulative, and deeply ingrained in our relationships, making it difficult to identify. But let me tell you, the damage it causes can be just as severe, if not worse. It can leave you feeling broken, worthless, and trapped in a cycle of despair.

Educate Yourself On Emotional Abuse

It’s crucial for everyone to educate themselves on what emotional abuse looks like. It can take many forms, such as belittling, constant criticism, control, isolation, and gaslighting – just to name a few. What’s more, it can happen in any relationship, whether it’s with a partner, family member, or friend.

I want people to know that they don’t have to suffer in silence. There are resources available and support networks that can help them break free from the clutches of emotional abuse. By raising awareness, I hope to empower individuals to recognize when they or someone they care about are being emotionally abused and to take the necessary steps towards healing.

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Embrace Self-Love

In my experience, one of the most powerful tools in overcoming emotional abuse is self-love and self-worth. Learning to love and respect myself was a turning point in my journey, and it helped me find the strength to leave a toxic environment. It’s essential for those who have been emotionally abused to rediscover their self-worth and understand that they deserve better.

So, if there’s one message I want to share with the world, it’s this: emotional abuse is real, it’s harmful, and it’s something we must address collectively. Let’s work together to spread understanding, encourage open conversations, and create a support system for those who need it most.

What Is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse is a damaging form of abuse that can undermine your sense of self-worth and identity. It can be hard to recognize, as it often involves manipulation tactics such gaslighting, criticism, or isolation. It is important to understand the warning signs of emotional abuse so that victims know when they are in an unhealthy relationship.

This article will outline 8 warning signs of emotional abuse that should not be ignored.


Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to undermine another individual’s perception or belief. It often involves the abuser lying, denying, or contradicting reality in order to make the victim feel confused and uncertain.

This tactic is meant to make them second-guess themselves and become more dependent on the abuser for guidance or validation. The goal of this behavior is to convince the victim that their thoughts, feelings, and opinions are wrong or invalid. If someone has difficulty trusting their own judgment due to extreme gaslighting from an abusive partner, it could be a warning sign of emotional abuse.

1.      Example of Gaslighting

Jane and Alex were sitting on the couch, discussing their plans for the weekend. Jane had been looking forward to spending some quality time together just the two of them.

Jane: “I was thinking we could go on a hike this Saturday. We haven’t done that in a while, and I think it would be a great way to unwind.”

Alex: “Hike? You never mentioned that before. You must be mistaken. I clearly remember you saying you wanted to go shopping this weekend.”

Jane, feeling confused, replied: “I’m pretty sure I mentioned the hike a few days ago. I’ve been excited about it all week.”

Alex rolled their eyes and let out a sigh. “Honestly, Jane, your memory has been terrible lately. I’m worried about you. We talked about going shopping, not hiking. You’re probably just stressed and forgetting things.”

Jane started to doubt herself, even though she was sure she had brought up the idea of going on a hike. But Alex’s insistence made her question her own memory. She felt disoriented and began to wonder if maybe she was indeed forgetting things.

In this example, Alex is gaslighting Jane by deliberately making her doubt her own memory and perception of events. By doing so, Alex is manipulating Jane, causing her to feel insecure and question her own reality.

2.      Feeling Overly Responsible For The Abuser’s Feelings Or Behavior

Another warning sign of emotional abuse is feeling overly responsible for the abuser’s feelings or behavior. Victims in emotionally abusive relationships may find themselves taking on guilt and blame for their partner’s emotions, even when it is not warranted.

They may feel as if they must constantly please the abuser and fulfill their wishes in order to avoid an outburst or argument. They may also find themselves apologizing for the abuser’s bad behavior, putting up with unacceptable treatment, or doing things that are uncomfortable in order to appease them. This can be a sign that one is being emotionally abused by their partner.

An Example

Emma and Mark had been in a relationship for a few years. Mark was often moody and would lash out at Emma over small things. He would blame her for his bad days, saying that if she had only done something differently, he wouldn’t be so upset.

One evening, Mark came home from work in a terrible mood. He slammed the door and started yelling about how awful his day had been. Emma immediately felt anxious and tried to calm him down.

Emma: “I’m so sorry you had a bad day, Mark. What can I do to make it better? Do you want me to cook your favorite meal or give you a massage?”

Mark: “You should have known that I had an important meeting today and made sure everything was perfect when I got home! Now my whole evening is ruined!”

Emma felt guilty and responsible for Mark’s bad mood, even though she hadn’t caused it. She began to apologize profusely and did everything she could think of to improve the situation, including cleaning the house, cooking dinner, and running errands for Mark.

In this example, Emma is feeling overly responsible for Mark’s feelings and behavior. She believes that it is her duty to keep him happy and content, even though his mood swings and outbursts are not her fault. This sense of responsibility can be a sign of emotional abuse, as it places an unfair burden on the victim and allows the abuser to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions and emotions.

3.      Criticism, Shaming, And Name-Calling

Criticism, shaming, and name-calling are other warning signs of emotional abuse. These tactics can be used to humiliate and control the victim’s behavior or opinions. The abuser may resort to insults or put-downs in order to make the victim feel worthless or inadequate.

They may also criticize their partner’s looks, lifestyle choices, family members, or job performance as a way of undermining them. Any type of verbal attack that seeks to belittle or degrade another person is a form of emotional abuse and should not be tolerated.

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Emotional Abuse: An Example

Sophie and Ryan were in a long-term relationship. Ryan often put Sophie down and made her feel inadequate by using criticism, shaming, and name-calling as a way to maintain control over her.

One day, Sophie was excited to share a new painting she had been working on with Ryan. She had spent hours perfecting it, and she felt proud of her work.

Sophie: “Hey, Ryan, I wanted to show you the painting I just finished. I worked really hard on it and thought you might like it.”

Ryan glanced at the painting with a dismissive smirk and immediately began criticizing it.

Ryan: “You call that art? It looks like something a child would create. I don’t know why you even bother with this painting hobby of yours; you’re clearly not talented.”

Sophie’s face turned red with embarrassment, and she felt a knot forming in her stomach. She had been so proud of her accomplishment, but now she felt ashamed and doubted her abilities.

Sophie: “I thought it looked good. I guess I was wrong.”

Ryan continued to belittle her: “You should focus on something you’re actually good at, instead of wasting your time with this. Seriously, even a kindergarten student could paint better than that.”

In this example, Ryan is using criticism, shaming, and name-calling to undermine Sophie’s self-esteem and make her feel inferior. This type of behavior can be emotionally abusive, as it erodes the victim’s confidence and self-worth, making them more dependent on the abuser for validation and support.

4.      Blaming You For The Abuser’s Emotions Or Behaviors

Another sign of emotional abuse is when an individual blames their partner for their own emotions or behavior. This tactic is often used to make the victim feel guilty and responsible for the abuser’s actions. The abuser may also accuse their partner of causing them to act a certain way, even when there was no justification for it.

They may use this tactic as a way of deflecting or avoiding responsibility for their own behavior. If someone finds themselves constantly being blamed for things that are out of their control, they could be in an emotionally abusive relationship.

5.      Isolation From Friends/Family/Support System

Isolation from friends, family, or other support systems can also be a warning sign of emotional abuse. Abusers may try to limit contact with others as a way of controlling and manipulating their victims. They may discourage their partner from spending time with friends or family, criticize them for speaking to certain people, or even prevent them from making new connections.

This type of behavior can be used to cut off victims from any sources of support and make them more dependent on the abuser. If someone finds that they are being isolated by an abusive partner, it could be a sign of emotional abuse.

6.      Unpredictable Mood Swings And Reactions To Minor Issues

Unpredictable mood swings and reactions to minor issues can also be a warning sign of emotional abuse. Abusive partners often lash out or become overly emotional in response to small, everyday occurrences. They may overreact or act aggressively when something doesn’t go their way, use this as an excuse to berate or blame their partner, or display other disturbing behaviors.

These kinds of unpredictable reactions can create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty for the victim. If someone notices that their partner frequently has these kinds of reactions, it could be a sign of emotional abuse.

7.      Threats And Intimidation

Threats and intimidation are other common forms of emotional abuse. Abusers may make threats as a way of controlling their partner’s behavior or forcing them to do something they don’t want to. These threats may involve physical violence, destruction of property, or harm to loved ones.

Abusers may also use intimidation tactics like staring, looming over someone, or using a loud voice as a way of making their victims feel intimidated and afraid. If someone feels that they are being threatened or intimidated by their partner, it could be a sign of emotional abuse.

8.      Possessive And Controlling Behavior Such As Excessive Jealousy

Possessive and controlling behavior, such as excessive jealousy, can also be a warning sign of emotional abuse. Abusers may attempt to control their partner’s whereabouts or decision-making in an effort to keep them under their thumb.

They may become overly possessive or jealous if their partner spends time with someone else or won’t allow them to do things that make them happy. This type of behavior can leave victims feeling trapped and powerless. If someone notices that their partner is exhibiting possessive or controlling behaviors, it could be a sign of emotional abuse.

9.      Threatening To Hurt Yourself, The Other Person, Or Their Possessions

Threatening to hurt oneself, the other person, or their possessions is another common warning sign of emotional abuse. Abusers may use this tactic as a way of manipulating their partner into doing something they don’t want to do.

They may also threaten themselves or their partner in order to keep them from leaving the relationship. This type of behavior can be extremely dangerous and should be taken seriously if it occurs. If someone notices that their partner is making such threats, it could be a sign of emotional abuse.

10. Withholding Affection Or Using It As A Reward/Punishment

Withholding affection or using it as a reward/punishment is also a warning sign of emotional abuse. Abusers may use this tactic as a way of controlling their partner and manipulating them into doing what they want. They may withhold affection or love in order to punish their partner for certain behaviors, or use it as a reward when they do something the abuser wants.

This type of behavior can be extremely damaging to the victim’s self-esteem and sense of worth. If someone notices that their partner is using affection in this way, it could be a sign of emotional abuse.

11. Ignoring Your Partner’s Opinions And Feelings

Ignoring your partner’s opinions and feelings is another warning sign of emotional abuse. Abusers may use this tactic as a way of silencing their partner and invalidating their emotions. They may refuse to listen to or understand what their partner has to say, and instead ignore them or dismiss their feelings in an effort to make them feel insignificant.

This type of behavior can be extremely damaging to the victim’s sense of self-worth and can lead to long-term mental health issues if it persists. If someone notices that their partner is not respecting or validating their opinion, it could be a sign of emotional abuse.

12. Blaming All Relationship Problems On The Other Person

Blaming all relationship problems on the other person is another sign of emotional abuse. Abusers may use this tactic as a way of avoiding responsibility for their own actions and shifting the blame onto their partner. They may do this by accusing them of causing all the problems in the relationship, or even blaming them for things that are not their fault. T

his type of behavior can be extremely damaging to both parties involved, as it can make the victim feel inadequate or worthless while also making it difficult for them to take any meaningful steps towards resolving issues. If someone notices that their partner is constantly blaming them for all the problems in the relationship, it could be a sign of emotional abuse.

Emotional Abuse: More Examples

Tim And Mary

Tim berates Mary for insignificant things. For instance, if she were to forget to do something that he asked of her, he might yell at her or call her names in an effort to intimidate and control her. He may use threatening language such as “If you don’t do this, I’ll…” in order to manipulate her into doing what he wants.

Additionally, he may become overly possessive and jealous if she spends time with anyone other than him or refuses to do something he requests. These behaviors are all signs of emotional abuse and can be damaging both emotionally and physically for Mary.

Tom And Dana

Tom isolates Dana from her friends and family. He might not physically prevent her from seeing them, but instead uses tactics such as belittling her when she tries to make plans with them or guilting her into staying home with him instead. Additionally, he may be overly possessive or attempt to control her decisions in order to keep her under his thumb. These behaviors can all be signs of emotional abuse and can lead to an unhealthy dynamic within their relationship.

A Boss And An Employee

An example of a boss emotionally abusing an employee may include the boss berating their employee for not meeting their expectations. For instance, if the employee fails to complete a task on time or is unable to meet certain goals, the boss might respond with harsh language or insults in order to put them down and make them feel inadequate.

Additionally, the boss may manipulate the employee into staying late or working weekends by using guilt tactics such as “If you don’t do this, I won’t be able to…” These behaviors are all signs of emotional abuse and can lead to an unhealthy work environment.

Wrapping It Up

It is important to recognize the warning signs of emotional abuse so that victims can get help and support. If you have experienced any of these warning signs of emotional abuse, seek help from someone who can provide assistance and support, such as a professional therapist.

There are many organizations that provide information, support, and free resources to those who are affected by emotional abuse. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and seek help if needed. With the right support system, it is possible to get on the path towards a healthier life. Take care of yourself and don’t suffer in silence!

Sending big love your way,


dominica applegate





References & Further Reading

National Domestic Violence Hotline


American Psychological Association

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence


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