The signs of physical abuse are often obvious: Bruised skin, broken bones, and split lips. The signs of emotional abuse, while just as harmful, aren’t always evident to the outside world—or even to the victim. There are three critical indicators of emotional abuse that can be missed or overlooked, especially when you’re not ready to admit to yourself that something in your relationship is broken. Read the list below and ask yourself honestly if you are experiencing these indicators of emotional abuse. If your answer to at least one is yes, then read the list that follows. It’s a list of steps that will help you to break the cycle of emotional abuse and get help.
Three Signs of Emotional Abuse
- The Attacks are Relentless. An emotional abuser never lets up on his or her victim. If you feel that your partner is constantly making jokes at your expense, criticizing your every move, and regularly attacking you with vicious, hurtful words, don’t fool yourself into thinking things will get better. People who emotionally abuse others are giving in to their own needs at the expense of their victims. The flaws are theirs—not yours—and unless the abuser seeks professional help, things won’t get better.
- They are Isolating You. Emotional abusers want to be in control, and this desire often takes the form of isolating their partners from friends and family. If your partner restricts where you go and who you see, makes you feel guilty for spending time with others, or starts arguments when they claim you “broke the rules,” they are attempting to isolate you so that they can better control you and ensure your reliance upon them.
- They Constantly Make You Feel Bad or Guilty. A core component of an emotional abuser’s damaging arsenal of tactics is the guilt trip. An emotional abuser will manipulate you into thinking that you have done something wrong, that you’re the cause of any relationship issues, that you’re flawed, unworthy, or that you have in some way hurt them. This approach is a tactic meant to leverage control and keep you in a position of weakness so that you aren’t tempted to leave the relationship.
Three Ways to Stop Emotional Abuse
If you fear you are the victim of emotional abuse, it can end now if you take these steps:
- Stand Up For Yourself. The last thing your emotional abuser will expect, especially after weeks, months, or years of trying to weaken you and make you dependent upon him or her, is for you to stand up for yourself. Confront your abuser and make it clear that he or she either needs to get help (which you will support) or that your relationship is over. If you have any reason to believe such a discussion may turn violent, consider an alternative approach.
- Walk Away. Sometimes emotional abusers can change if they commit to professional support. Those who aren’t willing to get help aren’t likely to change on their own. If your partner denies your claims of emotional abuse and he or she won’t consider working to give you what you need, then pack your bags and leave. Enlist the help and support of friends and family during the difficult transition and to ensure you have a support system so that you’re not tempted to backtrack.
- Get Professional Support. If you are ready to end the cycle of abuse that has you trapped, contact a mental health and abuse recovery support provider in your area. An expert will address your specific situation and help you build a plan to break free and rebuild your life on your own.