It's Not You, It's Them: Emotional Abuse and Ways to Cope
Dr. Neha Gupta

Dr. Neha Gupta

May 21Mental health

It's Not You, It's Them: Emotional Abuse and Ways to Cope

Emotional abuse is a way to control another person by using emotions to criticize, shame, blame, or otherwise manipulate another person. A relationship is emotionally abusive when there is a consistent pattern of abusive words and bullying behaviours that wear down a person's self-esteem and undermine their mental health.

You probably know many of the more obvious signs of mental and emotional abuse. But when you’re in the midst of it, it can be easy to miss the persistent undercurrent of abusive behaviour. Psychological abuse involves a person’s attempts to frighten, control, or isolate you. It’s in the abuser’s words and actions, as well as their persistence in these behaviours.

The abuser could be your spouse or other romantic partner. They could be your business partner, parent, or a caretaker. It’s important to know that if you’ve been affected by emotional abuse, it’s not your fault and it’s never acceptable. You have the right to feel safe, respected and supported in your relationships.

There are several types of abuse that occur in intimate romantic relationships. Emotional abuse often precedes, occurs with, and/or follows physical or sexual abuse in relationships.

Sexual and non-sexual physical abuse also co-occur in many abusive relationships and, as with emotional abuse, sexual and non-sexual abuse often are combined elements of a single abusive incident.

Effects of emotional abuse

Psychological/ emotional abuse is considered an important form of abuse because many women report that it is as harmful or worse than physical abuse they suffer and because of its role in setting up and maintaining the overall abusive dynamic of the relationship.

Whether they endured it from childhood or from abusive adult relationships, the victims of continuous emotional abuse often suffer a multitude of self-destructive symptoms.

The emotional and physical expressions of these symptoms are uncannily similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder victims:

  • Unwanted and upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Disturbing bodily reactions
  • Hyper-vigilant anxiety
  • Blame, guilt, as well as internal feelings of isolation and helplessness.

Some other effects are:

  • Declining overall health
  • Low self-confidence
  • A growing number of physical and psychological problems
  • Fear of sharing anything with partners, friends, and family
  • Constant feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of isolation
  • A fear of abandonment by people close to them
  • Difficulty forming new relationships
  • Difficulty concentrating

emotional abuse

Forms of emotional abuse

Some of the forms of emotional abuse takes include yelling, belittling or ridiculing the partner, insulting the partner in front of other people, saying things to upset or frighten one's partner; acting indifferently to one's partner's feelings,

making one's partner do humiliating or degrading things and demanding obedience to whims.

These also include withholding affection, threatening to leave the relationship, doing something to spite one's partner, restricting the partner's usage of the telephone and/or car and turning other people against one's partner.

Ways to recover from emotional abuse

  1. Recognise and identify emotional abuse
  2. Recognize the qualities of a healthy relationship
  3. Know that it is not acceptable
  4. Reach out to family and friends
  5. Seek the guidance of a professional
  6. Stand up for yourself, take steps towards independence

Healing from this trauma cannot begin until the abuse is stopped, either by successfully challenging the current perpetrator or by leaving the relationship. It is often easier said than done.

Many victims have been so brainwashed that they are too frightened to challenge that partner and do not see a way to escape. But, even for those who manage to free themselves from an abusive partner, it is still often an uphill battle to heal. It is only when prior trauma is openly acknowledged to self and to the other partner, that the healing process can begin. Though remembering those past experiences can be deeply painful, knowing that their partners are able to hear them and keep them safe in the process illuminates the injustice of what has happened to them.

In the process of opening up old wounds, the abuse victim often feels the emotions they experienced at the time of the original abuse. They may feel helpless, angry, trapped, hopeless, beaten, and alone, even in the presence of a new partner who cares.

Also, one must avoid making an attempt to manipulate the person. Often, a victim will try to change the abusive partner by trying to be overly loving and hoping the partner changes. We suggest you focus on yourself, instead of changing the person.

They also have to develop their spirituality. To combat or tackle the lack of love and lack of attention, they have to develop a deep love for the self or to feel connected to a higher power. They need to find what brings peace into their lives and follow that path.

They can also now feel compassion, both towards themselves and other abuse victims, including their current partner who may have been the recipient of their self-serving indifference during their healing process. The use of positive affirmations lends a lot of strength to the abused person as well. Phrases like “I deserve joy”,” I deserve to be happy” also help.

Stop Feeling Guilty: No one deserves to be emotionally abused. Never try to explain yourself to your abuser. By doing this, you might think that you’re resolving the problem, but the chances of this happening without professional counselling are highly unlikely.

Distance Yourself: It is always best to disassociate yourself from your abuser, regardless of your relationship with them. Make it clear that enough is enough, and that they need to stop taking you for granted. Seek professional help if you’re faced with emotional repercussions following your decision.

Establish Boundaries: Avoid any kind of argument or discussions with your abuser. If they try to approach you or elicit a response from you, it’s best to just ignore them and move on.

Give Yourself a Break: When you’re feeling low, it’s a good idea to reach out to family and friends for support. Don’t forget that you can always seek professional counselling to help you recover faster.

Relationships involving children or shared common assets might be difficult to break away from. In such cases, it’s advised that you seek legal assistance to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Professional therapists and counsellors can help you heal faster from the effects of emotional abuse, mental trauma, psychological problems, and verbal abuse.

Read More: Creating Effective Boundaries in Relationships

Disclaimer - This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

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