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Abuse can come in many forms, not all being apparent and physically visible. Mental and emotional abuse is a more nefarious kind of abuse since it’s very hard for others and even yourself or the person being abused to detect when you are in the midst of it.

Abuse of this kind seeks to frighten, isolate, and control a victim and is enacted through an abuser’s words and actions (that are not directly physical). The persistence of these actions to reinforce the abuse is a common trait of emotional abuse and is usually done by someone close to the victim like a lover, spouse, or family member.

Emotional abuse can be every bit as devastating to individuals and relationships as physical and sexual abuse. And the pain of experiencing emotional abuse can be heightened when you feel unsure whether what you are experiencing is normal or okay. —  Betsy Smith, MEd, LPC-S

No one is deserving of abuse of this kind and finding signs of this in yourself or others should be immediately attended.

The following are signs that can help identify signs of mental and emotional abuse.

Attacks On Self-Esteem

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Some common tactics of abusers are to undermine or sap the confidence and self-esteem of others. These can be small or serious, but they are all harsh and relentless. Some examples of these are:

  • Name-Calling. Calling someone with derogatory terms like “stupid” or “loser.”
  • Attacks on Character. Assuming someone is always doing something incompetently like “always being late” or “always messing things up.”
  • Yelling. This includes cursing and screaming at someone to make you feel insignificant.
  • Patronizing. A form of belittling someone in the form of trying to help or support. “It’s okay; it was beyond your understanding anyway. At least you get points for trying”.
  • Intimidation. Frightening or menacing someone to get something out of them.
  • Put-Downs and Taunting. These are comments that are meant to demean your works, achievements, or appearance. Goading someone into a fight can also be considered as this.

Commonly, the perpetrator of emotional abuse does not know that she is being abusive. Rather, she may be aware that she feels insecure about whether or not her partner loves her, so she feels compelled to accuse him of cheating, blame him for her unhappiness, or constantly check his voice and text messages, etc. Andrea Mathews LPC, NCC

Control And Accusatory Behavior

Attempting to control and shame a person due to their insecurities is also a tell-tale sign of abuse. An abuser’s insecurities can also manifest to abuse by accusing a victim of their inadequacies so that they can feel more superior than you, asserting control.

  • Threats. Straight up threats to harm your physical, professional, or social well-being.
  • Monitoring Whereabouts/Spying. Constant surveillance of your moves and location can be used to control a victim by making them cautious of being watched and criticized. This expands into spying on activities over the internet by using your passwords or browsing history.
  • One-sided decision making. Having an otherwise joint decision be overtaken by only one party. Common examples of this have a joint bank account, but only one side is controlling all the decisions for that account.
  • Lecturing. Berating you in a long monologue regarding your errors. This makes you feel that you’re inferior or undermine you like a child.

Sometimes the messages we repeat in our own thoughts echo the voices and messages we’ve heard from significant figures in our lives, be it a parent, sibling, teacher, partner, spouse, or other individual. — Megan MacCutcheon, LPC

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  • Jealousy. Accusing a victim of cheating or flirting.
  • Guilt Tripping. Using your mistakes and errors to guilt you into doing/acting according to your abuser’s intention. “You owe me for making a mess of this project.”
  • Blaming. Constant projecting of an abuser’s mistakes and errors unto a victim can be abusive. The abuser is cleared of any errors on their part and unloads the blame of the victim to undermine them.

Next week, more signs of mental and emotional abuse will be discussed.