Emotional abuse

Signs of emotional abuse: the ones that are signaling it’s time to go

Emotional abuse is able to cause much more damage than you may think. The longer you stay in such relationships, the deeper scar they leave on your soul. An emotionally abusive relationship is very hard to recover from. So, it’s vital to recognize that you’re in a destructive relationship while you’re sane & able to get out at minor expense.

In this article, Chris shares his point of view regarding what counts for emotional abuse. 

What Is An Emotional Abuse?

What Is An Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse is not just undermining someone’s self-esteem (however, in most cases that’s what exactly happens between an abuser and a victim), but applying ANY technique able to influence another person’s emotional stability with an aim to gain control over that person or hide own wrongdoings.

Let me explain what I mean. Traditionally, emotional abuse is assigned to humiliation, threats, insulting, gaslighting, and other discrediting attitudes. But, as with physical, emotional abuse is aimed to control a person, and thus, may take many forms, including manipulation, excessive possessiveness, and some other techniques that compromise a person’s mental health.

These forms may not seem aggressive at first, but in their nature, they serve the same purpose: to assert control. In the long run, such techniques provide the same destructive effect, and lead to very severe consequences, speaking about one’s mental health.

The goal of emotional abuse is to control the victim by discrediting, isolating, and silencing. It’s not just about insulting one with words.

What are the most popular types of emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is any type of behavior that instills fear in a person or undermines one’s perception of reality. Most common techniques include: 

  • Threatening
  • Isolating
  • Gaslighting
  • Regular teasing & bullying
  • Twarthing a person’s goals
  • Excessive jealousy and possessiveness
  • Commanding 
  • Scapegoating
  • Sabotaging

Let’s talk about some of these in detail. 

Types of emotional abuse #1 Threatening

Threatening is a common type of manipulation. It always implies a condition: “If you… than I…”. For example:

  • “If you leave me, I’ll find you.” (the most common).
  • “If you hide something from me, we’ll immediately break up.”
  • “If you tell anything to your parents, I’ll leave you.”

Threatening conversations may also start with “Don’t you dare…”


  • “Don’t you dare leave until I wake up.”
  • “Don’t you dare talk to your friend about this.”
  • “Don’t you dare talk to other men.”

Of course, you won’t be intimidated by a person who doesn’t imply fear. And you certainly won’t be reading this article if you were dating a decent man with a regular job, who is working on his thesis on Saturdays, rides a bus, and is a huge fan of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. 

Let me describe some situations when the threatening takes place. 

Threatening occurs when your husband/boyfriend is cleaning guns in front of you, and what he’s involved in makes your heart skip a bit. If he carries a gun around him; if there are safes for money in your house. If he or his family has power, if he’s drug dealing or has a criminal record. If his friends murder people. If he yells at other people. If he acts like everything is allowed to him. If he’s a drug abuser himself. 

Aside from the mentioned, you may as well suspect he had similar issues in the past, even if now he is a civil, “psychologically stable” man.  

No matter how obvious his nature is, there are always signs that can tell something is wrong with the guy. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Irrational Man”,then you understand what I’m talking about. Remember, the guy is facing an existential crisis, having no purpose of living. Further, he decides to commit a crime to (!) feel that life has its meaning. Many people would elude such individuals, yet for some this seems interesting/attractive (like for the main female character of the movie).

There are many things that can provoke such behavior: a life-threatening experience, psychological traumas, substance abuse, etc. But that’s a topic for another article.

Types of emotional abuse-Threatening

Threatening involves pushing a victim into a state where he or she feels very vulnerable, powerless. Supplemented by isolating and other techniques, threatening gives an abuser the power to control a victim.

Types of emotional abuse #2 Isolating

An emotional abuser will groom all your community (including family). It will be framed as “I want to take care of you. Those people are bad/your friend is a bad girl. What’s the point of meeting with those people? Let’s save money and buy something instead.”

See, it does not always sound like something aggressive. It can be served under the sauce, “It’s us against the World.” 

Abusers isolate victims geographically and socially, so no one can cast doubt upon their manipulative actions. This way, a victim remains under control, because she really doesn’t realize the condition she’s in. 

Sometimes isolation may come with a more aggressive and manipulative narrative, like:

  • “Why do you need to be there? Don’t you have a home?”
  • “Why aren’t you home yet?”
  • “Of course you need to go to that meeting; there are cute guys everywhere.”

Isolating refers to emotional abuse. It causes emotional discomfort in the victim and brings them to the point where they feel helpless, cornered, and even with a lost sense of reality. 

Types of emotional abuse #3 Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a special form of emotional abuse where the abuser undermines one’s sanity, making a person question the perception of reality. The term comes from the 1944 thriller Gaslight, in which a husband causes gas flickering to make his wife believe she’s crazy. 

The technique includes sowing seeds of doubts in a victim, making them question their own sanity. The purpose is the same — to gain control. Because an abuser is himself typically psychologically disordered, they are usually not fully aware of what they’re doing and what for.

Here is a small story of a woman who suffered from emotional & psychological abuse so you can get a clear picture of what this term means.

He grabbed my face while we were quarreling. He held me really tough and said harsh things into my face. When I reminded him of that behavior several months later, he told me it had never happened. He convinced me that I had pictured it all in my head. 

“Babe, you’re too emotional. Would I ever raise my hand on you? Has I ever hurt you? You know that I would never put you at risk.”, that’s what he kept saying.

Types of emotional abuse #4 Regular teasing & bullying

Playful teasing or sarcasm can take place in a relationship until it hurts your feelings. Emotionally abusive relationships involve constant teasing on the half of one partner: it starts as a playful joke and then snowballs, swiping your self-esteem away. 

A starting point on distinguishing friendly teasing from real emotional abuse is when you address your partner’s behavior and nothing changes. 

Furthermore, abusers humiliate their victims in public. Nothing can stop them from exploding even with people around. It makes a victim feel inadequate, stupid, and worthless. After an accident happens, abusers have their own way of rewriting the story, so it always seems to be a victim’s fault in the end. 

Types of emotional abuse #5 Twarthing a person’s goals

Toxic partners will laugh at your ambitions, not directly, but in a way that you indeed start to believe “it’s a bad idea”/you’re worthless. When you’re isolated from others, and the only opinion that exists belongs to your spouse — guess what happens?

Of course, you’ll believe your place in life is near him. You would never survive alone/with someone else!

We’re not talking about being unsupportive. Reversely, abusers may show support but then arrange things in a way so you feel like you cannot do anything by yourself. 

A typical conversation may go like:

  • “Oh, really? Is that another crazy idea you got from your friend?”
  • “I think you should leave your work; you’re not paid well anyway.”
  • “Let’s face it: women cannot run business, ok? Let’s not even discuss this.”
  • “No, honey, you’ll stay home and be a nice lady who takes care of our children, all right? With your education and skill set, no one will pay you more than…”

Shame, blame and humiliation are inevitable companions of such a demeaning relationship. 

Types of emotional abuse #6 Excessive jealousy and possessiveness

There is love, and there is “love to death.” There is grief about the idea of losing a partner, and there is morbid, obsessive jealousy. 

Because every abuser aims to control the victim, there is no way to escape possessiveness in such relationships. During the pits of jealousy, an abuser might yell, scream, threaten, or even physically abuse a victim. 

  • “I’ve heard men voices near you on the phone.”
  • “You’re lying; you weren’t at work when I called.”
  • “Why did you hang up on me? You’re lying; you did it on purpose.”

“Emotional discomfort” that a victim experiences after such sparks of jealousy don’t disappear by itself. If they suffer for a long time, it leads to different psychological disorders, turning them into neurotics, at best.

Some women who suffered from emotional abuse, explained that the way their partners terrorized them was absolutely indescribable.

“I was so threatened by his aggressiveness that every time he called, I begged the Universe for everything to go smooth: the stable connection, no men passing by me. Because, if our call dropped for any reason (like a signal issue), he would call back and explode, and my soul would be so sucked. I was so afraid that I literally shaked every time he called.”

In this article, we’ve outlined demarcated signs of morbid jealousy. You may learn more by clicking on the link. 

Types of emotional abuse #8 Commanding

Abusers will either treat you like a child, or servant, but not as a life-partner. Abusers make decisions for you, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question.

Eventually, a victim starts feeling like a servant rather than a girlfriend/spouse. 

  • “Well then, what the hell am I supposed to eat?!”
  • “Where is my tie?”
  • “You can’t have friends in this house without my presence.”
  • “I’m not gonna eat this; cook something else.”
  • “Bring me another shirt; I’ll put that one on.”

Because of the abuser’s crave for dominance and unwillingness to accept their partner as an equal, they usually negate the situations so that victims feel like they’re misheard something, or they didn’t understand correctly. 

Reasons behind emotional abuse 

Control gives abusers the power to do whatever they want and escape consequences. 

In most cases, the wrongdoings include extramarital affairs, micro-cheating, flirting with others, or even leading a double-life (it’s when a person has two families). 

Abusers make it hard for victims to leave. That’s why they dissolve their partner’s personalities to the point where they have no place to go, no other interests/goals, no sense of self-worth. 

How to prove your abusive partner is cheating on you 

I know that leaving an emotional abuser is very hard, especially if you want to catch your partner cheating and do not have any tools or clues on how to arrange this. 

Frankly, entering an abusive relationship is a line in the sand. Knowing that your partner is an abuser automatically means there is a chance you may find yourself on the receiving end of cheating. If your partner threatens you, isolating or does something from what I mentioned above, — you can be 70% sure your spouse is having an emotional affair.  

Women rarely mistake. They have intuition. If they suspect their spouse is cheating, — it’s probably the thing. I know that getting the news that your partner is having an affair is hard to swallow, but the more you wait, the harder the consequences will be.

There is no one way to prove your partner is cheating that would work for everyone. Nevertheless, there is always an option to track your husband’s phone and find evidence of his infidelity. Data report from his phone will give you a great insight into what’s going on behind your back, dismiss or confirm your suspicions. 

I always imply that this method is the most effective. For those who suffer in emotionally abusive relationships, it may be quite hard to use other tools, like hiring an investigator. Besides, a good investigator is usually costy. They will do their work, but are you ready to pay several thousand bucks to find out he’s seeing someone else? The app is able to fish out the same information for less than $50!

Having evidence collected from your spouse’s cell phone (like photos, or messages, or GPS-location) at your disposal, you’re more than halfway to climb out of the hellhole. Now you can gather the incidents and show them to your partner. If you’re afraid of confronting a cheater by yourself, you can always do it in front of your family counselor or ask for professional help.

Please, if you’re experiencing any type of abuse and can clearly spot signs that I’ve described, ask for professional help that is accessible in any region of the US.


– Is Gaslighting a form of emotional abuse?

Yes, it is a form of manipulation that intends to make victims question their perception and memories. It is an emotional abuse at its core as it directly influences one’s mental health. 

– What does narcissistic abuse mean?

The narcissistic personality is a mental disorder that includes low empathy and extreme need for attention and approval. Narcissists use several techniques to fulfill their needs, like manipulation, threatening, insulting, verbal abuse, sabotaging, etc.

Narcissistic abuse is a type of manipulation used by people with narcissistic disorder to instil a sense of worthlessness in the other person and, this way, lifts their self-esteem. Such form of abuse, as all the others, has a serious, long lasting impact on one’s mental health.

– How do you tell if someone is gaslighting you?

I want to stress that gaslighting as a form of manipulation happens not only in families or romantic relationships. It can take place in friendships and even between co-workers. 

The point of gaslighting is to make you feel off-kilter, unable to distinguish what is real and what’s not. Typically, after communicating with an abuser, you may feel puzzled, thinking what’s wrong with you, doubting your perception and memories.  

Gaslighting includes many additional techniques to make the highest impact. 

  • Minimizing/neglecting your feelings;
  • You end up agreeing with their point of view; 
  • You constantly feel confused or out of your mind;
  • You feel the need to apologize for your feelings and doubts; 
  • You feel alone & lost;
  • You’re thinking of committing suicide.

– What are the 4 types of abuse?

Most common types of emotional abuse are gaslighting, threatening, isolating, sabotaging, teasing, bullying, and demeaning.

– What is worse: physical or emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse often flies under the radar until it transforms into physical abuse or ends up with the victims experiencing psychological traumas. Both types of abuse are sick and require professional help. Moreover, they usually supplement each other and rarely go separately. The consequences of both these conditions are severe.



  1. Michelle A. Reply

    Emotional abuse may be common among people working in a large organization where they feel they have no place in the decision-making process or are overworked and underappreciated.

  2. Jekson Taylor Reply

    In the last few years, I have been dismayed at the way emotional abuse is used in everyday language.

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