Emotional abuse is the act of systematically breaking down someone's self-esteem, sense of self and sense of reality through a variety of tactics, with the intent to exert control over the victim and relationship.
Emotional abuse tactics include but are not limited to:
•Silent treatment (stone-walling)
•Denial of abuse (gaslighting)
All tactics do not need to be present for the relationship to be emotionally abusive. Emotional abuse may also include elements of verbal, financial, sexual, physical or psychological abuse, such as threats of physical violence or sexually demeaning behaviour.
Emotional abuse is present in ALL abusive relationships, but can also be the only form of abuse within the relationship. Nonetheless, the effects of emotional abuse alone should not be minimised, as they can have a long-lasting and devastating impact on a victim's mental and emotional well-being, even leaving them feeling suicidal and often resulting in trauma.
The victim’s self-confidence is gradually eroded to the point where they completely lose their self-identity and become dependent on their abuser. The victim often lives in a constant state of high-alert, feeling as though they are walking on eggshells permanently, in fear of their physical, emotional, or mental safety. This creates a trauma response in the victim. As the abuser is often the main source of security and displays intermittent caring vs abusive behaviour, the victim may also experience trauma-bonding, which makes them even more heavily dependent on their abuser. If the abusive relationship comes to an end, the trauma experienced will undoubtedly outlast the relationship and continue to wreak havoc on the victim’s mind.
Emotional abuse is not always obvious, often the opposite! Many tactics are extremely cunning, designed to make it look like it was the victim’s choice, and the abuser is not to blame.
Although this blog discusses emotional abuse, it should be noted that this could also be referred to as psychological abuse. This is because the tactics of emotional and psychological abuse are virtually the same. It is whether the abuse is negatively impacting the victim's mind or their emotional well-being which differentiates between the two.
Usually, the abuse experienced will have a negative impact on both the mental and emotional health of the victim, thus the two terms are often used interchangeably.