It happens all the time, but it shouldn’t. A relationship that should be filled with encouragement, patience, and kindness is filled with put-downs, manipulation, and accusations. Maybe there is no bleeding, bruises, or broken bones, but the harm emotional abuse can cause is just as real.
When a person has been emotionally abused, they may experience…
- Acute and persistent fear or anxiety.
- Feelings that everything they do is wrong or never enough.
- An inability to articulate their own feelings and thoughts.
- Nervousness about what will set the other off and when the next rage will occur.
- Low self-worth.
- Blame for the abusive treatment.
- Helplessness and/or depression.
- Feelings of going crazy.
There are many different types of relationships that can become emotionally abusive. A spouse, parent, coworker, friend, religious authority, and more can all seek to gain control over another person through emotional manipulation. If you are in a relationship and you are experiencing some of the dynamics previously listed, then know that love should be kind. Love should never tear down. You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, and there are resources available for you.
The counselors at Thriveworks Atlanta in Sandy Springs, GA have helped many people rebuild their sense of self-worth after an emotionally abusive relationship. They understand the harm you have suffered and know what it takes to find healing and safety.
Emotional Abuse: A Definition
All relationships have tiffs and disagreements. These are normal, even healthy. Emotional abuse is very different. Emotional abuse is about control: one person tries to gain control over another through manipulative techniques. Emotions becomes weapons.
Other forms of abuse may be more easily defined, but anyone who has experienced emotional abuse knows what it is and how much harm it can cause. A list of emotionally abusive actions illustrates more than a definition could:
- Publicly shaming, humiliating, embarrassing, name-calling, mocking, or criticizing (“you are so stupid.”).
- Disregarding or belittling another’s opinions and emotions (“you are just sensitive.”).
- Objectifying people (“you are being a girl” or “man up”).
- Using threats, intimidation, or guilt to get what they want (“you never do what I want.”).
- Displaying excessive jealousy or possessiveness (“you are mine.”).
- Gaslighting (crazy-making).
- Moodiness and bursts of anger (raging over minor infractions).
- Harming or disposing of another’s prized possessions (destroyed a favorite picture, a family heirloom, et cetera).
- Limiting another’s access to vital resources (denying requests for money, transportation, food, or health care).
- Falsely accusing (“You stole [broke, forgot, et cetera]…” when they know you did not).
- Withholding love to control another (“If you don’t…I won’t …”)
- Isolating another from other loved ones or trying to make them feel guilty for spending time with them (“Are you going to see your mom again?”).
- Refusing to accept responsibility for their own actions (“Well, you’re no saint!”).
The common denominator of these examples is control. Healthy relationships are marked by freedom and individuality and disagreement. People are themselves and still loved and accepted within strong relationships. Within emotionally abusive relationships, one person tries to dominate the other.
These behaviors usually begin subtly so that victims become desensitized to their harmful effects. People who perpetrate emotional abuse wear-down their victim’s defense mechanisms so that shaming and crazy-making feel normal when they are anything but normal.
Because these tactics are crafty, anyone can become a victim to emotional abuse. Men and women can suffer, as can children or older adults. The wealthy, the poor, all levels of education and all ethnicities can become entrapped in an emotionally abusive relationship.
The Cost of Emotional Abuse
People need freedom to be themselves, and no one can stifle that individuality without inflicting severe costs. Advocate Aisha Mirza explains, “It is not the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.” Some of those scars to the mind may include hyper-vigilance, anxiety, depression, fear, psychosomatic pain, suicidal idealization, substance abuse, and more.
Although these wounds are invisible, many people know how deeply they cut. Recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship takes time and intentional effort, just as healing from physical wounds does. As many people need care from a physician when they heal from physical injuries, so many people need the care of a counselor as they heal from emotional wounds.
A skilled therapist can help victims of emotional abuse…
- Identify the harm that was caused.
- Find treatment for the trauma.
- Understand that the perpetrator made a choice to harm.
- See that they did not deserve the abuse.
- Prioritize their safety and well-being.
- Regain their self-worth and voice.
- Learn to love again.
Healing from Emotional Abuse with Thriveworks Atlanta in Sandy Springs
If someone in your life does not respect your individuality and freedom, know that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship. If you need help, we are here. Thriveworks Atlanta offers counseling for emotional abuse recovery.
Being in an abusive relationship is difficult. Scheduling therapy should be easy. If you call Thriveworks Atlanta, you may be able to meet with your counselor the following day. We work with many insurance carriers, and if you need a weekend or evening appointment, we have them.
If you are ready to heal from a toxic relationship, call Thriveworks today. We are ready to help.