It should never happen, but it does. Relationships that should be marked by patience, kindness, and encouragement are marked by manipulation, accusations, and put-downs. There may not be bruises or broken bones, but emotional abuse can cause significant harm.
Victims of emotional abuse may experience…
- An ever-present anxiety and fear.
- The feeling that whatever they do is wrong.
- Difficulty expressing their own needs, thoughts, and feelings.
- Walking on eggshells around their abuser, not knowing what will set off the next outburst.
- Low self-esteem.
- Being told they deserve the abusive treatment.
- Mental health challenges.
- The feeling that they are going crazy.
Relationships should build people up, not tear them down. Emotional abuse can occur in a variety of relationships, including between spouses, from a parent to a child, within a work environment, within a spiritual community, and more.
If you or someone you love is experiencing emotional abuse, know that many resources exist to help people just like you. Many people have found healing through working with a mental health professional.
That is why Thriveworks Newport News offers therapy for emotional abuse: we love seeing our clients build back their safety and self-worth.
Defining and Illustrating Emotional Abuse
Normal, healthy relationships have respectful disagreements and tiffs—they show how each partner remains an individual within the connection. Emotional abuse, in contrast, occur when one person dominates the other within a relationship. The goal of emotional abuse is control: one partner wants to control what the other thinks, feels, and does. Feelings at the weapon of choice.
Illustrations are perhaps more helpful when speaking of emotional abuse. Most people who have lived through emotional abuse can recognize it instantly when it occurs. The following are examples of emotional abuse in action within a relationship:
- Criticizing, attacking, shaming, embarrassing, mocking, humiliating, or name-calling (“You are so dumb”).
- Devaluing or belittling other people’s experiences, opinions, or feelings (“This is not a big deal—you’re just sensitive”).
- Objectifying people (“what a girl” or “man up”).
- Utilizing intimidation, threats, or guilt to achieve a desired outcome (“If you were a good friend…”).
- Demonstrations of acute jealousy or possessiveness (“I own you.”).
- Gaslighting (making people feel crazy and lose trust in their own experiences).
- Outbursts of moodiness or anger (Seething over minor infractions).
- Trashing another’s valued possessions (Destroying a beloved picture, a cherished family heirloom, et cetera).
- Cutting off someone’s access to important resources (money, education, transportation, health care, or food).
- Blaming others falsely (“You lied [broke, stole, forgot, et cetera]…” when you did not, and they know it).
- Withholding affection or love (Ignoring people).
- Making other people feel guilty for spending time with their loved ones (“You never spend time with me! How could you go to your mom’s again?”).
- Shifting responsibility for their own choices onto others (“If you hadn’t…I wouldn’t have to..”).
Emotional abuse often begins slowly and then escalates as victims grow used to being treated poorly. Therefore, anyone can become entrapped in an emotionally abusive relationship: men and women, young and old, wealthy and poor, and anyone of any race or with any education level.
Emotional Abuse’s Toll
People need to be free, and when one person stifles another’s choices, thoughts, and actions, there is a severe toll. Author Aisha Mirza explains what many survivors of emotional abuse know all too well, “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 these wounds and scars may be anxiety, fear, suicidal idealization, hyper-vigilance, depression, psychosomatic pain, substance abuse, and more.
The emotional scars may be invisible, but they cut deeply. Healing may take intentional time and effort, just as healing from a physical injury does. Just as people seek out a physician’s care after an injury to their body, so many people seek out a mental health professional’s care after an injury to their soul.
During therapy, many victims of emotional abuse find healing by…
- Naming the harm they suffered.
- Learning techniques for healing after trauma.
- Understanding that the responsibility for the abuse lies solely with the perpetrator’s choice to hurt another person—no one provokes or deserves abuse.
- Prioritizing their physical and emotional safety.
- Trusting their own voice, emotions, and thoughts again.
Counseling for Emotional Abuse with Thriveworks Newport News
If you have found yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship, know that support is available. If you are ready to see a mental health professional, Thriveworks Newport News has appointments available for emotional abuse recovery.
If you contact our office, you may be meeting with a therapist the following day. Many new clients have their first appointment within 24 hours of their first call. We also work with many insurance companies and offer weekend and evening hours.
We care about your safety. Call Thriveworks Newport News today.