Emotional abuse is a form of abuse that is not physical in nature. However, it can be just as devastating to a person as physical or sexual abuse. It is a form of manipulation that usually involves constant criticism, belittling, and purposely intimidating the victim. Those who suffer from this type of abuse may also be victims of other forms of abuse as well. So what is the Emotional Abuse Definition?
Emotional abuse definition according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is: “trauma to the victim caused by acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics…”
In other words, any type of behavior intended to control another person without the actual use of physical violence. This type of abuse is the most prevalent type. It is also the least obvious to others. It often goes unnoticed because it does not leave behind obvious physical signs.
It is important to understand that despite the lack of physical injuries, this type of abuse is just as devastating to the victim. Over time, it can wear down the victim’s confidence and self-esteem. The victim may have trouble seeing his or her own value and worth. It may also affect the victim long after the abuse subsides, making it difficult for him or her to form healthy relationships in the future.
Examples of Abuse
If someone in your life does one or more of the following, you may be a victim of abuse:
- Makes threats or uses intimidation to control you
- Calls you names or mocks you
- Humiliates or shames you
- Insists on making every decision
- Isolates you from others
Who It Effects
Emotional and physical abuse often go hand in hand. A physically violent person may utilize both types of abuse in order to control the other person. This is most often done to convince the victim that they can not live without their abuser. As a result, the victim begins to feel trapped in the relationship.
An abuser can come from any walk of life, but the majority of reported abuse is aimed at women and children. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, nearly half of those who suffer from psychological abuse are women, with a reported 4 out of 5 abusers being an intimate partner.
The American Humane Association reports that in 2005, there were 899,000 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect. And 7.1% of those children suffered the effects of emotional or psychological abuse.
Substance abuse disorders play a major role in child neglect and abuse. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse estimates the following: “Adults with substance use disorders are 2.7 times more likely to report abusive behavior and 4.2 times more likely to report neglectful behavior toward their children.”
There is no stereotypical person who is the victim of abuse. People of all genders and ages may at some point become a victim. Often the abuser is someone close to the victim, making it even more difficult to understand and overcome. When abuse occurs during childhood, it can cause long-term damage that follows them into adulthood.
Signs of Abuse
Signs of emotional and physical abuse are very similar and include:
- Desire to always please the abuser
- Isolation by avoiding social situations
- Changes in personality
- Low self-esteem and lack of confidence
- Depression and anxiety
- Lack of social skills
- Inability to connect with others
Long-Term Effects on Children
Abuse of any type is extremely harmful to a child’s social, psychological, and physical health. A child who is constantly criticized and belittled will often have problems with depression, anxiety, and may lack the ability to form meaningful relationships with others.
This type of abuse teaches a child that they can never trust others. As a result, the child may lack in in social skills making it difficult to form friendships. The depression and anxiety that develops in childhood can follow them into adulthood as well. The psychological damage makes it difficult for them to enjoy healthy, romantic relationships later in life.
Children of abuse may also grow up to become abusers themselves, as they are taught that it is normal to treat others this way.
What You Should Do
If you are victim of emotional or psychological abuse, it is vital that you remove yourself from the situation. You can start by telling someone you trust what is happening. You can also check within your local community for agencies and resources that help victims of abuse.
There are also abuse hotlines you can call to report abuse that is happening to you or someone you know. When you call, you are connected with a trained professional, and the call is completely anonymous. These include:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE
- ChildHelp National Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD
Despite the terrible effects abuse can have on an individual, it is possible to overcome the negative impact and lead a normal, happy life. One of the first steps in recovery is to acknowledge that you are a victim of abuse and to make healing a priority in your life.
Finding a good therapist can help you find the emotional support you need to overcome the psychological damage created by abuse. A therapist can offer a listening ear to help you talk through your problems and help you overcome your fears. They can also help you develop strategies for coping with emotional issues and connect you to resources within your community to further the healing process.
Many times victims of abuse feel alone and isolated from others. Joining a support group and getting to know other victims of abuse will help you feel less alone. It is a great way to form new friendships with others who understand what you have been through. These groups can also help you develop coping strategies as others share how they have overcome abuse.
Abuse can come in many forms,which often makes it difficult for a victim to recognize the signs. Any form of abuse is harmful to the victim’s emotional, mental, and physical health. Reporting abuse, removing yourself from the situation, and seeking outside support can help you overcome the devastating effects abuse can have on your life.