Emotional & Mental Abuse

A form of abuse often dismissed, because it’s harder to identify physically with there being no bruises or marks on the outside of the body, is emotional and mental abuse. Regardless, this form of abuse is no less damaging and unlike physical bruises, doesn’t heal as quickly.

Often, the abused victim develops coping mechanisms to help with enduring this kind of abuse, dismissing or denying that it’s happening, or down-playing it as simple marital discord. “All couples fight”, they say.  It is also common for a spouse to have her concerns dismissed as “drama” or “over-reaction” when she does finally want to address it. As such she is left with only one or two ways to respond: either she complies with the behavior further, or she fights it. Unfortunately, if the abuse has occurred for a long period of time, she may not have the ability emotionally or mentally to withstand what it takes to stand up for herself.

This requires a good counselor, pastor, family member of friend to stand up for her and often the first step is being able to recognize it. If you are wondering whether your friend or family member is being abused in this way, here are a few things to look for:

  1. They humiliate you, put you down, or make fun of you in front of other people. “You can’t keep anything straight, why do I bother telling you anything!”
  2. They regularly demean or disregard your opinions, ideas, suggestions, or needs.
  3. They use sarcasm or “teasing” to put you down or make you feel bad about yourself.
  4. They accuse you of being “too sensitive” in order to deflect their abusive remarks.
  5. They try to control you and treat you like a child.
  6. They correct or chastise you for your behavior.
  7. You feel like you need permission to make decisions or go out somewhere, and often when you do have permission, you are called often until you return home.
  8. They try to control the finances and how you spend money, often limiting your access to the bank account or financial records.
    – This can be a sign of hiding behaviors. Financial records reveal a lot about a person’s activities.
  9. They belittle and trivialize you, your accomplishments, or your hopes and dreams.
  10. They try to make you feel as though they are always right, and you are wrong.
  11. They give you disapproving or contemptuous looks or body language.
  12. They regularly point out your flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings.
  13. They accuse or blame you of things you know aren’t true. “No, I told you … Why can’t you get it right?”
    – this is often a sign that you may have stumble into a lie or run across something that was easier to blame you for than to take responsibility for it.
  14. They have an inability to laugh at themselves and can’t tolerate others laughing at them.
  15. They are intolerant of any seeming lack of respect.
  16. They make excuses for their behavior, blaming you or others for their behavior, and have difficulty apologizing.
    – it isn’t uncommon for the abused spouse to applogise for things they were told they forgot by the spouse. If they take respoinability, it’s easier to dismiss it.
  17. They repeatedly cross your boundaries and ignore your requests.
  18. They blame you for their problems, life difficulties, or unhappiness. “You are such a burden!” “Why do you make things so difficult all the time!”
  19. They call you names, give you unpleasant labels, or make cutting remarks under their breath.”You are such an over protective mother!”, “Cry-Baby!”, “Blonde!”
  20. They are emotionally distant or emotionally unavailable most of the time.
  21. They resort to pouting or withdrawal for hours or days to get attention or attain what they want.
  22. They don’t show you empathy or compassion. If it doesn’t hurt them, then it isn’t a real problem.
  23. They play the victim and try to deflect blame to you rather than taking personal responsibility. “This is all your fault!”
  24. They disengage or use neglect or abandonment to punish or frighten you.
  25. They don’t seem to notice or care about your feelings.
  26. They view you as an extension of themselves rather than as an individual.
  27. They withhold sex as a way to punish and control.
  28. They share personal information about you with others.
  29. They invalidate or deny their emotionally abusive behavior when confronted. Laughing or making jokes about your claims in common.
  30. They make subtle threats or negative remarks with the intent to frighten or control you.


By Vanessa Jackson, MABC, LPC-Intern
The Timothy Center
Supervised by Jimmy Myers, LPC-S


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