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Emotional and Psychological Abuse

Nearly all abusive relationships include some emotional abuse. Insults and threats might seem less serious than violence but the long-term impact can be devastating. Many survivors say that the emotional abuse was the hardest part of their relationship.

What is Emotional and Psychological Abuse?

Nearly all abusive relationships include some emotional abuse. Insults and threats might seem less serious than violence but the long-term impact can be devastating. Many survivors say that the emotional abuse was the hardest part of their relationship.

Controlling and coercive behaviour is now recognised as abusive under the definition of Domestic Violence and Abuse.

What are the effects of emotional and psychological abuse?

Emotional and psychological abuse chips away at your self-esteem until you feel that you are nothing without your abuser and you can’t live without them. It can make you feel worthless and that you are to blame for all the problems in your family.

What types of behaviour are abusive?

  • Insults – hearing that you are "useless" or "ugly", "a bad parent" or that "no-one else would have you" can wear away your confidence until you start to believe it.
  • Shouting – at you or at your children
  • Blaming you – for everything that goes wrong in their life, your relationship and your family
  • Threatening you – with violence, or suicide or exposure (telling private things or lies about you to other people or to the authorities)
  • Threatening others to make you co-operate – your children, pets or family members
  • Isolation – preventing you from seeing family or friends, not allowing you to work or go to college, not allowing you to learn English or other skills that would make you more independent
  • Jealousy – accusing you of having affairs or punishing you for having previous partners
  • Shaming or embarrassing you in front of others
  • Rigid gender roles – insisting you should manage the children and housework perfectly without any help, or that you should be out earning more money and not spending time with the children
  • Punishing you – when they feel you have done something wrong, sulking
  • Denial – saying you cause the abuse, that they had a bad day, being loving and apologetic after an attack
  • Lies and manipulation to make you doubt what you know to be the truth.

What are the long-term effects of these behaviours?

All of these behaviours are designed to make you doubt yourself and keep you doing as you’re told. It can be exhausting living in a state of constant anxiety, watchful that nothing you do or say upsets your partner. And it can take a long time to rebuild confidence after the abuse has ended. But domestic abuse support organisations understand this and can help you recognise the effects and move on.

See also Is our relationship healthy?


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