I refer to emotional abuse as ‘hidden’ because it is given far less recognition than other forms of abuse, such as physical or sexual. The victim is often blamed. They are “oversensitive” and basically not able to “take it, like other people do”.

What is Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is an emotional attack on another person. Its basic intention is to damage or even destroy the sense of self of the other person. Often the goal is to control that person.

In my Toronto therapy practice I have had many people come in suffering from emotional abuse. However, they rarely say they have been abused emotionally. Instead they say they need depression help, relationship counselling, have anger issues or suffer from anxiety attacks. Mostly they will blame themselves for their problems: “I’m weak”, “I’m a baby”, “I’m oversensitive”, “I can’t take a joke”, “I’m worthless”, “I can’t have a healthy relationship” etc. How do I help them recognize the emotional abuse?

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse frequently occurs in intimate relationships. Though it also happens among friends or in a work situation. These are often the signs.

1/ You are in a relationship where you feel constantly in the wrong

2/ The abuser makes you feel  bad about yourself

3/ The abuser constantly criticizes you

4/ They label you: “You’re depressed, bipolar, oversensitive, are a narcissist” etc

5/ It is always your fault, the abuser takes no responsibility

6/ You can feel crazy. Emotional abusers often ‘gaslight’ (make another person feel crazy).

7/ You will often feel angry and not sure why

8/ You can feel depression symptoms and anxiety attacks as a result of the relationship

9/ You have low self esteem. Emotional abuse is an attack upon the self of a person

10/ You feel very controlled in the relationship

How to Recognize Emotional Abusive People

1/ They are very controlling and want their own way

2/ They are manipulative

3/ They don’t take responsibility, they blame

4/ They are very self involved 

5/ They bully, through anger, tears, shaming, sarcasm or whatever works to control others

6/ They can be charming and can coax their victims back after they hurt them

7/ They disregard the opinions and thoughts of the other person

8/ They demand their needs to be met, but neglect the needs of others 

9/ They characterize themselves as victims and others as the abuser 

10/ They are insecure. They often need reassurance.

How I Help Emotionally Abused Clients

My work with emotionally abused clients is based on helping them to recognize that their thoughts and feelings are not crazy or wrong. I help them see who they really are and that their self is good and has merit. I will examine their childhood and other formative relationships. Often an emotionally abused person has been emotionally abused within their family.  

Emotional abuse can be very damaging and lead to anxiety attacks and depression symptoms. It is often traumatic. However, as you begin to recognize the truth of what happened to you, you can begin to recover your sense of self and feel good about who you are. You can then have the capacity to enter into a healthy relationship.