The insidious signs of emotional abuse

Do you hear these words, or similar, on a regular basis? Do you second guess yourself or feel guilty for things that, deep down, you know are not your fault?

  • "You are too sensitive. Can’t you take a joke?"
  • "You need to stop reading these stupid books and filling your head with nonsense"
  • "Don’t try to be smart with me"
  • "I didn't say that. You are making things up again"

Feeling as though you are walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting the peace is not ok. Neither is constantly apologising to try to smooth things over, even though you know that you didn't do or say anything wrong. Feelings of guilt and trying to put things right are red flags, pointing to the fact that you may be the victim of emotional abuse.

"But he/she never lays a finger on me!". Your partner doesn’t have to do anything so overt as hitting you. The wounds and scars that are being laid down are not physical. Emotional abuse cannot be seen by anyone, not even you, and that is why you may find yourself suffering for many years until you realise what is taking place. By then, you have lost a sense of who you are, and are lost in a fog of confusion.

Gaslighting is the term used to describe a form of emotional abuse that causes the victim to question their own feelings, thoughts, and actions.

It happens gradually over a period of time and gives the abuser power and control over the relationship and the victim. Eventually, the victim is afraid to express how they truly feel; or is lost in a swirling thick fog about their true thoughts and feelings. The victim begins to lose their sense of self and becomes unsure. Their self-esteem and confidence become eroded daily.

The signs that you are a victim of gaslighting may be some or all of the following;

  • second-guessing yourself
  • feeling guilty for simply 'feeling' or expressing feelings
  • feeling confused or as though you are going 'insane'
  • constantly apologising and trying to make things 'right' in the relationship
  • knowing that things in the relationship are wrong but not understanding why
  • you constantly blame yourself for everything
  • you feel emotionally unstable, depressed, nervous, and anxious

Common types of emotional abuse include;

  • isolating the victim
  • withholding finances
  • sarcasm and invalidation/denial of victims feelings
  • verbal assaults
  • ignoring/stonewalling/refusing to talk
  • neglecting/rejecting

All of the above will have an effect on your mental health. Without help, things will only become worse.  In the worst case, emotional abuse can lead to physical abuse. If you are being abused, you can get help from the police, as domestic abuse is a criminal offence. Organisations such as Women's Aid can help you with this process and offer support.

If you would like to talk through anything that you have read here, or if you feel that you may be a victim of emotional abuse but are unsure, then a counsellor can help with validating your experience and help you to see through the fog that emotional abuse can create. They can offer you support, validation, and counselling. You will be listened to in confidence.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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