5 Signs to Help You Recognize Emotional Abuse

Are you or someone you know experiencing emotional abuse? Although many of us are aware of how to recognize physical abuse, the damaging effects from emotional abuse can be just as powerful and devastating as physical abuse.

Sadly, emotional abuse is still largely ignored by our society and many times those who are experiencing it are not even aware that they are being abused in an on-going way that has detrimental consequences for their health emotionally, spiritually and physically as well as long-term consequences for their children.

In her book, “Emotional Abuse,” Therapist and Author Marti Tamm Loring describes how emotional abuse can erode both the inner and outer core of well-being of those who are being abused and the reasons why this type of abuse is often not identified as abuse.

“Many are convinced that they are at fault and thus do not perceive themselves as abused. When they seek out a therapist, it is usually to deal with symptoms such as suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts, terrified clinging behavior, and pervasive feelings of confusion and unreality.”

Since there are usually no legal consequences for these types of harmful behaviors and they can be so difficult to prove, many of those who experience emotional abuse are convinced that they themselves are to blame.

Here are just 5 of the signs Loring shares in her book that can indicate emotional abuse.

5 Signs to Recognize Emotional Abuse

  1. Criticizing and Name-calling– in a clear and consistent pattern in an effort to demean and control
  2.  Withholding Affection—when your partner is not demonstrating empathy toward you and you find that your feelings and needs are significantly discounted on an on-going basis
  3.  Interfering with Opportunities—when you are not permitted
    Fear can take over your life

    Fear can take over your life

    to  seek a job, medical care, have access to finances or your partner restricts or monitors use of your email, computer or phone

  4. Threatening life, pets, property or family–this may also include implied threats, throwing, punching and kicking things, driving recklessly with you in the car and other acts that cause you to fear what may happen next
  5.  Threatening to Abandon—( physically or emotionally) when your partner keeps you on edge and you become extremely fearful of having to live on your own without  adequate access to money, resources or support

When emotional abuse continues to twist and turn along its insidious path of destruction, not only is your psychological and emotional health at risk—your physical well-being is also likely to take a turn for the worse. Enduring emotional abuse often leads to sleep problems, migraines, stomach problems, auto-immune disorders such as lupus, fibromyalgia and other chronic health conditions.

Knowing how to identify some of the key signs of emotional abuse is the first step toward taking control of your life so that you can look for the support and guidance you need now to move forward in a healthier way for both you and your children.









Please let me know your thoughts in the Comments Section below.


  1. Nancy, such an important topic, thank you. I am convinced also that emotional abuse is at least partly at cause in negative body image issues. It’s easier to blame ourselves for the way our partner treats us – ïf I wasn’t so fat/big thighed/small breasted etc – then he’d be happy. Doesn’t help of course that our culture encourages women to think of themselves as ‘wrong’ if their body’s not perfect, nor that we grow up with movies like Beauty and the Beast teaching us to think that if we just try harder, give more, want less then he’ll treat us better…

    Thank you, this topic is so worth talking about often and loudly!

  2. Great post – unfortunately I have witnessed this kind of emotional abuse, and pretty much all the above signals were there. Not nice, but a helpful list of signs.

  3. This is such an important topic and post, and topical to myself too.
    Thank you for such insight.

  4. As an emotional abuse survivor, I thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront!

    This kind of abuse can exhibit in any social class and is not gender specific. Emotional abuse usually goes unnoticed to everyone except the victim. To onlookers, the abuser can appear to be charming, kind, and sincere but in reality they are really passive agressive’s lying in wait for the next opportunity to demean and sabotage the happiness of the victim!

    To all who are or who have suffered the same, believe and remember that this behavior does NOT define YOU, it only defines the person exhibiting this behavior!

  5. Good article, but you left the most important one out. I think that the worst kind of abuse is to make one doubt one’s own perceptions. I’ve been abused in this way, and as a private investigator who does a lot of domestic work, I see a lot of others suffering from this as well. I see it a lot in cheating spouse cases…”What? You’re crazy, I never said/did that!” In nearly every case the cheater makes the spouse, and the spouse’s friends and family, think that the spouse is crazy, neurotic, paranoid, etc. I think that this is the worst kind of abuse there is. Not only can you not trust your spouse, you can’t even trust your own eyes and ears, and your support network becomes an extension of your abuser, when you see the doubt in their eyes (maybe he’s right, maybe she is crazy).