by Anne | 12:36 pm

So, after my post about my time in South Carolina I decided to go look up some information on emotional abuse and see how it pertained to me during that time and all of my relationships afterward. I learned a ton but felt that this was something that I needed to bring to everyone’s attention. Just because it doesn’t leave physical marks does not mean that it’s not real.

effects of emotional abuseYou will find that I have dropped my playful banter for the most part, as I feel this is something that requires a very serious discussion. Like my title says this can happen to anyone, and I do believe that it warrants some intense contemplation. Before we get into the effects of emotional abuse I want to look at what emotional abuse actually is as well as how it can differ from the general cycle of abuse.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse, also called psychological abuse or mental abuse, is the abuse of an individual through behavior that inflicts psychological trauma such as chronic depressions, anxiety, or PTSD. This tends to happen due to a power imbalance in the workplace, relationships, or even schoolyard bullying. Basically, it’s the manipulation of a person’s emotions to such a degree as to make them easier to control and continually abuse.

This abuse can be anything from name-calling, to emotionally withdrawing, refusing to communicate, belittling, even refusing to listen. It also includes threats to the abused, their children, their pets, and even to themselves as the abuser. Emotional abuse can also occur by isolating the abused from a support group such as family or close friends. This diminishes self-worth and emotional well-being.

A single episode of these behaviors does not constitute abuse. A pattern of consistent behaviors of this nature would be abuse. This pattern is sustained and repeated until the abused gets out of the situation. Much like physical abuse, it will not stop until the situation is ended.

Emotional abuse can happen to anyone. What do you think of when you hear the term emotional abuse?

  • Do you see the woman in tears because of something that her partner has said?
  • Do you see the husband who is emotionally distant from his nagging wife?
  • Could it be the child on the playground who doesn’t have any friends and is withdrawn?
  • Perhaps it’s the teen who is desperate to do anything for the love and affection from their boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Is it the employee who keeps their head down as rumors and gossip run rampant about them?

These are all types of people who have the potential to be emotionally abused and in many cases are abused.

cycle of abuse

The Cycle of Abuse and How Emotional Abuse Differs

The cycle of abuse has 4 distinct stages.

1. Tension building

    • This is where the communication starts to break down and anger takes a hold of the abuser.
    • The abused starts feeling the need to walk around on eggshells, basically watch what they say and what they do very closely.

2. Incident

    • This is where the abuse occurs.
    • It can be physical, sexual, or emotional

3. The Reconciliation

    • This is where the abuser apologizes, promises it will never happen again, blames the victim for the abuse, or minimizing and denying the abuse altogether.the calm before the storm

4. The Calm

    • This phase is the last cycle before it starts all over again.
    • The abuse slows or stops completely.
    • The abuser acts as if the abuse never happened.
    • The victim wants to believe that the abuse is over and won’t happen again

Sometimes the cycle of abuse combines both the Reconciliation and Calm phases. Emotional abuse can differ from this cycle since it can be exceedingly subtle, therefore done more often. Since the intent, whether known to the abuser or not, is to control the abused through their feelings, this can occur every single day.

Have you ever heard these phrases? Have they been said to you? These are just a few examples of verbal aggression that can turn into emotional abuse.

  • “You can’t do anything right!”
  • “Without me, you are nothing.”
  • “No one else could put up with you.”
  • “You try my patience.”
  • “A snail moves faster than you.”
  • “Think about the children.”
  • “Get over it!”
  • We never (insert thing to do) because of you!”
  • “When we met you had nothing.”
  • “Come on. Can’t you take a joke?”
  • “You look so adorable when you’re trying to concentrate. Look at you trying to think!”

Could these phrases be used in a non-aggressive way? Absolutely. However, they can be used to emotionally hurt as well.

The Effects of Emotional Abuse


During and even after the abuse trust issues arise. After a while, you get tired of hearing apologies and false promises and just can’t believe the abuser anymore. The problem is that this can spill over into other relationships. After all, if you can’t trust someone that was that close to you, how can you trust anyone else?

One of the main goals is to get the self-confidence, or self-worth, of the victims so low that they think that they aren’t worthy of anything else. Many abusers will pick items that the victim already has issues with such as weight, physical appearance, even how much money they make. Self-confidence can be something that takes years to gain back.


This can cause major issues in a person’s life and can require ongoing treatment. The constant fear that the victim feels every time the abuser opens his mouth is one that is not easily gotten over.


Many victims of abuse blame themselves for their abusers’ actions. They’ve been mentally programmed by their abuser to bring the blame home to roost and this can take extreme therapy to turn the tides.

These are just a few of the effects. Everyone is different.

Getting Help

Are you unsure if you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship? Click here to take a test.

No matter what, you’re safety and the safety of your children should the abuse be in the marriage, must come first. Whether that’s getting out of the relationship entirely, leaving the home, or calling your emergency service responder, that’s what you have to do.

Call a hotline. These are confidential and could give you valuable advice in times of need.

  • The hotline for domestic abuse is 1-800-799-7233.
    • They are open 24/7 and has operators that speak in over 200 different languages.
  • For child abuse in the USA and Canada call 1-800-422-4453
    • This hotline is open 24/7 and has translators for 170 languages
  • If you feel like you have nowhere left to turn and are thinking of suicide please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Calling can sometimes be a hassle. For domestic abuse please chat with counselors at the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Seek professional help from doctors or therapists to help with the effects of emotional abuse.

Have You Ever Been Abused?

If you have, then I encourage you to seek help. There may be unknown side effects that could take years for you to realize.

As for me, I don’t believe I have been emotionally abused, but I believe that my mother was when she was married to Larry. I could be wrong about myself, but this allows me to look at the way we communicate in a different light.

Did you find this post helpful? Can you relate? I hope that if you can you have reached out and gotten the help you deserve. Please post a comment below if you want to share your story. I’d love to hear from you.






Thanks for the post, you have a lot of good information and resources available for those who suffer at the hands of others. While emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, sometimes even more so. I’m concerned that we, as a society are too quick to label anything that we disagree with or hurts our feelings as abuse. In this new era of “safe spaces” and the intolerance to views and opinions we don’t share, we have a whole generation that demands to be protected for ideas they don’t agree with. My concern is that because the definition of emotional abuse is so subjective, we will be lowering the standards of what constitutes abuse in order to silence and bully others. I hope I’m wrong!

Apr 23.2018 | 03:04 pm


    Hello, David, and thank you for your comment and taking the time to read my post.

    I’m glad you think it’s helpful and I hope that it helps others in the future. I’m certain that in order for abuse to actually be abuse it has to be systematic. It cannot be just one or two times from the same person, but a seemingly constant barrage with the intentional purpose of causing harm.

    I don’t believe in “safe spaces”. These are just echo chambers by people who don’t want to hear differing opinions. I also hope that the definition is not twisted around in such a way that it allows those who abuse others the freedom to do so.

    Take care,


    Apr 23.2018 | 08:07 pm


I think the most painful part is when those who are abused (physically, emotionally, or sexually) knows that they are abused and are aware of negative effects the abuse leaves on them, but they feel powerless in changing the situation or even escaping from the situation. Some may even think that no amount of help from the outside is able to change the situation that they are in.

This is especially so for domestic abuse, I feel. Mothers feel that they are neglected because everyone expect them to put their children first after they had them. However, mothers have their own thoughts and feelings too, and are expected to ‘sacrifice’ them for the good of the children and the entire family as a whole. These mothers may not say anything, but they may not be THAT happy about making sacrifices – they just did so because they know that they are expected to do so and they are powerless to fight against that expectation (eg. they are reliant on their husbands for household expenses).

Apr 27.2018 | 11:59 am


    Hello, Rachel, and thank you for your insightful comment. I agree with your sentiments.

    Take care,


    Apr 27.2018 | 01:12 pm

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