How to Recognize Emotional Abuse (And Get Out of It)

Because it doesn’t leave a visible scar, emotional abuse is oftentimes overlooked and allowed in relationships (romantic or otherwise). In fact, sometimes neither the abuser nor the victim recognize what is happening as emotional abuse. However, it is very real and can leave permanent damage on the victim’s self worth. Listed below are forms of emotional abuse that, if you are experiencing them in a relationship, must no longer be allowed to dominate your mental health.

Demand for Control

Abusers often are struggling with their own insecurities. When they feel like they cannot change their lives, they instead depend on keeping you under their control so as not to lose you. That control manifests itself when he or she:

  1. Needs to constantly know where you are
  2. Cuts off your relationships and contact with others so you depend on him/her more
  3. Makes you ask permission for even small decisions
  4. Constantly corrects you or chastises you, treating you as inferior
  5. Sees you as an extension of them instead of as an individual

Emotional Distancing

Emotional distancing allows the abuser to control your behavior when he or she is not getting what they want. The emotional security of your relationship becomes a tool with which he or she can manipulate the victim. He or she may:

  1. Make themselves emotionally unavailable
  2. Withhold sex as punishment
  3. Give the “silent treatment” as punishment
  4. Refuse to give empathy or support


girl crying, emotional abuse


Accusing and Blaming

Abusers are often unable to take responsibility for their own actions. In order to avoid responsibility, he or she will point the finger at the victim. The abuser may do any of the following:

  1. Accuse you of cheating or exhibit excessive jealousy
  2. Call you names or make fun of you (including sarcastically)
  3. Claim you are too sensitive when you are hurt
  4. Blame you for any unhappiness he or she has
  5. Always see him/herself as the victim

If you feel that these practices are occurring in a relationship, understand that this is not acceptable. You do not need to submit to it. Getting away from emotional abuse is hard, but you can be free from emotional abuse and be treated with love and respect.

How to Get Out

Set limits.

Verbally tell the abuser that you will not allow him or her to treat you with disrespect. Decide on your own what you are and are not willing to do for them, and make those boundaries clear. Do not be intimidated.

Be willing to let go of the relationship.

If the only way to end the abuse is to leave the relationship, you must be open to doing so. As hard as that decision may be, remaining a victim of emotional abuse will cause greater emotional damage. If needed, find a job for financial independence so you are not dependent on the abuser.

Find people who will support you.

Often abusers will convince the victim that they must stay because no one else could love them. Remind yourself that this is not true, and develop relationships to which you may turn when you need support or refuge from the emotional abuse.

Seek professional help.

Emotional abuse can leave deep scars, and you shouldn’t face this alone. Therapists have been trained to help you deal with trauma and find healing. Don’t be afraid to accept help and find peace.



If you are the victim of emotional abuse, allow yourself to get out and find happiness again. If you are in Utah and seeking for help in recovery from emotional abuse, Corner Canyon Counseling in Salt Lake City has expert therapists and counselors who can help you on the path to peace.

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