What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is just one form of abuse that people can experience in a relationship. Though emotional abuse doesn’t leave physical scars, it can have a huge impact on your confidence and self-esteem. There are a couple of different types of emotional abuse and it might not be noticeable at first. However, if you are being emotionally abused there are a number of things you can do to get support.

This might be a problem if you:

  • Feel like you’re not good enough
  • Are afraid of your partner leaving you
  • Are called names by your partner or they put you down
  • Are afraid, threatened or intimidated
  • Feel like you are going crazy, or feel confused about the truth

What is emotional abuse?

Many concerning relationships involve aspects of emotional abuse. The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at a person’s feelings of self-worth and independence. In an emotionally abusive relationship, a person may feel that there is no way out of the relationship or that without their partner they will have nothing.

Emotional abuse can feel equally as destructive and damaging as physical abuse and can do a terrible amount of damage to a person’s mental health. It's common for physically abusive relationships to also include aspects of emotional abuse as this is how power and control is maintained within the relationship. It's important to seek help during this time but it can be hard to know where to find the right support. The ReachOut NextStep tool is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

Types of emotional abuse

Some types of emotional abuse can include:

  • Verbal - yelling, insulting or swearing at someone
  • Rejection - pretending not to notice someone’s presence, conversation or value
  • Put downs - name calling, public embarrassment, calling someone stupid, blaming them for everything
  • Being afraid - causing someone to feel afraid, intimidated or threatened
  • Isolation - limiting freedom of movement, stopping someone from contacting other people (like friends or family)
  • Money - controlling someone’s money, withholding money, preventing someone from working, stealing or taking money
  • Bullying- purposely and repeatedly saying or doing hurtful things to someone.

The impact of emotional abuse

Though physical violence is often seen as being more serious than emotional abuse, this is not the case. The scars of emotional abuse are real and long lasting. Emotional abuse can leave a person feeling depressed, anxious and even suicidal, as well as having a negative impact on self-esteem and confidence.

If this sounds like you

If you are experiencing emotional abuse it is really important that you seek help. Emotional abuse is a really damaging form of abuse even if it doesn’t leave physical scars. There are a number of services which can help if you need someone to talk to. Find out more about what to do if you’re in an abusive relationship.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 05 April, 2016
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  • Ben-RO    (31 days ago)

    Hey MichaelKingly, I'm sorry to hear that your relationship has had so many big challenges lately. Relationships take a lot of skill and hard work to become healthy and it's important to get some back up when things are difficult. I encourage you to give Relationships Australia a call to talk through some of the issues you're experiencing as they can help you unpack this, and find a way forward. The great thing about relationship counselling is that you don't have to do it with your partner if they're not ready, and you can still make a huge difference :) https://www.relationships.org.au/

  • MichaelKingly    (37 days ago)

    Given what i've read I suppose my situation isn't an isolated scenario but something that many have to go through when being with someone who's psychologically damaging you to the point where you're on here sharing your experiences and looking for answers.A bit about me; I'm a 27 year old male from Sydney, Australia. I have a medium-level management job which pays somewhere between alright and good. My partner is in a well-paid position. We are the same age and we are engaged, with plans to wed later in the year. We do ok and don't miss out on opportunities given we knuckle down and save our money when we can (but life is far from perfect).I'm a very relaxed person who has seen some horrific things which have changed my outlook on life. I appreciate life, animals and often think about my existence and how I fit within the universe. I am at peace with myself and when bad things happen i know damn well that there are others who are in much worse situations. I know that the world will keep spinning and I can easily put things behind me. My partner, however, is the polar opposite. She will kick up a stink at very minor issues... If the bed was not made correctly or if the wrong type of product was purchased at the store she will lose the plot. Now, I know we're all unique and share very different opinions on certain matters but what is happening here is my partner directly taking it out on me. I'm in trouble for just about everything that doesn't go to plan, i'm in trouble for folding the washing in a matter that doesn't suit her, i'm in trouble for taking too long to get things done... the list goes on (continued onto next comment)

  • MichaelKingly    (37 days ago)

    The way she speaks to me is disgusting. She swears at me, tells me how useless I am, denies me intimacy (I'm pushed away when I want a hug, i'm told I'm annoying when I want to hold her hand, i'm denied kisses or affection. We were intimate only TWICE last year and thus far in 2017 we are yet to be intimate - it's the 17th of May) and REFUSES to want to talk through it and work it out. Being the closest thing to her, i cop it all (which is fair enough, it's my job to be there fr her) but she doesn't treat, or speak, to anyone else in the way she does with me. I'm always feeling down from feeling rejected all the time, I have no energy and i've lost all motivation to ever want to do anything. It sucks!But, there are plenty of positive sides to the relationship too. She always plans trips for us, she goes above and beyond spoiling me for my birthday (and Christmas - it's a little ridiculous) and supports me with my sporting commitments and hobbies. I don't get where the nasty side of her comes from but it's a battle in which i'm feeling forever alone and sad. The sense of rejection I feel is overwhelming and it's crushing me. I just want it to stop

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