Signs of Emotional Abuse

19 Jul 2010


How do you identify the signs of emotional abuse?  

When you are in it, it’s almost impossible to do so.  Because being in an emotionally abusive
relationship is like being in a maze: all you can do is go up different paths,
which almost always turn out to be dead ends. 
You lack on overview; not least because your abusive partner is intent
on closing down your horizons, and creating a kind of tunnel vision in which
all you see is him.  

Boy, that works well for him! 

So, the first sign of emotional abuse is the
obsessive way that you focus on your partner. 
Sure, in the early infatuation period of healthy relationships you will
spend a lot of time dreaming about your new partner; but then thoughts of
your partner, and what you share, make you very happy.  They do not eat away at you.

The second sign of emotional abuse is constantly feeling you have to walk on eggshells. You become fearful of your partner’s
reactions.  You find yourself constantly
watching his face for the first signs of anger.  Your heart sinks when you hear his key in the front door.  You spend most of your waking hours – and not
just your waking hours, either – worrying about what he might say to you.  But it doesn’t end there.  There is an inevitable spillover effect… 

The third sign of emotional abuse is that you go from
being terrified of his judgement to fearing everyone’s judgement.  You come to believe that he is the
mouthpiece for the whole World.  He more
or less tells you – often he does tell you, in so many words – that ‘the
whole World’ judges you as he does.  (Although,
when you stop to think about it, it’s difficult to imagine how someone as
self-obsessed as he is, could possibly be sensitive to what everyone else is

The fourth sign of emotional abuse is your isolation.
 Of course, it is hardly surprising that
you become estranged from the world outside your abusive relationship; once you
accept his truth that everyone you encounter judges you and finds you
sorely wanting.

The fifth sign of emotional abuse is your increasing de-personalization.  Not only does the world outside your
abusive relationship seem less real and important, but you also find yourself
shrinking as a person; and connecting less and less with other people,
in any meaningful way. 

The sixth sign of emotional abuse is your increasing
dependency on your partner.  Abused
women stop driving, and stop doing all sorts of normal adult activities on
their own, including, going to the cinema, or restaurant, or taking a flight,
alone.  They function more like small,
frightened children than adult women.

The seventh sign of emotional abuse is emotional shut
down.  There is defensiveness – which is
a fairly normal response to being constantly under attack – and there is emotional
shut down.  Abused women, and I was
certainly one of them, often feel emotionally numb, or even dead.  You can easily come across as withdrawn and
curiously emotionless, because you no longer know how to communicate

The eighth sign of emotional abuse is a perception of
living in a very unsafe world.  Because your
abusive relationship is so unsafe – emotionally, and often physically, also –
you inevitably generalize and see the world as unsafe.  The world you live in is unsafe.  When you are in that place in your life, it
is as if you have a big ‘V’, for victim, painted on your forehead: every abuser
for miles around seems to find you.  (I
can remember a day when I was very vulnerable and had a plumbing emergency:
even the plumber engaged with me in a very aggressive, abusive way.) 

The ninth sign of abuse is an overwhelming sense of
worthlessness.  Your partner has told
you how worthless you are more times than you have had hot dinners, and you
have argued with him.  But still, you
ended up taking his judgement on board.  

The tenth sign of abuse is your self-loathing.  Again, your abusive partner has treated you
as if you were loathsome, and you have swallowed that judgement also. 

The eleventh sign of abuse is self-blame.  As a general principle, whatever happens,
you blame yourself…  When things
go wrong, you assume that it’s your fault – as your abusive partner endlessly tells
you it is.  (When was the last time
he said to you:
“Don’t worry about it. 
It’s not your fault.  That was
entirely down to me”?  
Enough said.) 

The twelfth sign of abuse is catastrophizing.  There is no such thing as a small
mistake when you are in an abusive relationship.  Everything is a ‘hanging offence’: socks not neatly paired in the
sock drawer, dinner not waiting on the table, talking to a friend, making an
innocent remark, interrupting the great man when he is talking, you do it –whatever
it is – and it will be a heinous crime.  

The thirteenth sign of abuse is your negativity or,
if you prefer, extreme pessimism.  Not
that it feels that way to you; to you, you just ‘see things the way they are’.  (In reality, you see things through a very
dark lens; his lens.)
world looks hopeless.  Your future looks
hopeless.  Nothing good will ever happen
to you again, in your whole life.  You
may fight like a tiger to ensure that good things happen to your children, but
you, personally, live in a parallel universe where only bad things happen. 

The fourteenth sign of abuse is that you have stopped
laughing.  You certainly don’t laugh
when you are around your abusive partner; your laughter does not meet
with his approval.  You have long
since stopped being light-hearted.  How
could it be otherwise? 
Your heart stores
the full load of all the abusive things he has ever said and done. 

Abused women, invariably, lose sight of the person they were
before they went into their abusive relationship.  They think that younger, vibrant self is dead.  

That’s not true. 

You may show all the signs of abuse right now.  But here’s the thing: 

The signs of abuse are what you have suffered: they are
not who you are.

They are simply the trauma that, for the time being,
has submerged who you truly are.  That
trauma may have dimmed your light, but it cannot extinguish it.  It is very hard, unbearably hard, living
the way you are living now.  But there
is a fast track to healing.  

you take one thing from this article, let it be this: you are not the trauma
that has been inflicted on you.  You deserve
so much more than the misery of an abusive relationship.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

Leave a comment

The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse.  Starting with the basics.

Connect with me on Instagram

Want daily reassurance and inspiration? Sign up to my Instagram account. @dr_anniephd