Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is a common form of abuse that occurs in close relationships. It is also known as psychological abuse, and includes verbal abuse. Emotional abuse is about one person maintaining power or control over another person. It usually takes place between intimate partners, or comes from a parent to a child. It can also…

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Emotional abuse is a common form of abuse that occurs in close relationships. It is also known as psychological abuse, and includes verbal abuse.

Emotional abuse is about one person maintaining power or control over another person. It usually takes place between intimate partners, or comes from a parent to a child. It can also happen in situations such as schools or workplaces (for example, in the case of bullying).

There are many different types of emotional abuse, including:

  • verbal attacks or threats
  • restricting a person’s freedom
  • controlling or taking your money, food or transport
  • putting you down, insulting or humiliating you, or blaming you
  • making you feel scared or threatened
  • making you isolated
  • deliberately doing things to hurt you (bullying)
  • being very jealous

For children, emotional abuse may include:

  • emotional neglect (not expressing love, not showing affection or not playing with the child)
  • rejection or hostility towards the child
  • insulting or humiliating comments made towards the child
  • inappropriate parenting (such as having excessive expectations of the child, or exposing them to domestic violence)
  • not recognising the child as a separate individual (using the child to satisfy a parent’s needs or wishes)
  • isolating or confining the child, or failing to create opportunities for the child to learn, explore or socialise with others

Emotional abuse can have serious negative effects on the physical and mental health of adults and children.

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional abuse, help is available. Refer to the ‘Where to get help’ section below.

Not all emotionally abusive relationships are physically violent, but most physically violent relationships also include some form of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is experienced both by men and women, but is more likely to be experienced by women. An Australian study found that around 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience emotional abuse by a partner in their lifetime.

Emotional abuse and neglect of children also occurs, but can be hard for authorities to detect and it may go unrecognised.

Effects of emotional abuse

Although emotional abuse may be less obvious than physical abuse, it can still have devastating effects on the mental health and wellbeing of adults and children.

Research has shown that psychological or emotional abuse in adults can be linked to:

Emotional abuse of children can have serious effects on their development, and these effects can continue into adult life.

Where to get help

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional abuse in a relationship, it is important to have support. Some people feel embarrassed to admit they have a problem, but help is essential.

Seek help from your local doctor, or from a relationship or family counselling service.

Alternatively, you can call the following helplines (24 hours per day, 7 days per week):

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Signs of Emotional Abuse

Home » Blog » Signs of Emotional Abuse Last updated: 8 Jul 2018   ~ 2 min read Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it’s happening. It can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves.…

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Home » Blog » Signs of Emotional Abuse Last updated: 8 Jul 2018

  ~ 2 min read

Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it’s happening.

It can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends.

The abuser projects their words, attitudes or actions onto an unsuspecting victim usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others.

In the following areas, ask these questions to see if you are abusing or being abused:

  1. Humiliation, degradation, discounting, negating. judging, criticizing:
    • Does anyone make fun of you or put you down in front of others?
    • Do they tease you, use sarcasm as a way to put you down or degrade you?
    • When you complain do they say that “it was just a joke” and that you are too sensitive?
    • Do they tell you that your opinion or feelings are “wrong?”
    • Does anyone regularly ridicule, dismiss, disregard your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings?
  2. Domination, control, and shame:
    • Do you feel that the person treats you like a child?
    • Do they constantly correct or chastise you because your behavior is “inappropriate?”
    • Do you feel you must “get permission” before going somewhere or before making even small decisions?
    • Do they control your spending?
    • Do they treat you as though you are inferior to them?
    • Do they make you feel as though they are always right?
    • Do they remind you of your shortcomings?
    • Do they belittle your accomplishments, your aspirations, your plans or even who you are?
    • Do they give disapproving, dismissive, contemptuous, or condescending looks, comments, and behavior?
  3. Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings:
    • Do they accuse you of something contrived in their own minds when you know it isn’t true?
    • Are they unable to laugh at themselves?
    • Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect?
    • Do they have trouble apologizing?
    • Do they make excuses for their behavior or tend to blame others or circumstances for their mistakes?
    • Do they call you names or label you?
    • Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness?
    • Do they continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?
  4. Emotional distancing and the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect:
    • Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?
    • Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment?
    • Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes?
    • Do they not notice or care how you feel?
    • Do they not show empathy or ask questions to gather information?
  5. Codependence and enmeshment:
    • Does anyone treat you not as a separate person but instead as an extension of themselves?
    • Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you have not approved?
    • Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you?
    • Do they require continual contact and haven’t developed a healthy support network among their own peers?

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Maria Bogdanos

Maria Bogdanos is an emotional health coach. Her work focuses on the core of what a client is feeling, which always plays a role in their whole person health. Co-active coaching works through a client’s agenda to explore where there are hindrances and to reframe possibilities, which ultimately lead to a domino effect of empowerment in other areas. Contact her at tulip.magnolia4@gmail.com.

398 comments:

APA Reference
Bogdanos, M. (2018). Signs of Emotional Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/signs-of-emotional-abuse/

Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 20 Feb 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.

 

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Mental Abuse And Addiction

The Relationship Between Mental Abuse and Addiction Mental abuse and addiction have a close and complicated relationship, with mental abuse making addiction more likely and addiction making mental abuse more likely. Mental abuse is the same as emotional abuse and psychological abuse. Emotional and mental abuse involves a person acting in certain ways to either control,…

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The Relationship Between Mental Abuse and Addiction

Mental abuse and addiction have a close and complicated relationship, with mental abuse making addiction more likely and addiction making mental abuse more likely. Mental abuse is the same as emotional abuse and psychological abuse. Emotional and mental abuse involves a person acting in certain ways to either control, isolate, manipulate or scare someone else. This form of abuse may be in statements or threats and are seen as regular, persistent behaviors.

 Defining Mental Abuse

Mental abuse can be described as acts that can cause someone to feel insulted or demeaned or wear down someone’s self-esteem. Examples include making unreasonable demands, being overly critical, wanting a partner to sacrifice needs for others, and causing them to doubt their perception (gaslighting). There are numerous ways someone can inflict abusive behavior onto others, but the results can be devastating. Other examples of mental abuse can range from bullying, withholding kind words, negging, passive-aggressive backhanded compliments, verbal abuse, and mental manipulation. When someone has realized they are a victim of mental abuse, some decide to stay, while others develop unhealthy methods to deal with the trauma.

Mental abuse is often a critical part of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse, or intimate partner violence, affects thousands of people daily. A reported 84% of people experience psychological abuse at the hands of their romantic partners.

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The Effects of Mental Abuse

Mental abuse has a destructive impact on mental health. Mental abuse can occur directly, by abusers making victims feel inadequate, insecure, unsafe, and traumatized. Furthermore, mental abuse can also trigger emotional helplessness, dependence on the abuser (i.e. narcissistic and codependent dynamics). In other cases, individuals on the receiving end of mental abuse can develop mental disorders, like anxiety, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Like all forms of abuse, mental abuse acts control and overpower the victim, often leaving him or her to pick up the pieces. For example, if an abuser neglects, lies, belittles, and insults the victim, he or she can in turn develop negative self-beliefs that impact their mental health. Mental abuse can have devastating effects on the victim and can sometimes lead to emotional and physical abuse. The respect and value for the individual has been diminished and, his or her sense of self and self-worth is minimized. As a result, the individual can believe self-defeating thoughts and have a warped self-perception. Some can feel unworthy of healthy relationships, love, and life itself. Lastly, the victim of mental abuse can become a mental abuser. Oftentimes abusers have been abused and continue the cycle, sometimes unaware of the damage they cause others.

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Gaslighting as Mental Abuse

Gaslighting falls under the category of emotional abuse and mental abuse. Victims of gaslighting have their sense of perception skewed by the hand of the abuser. The intent of gaslighting is to diminish and devalue the mental and emotional confidence of the victim. For example, someone standing up to the abuser may confront them about their behavior and gets invalidated (“You’re crazy”) or told the event never happened. As a result, they begin to doubt themselves, feel powerless, a loss of confidence, become codependent, or leave the relationship.

Gaslighting is mental abuse that can also create anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, and trust issues, leading to unpredictable behavior and stress. Feelings such emotions and stressors can lead to difficulty in career, love, and family life, and can cause someone to need ways to cope, and in some cases, including drugs and alcohol. Narcissists and mental abusers use gaslighting to maintain control and break their victim down. The victim in turn internalizes such abuse and can continue to form toxic relationships with the same types of abusive people.

Trauma, Mental Abuse, and Substance Abuse

Trauma is often the result of abuse, which reveals itself as Post-Traumatic Disorders (PTSD), Complex Post-Traumatic Disorders (C-PTSD), Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, Suicide, Suicidal thoughts, stress, and eating disorders. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is marked by sleep problems, anxiety, depression and irritability. Some people can isolate themselves in order to feel safe, hence withdrawing from connection.

Statistically, “one quarter to three-quarters of people who have survived abuse or violent traumatic experiences report problematic alcohol abuse.” Women who suffered PTSD were more likely to drink alcohol versus women who were not abused. Mental abuse causes trauma which can lead to destructive tendencies. For example, individuals who have been emotionally, physically, or mentally abused may not seek therapy, and instead can create unhealthy coping mechanisms. These can include drinking, partying, compulsions (e.g. gambling, shopping, binge eating), smoking, and experimenting with harmful drugs. This, for example, is called self-medicating. Self-medicating coping strategies can spiral out of control, quickly becoming a substance use disorder.

Finding a Way Out

Abusive relationships are often more complex and damaging than some people realize. Emotional and mental abuse leave no visible scars of pain but can have lasting effects on the victim. It is important to get the help needed to overcome abuse; if illicit substances are part of the equation, treatment would be the best solution. Individuals who have taken on drinking or have abused prescription or illicit substances to lessen the effects of abuse are more vulnerable to dysfunction. Finding a counselor while being treated for drug use creates effective remedies for recovery. 12-Step groups allow for safe spaces of support and community.

Getting treatment for substance abuse as a coping mechanism doesn’t have to be a shameful act. Victims of abusers are no weaker or unworthy than those who have not been abused. Take back your power, and contact a dedicated treatment provider to discover the path to safety and strength.

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Emotional Abuse

An isolated occurrence doesn’t necessarily qualify as emotional abuse, but a pattern of behavior that creates fear and control does. Such mistreatment can occur in a range of interpersonal contexts, including a parental relationship, a romantic relationship, or a professional relationship. People who suffer emotional abuse can experience short-term difficulties such as confusion, fear, difficulty…

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An isolated occurrence doesn’t necessarily qualify as emotional abuse, but a pattern of behavior that creates fear and control does. Such mistreatment can occur in a range of interpersonal contexts, including a parental relationship, a romantic relationship, or a professional relationship.

People who suffer emotional abuse can experience short-term difficulties such as confusion, fear, difficulty concentrating, and low confidence, as well as nightmares, aches, and a racing heart. Long-term repercussions may include anxiety, insomnia, and social withdrawal.

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Healthfully

Mental abuse is a form of violence that affects the mind, often leaving the abused feeling worthless and lacking empowerment 1. HealthGuide.org states that mental abuse is also known as emotional abuse 134. According to mental health specialist Kathryn Patricelli, types of mental or emotional abuse include verbal and psychological abuse and both can be…

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Mental abuse is a form of violence that affects the mind, often leaving the abused feeling worthless and lacking empowerment 1. HealthGuide.org states that mental abuse is also known as emotional abuse 134. According to mental health specialist Kathryn Patricelli, types of mental or emotional abuse include verbal and psychological abuse and both can be extremely hurtful 14.

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse occurs when “one person uses words and body language to inappropriately criticize another person,” says Patricelli. Verbal abuse is characterized as a mental abuse because the abuser will taunt the abused, making her feel unloved and unworthy of respect 1. This type of abuse prevents healthy lifestyles and activities because the abused feels she is unable to reach goals or participate in healthy behaviors.

Psychological Abuse

How to Stop Spouse From Emotional Bullying

Psychological abuse is a means for altering the abused person’s sense of reality, often in a manipulative way. Patricelli says that psychological abuse can occur in a pedophilic relationship in which the abuser tells the abused child that he caused the abuse himself by tempting the abuser. Psychological abuse also can happen in groups, such as in cults.

Signs of Abuse

According to the University of Michigan Health System, emotional or mental abuse may be occurring if “you are being treated in a way that makes you upset, ashamed or embarrassed.” Furthermore, your partner may say mean things to you, threaten you, insult you, put you down, tell you that you make poor decisions, make you feel crazy, isolate you from friends or family, or ignore your feelings 134. Common phrases an emotional abuser may say are, “You’re so stupid,” “Nobody else would ever want you,” “You look disgusting” and “You’ll never be good enough to do that.”

Risk Factors for Mental Abuse

How Do I Handle My Daughter’s Abusive Relationship?

Healthopedia, an online encyclopedia of health issues, says that some people are at greater risk for being mentally abused than others. 1

Seeking Help

If you are being abused mentally or physically, tell someone you trust who can take extensive measures to protect your safety and privacy, such as your doctor or a woman’s health representative.

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11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting

Source: 123rf Stock Photo/Standard License Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done…

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Source: 123rf Stock Photo/Standard License

Gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind. 

In my book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People – and Break Free  I detail how gaslighters typically use the following techniques:  

1. They tell blatant lies.

You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal. 

2. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof. 

You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs. 

3. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition. 

They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being. 

4. They wear you down over time.

This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it. 

5. Their actions do not match their words.

When dealing with a person or entity that gaslights, look at what they are doing rather than what they are saying. What they are saying means nothing; it is just talk. What they are doing is the issue. 

6. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you. 

This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don’t have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, “Well maybe they aren’t so bad.” Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter. 

7. They know confusion weakens people. 

Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans’ natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.  

8. They project.

They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior. 

9. They try to align people against you.

Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don’t know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.  

Source: StockLite/Shutterstock

10. They tell you or others that you are crazy.

This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter, because it’s dismissive. The gaslighter knows if they question your sanity, people will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out-of-control. It’s a master technique.  

11. They tell you everyone else is a liar.

By telling you that everyone else (your family, the media) is a liar, it again makes you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with the audacity to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No. It’s a manipulation technique. It makes people turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information—which isn’t correct information at all.

The more you are aware of these techniques, the quicker you can identify them and avoid falling into the gaslighter’s trap.  

Copyright 2017 Sarkis Media: www.stephaniesarkis.com

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64 Signs of Mental and Emotional Abuse: How to Identify

OverviewYou probably know many of the more obvious signs of mental and emotional abuse. But when you’re in the midst of it, it can be easy to miss the persistent undercurrent of abusive behavior. Psychological abuse involves a person’s attempts to frighten, control, or isolate you. It’s in the abuser’s words and actions, as well…

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Overview

You probably know many of the more obvious signs of mental and emotional abuse. But when you’re in the midst of it, it can be easy to miss the persistent undercurrent of abusive behavior.

Psychological abuse involves a person’s attempts to frighten, control, or isolate you. It’s in the abuser’s words and actions, as well as their persistence in these behaviors.

The abuser could be your spouse or other romantic partner. They could be your business partner, parent, or a caretaker.

No matter who it is, you don’t deserve it and it’s not your fault. Continue reading to learn more, including how to recognize it and what you can do next.

These tactics are meant to undermine your self-esteem. The abuse is harsh and unrelenting in matters big and small.

Here are some examples:

  • Name-calling. They’ll blatantly call you “stupid,” “a loser,” or words too awful to repeat here.
  • Derogatory “pet names.” This is just more name-calling in not-so-subtle disguise. “My little knuckle dragger” or “My chubby pumpkin” aren’t terms of endearment.
  • Character assassination. This usually involves the word “always.” You’re always late, wrong, screwing up, disagreeable, and so on. Basically, they say you’re not a good person.
  • Yelling. Yelling, screaming, and swearing are meant to intimidate and make you feel small and inconsequential. It might be accompanied by fist-pounding or throwing things.
  • Patronizing. “Aw, sweetie, I know you try, but this is just beyond your understanding.”
  • Public embarrassment. They pick fights, expose your secrets, or make fun of your shortcomings in public.
  • Dismissiveness. You tell them about something that’s important to you and they say it’s nothing. Body language like eye-rolling, smirking, headshaking, and sighing help convey the same message.
  • “Joking.” The jokes might have a grain of truth to them or be a complete fabrication. Either way, they make you look foolish.
  • Sarcasm. Often just a dig in disguise. When you object, they claim to have been teasing and tell you to stop taking everything so seriously.
  • Insults of your appearance. They tell you, just before you go out, that your hair is ugly or your outfit is clownish.
  • Belittling your accomplishments. Your abuser might tell you that your achievements mean nothing, or they may even claim responsibility for your success.
  • Put-downs of your interests. They might tell you that your hobby is a childish waste of time or you’re out of your league when you play sports. Really, it’s that they’d rather you not participate in activities without them.
  • Pushing your buttons. Once your abuser knows about something that annoys you, they’ll bring it up or do it every chance they get.

Trying to make you feel ashamed of your inadequacies is just another path to power.

Tools of the shame and control game include:

  • Threats. Telling you they’ll take the kids and disappear, or saying “There’s no telling what I might do.”
  • Monitoring your whereabouts. They want to know where you are all the time and insist that you respond to calls or texts immediately. They might show up just to see if you’re where you’re supposed to be.
  • Digital spying. They might check your internet history, emails, texts, and call log. They might even demand your passwords.
  • Unilateral decision-making. They might close a joint bank account, cancel your doctor’s appointment, or speak with your boss without asking.
  • Financial control. They might keep bank accounts in their name only and make you ask for money. You might be expected to account for every penny you spend.
  • Lecturing. Belaboring your errors with long monologues makes it clear they think you’re beneath them.
  • Direct orders. From “Get my dinner on the table now” to “Stop taking the pill,” orders are expected to be followed despite your plans to the contrary.
  • Outbursts. You were told to cancel that outing with your friend or put the car in the garage, but didn’t, so now you have to put up with a red-faced tirade about how uncooperative you are.
  • Treating you like a child. They tell you what to wear, what and how much to eat, or which friends you can see.
  • Feigned helplessness. They may say they don’t know how to do something. Sometimes it’s easier to do it yourself than to explain it. They know this and take advantage of it.
  • Unpredictability. They’ll explode with rage out of nowhere, suddenly shower you with affection, or become dark and moody at the drop of a hat to keep you walking on eggshells.
  • They walk out. In a social situation, stomping out of the room leaves you holding the bag. At home, it’s a tool to keep the problem unresolved.
  • Using others. Abusers may tell you that “everybody” thinks you’re crazy or “they all say” you’re wrong.

This behavior comes from an abuser’s insecurities. They want to create a hierarchy in which they’re at the top and you’re at the bottom.

Here are some examples:

  • Jealousy. They accuse you of flirting or cheating on them.
  • Turning the tables. They say you cause their rage and control issues by being such a pain.
  • Denying something you know is true. An abuser will deny that an argument or even an agreement took place. This is called gaslighting. It’s meant to make you question your own memory and sanity.
  • Using guilt. They might say something like, “You owe me this. Look at all I’ve done for you,” in an attempt to get their way.
  • Goading then blaming. Abusers know just how to upset you. But once the trouble starts, it’s your fault for creating it.
  • Denying their abuse. When you complain about their attacks, abusers will deny it, seemingly bewildered at the very thought of it.
  • Accusing you of abuse. They say you’re the one who has anger and control issues and they’re the helpless victim.
  • Trivializing. When you want to talk about your hurt feelings, they accuse you of overreacting and making mountains out of molehills.
  • Saying you have no sense of humor. Abusers make personal jokes about you. If you object, they’ll tell you to lighten up.
  • Blaming you for their problems. Whatever’s wrong in their life is all your fault. You’re not supportive enough, didn’t do enough, or stuck your nose where it didn’t belong.
  • Destroying and denying. They might crack your cell phone screen or “lose” your car keys, then deny it.

Abusers tend to place their own emotional needs ahead of yours. Many abusers will try to come between you and people who are supportive of you to make you more dependent on them.

They do this by:

  • Demanding respect. No perceived slight will go unpunished, and you’re expected to defer to them. But it’s a one-way street.
  • Shutting down communication. They’ll ignore your attempts at conversation in person, by text, or by phone.
  • Dehumanizing you. They’ll look away when you’re talking or stare at something else when they speak to you.
  • Keeping you from socializing. Whenever you have plans to go out, they come up with a distraction or beg you not to go.
  • Trying to come between you and your family. They’ll tell family members that you don’t want to see them or make excuses why you can’t attend family functions.
  • Withholding affection. They won’t touch you, not even to hold your hand or pat you on the shoulder. They may refuse sexual relations to punish you or to get you to do something.
  • Tuning you out. They’ll wave you off, change the subject, or just plain ignore you when you want to talk about your relationship.
  • Actively working to turn others against you. They’ll tell co-workers, friends, and even your family that you’re unstable and prone to hysterics.
  • Calling you needy. When you’re really down and out and reach out for support, they’ll tell you you’re too needy or the world can’t stop turning for your little problems.
  • Interrupting. You’re on the phone or texting and they get in your face to let you know your attention should be on them.
  • Indifference. They see you hurt or crying and do nothing.
  • Disputing your feelings. Whatever you feel, they’ll say you’re wrong to feel that way or that’s not really what you feel at all.

A codependent relationship is when everything you do is in reaction to your abuser’s behavior. And they need you just as much to boost their own self-esteem. You’ve forgotten how to be any other way. It’s a vicious circle of unhealthy behavior.

You might be codependent if you:

  • are unhappy in the relationship, but fear alternatives
  • consistently neglect your own needs for the sake of theirs
  • ditch friends and sideline your family to please your partner
  • frequently seek out your partner’s approval
  • critique yourself through your abuser’s eyes, ignoring your own instincts
  • make a lot of sacrifices to please the other person, but it’s not reciprocated
  • would rather live in the current state of chaos than be alone
  • bite your tongue and repress your feelings to keep the peace
  • feel responsible and take the blame for something they did
  • defend your abuser when others point out what’s happening
  • try to “rescue” them from themselves
  • feel guilty when you stand up for yourself
  • think you deserve this treatment
  • believe that nobody else could ever want to be with you
  • change your behavior in response to guilt; your abuser says, “I can’t live without you,” so you stay

If you’re being mentally and emotionally abused, trust your instincts. Know that it isn’t right and you don’t have to live this way.

If you fear immediate physical violence, call 911 or your local emergency services.

If you aren’t in immediate danger and you need to talk or find someplace to go, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233. This 24/7 hotline can put you in touch with service providers and shelters across the United States.

Otherwise, your choices come down to the specifics of your situation. Here’s what you can do:

  • Accept that the abuse isn’t your responsibility. Don’t try to reason with your abuser. You may want to help, but it’s unlikely they’ll break this pattern of behavior without professional counseling. That’s their responsibility.
  • Disengage and set personal boundaries. Decide that you won’t respond to abuse or get sucked into arguments. Stick to it. Limit exposure to the abuser as much as you can.
  • Exit the relationship or circumstance. If possible, cut all ties. Make it clear that it’s over and don’t look back. You might also want to find a therapist who can show you a healthy way to move forward.
  • Give yourself time to heal. Reach out to supportive friends and family members. If you’re in school, talk to a teacher or guidance counselor. If you think it will help, find a therapist who can help you in your recovery.

Leaving the relationship is more complex if you’re married, have children, or have commingled assets. If that’s your situation, seek legal assistance. Here are a few other resources:

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What is gaslighting? Examples and how to respond

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves.The term gaslighting derives from the 1938 play and 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband manipulates his wife into thinking she…

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Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves.

The term gaslighting derives from the 1938 play and 1944 film Gaslight, in which a husband manipulates his wife into thinking she has a mental illness by dimming their gas-fueled lights and telling her she is hallucinating.

In this article, we look at common examples, signs, and causes of gaslighting. We also discuss how a person can respond to gaslighting and when to seek help.

Share on PinterestGaslighting may cause a person to distrust themselves and feel scared and vulnerable.

Gaslighting often develops gradually, making it difficult for a person to detect. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, techniques a person may use to gaslight someone include:

  • Countering: This describes a person questioning someone’s memories. They may say things such as, “you never remember things accurately,” or “are you sure? You have a bad memory.”
  • Withholding: When someone withholds, they refuse to engage in a conversation. A person using this technique may pretend not to understand someone so that they do not have to respond to them. For example, they might say, “I do not know what you are talking about,” or “you are just trying to confuse me.”
  • Trivializing: This occurs when a person belittles or disregards the other person’s feelings. They may accuse them of being too sensitive or of overreacting when they have valid concerns and feelings.
  • Denial: Denial involves a person pretending to forget events or how they occurred. They may deny having said or done something or accuse someone of making things up.
  • Diverting: With this technique, a person changes the focus of a discussion and questions the other person’s credibility instead. For example, they might say, “that is just another crazy idea you got from your friends.”
  • Stereotyping: An article in the American Sociological Review states that a person using gaslighting techniques may intentionally use negative stereotypes of a person’s gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, or age to manipulate them. For example, they may tell a female that people will think she is irrational or crazy if she seeks help for abuse.

While anyone can experience gaslighting, it is especially common in intimate relationships and in social interactions where there is an imbalance of power.

A person who is on the receiving end of this behavior is experiencing abuse.

Intimate partner relationships

An abusive partner may accuse someone of being irrational or crazy in order to isolate them, undermine their confidence, and make them easier to control. For example, they might continuously tell someone they are forgetful until the person starts to believe it is true.

Child-parent relationships

Abusive caregivers may use gaslighting to shame or control children. They may accuse them of being too sensitive to belittle their feelings or of misremembering events from when they were younger.

Medical gaslighting

According to the CPTSD Foundation, medical gaslighting occurs when a doctor or medical professional dismisses or trivializes a person’s health concerns based on the assumption they are mentally ill. They may tell the person their symptoms are “in their head,” for example.

A 2009 study found that doctors were twice as likely to attribute coronary heart disease symptoms in middle-aged women to mental health conditions than middle-aged men.

Racial gaslighting

According to an article in Politics, Group, and Identities, racial gaslighting occurs when people apply gaslighting techniques to a group of people based on race or ethnicity.

For example, a person may deny that a specific group experiences discrimination despite evidence that says otherwise, or they might criticize civil rights activists for being too emotional to undermine their message.

Political gaslighting

An article in a forthcoming issue of Buffalo Law Review states that political gaslighting occurs when a political figure or group uses lies, denials, or manipulates information to control people.

Examples include downplaying or hiding things their administration has done wrong, discrediting political opponents based on mental instability, or using controversy to divert attention from important events.

Institutional gaslighting

According to an article in the Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, institutional gaslighting can occur at a company or organization. The organization may deny or hide information, lie to employees about their rights, or portray whistle-blowers who uncover problems in an organization as incompetent or mentally ill.

People on the receiving end of gaslighting often find it difficult to realize they are experiencing abuse. They may not question the abusive person’s behavior because they are in a position of authority, or because they feel reliant on them.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline indicate that a person experiencing gaslighting may:

  • feel confused and constantly second-guess themselves
  • find it difficult to make simple decisions
  • frequently question if they are too sensitive
  • become withdrawn or unsociable
  • constantly apologize to the abusive person
  • defend the abusive person’s behavior
  • lie to family and friends to avoid having to make excuses for them
  • feel hopeless, joyless, worthless, or incompetent

Gaslighting can also cause anxiety, depression, and psychological trauma, especially if it is part of a wider abuse pattern.

Learn more about trauma symptoms and treatments.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, gaslighting occurs because someone wants to gain control over someone else. It is a behavior someone learns by watching others. An abusive person may feel that they are entitled to control other people, or that their feelings or opinions matter the most.

Some abusive people also have personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Many people use the term narcissist to describe a self-centered or vain person. But while anyone can have narcissistic traits, one 2020 article indicates that people with NPD have long-term symptoms such as:

  • a constant need for admiration or attention
  • a belief that they are special or better than everyone else
  • a lack of empathy

Gaslighting has a significant impact on mental health, so it is essential for people who experience gaslighting to make sue they look after theirs.

Gathering evidence may remind a person that they are not imagining things. This evidence may also become useful later on if a person decides to pursue legal action against the abusive person.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline offer ideas on how to gather proof. These include:

  • Keeping a secret diary: This allows a person to track events, including the date, time, and details of what happened.
  • Talking to a trusted family member, friend, or counselor: This may help someone gain an outside perspective on the situation and to create an external, additional record of information.
  • Taking pictures: This can also help someone “fact check” their memories and remind themselves that they are not imagining things.
  • Keeping voice memos: Using a cell phone or device to describe events is a quick way for someone to record something that just happened in their own words. Always check state laws on recordings before using them in court.

It is vital for someone who lives with an abusive person to make sure any proof they gather is private and that they erase their search history after looking up information on gaslighting or abuse. A person can:

  • store evidence in a hidden location
  • buy a second phone or a cheap voice recorder
  • keep devices locked away
  • send records to a trusted individual so that a person can delete personal copies

People can also create a safety plan, which includes ways to protect themselves from physical and emotional abuse before, during, and after leaving the relationship or situation. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a safety plan may include:

  • safe places and escape points
  • the contact details of people someone can call upon for help
  • self-care activities that help someone to cope
  • a plan for safely leaving the abusive situation

According to a set of recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in domestic relationships, acts of emotional abuse, such as gaslighting, tend to occur alongside other types of abuse.

Over time, gaslighting may escalate into physical violence. Anyone who believes they are experiencing abuse from a partner or family member should seek support.

A person can contact domestic abuse organizations for advice and help with creating a safety plan. For the mental health impact of gaslighting, a person may find it helpful to talk confidentially to a therapist that has experience helping people in abusive relationships.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of domestic violence, call 911 or otherwise seek emergency help. Anyone who needs advice or support can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 via:

  • phone, at 800-799-7233
  • live chat, at thehotline.org
  • text, by texting LOVEIS to 22522

Many other resources are available, including helplines, in-person support, and temporary housing. People can find local resources and others classified by demographics, such as support specifically for people of color, here:

Gaslighting is a form of abuse that causes someone to doubt their sanity or perceptions. It usually takes place in relationships and social interactions where there is a power imbalance.

A person experiencing gaslighting may become confused, withdrawn, anxious, or defensive about the abusive person’s behavior. They may not realize the behavior is abusive.

People experiencing gaslighting can find safe ways to document evidence of the abuse and create a safety plan to protect themselves from harm. A domestic abuse organization or mental health professional may be able to help someone leave or recover from abuse.

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Gaslighting: Signs and Tips for Seeking Help

What is gaslighting?Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that’s seen in abusive relationships. It’s the act of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them. A victim of gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their own sanity. The term “gaslighting” comes from…

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What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that’s seen in abusive relationships. It’s the act of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them. A victim of gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their own sanity.

The term “gaslighting” comes from a play and subsequent movie called “Gaslight.” In the movie, the devious husband, played by Charles Boyer, manipulates and torments his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, to convince her she’s going mad.

Gaslighting, whether intentional or not, is a form of manipulation. Gaslighting can happen in many types of relationships, including those with bosses, friends, and parents. But one of the most devastating forms of gaslighting is when it occurs in a relationship between a couple.

According to Robin Stern, PhD, author of the book “The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life,” signs that you are a victim of gaslighting include:

  • no longer feeling like the person you used to be
  • being more anxious and less confident than you used to be
  • often wondering if you’re being too sensitive
  • feeling like everything you do is wrong
  • always thinking it’s your fault when things go wrong
  • apologizing often
  • having a sense that something’s wrong, but being unable to identify what it is
  • often questioning whether your response to your partner is appropriate (e.g., wondering if you were too unreasonable or not loving enough)
  • making excuses for your partner’s behavior
  • avoiding giving information to friends or family members to avoid confrontation about your partner
  • feeling isolated from friends and family
  • finding it increasingly hard to make decisions
  • feeling hopeless and taking little or no pleasure in activities you used to enjoy

People who gaslight become expert at pushing your buttons, and they know your sensitivities and vulnerabilities and use that knowledge against you. They make you doubt yourself, your judgment, your memory, and even your sanity. Examples include:

  • Trivializing how you feel: “Oh yeah, now you’re going to feel really sorry for yourself.”
  • Telling you that people are talking behind your back: “Don’t you know? The whole family talks about you. They think you’re losing it.”
  • Saying things to you that they later deny having said: “I didn’t say I’d take the deposit to the bank. What are you talking about? Thanks a lot for the insufficient funds fee we’re going to get.”
  • Hiding objects from you, and then deny knowing anything about it: “You seriously can’t find your sunglasses again? That’s alarming.”
  • Insisting you were or were not at a certain place, even though it’s not true: “You’re crazy. You never went to that show with me. I should know.”

People who gaslight other people in their lives may have a psychological disorder called narcissistic personality disorder.

People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they’re extremely important and that the world revolves around them. They’re self-absorbed and don’t have time or interest in others unless it serves a purpose for them. They aren’t empathetic and don’t have the ability, or the interest, to understand what another person is feeling or experiencing.

Narcissists crave attention and praise and can be demanding. They have grandiose views of themselves, their lives, and their futures, and they often use manipulation as a way of achieving their personal goals.

A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:

  • project an inflated sense of self-importance
  • exaggerate their achievements
  • respond to criticism with anger
  • use others for personal gain
  • expect special consideration or special treatment
  • be highly critical of others
  • become envious and jealous easily

Recognizing that you’re a victim in your relationship is the important first step toward getting help. The next step involves consulting a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. They can help you sift through your doubts and fears and understand the realities of what you experienced. You’ll learn how to manage doubts and anxiety and develop coping skills.

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What is emotional abuse?

If you feel scared or confused around your partner, or doubt yourself when you’re talking with them, you may be experiencing emotional abuse. An emotional abuser’s goal is to undermine another person’s feelings of self-worth and independence. In an emotionally abusive relationship, you may feel that there is no way out or that without your…

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If you feel scared or confused around your partner, or doubt yourself when you’re talking with them, you may be experiencing emotional abuse. An emotional abuser’s goal is to undermine another person’s feelings of self-worth and independence. In an emotionally abusive relationship, you may feel that there is no way out or that without your partner you’ll have nothing. Emotional abuse is a form of domestic and family violence.

If you feel you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, there are a number of things you can do to get support. It’s important to know that if you’ve been affected by emotional abuse, it’s not your fault and it’s never acceptable. You have the right to feel safe, respected and supported in your relationships.

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse can feel as destructive and damaging as physical abuse, and can severely impact your mental health. It’s often used as a way to maintain power and control over someone.

Emotional abuse may be accompanied by other kinds of abuse: sexual, financial or physical. However, it doesn’t need to include other kinds of abuse to count as abuse; it’s serious enough on its own to be a concern.

Types of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse can involve any of the following:

  • Verbal abuse: yelling at you, insulting you or swearing at you.
  • Rejection: Constantly rejecting your thoughts, ideas and opinions.
  • Gaslighting: making you doubt your own feelings and thoughts, and even your sanity, by manipulating the truth. For more information on how gaslighting works, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
  • Put-downs: calling you names or telling you that you’re stupid, publicly embarrassing you, blaming you for everything. Public humiliation is also a form of social abuse.
  • Causing fear: making you feel afraid, intimidated or threatened.
  • Isolation: limiting your freedom of movement, stopping you from contacting other people (such as friends or family). It may also include stopping you from doing the things you normally do – social activities, sports, school or work. Isolating someone overlaps with social abuse.
  • Financial abuse: controlling or withholding your money, preventing you from working or studying, stealing from you. Financial abuse is another form of domestic violence.
  • Bullying and intimidation: purposely and repeatedly saying or doing things that are intended to hurt you.

The impact of emotional abuse

Physical violence is often seen as being more serious than emotional abuse, but this simply isn’t true. The scars of emotional abuse are real and long-lasting. As well as having a negative impact on your self-esteem and confidence, emotional abuse can leave you feeling depressed, anxious or even suicidal.

Getting support

If you’re experiencing emotional abuse, it’s important that you seek help. There are a number of services you can contact if you need someone to talk to.

Check out Domestic violence and what you can do about it for information on things to consider when dealing with domestic violence, including where to go to make sure you’re safe, and the kinds of support you can access: legal, financial and medical.

Most importantly, if you feel afraid or believe you might be in danger, contact the emergency services (000) immediately.

You can also use ReachOut NextStep, an anonymous online tool that will recommend relevant support options for you.

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