by George Mensah
emotional abuse

You may have experienced abuse first-hand or heard stories from victims of abuse. And oh! I know how you may have reacted angrily to the situation. Most of the stories we hear in the news or from friends about abuse are often physical abuse. This is because, it is easier to identify and deal with. Emotional abuse, however, is not easy to recognize because of its subtle nature.

Emotional abuse involves a person (parents, friends, siblings, relatives, partner, co-worker, etc.) controlling another person, through criticism, embarrassment, shame, or blame. Emotional abuse can occur in any relationship. Not just in romantic relationships like we most often think.

You need to trace the above-mentioned attributes of emotional abuse to consistency before concluding. This is because criticisms happen on a normal day and so does blame. Once in a while, you may be shamed for something or for something. However, if these things become everyday things, there might be a problem.

Emotional abuse can negatively affect your self-esteem. Consequently, you may doubt your perceptions, and opinions about life in general and reality. You may feel trapped but also too afraid to leave.

Due to the subtle nature with which emotional abuse presents itself, it may be difficult to detect the signs. The relationship may seem sweet and great in the beginning. Eventually, the abuse begins to creep in, making it hard to notice.

There are several actions that point to emotional abuse. You don’t have to experience them all to recognize that you are being abused emotionally. A handful of them is enough.

However, you can consider how interacting with certain people make you feel. This may help you detect the signs. Do you feel frustrated, hurt, misunderstood, depressed, worthless, scared, or (and) misunderstood any time you interact with them? Honestly accessing your feelings could help you know, if you are being abused emotionally.


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Acts of superiority; You are being emotionally abused if someone acts more important or superior than you. There’s only one you in this entire universe. You are unique in your own way and nobody is superior to you. Neither are you superior to someone else. If you have a relationship with someone who is constantly blaming you for your mistakes and shortcomings, doubting everything you say, making you sound or look like a joke, downplaying your opinions, perspective, and ideas, acting like they are always right and smarter than you, then there’s the problem of emotional abuse.

Unrealistic Expectations & Demands; have you ever had someone demand that you stay with them 24/7, not use your phone whilst with them, and criticize your every attempt at something good? If you have experienced or witnessed such, then you have seen the signs. Emotional abusers make unrealistic demands from you. Then when you are unable to meet them, they criticize you. Making statements like “What can you ever do right?” Other common statements include “Hand up that phone and don’t ever pick up a call when we are together” and “Whatever I say is final because I know what’s best for you”. Such statements are not to be taken for granted.

Constant Chaos; Some emotionally abusive people always create chaos in the relationship. They do this by starting unnecessary arguments, having fluctuating mood swings and emotional outbursts, and making confusing and contradictory statements. Some even go as far as nitpicking at your hair, clothes, and looks. Examples; “why does your hair look like you just woke up?” “Those shoes look like they were picked from the garbage”.

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Controls and Isolates You; They control what you eat, what you wear, what time you sleep, who you talk to and don’t talk to, and when you can step out of the house. They go as far as investigating your friends, monitoring you digitally, including your text messages and social media, accusing you of cheating, etc. Emotionally abusive people do these things to you, and wrap them up beautifully in the packages of “I care so much about you” “I do it out of love for you” and “I am doing it to protect you”. Even if your parents are the ones doing these things to you, they are being emotionally abusive. Do not buy into their excuses.

Emotional blackmail; This is when the person uses your emotions against you. They guilt trip you, use your fears and values against you, and exaggerate your flaws. Here, instead of accepting a fault or mistake on their part, they manipulate you into thinking you are the problem. Once they succeed, they may even go ahead to withhold certain things or rights from you as a way of punishment.


It’s very easy to make excuses for emotionally abusive people. It’s also easy to tell yourself that “it’s not that bad”. Another thing to note is that you cannot change an emotionally abusive person. And you deserve to be treated better. Once you notice any red flags signaling emotional abuse, take steps to exit the relationship.

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