What Is Emotional Abuse?

What Is Emotional Abuse?

by Dr Emma Gray - 29th April, 2019
Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is a consistent pattern of abusive words and bullying behaviours intended to control you. It can happen in any relationship, with friends, family or co-workers. One of the difficult things about emotional abuse is that it is so hard to define. This makes it hard to identify but also hard to explain to others. This in turn makes it difficult to get the support you need to protect yourself.

In this blog I am going to show you how to identify emotional abuse because knowing what the problem is, is the first step to getting help.

If you think that you might be a victim of emotional abuse, look out for the 4 C’s.

1. Criticism

The perpetrators of emotional abuse are very critical, they may call you names, nit pick over aspects of your appearance, personality or anything that you are doing or have done and give you the impression that nothing you do is good enough. They may be dismissive of what you say and feel and they may humiliate you and make jokes at your expense.

2. Chaos

The perpetrators of emotional abuse create chaos. They are unpredictable, so you never know quite know how you will find them, one minute happy the next angry or sullen. They cause arguments for no reason and make unreasonable demands of you.

3. Confusion

The perpetrators of emotional abuse create confusion. They may ask to you to justify yourself over and over again, giving more and more details until you get tangled up in your own explanation. They may deny events and will often say contradictory and confusing things so that it is difficult to keep track of what has happened and easy to doubt yourself.

4. Controlling

The perpetrators of emotional abuse are very controlling. They may insist on knowing where you are and where you are going, they may demand that you spend most if not all of your time together and they may make you feel guilty or behave jealously when you don’t. They may want you to share their opinions and put everything else to one side to meet their needs.

If you are being emotionally abused you are likely to feel, guilty, ashamed, insulted, confused, frustrated, misunderstood, depressed, anxious, worthless, trapped, isolated. You may also find yourself telling yourself or others “it’s not that bad”. However, we all deserve to be treated with respect so in the next blog I am going to tell you how to protect yourself and recover from emotional abuse.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleagues once described me as a natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


Read more about my approach to counselling here...


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