Suffering from Emotional Abuse: Know the Signs

What is Emotional Abuse?

One of the most challenging things about suffering from emotional abuse is that it’s not always apparent that abusive behavior is happening. Both the person in the relationship with an abuser and their friends and family have a hard time spotting emotional abuse and disrupting its cycle.

Knowing some of the most common signs can help you identify whether you’re in an abusive relationship and make a plan to leave that harmful environment. It can also help with emotional abuse prevention to educate yourself about abusive behaviors, and how to cultivate healthy boundaries that meet your emotional needs.


In the early stages of an emotionally abusive relationship, the person may make you feel like you are the center of their world. They may want to spend all their time with you and may give you intense attention and affection.

This creates a sense of excitement and dependence and makes it easier to isolate you from friends and family. Notice how someone reacts to you wanting to spend time with others or be alone. If they are resistant, that is a red flag and could signal further emotionally abusive behavior.


Control is a hallmark of every type of abuse. The difference in whether the abuse is physical or emotional comes in how a person with abusive behaviors exerts control in an attempt to keep you from leaving the relationship. If someone is physically dominant, their victims are physically abused. With emotional abuse, someone uses strong emotions to manipulate you into doing what they say, or staying with them, even if you want to leave. This could include lying, manipulation, and misrepresenting what you say and do to make them look like the victim. Stay alert. If someone is constantly downplaying, dismissing, or contradicting your emotions, it’s time to get support to leave the relationship.


Emotional abuse goes beyond the occasional argument or misunderstanding. An emotionally abusive person has deliberated patterns of cruelty. This could include derogatory comments about you, your appearance, your other close relationships, or your identity (like racism, sexism, or other bigoted attitudes).

If someone is using cruelty and name-calling to belittle you and silence you, whether it’s when you’re alone or with others, it’s time to distance yourself from this person and their emotionally abusive behavior. Don’t wait for continued cycling of harm, making up, and repeated harm. Support and help are available right now from people who are trained to help.


I’ve counseled a lot of people recovering from abuse over the years. One of the hardest parts to overcome is the sense of denial. They don’t want to believe that someone they care about is deliberately hurting them, so they often try to convince themselves it’s not so bad. And the person who has abused them also makes a lot of attempts to smooth things over or minimize them. 

I want you to know, if you are in an emotionally abusive situation, your feelings are valid. You were created with meaning and purpose. You are loved by God and many people in your life. If you have any thoughts, you might be victimized by emotional abuse, there are always people willing to listen and help. 

If you’re not sure where to start, this is a safe place. Talk to a HopeCoach at TheHopeLine to share how you feel and start your journey to healing after emotional abuse. We can give you encouragement and connect you with organizations that specialize in offering support for emotional abuse recovery. We are here for you. You matter. And you don’t have to go through this alone.

Want to examine your relationship more? Read my blog, 8 Signs Your Dating Relationship Is Unhealthy.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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