Recognising the Long Term Effects of Emotional Abuse

Recognising the Long term effects of emotional abuse i

We constantly hear about the trauma inflicted on victims of  physical and sexual abuse, but emotional abuse is far more widespread, insidious  and have devastating and long term negative effects which victims of other forms of abuse have  said  effected them more  in the long-term.   Emotional abuse stems from an imbalance of power,  across  all social classes,  have equality of  perpetrators by male and female and all age groups.  It is widespread in the home, in schools, in the workplace and in relationships.   All  forms  of  abuse  contain  an element of emotional distress, which never goes away, gets worse over time as it erodes a person’s self esteem, confidence and trust in their own judgement.   If dependent  leaves them at the mercy of relying on the very person abusing them.  This is especially the case with children or in domestic abusive relationships,  where  one  person may have  all the power and control and there is no way out.

How is emotional abuse defined?

Emotional abuse is a form of abuse where the perpetrator uses fear,   humiliation  or verbal assault to undermine the self esteem and confidence of their victim.  No abuse whether it be neglect, physical, sexual or financial happens without psychological consequences.   Emotional bullying is something everyone remembers from childhood, inflicted on  them  in the playground,  by  teachers, parents, siblings, partners, workmates and friends.  They remember forever the mocking, humiliation, and the sarcasm inflicted on them. Many think that if they are  not  being  physically  attacked  that they are not being abused, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Emotional abuse is a hideous  and  bewildering  form  of  control  that damages and denies a person the right to value themselves and their feelings.

Constant emotional abuse may not appear to be severe or dramatic, but  its long term  effects  can be a serious threat to mental and physical  health.  Emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse, yet is least spoken about.   Unlike physical or sexual abuse emotional abuse is generally made up of a series of incidents,  patterns  and  behaviours that occur over time.   Where males may use physical intimidation, aggression or violence through words or deeds to abuse and control their victim, women are more likely to use emotional abuse to gain control and power.  Emotional abuse has many faces and many of its components  can  be recognized  from  the  following  behaviours :

 Making impossible demands and requiring constant attention while at the same time being  critical  of  every action being carried out.  Being aggressive by calling derogatory names, constantly accusing, blaming, threatening, or giving orders, “the  I  know best syndrome”.  Deliberately starting arguments  (while treating you well in front  of  others  but then changes when you are alone)   and making the victim walk on eggshells all the time:  refusing to acknowledge a person’s value, worth or presence and making you feel inferior and devaluing your thoughts and feelings:   denying personal needs, be it financial, emotional or otherwise when the need is greatest, causing hurt or punishment by their actions:  using the silent treatment: only allowing their own point of view to be heard:    degrading,   name  calling, mocking, teasing in an ugly way, insulting and ridiculing: cursing and swearing and belittling an individual, these   all diminish a person’s self esteem and cut to the very core of the victim leaving long-term hurt and confusion.

Another very prevalent form of emotional abuse is isolating the individual from family and friends, restricting freedom or having normal contact with friends.   Using guilt or fear to get what they want and   inducing   intense fear by threats and coercion:

convincing a person to accept or engage in illegal activities.  Using or minimizing a person  for  advantage or profit.  Throwing   tantrums  and  getting  upset and swearing and shouting in a situation that would not warrant such a reply.

Long-term effects.

In long term emotionally  abusive situations, be they adults or children, the victim’s inability to make decisions  or trust someone often leave the victim feel they are under e control of the abuser and believe the utterances or accusations being made.  Deep seated anger is one of the predictors for this type of behaviour in diminishing an individual’s  sense  of self and their dignity.  All forms of continuous emotional abuse leads to depression,  emotional instability, sleep disturbance, suicidal thoughts, and or attempted suicide, feeling trapped or alone, and leads to misuse of drugs and alcohol and unhealthy relationships.

Many men, women and children must deal with emotional abuse on a regular basis, whether in marriage, relationships, workplace, school or in the home.  When someone you  know  or  love gives you an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach  and you are emotionally gutted by their language or  actions,  it is time to take the first step to stop behaviour that is damaging  both to one’s  mental and physical health.  Recognising that you are being controlled or dominated by language or deed must set alarm bells to challenge  and  learn how to handle and stop such abuse.  Every  person  is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.  When a person demands that such actions  stop  start by either looking the abuser straight in the eye, or challenging their behaviour in a calm and assertive manner.   You are then on the road to taking control of your life and stopping the detrimental damage being caused to you when you recognize that your life is being affected.

  Abuse,  be it  emotional,  sexual, or physical is not about you,  it’s about the perpetrator.  Abusers  will  not  stop of their own accord and may have learned it by example and  think it is acceptable to treat others in a way that damages emotional health,  leaving victims embarrassed, ashamed,  fearful, and leave emotional distress that have detrimental long term effects.   Children or adults who live under the constant barrage of hurts,  insults,  belittling or demeaning,  having no say or  control over their lives suffer the loss of the freedom to think or act as they so wish and  end up being unable to cope with the inner pain and turn to self harm or other numbing ways to deal with their life.  They live lives of constant anxiety, uncertainty, are  unable  to accept compliments,   have feelings of betrayal,  of being useless and unable to make decisions about even the smallest thing.  They are emotionally bruised, and feel they have no contribution to make to themselves or others.  “ Man’s  inhumanity to man, makes countless thousands mourn” sums up having to share a life with someone who  constantly inflict emotional and mental abuse on another.     The perpetrator   may  have  feelings themselves of utter uselessness and hopelessness  and have low self opinions of themselves and do not realize the trauma they are inflicting.   Abusive  people  need  help  to  develop  a correcting of their actions and to recognise that abusing another human being,   brings them also into an unhappy place,  where guilt, self hate and anger rule their own life.


Remember you are not alone if you suffer verbal or emotional abuse.   There are countless thousands of households and vulnerable people who have this type of abuse perpetrated on them every day.    By talking  and confiding in  someone  you  trust  you can reclaim your life.   Repairing your life is not an easy journey but without healing your life will remain static and your dreams for a  future  free  from  emotional  pain will need a transformation of  your own  outlook on life.  The long-term cumulative effect of living with emotional abuse will only recede with the help, love and compassion of family and friends.   There are many organisations who offer help in this situation or counselling could be the first step to stop the destruction of lives blighted by this insidious abuse.