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.
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.