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How Does Emotional Abuse Affect A Man?

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

Despite the leaps and bounds we have made as a society in modern times, and the steps we have taken to acknowledge and present abuse in the many forms it takes, there is still a widespread misconception that women can only be the victims of abuse. 

How Does Emotional Abuse Affect A Man?

This is of course not the case, and there are countless cases where both heterosexual and homosexual men have been the victims of abuse – abuse that spans numerous types and forms. 

But how exactly does emotional abuse affect a man, and what are the telltale signs to watch out for? 

What Is Emotional Abuse? 

Generally speaking, emotional abuse can be defined as controlling behavior – and of course this spans numerous different methods and actions. 

The important thing to remember is that arguing and speaking your mind is normal, and not emotional abuse – the latter being a pattern or campaign of continued abuse wherein the objective of the abuser is to define how the other person lives their life, the freedoms they have, the contact they have with the outside world, and their general self esteem and sense of self worth. 

What Are The Signs Of Emotional Abuse? 

Emotional abuse might sound like a more vague term, but it acts as a blanket term for a number of different methods of abuse. 

Controlling Their Behavior

One sign of emotional abuse is controlling behavior – namely orchestrating things in such a way that the abused partner has no real autonomy, or life outside of the relationship to speak of. 

This can include poisoning the person against their friends and loved ones (or vice versa), limiting the amount of time they have contact with their friends and family, or indeed keeping tabs on what they have said, done, and where they have been. 

This can include reading texts and emails, checking voicemails, and even opening their personal mail – all of which can then be used to keep tabs, control their interactions, and berate them for any perceived slight. 

Blame Them For Problems

Abuse in itself can sometimes stem from personal unhappiness, wherein the abuser blames their partner for their own failings, or a string of perceived misfortunes that they themselves refuse to take responsibility for – or indeed that they fail to see as just part of life. 

This becomes emotional abuse when things turn to constant yelling, name calling, belittling, berating, emasculation, and any number of other ways to make someone else in a relationship feel small and to blame. 

Humiliate Them Publicly

One way that abusers emotionally control their partners is through public humiliation, and this can also take many forms. 

It could be literally embarrassing them in front of friends, colleagues, or family, emasculating them in front of their friends, spreading embarrassing rumors about them, sharing personal and private information that was told in confidence, or just making them the butt of the joke in all public settings. 

This is a way of breaking down the confidence and self worth that the other person has, and to lower their perceived ‘stock’ amongst their friends and loved ones – establishing the abuser as the top dog in the relationship, and their partner as a source of ridicule and derision.  

What Does Male-Targeted Abuse Look Like? 

When males are the targets of emotional abuse, there are other more gender specific ways that it can occur – and as such the signs are similar but slightly different. 

Some signs of abuse towards males include: 

  • Being yelled at
  • Being threatened
  • Having their fears induced
  • Insults and being demeaned
  • Being socially isolated
  • Lying and withholding information
  • Treating them like a child or servant
  • Emasculating them
  • Controlling all the finances

These are still pretty common and vague terms, and can of course differ from relationship to relationship – based on a million different factors pertaining to the nature of the individuals involved. 

Other common forms of emotional abuse directed at males can include: 

  • Falsely accusing them of assault or abuse
  • Gaslighting – making them feel ‘crazy’ or paranoid
  • Threats to take away children
  • Threats to kill themselves or others
  • Minimizing the abuse – victim blaming
  • Telling them men ‘can’t be abused’
  • Playing persistent mind games
  • Making the man feel guilty or lacking
  • Falsely obtaining a restraining order (post break up)
  • Withholding affection
  • Stalking (post break up)

How Does Emotional Abuse Affect Men? 

How Does Emotional Abuse Affect A Man? (1)

While signs of emotional abuse are perhaps more commonly portrayed as being perpetuated by males towards females, other kinds of abuse can occur, and in the wrong situations, anyone can find themselves a victim in one form or another. 

With regards to male on female abuse, we are all versed in the ways this can affect the female – having seen such abuse depicted numerous times over the years in television and film.

But what about when the male is the victim – how does this abuse affect them? 


This is a common coping mechanism of emotionally abused men, and could involve them spending more time at work, simply taking the abuse they are being dealt, or retreating within themselves emotionally. 

Substance Abuse

Men are far more likely to slip into alcohol abuse – as well as other forms of substance abuse – to cope with being abused at home.

This can stem from many things, such as feeling ‘less of a man’, feeling like a failure or a joke, feeling like no one will believe them, or simply feeling trapped and unable to react without consequence. 

Emotionally Closed

This is much more likely to make men close themselves off emotionally, not only in the abusive relationship, but in future relationships too. 

If they are distrustful of their partners intentions in the future, then they might not choose to make themselves vulnerable – or else risk potentially being abused again. 

Loss Of Confidence

Men might also lose their confidence in relationships, and even just in themselves as people.

They might think that they are somehow deserving of abuse, and that it was their failings for letting it happen.

This could harm future chances at happiness, and can lead to depression. 

Physical Symptoms

These are not just associated with men, but are more prominent due to the bottling up of emotions associated with them. 

These symptoms can include: 

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Lack of appetite
  • Headaches

Mental Symptoms

Mental symptoms could also include: 

  • Flared temper
  • Erratic emotions
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of confidence
  • Fear of loneliness 
  • Lack of autonomy

These are all incredibly common to people in abusive relationships, and while all sexes suffer, the impact on men is important to recognize. 

Final Thoughts

And there we have it, everything you need to know about emotional abuse, and the ways that it can affect men. 

In the modern conversation, there have been many leaps and bounds made in recognizing and understanding the forms that abuse can take – but despite this, there is still a widespread belief that only women can be victims of abuse. 

So if you know a man, or indeed are a male victim of abuse yourself, then why not reach out and seek the help you deserve? 

Read More about Narcissist Abuse and Domestic Violence

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories


UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

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