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What Are The Key Signs Of Emotional Abuse?

* 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.

Many of us will be familiar with the types of abuse we often see portrayed in the media, such as physical violence or sexual abuse.

But, what if the signs are far more subtle than outright physical assault?

How are we supposed to recognize when we’re being emotionally abused when this isn’t something that we’re taught at an early age? 

What Are The Key Signs Of Emotional Abuse?

In addition, many of us who suffer emotional abuse prefer to ignore the warning signs, instead attempting to gloss over the situation for a ‘peaceful life’.

This doesn’t solve the issue however, and if you’ve got a gut feeling that things aren’t right, you should probably follow it. 

If you want to find out more about emotional abuse, as well as some of the key signs to look out for, then you’ve come to the right place. 

Below, we’ve compiled some of the most common items relevant to emotional abuse. To find out more, simply keep reading below, as we take a closer look. 

What Is Emotional Abuse? 

Before we jump straight in and talk about some of the warning signs of emotional abuse, first we should give a brief explanation of what it means. 

Despite the fact that physical abuse is far more recognizable, this doesn’t mean that other forms of abuse such as emotional abuse are less damaging for the victim.

In fact, there are many similarities between these two forms of abuse.

The fact is that both physical and emotional abuse stem from a need for control.

So, abusers will attempt to shame, diminish, and punish their partners in an attempt to get them to submit.

They will use verbal insults and intimidation rather than physical strength in order to do so. 

Things may start out very gradually, and your partner might just make a demeaning remark here and there, but things can gradually escalate to the point where they’re threatening you. 

One of the most common things to look out for in terms of an emotionally abusive relationship is the need for control.

Emotionally abusive partners can’t stand the prospect of not having any control over their victims. 

Therefore, you might notice that they’re constantly tracking where you’re going, and as a result, try their best to limit your time with other people.

If this sounds like something you’re going through, don’t ignore it. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member if you can for support. 

The Key Signs Of Emotional Abuse 

Now that we’ve taken a look at what emotional abuse consists of, we can move on to discuss some of the warning signs that this might be happening to you.

Emotional abuse is very much an umbrella term, and can mean a whole host of different things, some of which might not even appear below. 

Remember that each situation is different, and you might experience all, or only a few of the signs outlined below.

Either way, your experience is real and valid. 

Name Calling 

When it comes to emotional abuse, we’d say that one of the key signs is name calling.

This is very much like a bully in school, where a person will attempt to belittle you by insulting you.

These could pertain to anything, from calling you ‘stupid’, to commenting on your appearance. 

Because weight is such a big insecurity for women, oftentimes abusers will make derogatory comments concerning this aspect of their victims, calling them ‘chubby’ or ‘fat’.

This alone is bad enough, but oftentimes, victims will ask their partners to stop, but to little avail. Abusers will continue to call their victims names despite protests otherwise. 

They might tell you that you’re being ‘overly sensitive’, and turn the tables so that you’re seemingly the one to blame for getting emotional. 


Another sign of emotional abuse that some of us may not immediately recognize is shouting.

Many of us have grown up in households where this behavior was considered normal, but this simply isn’t the case. 

Many abusers will shout and yell at their victims in order to get them to submit.

Perhaps you’ve brought up an aspect of the relationship that you’re unhappy with in conversation, and as a result, your partner has flown off the handle? 

If this is the case, they’re probably trying to frighten you to the point where you’re afraid to speak up. 

Things can escalate sometimes to the point where your abuser is physically throwing things around the room.

Perhaps they’re not directly hitting you, but they may punch or kick items of furniture in order to scare you. 

Blaming You For Everything 

What Are The Key Signs Of Emotional Abuse? (1)

Another key sign that you may be experiencing emotional abuse involves blame.

Abusers will always try to blame their victims for everything, making them feel unworthy and irresponsible in the process. 

There will be a lot of ‘always’ statements thrown around, such as ‘you’re always late’, ‘you’re always causing a mess’ etc… 

These are attempts to belittle you, and make you feel as though your abuser is a good person for putting up with your many flaws. 


This is a term that we’re hearing more and more about in recent years, and is one of the key signs of emotional abuse.

Gaslighting can be incredibly tricky to pinpoint, and as a result, many of us don’t know we’re experiencing it until after the fact. 

Gaslighting is essentially a manipulation tactic, whereby the abuser will attempt to gain control and power and control over their victims by making them doubt their own minds.

The victim may even begin to question their own sanity. 

So, for example, if you bring up a past situation with your abuser where they behaved in an inappropriate manner and began to throw things around the room, they would simply deny that ever happened. 

Gaslighting can be very miniscule, and it could be as simple as your abuser denying that they call you names or shout in an argument. 

Isolating You 

As we mentioned briefly above, one of the key signs of emotional abuse is isolation.

The abusers want full control over their victims, and as a result, they’ll attempt to isolate them from friends and family. 

Perhaps they keep constant tabs on where you’re going and who you’re seeing, to the point where you’re afraid to tell them you’re leaving the house.

The reason why abusers try to limit their victim’s contact with other people is because they’re afraid their friends and family might point out the abuse and stop it in its tracks. 

Final Thoughts 

To sum up, there are a whole host of different signs associated with emotional abuse.

These include things such as gaslighting, blaming the victim, name calling, and shouting.

If this sounds like something you’ve been experiencing, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted friend or family member. 

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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