Emotional Abuse: Is It Really Abuse?

When we talk about abuse in a relationship, we tend to think of physical violence—slapping, punching, kicking. But what about emotional abuse? Is it really abuse?

The answer is yes.

Emotional and verbal abuse is just as bad as physical violence because it can lead to the same outcomes: depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, fear of intimacy and relationships. It can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which causes flashbacks and nightmares.

In fact, psychological trauma may be more severe than physical trauma in some cases! While physical wounds heal over time, emotional wounds can stay with us forever if we don’t seek treatment. And when they do heal, they leave behind scars that will never disappear completely—and those scars can make you feel like something is wrong with YOU instead of feeling like someone else is wrong for treating you badly.

What is Emotional Abuse? 

Emotional abuse can be defined as any sort of behavior that is designed to control, intimidate, isolate, or manipulate someone. It can include name-calling and insults; threats of violence; controlling what the other person does (or doesn’t do); monitoring their time; limiting access to money or transportation, and keeping a partner from contacting family members or friends.

For many people who have been emotionally abused by a partner, these behaviors might seem like normal parts of being in a relationship. When they start to cross the line into controlling and isolating behavior that makes another person feel unsafe or trapped in an unhealthy situation, then we’re talking about emotional abuse.

Types of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can include verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, and other forms of coercion. It might also include things like constant criticism or blaming your partner for everything that goes wrong in the relationship.

Emotional abuse can take many forms:


Name-calling is when your partner calls you names in an attempt to put you down or make you feel bad about yourself. This kind of name-calling can be both direct (such as “You’re stupid”) and indirect (“I wish I had married someone else”). It may seem like no big deal at first, after all, it’s just words, but name-calling can erode your self-esteem over time and make you feel unsafe with your partner.

Emotional Neglect 

This type of abuse involves withholding love or affection from someone who needs it most. It may also include neglecting their basic needs such as food or shelter.


Isolation occurs when someone prevents you from having any contact with friends or family members by spending most of your time alone with them instead. This type of abuse is especially dangerous because it makes it harder for someone else to notice if something bad is going on in their life unless they tell them directly themselves!


Gaslighting is when your partner tells you that your feelings are wrong or makes you feel like they don’t exist. For example, if your partner says “You’re just being paranoid” after you suspect them of or caught them cheating on you, they’re probably gaslighting you. 


Threatening can be both physical or emotional depending on what type of threat is made against someone else such as threats from an abuser who wants someone else to stay with them no matter what happens because they love them.


Humiliation happens when one person puts down another person in front of others on purpose, either verbally or physically. Examples include making fun of someone’s appearance or intelligence in front of others; making jokes at their expense; calling them names behind their back; or any other type of public humiliation. 


Yelling, threatening violence, or destroying property to control someone. This can include verbal intimidation, such as name-calling or threatening divorce if you don’t do what your partner wants.


Making light of emotional issues to excuse them or make it seem like they’re not that big of a deal—for example, telling someone who has been sexually assaulted that “it happens all the time,” or telling someone whose child was kidnapped that “you’ll get over it.”

At the end of the day, emotional or verbal abuse is as real as physical or sexual abuse. While they are different forms of it, they can both cause long-term emotional trauma to the victim. It’s vital to understand that someone you love may be abusing you but in a different way than you have experienced before. It is also important to leave such relationships as early as possible.

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