Updated 25 March 2014

Emotional abuse? Users speak out!

Do you ever feel like your partner treats you so badly that it could be some kind of abuse? Well maybe it is. Here are the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship.

The scenario is familiar. You can’t go out with the girls or wear that new pair of jeans to the office because your boyfriend might freak out or give you the silent treatment for a few weeks.

Or he controls the finances so tightly you don't have a clue what you own or are worth. Maybe he belittles you in front of others. These may be simple lovers' tiffs, or they may be signs you're dealing with a controlling, emotional bully.

On the Health24 Expert forums we have had numerous users pose the question to CyberShrink - when is it emotional abuse, and when is it simply two people just not getting along? 

A look at some of the questions and answers regarding emotional abuse:

A Health24 user, Lilee, wonders if her boyfriend is emotionally abusive. She writes:

“ ... he often disagrees with me and I feel that he doesn't really support me.”

“He belittles my religious beliefs ... and criticises me in  front of his family and friends.”

She also says that he tries to control her finances and that she sometimes feels as if he is her parent.

Does it sound like abuse? CyberShrinks responds to her post: "Is my boyfriend emotionally abusive?"

The silent treatment

This user wants to know if the silent treatment is also a form of emotional abuse. Read CyberShrink's answer and don't miss the great user comments.

Financial power - or abuse?

Worried (and many other users) wants to know if it's a form of emotional abuse if the partner is in a stronger financial position and uses the power to belittle or degrade his or her partner, or in a passively aggressive way make them feel like 'less of a person'.

Read CyberShrink's analysis of how abusers rely on their partner's vulnerabilityand encourages the victims to work towards their independence. 

When is verbal abuse emotional abuse?

Abused wants to read up on verbal abuse. Is it shouting, or the content of what he/she is saying? Read CyberShrink response and numerous other users' commentsand words of support. 

Dealing with an abusive girlfriend

Joe says: "Whenever I have a problem that I want to discuss with her, she immediately raises her tone of voice and gets her back up to me. She goes into denial and starts machine gunning me with all sorts of things, blaming me for things that happened years ago and is now fixed."

User Brad says: "This woman knows she's got you by the nuts - and she is loving every minute of it." Is it that simple, or could there be underlying issues? See what CyberShrink and other users say.

How to know if it's emotional abuse

Emotional abuse can have devastating consequences on both physical and mental health, and should be identified and dealt with soonest.

While emotional abuse may be difficult to pinpoint, there are some general characteristics of emotional abusers:

•    Exploits any of your weaknesses
•    Uses economic power to control you
•    Continually criticises, humiliates or belittles you in private or public
•    Controlling – keeps a tight control on your whereabouts or possessions
•    Becomes emotionally distant or gives you the silent treatment to punish you
•    Co-dependent or tries to make you feel guilty for doing things separately from them
•    Makes you feel afraid or unsafe
•    Makes you feel worthless

Read: 10 signs of an abusive relationship

Emotional abuse should be taken very seriously as it can spark physical abuse and have devastating consequences, including depression. “It can also have a severe and long-term damaging effect on the victim’s self-esteem,” says CyberShrink.

Escaping an abusive relationship may not be easy because emotional abusers often make their victims feel guilty and selfish for doing what’s best for them.

The wounds of emotional abuse also stretch beyond the abusive relationship. A study has found that spouse and partner abuse is linked to an increased risk for depression.

How to leave an abusive relationship

Read up on our tips for leaving the abusive spouse, and make use of your friends, family and professional organisations, such as Mosaic, to help you. 

Sources: Health24, CyberShrink, PsychCentral; Centre for relationship abuse awareness

Read more:

Was Reeva in an abusive relationship?
Leaving your abusive spouse

Predicting spousal abuse

Have you been the victim of emotional abuse? Are you an abuser? Or do you know someone who is being abused? Let us know in the comments below.

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