What is Emotional Abuse?


The following post is written by one of our Criminal Justice interns, Megan, who has been interning with us since May. Megan attends Western Michigan University and is interested in pursuing a career in government.

People always talk about the psychological effects that physical and/or sexual abuse can have on a person but what about emotional abuse? Let’s start off with what emotional abuse is exactly….

Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is “any abusive behavior that isn’t physical, which may include verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation, and humiliation, which most often unfolds as a pattern of behavior over time that aims to diminish another person’s sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.” Just like with physical/sexual abuse, emotional abuse can be detrimental to a person’s mental health. Suffering from long periods of emotional abuse can result in a person developing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, PTSD and much more.

What are some signs of emotional abuse?

  • Some common signs of emotional abuse might be:

    • name-calling

    • yelling

    • spewing insults or ridiculing you

    • invading your privacy

    • punishing you for not going along with what they want

    • trying to control your life

    • isolating you from family and friends

    • making subtle or overt threats

What about the effects of emotional abuse?

  • Emotional abuse can have short-term and long-term effects

    • Short-term effects

      • You may have feelings of:

        • Confusion

        • Fear

        • Hopelessness

        • Shame

      • Some behavioral and physical side effects may be:

        • Difficulty concentrating

        • Moodiness

        • Muscle tension

        • Nightmares

        • Racing heartbeat

        • Various aches and pains

    • Long-term effects

      • You may have feelings/develop:

        • Anxiety

        • Chronic pain

        • Guilt

        • Insomnia

        • Social withdrawal

Emotional abuse should be taken just as seriously as physical/sexual abuse. Both types of abuse come with short-term and long-term side effects that can be detrimental to a persons well-being.

Don’t be afraid to speak up if these things are happening to you. Below are some websites that talk a little bit more about emotional abuse and stories of what others have gone through.