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Recognising signs of emotional abuse

Emotional abuse includes but is not limited to actions to frighten, control, or isolate the victim. While most physical violence involves emotional abuse, not all emotional abuse leads to physical violence. Sometimes, the perpetrator may threaten to use violence to intimidate the victim. Although there is no physical harm, the intimidation leaves deep emotional and psychological scars.

The wound from emotional abuse is often hidden, unlike physical violence. However, although emotional abuse does not show physical scars, its impact can be far more intense and psychologically damaging. Victims of emotional abuse often live with fear, shame and low self-esteem. Children who suffer from emotional abuse often grow up feeling depressed, powerless and anxious. Victims of ongoing emotional abuse with weak support systems sometimes resort to self-harm or substance abuse to cope with the intense emotional pain and sense of powerlessness.

Emotional abuse can happen to anyone and at any age. It is an act of persistent behaviour to manipulate, control, or demean the other person's emotions, thoughts, and self-worth. Emotional abuse in the context of a romantic relationship is sometimes subtle, which makes it harder to recognise and address. However, there are several common indicators of emotional abuse:

  • Constant monitoring and controlling of actions, such as checking your phone, how you spend your money, and whom you go out with.

  • Isolating you from your family, friends, or your friends.

  • Critical, demeaning, shaming, or humiliating you, sometimes in the presence of a joke.

  • Extreme jealousy, accusations, and paranoia, often against your friendship with people of the opposite gender.

  • Thwarting your professional or personal goals

  • Instilling self-doubt and worthlessness

  • Gaslighting and minimising your feelings

Victims of emotional abuse often feel confused if they have been abused and have difficulty acknowledging their pain. Some may mistakenly think they deserve the abuse and blame themselves for it. Quite often, the victim of emotional abuse suffers their psychological distress quietly. However, the psychological distress that the victim of emotional abuse experiences may manifest in various ways, including behavioural changes, such as increased irritability, withdrawal from social activities, or being easily startled.

If you are a survivor of emotional abuse, it is essential to remember that emotional abuse is never the victim's fault, and seeking help is courageous. Seeking professional support through therapy is a step towards stopping the abuse towards you. A counsellor or a psychotherapist with knowledge of working with family violence survivors can provide a safe and supportive space to process your experiences and help you gain clarity of your situation, leading to the healing pathway.

Restoring Peace is a private mental health centre which provides counselling and psychotherapy services for children, adolescents, youths and adult individuals, couples and family with anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and various mental health and relationship challenges. For more information, please visit or WhatsApp at +65 8889 1848. For periodic updates, we invite you to join our telegram group,

Keywords: counsellor, psychotherapy, mental health, trauma, psychological, emotions,

anxiety, depression, abuse, violence, therapy,


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