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Emotional abuse is not always immediately evident, but it can be very damaging to an individual’s mental and physical health. There are a few different forms of emotional abuse, such as verbal abuse, emotional blackmail, gaslighting, isolation, and control devices. Too often, we excuse our partner’s abusive behavior and chalk it up to them, ‘just having a bad day.’

Some people think that just yelling and name-calling are forms of emotional abuse, and while they are, there are many more signs. Here are 15 signs of emotional abuse that have the potential to cause PTSD. If you recognize any, or maybe even all, of these signs, please seek help or leave your toxic relationship if you can.

Constantly Criticizes You

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Constant criticism and undermining your self-worth are some of the most damaging signs of emotional abuse. They may call you ugly or stupid and make sure to point out flaws to make you feel bad. These hurtful words cause great long-term damage and can take years of therapy to undo.

Always Need to Know Where You Are

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They don’t want you to spend time with friends and family and always want to know where you are, who you are with, what you are doing, etc. The abuser can’t handle you going out and having fun or ‘having a life’ without them. They fear your friends may be encouraging you to leave your relationship.


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They make you feel guilty or persuade you to do things even if you don’t want to do them. An abuser is also usually a master of emotional manipulation as well. “If you don’t do this, I’ll do this…” is a common phrase they will use to manipulate you to do what they want.

Control Your Finances

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They will limit access to money or maybe even give you an allowance. If you have gone shopping and bought something nice for yourself, the abuser may even demand to see receipts and be angry with you for spending money on yourself. Some abusers will take your debit/credit cards and make you have to beg them to get them back.

Guilt Trip You

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They make you feel bad for things that aren’t your fault, or they blame you for things that happen in the relationship. The abuser has trouble taking responsibility when things go wrong, so they will blame everything on you. This is also commonly known as gaslighting.

Isolate You From Friends and Family

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They might limit your contact with others or create situations where you can’t see or talk to anyone. Abusers don’t want you to have fun or be away from them. Not only that, much like #2, they don’t want you to be influenced by your friends or family to end your relationship.

Belittle You

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They might say that you’re overreacting or being too sensitive. The abuser will never be compassionate to your feelings or try to understand them, always making you feel like your feelings don’t matter and are unwarranted.

Bully You Into Fearing Them

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They might use threats or intimidation tactics to control you. He/she may use bullying tactics to keep you in fear mode. “If you do this, this is what’s going to happen to you…”. Verbal threats are a way of controlling you and making sure you never leave and always obey them.

Use Your Past Against You

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They might use things you’ve done in the past to make you feel guilty or use them to justify their own behavior. Abusers are notorious for repeatedly bringing up your past to show you that you aren’t perfect and you are no good/unworthy/dumb/a failure, etc.


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They might make you question your perception and deny things they’ve said or done. He/she will go to great lengths to make you believe that you are wrong and they are right, no matter what. You will eventually second-guess your every move and word.

Withhold Intimacy as Punishment

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They might withhold intimate evenings from you as punishment for not obeying them or doing something you wanted to do, but they are adamantly against it. The abuser might also be somewhat aggressive during intimate moments as punishment as well.

Humiliate You

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They tend to humiliate you any chance they get, especially in front of your friends. They thrive on embarrassing you and making you look bad. This gives them power and makes them look good.

Make Threats or Give You Ultimatums

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They might threaten to hurt you, themselves, or others or present an ultimatum that forces you to do something you might not want to do. They will do this when they feel threatened. If you plan on leaving, they will try anything to convince you to stay, especially threatening you.

Blame Their Behavior on You

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They might tell you that you made them act a certain way or that you’re the reason for their behavior. “It’s all your fault I’m drinking…”. They simply cannot accept responsibility for their actions and are always looking to blame someone else.


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When someone is not supportive of your successes and achievements and may even undermine your confidence, it could be a sign of emotional abuse. They are threatened by your success, goals, dreams, and desires because they are certain that if you improve your life, you will eventually leave them.

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11 Ways to Stop Thinking You’re Not Good Enough

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Author: Iva Ursano

Title: Writer

Expertise: Anti-Aging, Mental Health

Iva is a 60-something woman, originally from Northern Ontario, Canada, who now resides in sunny Guatemala. She helps women over 50 love the skin they're in and empowers them to live their best lives ever. When she's not blogging, she's out on her scooter feeding and rescuing street dogs.  

You can also check out her amazing eStore here. It is full of powerful self-help eBooks, personal development courses, and so much more—ALL at affordable prices!

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