What Is Emotional Abuse?


By Mildred Muhammad

Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased.

Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching”, or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting that physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.
Emotional abuse can also be called psychological abuse, mental abuse. If it occurs within a family it can be called psychological incest or emotional incest.

Mildred Muhammad is the Executive Director of After The Trauma.  A non-profit organization established, based upon my own experience, to assist survivors of domestic violence.  Click here to learn more about how to protect yourself from domestic violence and abuse.

“Not everyone is healthy enough to have a front row seat in our lives. There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a distance. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you let go of or at least minimize your time with draining, negative, incompatible, not-going-anywhere relationships. Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention. Which ones lift and which ones lean? Which ones encourage and which ones discourage? 

Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are going downhill? When you leave certain people do you feel better or feel worse? Which ones always have drama or don’t really understand, know, or appreciate you? The more you seek quality, respect, growth, peace of mind, love and truth around you…the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the front row and who should be moved to the balcony of your life.”

-Author Unknown
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