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Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019

What are the Effects of Emotional Abuse (And What Does It Look Like?)

By Dr Becky Spelman
What are the Effects of Emotional Abuse | Private Therapy Clinic

Emotional abuse, it can be said, is one of the most dangerous forms of abuse. Unlike physical confrontations, it leaves no visible mark on the body. But more so than that, it is something that we all have the capacity to engage with and even feel justified in doing if we feel we’ve been wronged. It very much personifies the saying that today’s victims inevitably become tomorrow’s abusers.

The effects emotional abuse can have on the receiver over a prolonged period can be quite debilitating, resulting in the loss of confidence, self-esteem and any perspective that might otherwise help them see that they are, in fact, being abused. This is due to the manner in which the abuse is given. In the case of physical violence, it’s quite easy to distinguish between who is in the right and who is in the wrong. There is a clear moral boundary that is being crossed by the perpetrator.

However, when it comes to the emotional harm we’re subjected to, it can and often is delivered in a more subliminal fashion. If either a partner, friend, colleague or family member are judging you in a way that unfairly questions your character, the tendency can be to blame yourself for your own shorting-comings. It can be easy to fall into a mode of self-critique that in turn, shapes your personality going forward. In short, physical abuse damages the skin, but emotional abuse gets under your skin because it’s so often delivered by people close to you and who’s the opinion you value.

So what does emotional abuse look like in action? Below, are some of the main forms of abuse, and how they’re enacted.


  • Issuing demands and making the other person feel obligated to follow them.
  • Assuming all control of joint decisions.
  • Intruding on privacy by monitoring your partner’s location.
  • Expecting immediate responses to calls and texts.
  • Taking control of all financial decisions that would otherwise be jointly made.
  • The raising of your voice towards the other person to assert control.
  • Manipulation the other through the use of known fears.


  • Lecturing the opposite person about their conduct in a way that asserts a sense of superiority.
  • Displaying a huge showing of anger in order to shame the person for not following orders.
  • An abusive person may lie to their partner about the opinions of their friends to manipulate them.
  • The abuser may ‘walkout,’ to demonstrate how out of line the other person is in their thinking. Another form of subtle manipulation.


  • Jealousy may be used to keep the other person in line by blaming them for things they haven’t done.
  • The abuser may ‘gaslight’ their victim by blaming them for the very things they are doing themselves to their partner.


  • Overt verbal abuse and name-calling is one of the most common forms of humiliation.
  • Verbal abuse may also be disguised as sarcasm as a means to justify continuing to make harmful remarks.
  • Derogatory nicknames that are passed off as ‘cute’ can also source of verbal abuse.
  • The abuser may ridicule their partner for attempting anything new that will see them lose control.

About the author:

Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.

***If you’re struggling with emotional abuse and think you would benefit from speaking to someone about your situation, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.


Health Line. (2018). How to Recognize the Signs of Mental and Emotional Abuse. Retrieved on 16th September, 2019 from,

Psychology Today. (26th Aug 2008). Effects of Emotional Abuse: It Hurts When I Love. Retrieved on 16th September, 2019 from,

Psychology Today. (8th Aug 2018). When Is It Emotional Abuse? Retrieved on 16th September, 2019 from,

Very Well Mind. (26thJul 2019). How to Identify And Cope With Emotional Abuse. Retrieved on 16th September, 2019 from,

Medical News Today. (18thJul 2019). What Are the Signs of Emotional Abuse?  Retrieved on 16th September, 2019 from,

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