If you are having difficulty identifying abuse, then here are a few red flags you need to watch out for:
- Attempts to control
- Persistent yelling and screaming
- Invasion of privacy
- Lack of empathy
- Personal insults & humiliation
- Passive aggressiveness
- Financial control
- Threats or intimidation
- Dismiss your feelings
- No respect for personal boundaries
- Gaslighting (making you doubt your own sanity)
- Isolation from other loved ones
- Withholding affection
- Threats of punishment
It is only when you acknowledge the abuse can you take the first step towards change and overcoming abuse.
2. Talk to someone
If you are experiencing emotional abuse, then make sure to talk to someone about it. Yes, this can be a difficult topic to talk about and you may feel lost about how to start the conversation. You may have doubts and worries that the other person may not see it as abuse or may minimize the experience. But instead of assuming how your loved ones may react and respond, simply talk to them openly and honestly. Share what’s on your mind and how you feel about the situation without hesitation with a trusted friend or family member. Make sure to choose a private and safe place where you will not be interrupted. If you feel uncomfortable about talking to a loved one, then you can also talk to a therapist, if needed.
3. Seek support
Asking for help is one of the most important steps in coping with emotional abuse. Most people who have been abused psychologically tend to minimize and downplay their experience. You may believe that you can deal with this on your own or that you are strong enough to tolerate such emotional pain. But that is no reason to accept abuse. Once you talk to someone you trust, ask them for some support. This can make a lot of difference in your healing journey. You can connect with local abuse support groups or call a helpline if you need some specific help. It can also be a good idea to talk to a lawyer to know about your rights, especially if you are married to the abuser.
4. Arrange for safety
Plan to stay safe, especially if physical abuse or domestic violence is involved along with emotional abuse. Preparing for safety can be more important if your children or siblings are also at risk of experiencing harm or abuse. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Figure out an exit plan in case the abuser becomes violent
- Keep important and emergency phone numbers handy and easily accessible
- Educate your children on how to keep themselves safe
- Ask friends, family or neighbors to look for warning signs of domestic violence
- Keep some money hidden away so that you have some financial support in case you leave suddenly
5. Journal everything
Write down all your thoughts and feelings related to your experience. As you are prone to doubting yourself constantly, keeping a journal will enable you to understand the reality better. Make sure to note down the abusive words, the harassments, the texts, the emails, the social media posts, the insults, the events, the arguments… anything you remember. Write down what the abuser did and how you reacted and what you felt. By documenting your emotional abuse, you can better analyze the situation when you are having doubts and validate your memories with the documented records.
6. Avoid negative thinking
Persistent emotional abuse can alter the way we think and behave. Regardless of how optimistic you might have been, constantly being abused by the person you love can make you develop negative thought patterns over time. This can lead to negative self-talk which results in low self-esteem, self-doubt, low sense of self-worth, self-blame and distorted self-perception. It also makes you more needy, protect the abuser and lie about how you truly feel. As you start believing the lies inside your head, you give more control to your abuser. Such negative thoughts can even cause increased stress, anxiety and depression. Studies have found that “Unconstructive forms of repetitive thinking may represent a cognitive vulnerability factor implicated in the development and maintenance of various emotional disorders such as anxiety disorders and depression.”
This is why one of the most important steps in recovery is questioning your negative self-talk by being aware of your negative thinking. Positive self-talk can help you gain better control over your life and help you in coping with abuse.
Read also: How Narcissistic Abuse Changes You