Emotional abuse may be hard to recognize because it can be very subtle.  Abusers often tend to blame their victims in order to take the heat off of them and the situation. Constant treatment of this sort can also make it unrecognizable to the victim as well.  

Verbal abuse, though not as subtle, can wear a person down and may seem like normal conversation but appears damaging and insidious to those who may hear it.. An abusers m.o. is to dominate and control.  They will use verbal abuse to do so. They are self-centered, impatient, unreasonable, insensitive, unforgiving, and they lack empathy and are often jealous, suspicious, and withholding. To maintain control, some abusers “take hostages,” meaning that they may try to isolate you from your friends and family. Their moods can shift from fun-loving and romantic to sullen and angry. Some punish with anger and others with silence – or sometimes both. It’s usually “their way or the highway.”

How do we recognize the signs?  First ask yourself, are you being abused? Is the abuser more jealous than before or do you feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells around this person?  Do you find yourself getting anxious when it comes to intimacy or even picking up the phone to call a family member or friend?  These may be signs of not only control issues but abuse. Allowing this type of abuse to continue may be a sign of past abuse in childhood or in past relationships as well. 

Here are some things to look for in an abusive relationship:

  1.  Opposition – arguing against anything you say
  2. Blocking – switching topics or just saying Shut Up
  3. Discounting or Belittling – minimizing or belittling behavior
  4. Denying – forgetting or denying agreements and.or promises made
  5. Undermining or disrupting – meant to bring down your self esteem
  6. Gaslighting – manipulative behavior that makes you second guess

If you are in this type of situation, understanding what is happening and how to stay strong in a situation is helpful until you can get the help you need or are ready to end the relationship. Certain types of deflection, such as humor, can put you on an even playing field when this happens but remember you know your abuser, the rest of us do not.  At times forceful statements may work but it is dependent on the situation. These situations can sometimes escalate.  If you feel you are in harms way, call 911 or reach out to the proper authorities. It can take time to recover from such a draining situation, especially if you have been in it for a long time. Do what you need to to heal (therapy, counseling, group therapy, journaling, etc.)


Once you take back your power and get your self-esteem back, you won’t allow someone to abuse you again. If the abuse stops, a relationship may improve, but for real, positive change, both of you must be willing to risk the relationship..