Emotional abuse can be very difficult to spot.
If you suspect there is emotional abuse going on between two (or more) people, look out for the following signs. They might not give a complete guarantee of what is going on, but if there are a lot of signs present, it’s a solid hint that there might be something unbalanced. These emotional abuse signs are not only meant for romantic relationships. Platonic or family relationships can show the same and similar signs of emotional abuse.
1. If you have a vague guess who might be performing the emotional abuse…
… then see if the one who is on the receiving end behaves differently in the presence of that person. Are they more tense when that person is present? Or are they more nervous/gigglier in their presence? See if there is a change when you see them with and without the other person present.
People who are abused emotionally might behave quite differently in the presence of their abuser. This can happen consciously or subconsciously.
You’ve probably heard them somewhere along the line. One person makes a vaguely insulting remark to someone else, and when they notice people were listening it’s suddenly a joke. To makei t less awkward people sort of uncomfortably giggle along, and try not to dwell on it. But some of these “jokes” are just thinly veiled instances of emotional abuse.
3. Constantly keeping them in mind…
Emotional abuse often involves a creating a certain amount of dependence. If the person you think might be receiving emotional abuse is always keeping that other person in mind, it might be a sign of being over-dependent. Examples could be the receiver saying things like “Oh I don’t know it X would agree with that,” or “Hmm, I won’t buy this shirt for myself, X doesn’t like that color.” Exerting control over another person is an important part of emotional abuse (OPDV 2013).
4. False accusations
It sounds quite obvious, but not all accusations are as explicit as just yelling “you did [thing X]”. In emotional abuse situations, subtle false accusations of not spending enough time on them or perhaps even cheating are more common.
5. When you’ve known the receiver for a long(er) time…
… and the emotional abuse happens behind closed doors, you might see them looking different. Maybe they hunch their shoulders more, or seem to be taking less care of themselves. Effects of emotional abuse can range from loss of sleep, eating problems, anxiety and even self-harm (Balwinder 2017).
6. And the receiver…
Can have abnormal emotional responses, ranging from over-emotional to extremely dull even in situations where a reaction would often be expected. They can really struggle to control strong emotions too.
7. Weirdly jealous
A little bit of jealousy can happen, maybe because of internal insecurities. But if jealousy gets too powerful, and starts having far-reaching effects, it’s time to double check.
8. Important note…
Abuse is genderless. While some groups are more likely to be emotionally abused, it’s important to know that the ones who emotionally abuse others can be from any gender and age group.
9. What also happens a lot is that…
…the people who emotionally abuse someone make a real effort to keep their victims away from family and friends to increase dependence. Are your normally regular appointments suddenly getting canceled all the time? Did they mention they couldn’t because of person X?
10. Not guilty as charged…
Another common occurrence is that emotional abusers take everything out on their victim. Even things that go wrong that have nothing to do with that person whatsoever. They dropped a glass? Your fault. They came home late from work? Your fault.
11. They are so focused on their own emotion that…
They seem not to notice or care how the other person feels. They purposefully use the silent treatment often and also without justification.
So these were signs that there might be emotional abuse going on in a relationship. Have you recognised any in your friends or maybe yourself.