signs of emotional abuse

Emotional Abuse – Signs and Symptoms You Need to Know

Have you ever spent time with someone and felt worse after each encounter? You aren’t going crazy or hallucinating. Perhaps you may be a victim of emotional abuse. 

Emotional abuse is a form of psychological manipulation and mistreatment that can have severe and lasting effects on a person’s mental and emotional well-being. It is important to recognize the signs of emotional abuse to address the situation and seek help if needed.

As a life coach for entrepreneurs, I want to empower you with tools to keep you psychologically safe. In this article, we will talk about signs you may be in an abusive situation. 

First, let’s discuss signs that you are experiencing the consequences of someone’s chronic verbal lashing.

Symptoms of damage from emotional abuse

Poor sleep quality 

Have you ever woke up with headaches and jaw pain? It may be your pillow or bed or it may be due to exhausting effort of carrying an intense emotional load all day and during the night you are unconsciously tossing and turning as your body spirals into a full sympathetic response as your mind processes all the events of the day.

Anxiety or paranoia

Victims of emotional abuse have good reason to feel nervous, anxious and afraid. Their nervous system has grown accustomed to chronic stress. As a result, it is common to have thoughts of gloom, doom and despair. They cannot see themself or anyone else objectively because they have grown accostomed to bitterness and nihilistic thoughts. 

Increased loneliness 

As humans, we need community. We need connections with people. And it is terrible to be connected to someone who makes you feel inferior, inept, unworthy or uninspiring. Unless you have a high sense of worth, an emotionally toxic person can make you feel so bad about yourself, you rather isolate yourself because you feel everyone else will make you feel miserable.

Physical symptoms

When you are around a verbally abusive person, just the sight or sound of them makes you feel uncomfortable. You may feel a knot in your stomach, have sweaty palms, heart races or have a loss of appetite. Your body is in a full sympathetic nervous system response as it prepares for “battle” with an emotionally disabled person.

Next, lets talk about the behavior or signs of an emotional abuser.

Behavior of an Emotional Abuser

Humiliation and belittling

Your life would be a lot better if you had taken my advice earlier. Now it is mess and as always, you need me to help you clean it up.

The abuser consistently puts down, criticizes, or insults the victim, undermining their self-esteem and self-worth.

Constant criticism

This is the way it is supposed to be done. Weren’t you paying attention?

The victim is constantly subjected to negative comments, nitpicking, and unreasonable demands, making them feel inadequate and unable to meet the abuser’s expectations.

Manipulation and control

Unless you call this relative more often, I will have to tell them you don’t care about them. That would be terrible to say, but I to help them understand your limitations. 

The abuser uses manipulation tactics to control the victim’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. This can include gaslighting (making the victim doubt their perception of reality), controlling their finances, isolating them from friends and family, or monitoring their activities.

Emotional distancing

I can’t spend time with you now. You irritate me. And don’t bother asking me why I am upset – you should already know.

The abuser may employ silent treatment, withdrawal of affection, or emotional neglect to punish the victim and make them feel isolated or unwanted.

Intimidation and threats

I am so mad! I will do something you will hate unless you don’t get out from my face right now!

The abuser uses intimidation, threats, or displays of anger to create fear and maintain control over the victim. This can include yelling, screaming, smashing objects, or making threats of physical harm.

Blaming and guilt-tripping

This is all your fault. A real husband can be able to sense when his wife needs quality time wit her.

The abuser consistently blames the victim for their own abusive behavior, making them feel responsible and guilty for the problems in the relationship.

Emotional instability

*Feeling pleasant with you earlier in the day but by night their tone changes.* You dumb cunt! Why can’t you do anything right? 

The abuser may exhibit extreme mood swings, going from being affectionate and loving to hostile and angry, creating an unpredictable and chaotic environment for the victim.

Isolation and monitoring

I don’t know why you insist to spend so much time with your other friends. We are united as a couple! Why do you need other people when we have each other?

The abuser may isolate the victim from their support system, such as friends and family, or monitor their communication and activities, invading their privacy and furthering their control.


You are really blowing this way out of proportion. I always help out with the kids.

The abuser manipulates the victim’s perception of reality, making them doubt their memory, perception, and sanity. They may deny or minimize their abusive behavior and make the victim question their own experiences.

How to handle emotional abuse

When someone knows the real you, they might use their knowledge to hurt, anger, make you feel insecure, frustrated, etc. Unfortunately, people with personality disorders such as maladaptive narcissism, sociopathic or psychopathic traits may be particularly skilled at making things worse. 

The good news is that moments like these can help us understand our fears and irrational thoughts.

For example, if you’re feeling bad about your child and seek advice from your friend (who we will call) Mandy, she may offer a critical opinion instead of a solution. That’s condemnation, intended to heap shame onto someone else. 

Instead of reacting negatively, choose a solution-oriented response. Acknowledge the truth and say, “That’s a good point. I’m looking for solutions. Do you have anything helpful to share?” This healthy, mature response shows that you don’t want to dwell on past mistakes, and it’ll dissolve any feelings of shame or self-pity.

Final Thoughts

If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional abuse, it’s crucial to reach out for support. Consider talking to a trusted friend, family member, counselor, or the domestic violence support hotline to seek assistance and explore options for safety and recovery.
As always, consider if you need help your needs and protecting yourself from harmful people.

Dig deeper: Think you are or were in an abusive situation? Click here to listen to this episode from my podcast or press the play button below.


The information in this article is for informational purposes only. No material in this article or website is to be a substitute for professional medical and/or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read from me or anyone else online.

Also, this article is not designed to diagnose or treat you or anyone with a suspected mental health illness. Please, if you need help, seek appropriate help from a lawyer, health care provider or law enforcement officer.

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