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What Is Mental Abuse In A Relationship?

What Is Mental Abuse In A Relationship?

What Is Mental Abuse In A Relationship?

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Mental abuse involves controlling another person by using emotions to criticize, embarrass, shame, blame, or otherwise manipulate them. While most common in dating and married relationships, mental or Mental abuse can occur in any relationship including among friends, family members, and co-workers.

In general, a relationship is Mentally abusive when there is a consistent pattern of abusive words and bullying behaviours that wear down a person’s self-esteem and undermine their mental health.

The underlying goal of Mental abuse is to control the other person by discrediting, isolating, and silencing them. It is one of the hardest forms of abuse to recognize as it can be subtle and insidious. But it can also be overt and manipulative.

Either way, Mental abuse can chip away at your self-esteem, and you can begin to doubt your perceptions and reality. In the end, you may feel trapped. Mentally abused people are often too wounded to endure the relationship any longer, but also too afraid to leave. So, the cycle repeats itself until something is done.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? There are several red flags of Mental abuse. Keep in mind that even if your partner, parent, co-worker, or friend only does a handful of these things versus doing them all, your relationship with them is still Mentally abusive.

When considering your relationship, also remember that Mental abuse is often subtle. As a result, it can be extremely hard to detect the signs. If you are having trouble discerning whether your relationship is abusive, think about how your interactions make you feel.

​Uses Emotional Blackmail. If someone tries to use your emotions against you, this is a sign of emotional abuse. Examples of emotional blackmail include:

  • Manipulating and controlling you by making you feel guilty; giving you a guilt trip
  • Humiliating you in public or in private
  • Using your fears, values, compassion, or other hot buttons to control you or the situation
  • Exaggerating your flaws or pointing them out to deflect attention or to avoid taking responsibility for their own poor choices or mistakes
  • Denying that an event took place or lying about it
  • Punishing you by withholding affection or giving you the silent treatment.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? It ​Creates Chaos. Mentally abusive people also tend to create chaos. Some examples of this red flag include:

  • Starting arguments for the sake of arguing
  • Making confusing and contradictory statements (sometimes called “crazy-making”)
  • Having drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts
  • Nitpicking at your clothes, hair, work, and more
  • Behaving so erratically and unpredictably that you feel like you are “walking on eggshells”

​Invalidates You. Another sign that someone may be mentally abusive is if they invalidate you. Some examples of invalidation include:

  • Undermining, dismissing, or distorting your perceptions or your reality
  • Refusing to accept your feelings by trying to define how you should feel
  • Requiring you to explain how you feel over and over
  • Accusing you of being “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or “crazy”
  • Refusing to acknowledge or accept your opinions or ideas as valid
  • Dismissing your requests, wants, and needs as ridiculous or unmerited
  • Suggesting that your perceptions are wrong or that you cannot be trusted by saying things like “you’re blowing this out of proportion” or “you exaggerate”
  • Accusing you of being selfish, needy, or materialistic if you express your wants or needs (the expectation is that you should not have any wants or needs)

What is mental abuse in a relationship? The first step in dealing with a mentally abusive relationship is to recognize the abuse. If you can identify any aspect of emotional abuse in your relationship, it is important to acknowledge that first and foremost.

By being honest about what you are experiencing, you can begin to take control of your life again. Here are seven more strategies for reclaiming your life that you can put into practice today.

Make Yourself a Priority. When it comes to your mental and physical health, make yourself a priority. Stop worrying about pleasing the person abusing you. Take care of your needs. Do something that will help you think positively and affirm who you are.

Also, be sure to get an appropriate amount of rest and eat healthy meals. These simple self-care steps can go a long way in helping you deal with the day-to-day stresses of emotional abuse.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Establish Boundaries. Firmly tell the abusive person that they may no longer yell at you, call you names, insult you, be rude to you, and so on. Then, tell them what will happen if they choose to engage in this behaviour.

For instance, tell them that if they call you names or insult you, the conversation will be over and you will leave the room. The key is to follow through on your boundaries. This reinforces to the other person that their emotional abuse will not be tolerated.

Stop Blaming Yourself. If you have been in a mentally abusive relationship for any amount of time, you may believe that there is something severely wrong with you. But you are not the problem. To abuse is to make a choice. Stop blaming yourself for something you have no control over.

Realize You Can’t Fix Them. Despite your best efforts, you will never be able to change a mentally abusive person by doing something different or by being different. An abusive person chooses to behave abusively.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Sometimes attempts to deal with or reduce emotional abuse can backfire and make the abuse worse. Some tactics that are not effective ways of dealing with abuse include:

Arguing with the abuser. Trying to argue with an abuser can escalate the problem and may result in violence. There is no way to argue with an abuser because they will always find more ways to blame, shame, or criticize. They may also try to turn the tables and play the victim.

Trying to understand or make excuses for the abuser. It might be tempting to try to make sense of the other person’s behaviour or to come up with excuses to justify their actions. Finding ways to sympathize with or minimize an abuser’s actions can make leaving the situation that much more difficult.

Attempting to appease the abuser. Appeasing the other person might seem like a form of de-escalation, but it tends to backfire in the long run and may serve to enable further abuse. Instead of trying to change yourself or your behaviours to suit the abuser’s whims, focus on establishing clear boundaries and avoid engaging with them if possible.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Mental abuse is meant to undermine your self-esteem and make you feel worse about yourself. It is also a form of manipulation and control. The effects of mental abuse are just as detrimental as the effects of physical abuse.

It is very difficult to not only recognize mental abuse but to then have the courage to confront it. It is also unfortunately prevalent in our society, with almost half of all women and men reporting psychological aggression by an intimate partner.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Signs of Mental Abuse

Here are several actions and behaviours that signal an intention to cause mental abuse:

Accusation and Blame. The abuser always blames their problems on you and accuses you of doing everything wrong. They don’t accept any responsibility for the consequences of their actions or words and constantly use you as a scapegoat. They are very jealous and use guilt to force you to do something you may not want to do.

They also deflect or minimize any blame you try to place on them.

Control. Control can be about major things, like where to live and work, but it can be about small things as well. For example, they may not let you out of the house. They may tell you what to wear and what to eat. You may not be allowed to choose your friends or what to watch on TV. Any indication that they are trying to control you in any way is a sign of mental abuse.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Codependence. For someone committing mental abuse to maintain control, they may try to create a situation that makes you feel like you have no other choice than to be with them.

They may also try to interfere or stop any relationships you may have with friends or family who support you, to ensure you will continue relying on only them.

Criticism. If your partner constantly criticizes you for everything you do, both big and small, you are being mentally abused. They may make fun of you for how you look or what you are wearing. They may also downplay or demean any accomplishments, either personal or professional. It might make you feel like whatever you do, it’s never good enough.

Emotional Neglect. Any abusive person will put their emotional needs ahead of yours. They may demand respect and obedience, and they may selectively hold back any affection or care until and unless they get their way.

Humiliation. A powerful way to mentally abuse someone is to humiliate them, especially in a public setting. They could make fun of you and encourage others to laugh at you as well. They might post compromising pictures or posts on social media.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Dealing with Mental Abuse. If you believe that you are being mentally or emotionally abused, seek help. If you are in immediate danger, try to get out of the situation as fast as possible and call 911.

Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviours that are meant to control, isolate, or frighten you. This may present in romantic relationships as threats, insults, constant monitoring, excessive jealousy, manipulation, humiliation, intimidation, and dismissiveness, among others.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Sometimes emotional abuse is more obvious like a partner yelling at you or calling you names. Other times it can be more subtle, like your partner acting jealous of your friends or not wanting you to hang out with someone of another gender.

While these emotionally abusive behaviours do not leave physical marks, they do hurt, disempower, and traumatize the partner who is experiencing the abuse.

It’s difficult to feel sure of yourself when a partner is demeaning, dismissing, and second-guessing you constantly. Additionally, when you care about someone and have invested time in the relationship with them, you want to believe the best of them, and you may convince yourself that you were overreacting in how you interpreted their hurtful actions or words.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? An emotionally abusive partner may try to gaslight you by telling you outright that you are overreacting, being dramatic, being too emotional, or that you can’t take a joke.

For these reasons and more, it can be tough to detect emotional abuse and see it as a dangerous concern. Even then, survivors of emotional abuse are often hesitant to seek help or tell friends and family about their relationship concerns because they fear they will not be believed or taken seriously.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Nonetheless, emotional abuse is serious, and it is not uncommon for emotional abuse to escalate to physical violence. In some relationships this escalation to physical abuse is slow, and in others, it can happen rapidly.

If any of these red flags feel familiar to you, know that you do not deserve to be treated that way and that you are not alone. It can be hard to decide what your next step should be, after learning that your relationship is not healthy.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? You might consider reaching out to a trusted friend or family member to talk about what you have been going through. You can also reach out to our advocates to talk about the next steps and options available to you.

Even if a relationship never gets physically abusive, emotional abuse can escalate over time with devastating consequences, even death. And while emotional abuse does not always lead to physical abuse, physical abuse in relationships is nearly always preceded and accompanied by emotional abuse.

Why don’t we hear more about emotional abuse? In addition to the common misconception that it’s just not that serious, many people simply aren’t sure what emotional abuse entails.

Our aim here is to help you understand what emotional abuse means and what makes it so dangerous so that you’re better equipped to start the conversation. Because if you want to stop it, you first have to know what you’re dealing with.

What is mental abuse in a relationship? Understanding emotional abuse is complicated for many reasons. One reason is that there are several different names used interchangeably to refer to the same kind of abuse, including emotional abuse/violence, psychological abuse/violence, and mental abuse. For simplicity, we’ll use “emotional abuse” going forward.

Another complication is that there isn’t one accepted definition of emotional abuse. It seems that everyone has a slightly different version.

Emotional Manipulation

Emotional Manipulation

Emotional manipulation. Emotional manipulation is one type of emotional abuse where the perpetrator seeks to emotionally control or influence the victim in a way that gives them an advantage. Emotional manipulation commonly takes place in abusive relationships or toxic relationships.

Emotional manipulation in relationships exists on a spectrum, and it doesn’t always have malicious intent.

Abuse can be covert or overt. For example, a supervisor who gives an employee positive feedback to positively reinforce and encourage that behaviour is influencing that employee’s emotions to promote the positive behaviour. In most cases, this type of example doesn’t signify malicious intent.

Here are 15 signs of Emotional manipulation:

Making You Feel Guilty. If your partner is purposefully saying things that suggest you should feel guilty or ashamed, this may be emotional manipulation. This is especially true if the guilt or shame would then motivate you to do something that benefits them and not necessarily you.

Bullying. Bullying, harassment, and ridicule are emotional manipulation because they can generate fear or embarrassment in the victim.

Gaslighting. Gaslighting is a particularly insidious way to emotionally manipulate because it makes you doubt your perceptions and experiences. Gaslighting is when the perpetrator convinces the victim that something is untrue while making them feel crazy or wrong for thinking it was true.

Exploiting Insecurities. If a partner knows that you are insecure about a particular aspect of yourself, they may highlight this to encourage you to do or not do something. Using this against you is Emotional manipulation.

Threatening to Share Things. A partner may manipulate you by threatening to share information about you, for example, saying that they might tell your mom about your spending habits unless you do what they say. That sort of threat emotionally manipulates you to behave in a certain way.

Embarrassing You. Purposefully and repeatedly embarrassing you can also be a form of emotional manipulation. It may serve to generate shame that ultimately affects your behaviour.

Blackmailing. Blackmailing is when a person threatens to do something if the other person does not take a specified action. For example, a partner may threaten to release photographs if you do not do what they say.

Playing you off someone else. Another tactic of emotional manipulation may be to play you off someone else. For example, Charlie and Emerson are in a relationship. Charlie tells Emerson that a third person was talking about Emerson, and then tells the third person that Emerson was talking about them.

In effect, Charlie is playing Emerson and the third person off one another to create a conflict that somehow benefits him.

How to Deal With Emotional Manipulation

Set boundaries: Setting boundaries requires you to recognize your needs and limits and communicate those clearly and assertively. These boundaries may be related to what you are willing to do, what is acceptable to say to you, how you will spend your time, etc.

Setting boundaries allows you to assess whether your partner can recognize and accept them, and what that may mean for the relationship.

Look out for patterns: If you notice only one of these signs of emotional manipulation, it may not be as concerning as noticing a pattern of consistent and recurring manipulation. Watch for these patterns to help you determine if there is malicious intent.

Talk to a trusted friend or family member: While it is your opinion and perception that matters most, sometimes confiding in a trusted friend or family member can help you to process what you are noticing and get an outside perspective. It also helps to fight against any isolation your partner may be intending.

Consider couples counselling: Couples therapy is not always recommended when there is abuse present in a relationship. This is because it can put the victim’s safety at risk. If they are honest, it may result in violence following the session.

Only if the emotional manipulation has been mild to moderate, you are not concerned for your safety, and your partner is open, consult with an experienced couples counsellor to determine if it is the right move.

Consider engaging in individual therapy: Individual therapy may help you to identify the emotional abuse, make a plan to handle it and cope with the emotions it generates. Working with a mental health professional can also help you learn to set boundaries and improve your self-esteem.

Psychological Violence

Psychological Violence

Psychological violence A common definition of psychological abuse among researchers is chronic verbal aggression. Verbal chronic abuse may lead to physical violence, especially if users and providers of services for older persons base their personal or professional relationship with one another on tolerance rather than mutual respect.

Psychological violence is intimately related to a person’s inability to tolerate another when circumstances make communication difficult.

Within families or residential homes for the elderly, it is even more difficult to maintain such a relationship because the demands on the young are often disproportionate to their capacity of satisfying such needs.

In a first approximation, Psychological violence may be defined as that sort of violence which involves psychological damage on the part of the agent who is being violated. You do have psychological violence, that is, any time that an agent voluntarily inflicts some psychological distress on an agent.

Psychological violence is compatible with physical violence or verbal violence. The damage done to a person that has been the victim of a sexual assault is not only the damage deriving from the physical injuries to her or his body; the psychological trauma the event may provoke is part and parcel of the violence perpetrated, which is a psychological sort of violence.

Understanding Psychological violence

While the majority of human beings may have been a victim of some form of psychological violence at some point in their life, without a proper notion of a self it is difficult to devise effective strategies for coping with the damages inflicted by those violent acts.

What does it take to heal from psychological trauma or damage? How to cultivate the well-being of a self?

Those may be among the most difficult and central questions that philosophers, psychologists, and social scientists have to answer to cultivate the well-being of individuals.

Psychological violence can include many types of behaviours. Abusers can be romantic partners, business partners, a caregiver, or a friend/colleagues. Psychological abuse is a cycle of unhealthy behaviours. The most common types of psychological abuse are:

  • Humiliation, negating, criticizing: name-calling, yelling, character discrimination, public embarrassment, belittling accomplishments, putting a person down, deliberately causing diminishment on a victim.
  • Control and shame: threats, spying, financial control, direct orders, outbursts, treating the victim like a child, withholding valuable information.
  • Accusing, blame, denial: jealousy, turning the tables, using guilt, goading then blaming, destroying, and denying.
  • Emotional neglect and isolation: demanding respect, shutting down any negotiation, keeping the victim from socializing, and disputing the victim’s feelings.
  • Codependence: when everything a victim does is in response to the abuser’s behaviour.

Verbal Aggression

Verbal Aggression

Verbal aggression Aggression is a word that we use every day to characterize the behaviour of others and perhaps even of ourselves. We say that people are aggressive if they yell at or hit each other if they cut off other cars in traffic, or even when they smash their fists on the table in frustration.

But other harmful acts, such as the injuries that sports players receive during a rough game or the killing of enemy soldiers in a war might not be viewed by everyone as aggression.

Because aggression is so difficult to define, social psychologists, judges, and politicians (as well as many other people, including lawyers), have spent a great deal of time trying to determine what should and should not be considered aggression.

Doing so forces us to make use of the processes of causal attribution to help us determine the reasons for the behaviour of others.

Verbal aggression in communication has been studied to examine the underlying message of how the aggressive communicator gains control over different things that occur, through the usage of verbal aggressiveness.

Scholars have identified that individuals who express verbal aggressiveness have the goal of controlling and manipulating others through language.

Infante and Wigley defined Verbal aggression as “a personality trait that predisposes persons to attack the self-concepts of other people instead of, or in addition to, their positions on topics of communication”.

Self-concept can be described as a group of values and beliefs that one has.

Verbal aggression is thought to be mainly a destructive form of communication, but it can produce positive outcomes. Infante and Wigley described aggressive behaviour in interpersonal communication as a product of an individual’s aggressive traits and the way the person perceives the aggressive circumstances that prevent them or something in a situation.

Coercive Control

Coercive Control

Coercive control Domestic abuse isn’t always physical. Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour.

We campaigned and succeeded in making Coercive control a criminal offence. This has marked a huge step forward in tackling domestic abuse. But now we want to make sure that everyone understands what it is.

Coercive control creates invisible chains and a sense of fear that pervades all elements of a victim’s life. It works to limit their human rights by depriving them of their liberty and reducing their ability to act.

Experts like Evan Stark liken coercive control to being taken, hostage. As he says: “the victim becomes captive in an unreal world created by the abuser, entrapped in a world of confusion, contradiction and fear.”

How do you know if this is happening to you?

Some common examples of Coercive control are:

  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
  • Monitoring your time
  • Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
  • Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear and when you can sleep
  • Depriving you of access to support services, such as medical services
  • Repeatedly putting you down, such as saying you’re worthless
  • Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you
  • Controlling your finances
  • Making threats or intimidating you

Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.

Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, psychological, or technological actions or threats of actions or other patterns of coercive behaviour that influence another person within an intimate partner relationship.

This includes any behaviours that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

Domestic violence, or family violence, is violent, abusive or intimidating behaviour in a relationship. There are many types of domestic violence, including emotional, sexual, social, financial, spiritual and physical abuse.

If you’re dealing with domestic violence, several organisations can offer you help and support.

When people think of Domestic violence, they often focus on domestic violence. But domestic abuse includes any attempt by one person in a marriage or intimate relationship to dominate and control the other.

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” An abuser uses fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under their thumb.

Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone; it does not discriminate. Abuse happens within heterosexual relationships and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels.

And while women are more often victimized, men also experience abuse especially verbal and emotional. The bottom line is that abusive behaviour is never acceptable, whether from a man, woman, teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.

Intimate Partner Abuse

Intimate Partner Abuse

Intimate partner abuse. Intimate partner violence is one of the most common forms of violence against women and includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and controlling behaviours by an intimate partner.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs in all settings and among all socioeconomic, religious and cultural groups. The overwhelming global burden of IPV is borne by women.

Although women can be violent in relationships with men, often in self-defence, and violence sometimes occurs in same-sex partnerships, the most common perpetrators of violence against women are male intimate partners or ex-partners. By contrast, men are far more likely to experience violent acts by strangers or acquaintances than by someone close to them.

Intimate partner abuse occurs between two people in an intimate relationship. It may occur between heterosexual or homosexual couples and victims can be male or female. Couples may be dating, cohabiting or married and violence can occur in or outside of the home

Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects millions of Americans every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced some form of sexual or physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.

While both men and women can be victims of Intimate partner abuse, women are more likely to sustain serious injuries and be killed by men. Often red flags appear well before the violence starts.

Intimate partner abuse(IPA) is experienced by around one in three women at some stage during their lifetime and has serious health consequences.

Subsequent responses recommended include validation, affirmation and support, safety assessment and planning (both for the woman and any children), counselling and referral to IPA specialist services.

Better training is needed for clinicians in these areas. Future research is needed to compare identification methods, and further assess psychological, advocacy and safety planning interventions, primary prevention and perpetrator interventions.

What Is Mental Abuse In A Relationship Conclusion

What Is Mental Abuse In A Relationship Conclusion

What is mental abuse in a relationship conclusion. Hopefully, this explanation of emotional abuse is as comprehensive as possible, but we recognise that it’s still bound to have gaps due to the complications we just mentioned. Think of it more as a springboard for future conversations and exploration than an all-encompassing definition.


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