Most people know what physical abuse is, but when it comes to emotional abuse, people tend to think there’s much more of a ‘grey area’.

They might know it has something to do with treating your partner badly – name calling or making them feel small – but not be clear on what’s actually classed as emotional abuse, or whether it’s really as serious as other types.

There are a variety of types of behaviour that could be classed as emotional abuse. These include:

  • Intimidation and threats. This could be things like shouting, acting aggressively or just generally making you feel scared. This is often done as a way of making a person feel small and stopping them from standing up for themselves.

  • Criticism. This could be things like namecalling or making lots of unpleasant or sarcastic comments. This can really lower a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

  • Undermining. This might include things like dismissing your opinion. It can also involve making you doubt your own opinion by acting as if you're being oversensitive if you do complain, disputing your version of events or by suddenly being really nice to you after being cruel. 

  • Being made to feel guilty. This can range from outright emotional blackmail (threats to kill oneself or lots of emotional outbursts) to sulking all the time or giving you the silent treatment as a way of manipulating you.

  • Economic abuse. This can be withholding money, not involving you in finances or even preventing you from getting a job. This could be done as a way of stopping you from feeling independent and that you’re able to make your own choices.

  • Telling you what you can and can’t do. As the examples above make clear, emotional abuse is generally about control. Sometimes this is explicit. Does your partner tell you when and where you can go out, or even stop you from seeing certain people? Do they try to control how you dress or how you style your hair?

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