Effie Papadopoulou - Psychologist

Victim of Abuse or Abusive?

Emotional abuse in a relationship is sneaky and elusive. Many times the people doing it and receiving it are not even aware that it’s even happening. It can be dangerous and damaging to your self-esteem, confidence, self-value, and respect. In a lot of cases, emotional and psychological abuse can be more harmful than physical abuse as it undermines what you think about yourself. You may end up defining yourself with views that are untrue 

Victims of this kind of abuse could be of any educational background, social class, ethnicity, background, and gender although in the majority of cases the man is the abuser while the woman is the victim. Despite the fact that emotional abuse takes place in any type of relationship, between parents and children or relatives and friends, here we will talk about signs of abuse in romantically involved partners.

You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so.

‘So what is emotional abuse? It involves a regular pattern of verbal offense, threatening, bullying, and constant criticism, as well as more subtle tactics like intimidation, shaming, and manipulation.

Emotional abuse is used to control and subjugate the other person, and quite often it occurs because the abuser has childhood wounds and insecurities they haven’t dealt with — perhaps as a result of being abused themselves. They didn’t learn healthy coping mechanisms or how to have positive, healthy relationships. Instead, they feel angry, hurt, fearful, and powerless’. Ask yourself the following questions to find out if you are a victim of an abusive relationship or you are abusing someone you are with. .

1. Humiliation, degradation, discounting, negating. judging, criticizing:

  • Does anyone make fun of you or put you down in front of others?
  • Do they tease you, use sarcasm as a way to put you down or degrade you?
  • When you complain do they say that “it was just a joke” and that you are too sensitive?
  • Do they tell you that your opinion or feelings are “wrong?”
  • Does anyone regularly ridicule, dismiss, disregard your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings?

2. Domination, control, and shame:

  • Do you feel that the person treats you like a child?
  • Do they constantly correct or chastise you because your behavior is “inappropriate?”
  • Do you feel you must “get permission” before going somewhere or before making even small decisions?
  • Do they control your spending?
  • Do they treat you as though you are inferior to them?
  • Do they make you feel as though they are always right?
  • Do they remind you of your shortcomings?
  • Do they belittle your accomplishments, your aspirations, your plans, or even who you are?
  • Do they give disapproving, dismissive, contemptuous, or condescending looks, comments, and behavior?

3. Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings:

  • Do they accuse you of something contrived in their own minds when you know it isn’t true?
  • Are they unable to laugh at themselves?
  • Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect?
  • Do they have trouble apologizing?
  • Do they make excuses for their behavior or tend to blame others or circumstances for their mistakes?
  • Do they call you names or label you?
  • Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness?
  • Do they continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?

4. Emotional distancing and the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect:

  • Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?
  • Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment?
  • Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes?
  • Do they not notice or care how you feel?
  • Do they not show empathy or ask questions to gather information?

5. Codependency and enmeshment:

  • Does anyone treat you not as a separate person but instead as an extension of themselves?
  • Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you have not approved?
  • Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you?
  • Do they require continual contact and haven’t developed a healthy support network among their own peers?

If you suspect that you are being a victim of any form of abuse the safest thing to do is to immediately leave that relationship. However, all of us, health professionals, know how difficult that is. There are many hotlines available for you to contact and they are listed here alongside some very useful websites.

  • Need2talk-here2listen – 01924 302552 or 3025554 – free, local, confidential counseling service for 13 to 19-year-old offering support for a whole range of issues such as sexual health, relationships, family issues, drugs, bullying, alcohol and more
  • Ask Brook – 0808 802 1234 or visit the website – confidential helpline for young people aged 25 and under
  • ChildLine – 0800 11 11 or visit the website  – helpline for anyone aged 18 and under – counselors can talk to you about any problem
  • STAR (Surviving Trauma After Rape) – call 01924 298954 or visit the website.- offers free, confidential, emotional and practical support for anyone aged 14+ who has been raped or sexually assaulted.  You don’t have to have reported the offense to the police to be able to use the service.
  • Respect – 0845 122 8609 or visit the website– offers information and advice to those being abused and those behaving in an abusive way.
  • Samaritans – 01924 377011 – 24/7 confidential, emotional support advice line for those in distress or despair.
  • Women’s Aid – 0808 2000 247 or visit the website – a free 24/7 domestic violence helpline run in partnership with Refuge alongside a network of over 500 domestic and sexual violence services across the UK.
  • In the US: call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 FREE (SAFE).
  • UK: call Women’s Aid at 0808 2000 247.
  • Australia: call 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732.
  • Worldwide: visit International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies for a global list of helplines and crisis centers.


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