How Do You Identify Emotional Abuse in Your Relationship?
When a spouse is emotionally or physically abusive to their partner, it is vital for the victim to acknowledge the harm they are suffering and seek help. However, that can be difficult to do, especially with emotional abuse, because there are no obvious scars for others to see. That also means those who care about the victim may not even realize there is a problem at home behind closed doors.
How Do You Identify Emotional Abuse?
Typical relationships often involve an occasional argument, which is completely normal and even healthy at times. Conflicts in a relationship can help the couple to better understand each other and learn to compromise in the future. The difference between a “normal” argument and emotional abuse, however, lies in the concept of “control.” When one person is emotionally abusing another, their intent is to exert power over the victim.
This type of behavior is never acceptable, especially for an individual who claims to love the person they are abusing. One of the ways this has a detrimental effect on the victim is by making them feel they are to blame when in truth, abuse is never the victim’s fault.
There are a multitude of organizations with the goal of educating and providing resources to domestic violence victims, including those who suffer emotional abuse. Some of the signs they have outlined to identify emotional abuse include the following:
- Having complete and total control over the couple’s finances
- Punishing the victim by destroying their personal property
- Pressuring or coercing the victim to use alcohol or drugs
- Humiliating, degrading, or insulting the victim, whether in public or private
- Insisting on control over decisions related to work or school
- Threatening the victim with weapons
- Threatening actions and looks
- Preventing the victim from spending time with family or friends
- Being jealous of time the victim spends with family, friends, or colleagues
These are basic guidelines a person can use to gain an understanding of whether they are being emotionally abused, but seeking advice from a mental health professional or knowledgeable attorney is an ideal way to get the perspective of a third, unbiased party. It is vital to seek help to prevent emotional wounds that can have destructive repercussions.
What Is Gaslighting, and How Do Abusers Use It as a Weapon?
The term gaslighting takes its name from a classic Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer film, aptly titled “Gaslight.” In the movie, Bergman plays a young woman who moves into her aunt’s home years after she is murdered. Her husband attempts to protect a dark secret by creating eerie situations in the home, such as gas lights dimming on their own, to influence his wife and make her feel like she is losing her mind.
Emotional abusers often use the same technique to break down their victims and make them doubt reality and their own emotions. Some of the ways they employ gaslighting include:
- Blatantly telling the victim that they are “losing it” or using other references to mental illness that make them feel hyper-sensitive or weak
- Recalling past events in a completely different way from what actually happened
- Completely denying that an event even happened and telling the victim that they imagined the whole thing
How Do You Recognize the Effects of Emotional Abuse?
In the past, many people denied that emotional abuse was real because it doesn’t leave any visible wounds or scars for others to easily identify. After years of study, however, the act has been proven quite credible, as well as its damaging effects on its victims.
When emotional abuse occurs, the immediate effects on the victim may include the following:
- Feeling unloved or unwanted
- Feelings of being controlled or abused
- A sense of powerlessness
- Uncontrollable weeping
- Being overly accommodating to the abuser
- Feelings of confusion
Sadly, many victims suffer through these acute effects of emotional abuse for far too long, and the effects become long-term. When this happens, the issues become more devastating and more difficult to treat or heal. Long-term effects of emotional abuse may include the following:
- Siding with the abuser and even empathizing with them as a means of mitigating the abuse, also known as Stockholm Syndrome
- Isolation and loneliness
- Abuse of drugs and alcohol
- Inability to trust others
- Physical pain with no obvious cause also called “phantom pain”
- Suicidal tendencies and suicide attempts
- Inability to reach for and attain goals
- Withdrawal from favorite hobbies and activities
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and society
- Poor self-esteem/self-worth
How Should You Proceed If You Believe You Have Suffered Emotional Abuse?
Regardless of what type of abuse a victim is being subjected to, the first crucial step in preventing further damage is to reach out to someone for help. Unfortunately, one of the effects of emotional abuse is the fear that their concerns will be denied, scrutinized, or dismissed since there are no obvious wounds or scars to show as proof of the abuse. When victims finally reach out, however, they often feel that their fears were irrational, and those who care about them can help validate their concerns.
Anyone who is in immediate physical danger from their abuser should call 911 for help. Medical professionals and police can help victims to get out of their situation and into a safe place where their abuser cannot get to them. A victim who is not in immediate danger can reach out to a trusted, reputable attorney to help them take the necessary legal steps to escape their abuser’s grip.
The Legal Team at Bickford Blado & Botros Can Help
Any individual who is suffering emotional abuse from their spouse or partner can seek counsel from the compassionate attorneys at Bickford Blado & Botros. Our legal professionals can help the victim attain a protective order or restraining order while offering advice on how to proceed. Potential courses of action may include divorce and child custody proceedings. Reach out to us today to find out how we can help you regain the control your abuser has taken over your life.
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