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Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is just one form of abuse that people can experience in a relationship. Although emotional abuse doesn’t leave physical scars, it can have a huge impact on your confidence and self-esteem.

There are a couple of different types of emotional abuse and it might not be noticeable at first. However, if you are being emotionally abused there are a number of things you can do to get support. This might be a problem if you:

  • Feel like you’re not good enough
  • Are afraid of your partner leaving you
  • Are called names by your partner or they put you down
  • Are afraid, threatened or intimidated
  • Feel like you are going crazy, or feel confused about the truth

The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at a person’s feelings of self-worth and independence. In an emotionally abusive relationship, a person may feel that there is no way out of the relationship or that without their partner they will have nothing.

Emotional abuse can feel equally as destructive and damaging as physical abuse and can do a terrible amount of damage to a person’s mental health. It's common for physically abusive relationships to also include aspects of emotional abuse as this is how power and control is maintained within the relationship.

Some types of emotional abuse can include:
Verbal - yelling, insulting or swearing at someone
Rejection - pretending not to notice someone’s presence, conversation or value
Put downs - name calling, public embarrassment, calling someone stupid, blaming them for everything
Being afraid - causing someone to feel afraid, intimidated or threatened
Isolation - limiting freedom of movement, stopping someone from contacting other people (like friends or family)
Money - controlling someone’s money, withholding money, preventing someone from working, stealing or taking money
Bullying - purposely and repeatedly saying or doing hurtful things to someone.

Although physical violence is often seen as being more serious than emotional abuse, this is not the case. The scars of emotional abuse are real and long lasting. Emotional abuse can leave a person feeling depressed, anxious and even suicidal, as well as having a negative impact on self-esteem and confidence.

Watch the video to see what emotional abuse often looks like:

If you are concerned about yourself or a friend it is important to talk to someone. You could choose to speak to a teacher, a relative, friend or social worker; or you could contact ChildLine. They have people you can talk to in confidence and it does not cost anything to phone them. You can ring them on 0800 1111 or see Childline's online chat - where you can chat online with a counsellor, it's free, anonymous and they can help you.

It can be very hard to talk about your feelings, but some problems won’t go away if you ignore them. Talking to someone can make you feel better and help you to find a solution. 

Last updated: 25 April 2023

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