Am I in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?
Home/  Blog/ Am I in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

Am I in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?



Results from the National Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) show that approximately 50 percent of Americans had experienced lifetime emotional abuse by a partner.


There’s a lot of confusion around emotional abuse and how it differs from other types of abuse, such as physical abuse and verbal abuse.


Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about emotionally abusive relationships.




What Is Emotional Abuse?


Emotional abuse is also known as psychological abuse.


More specifically, it is a pattern of behavior that involves hurting one person deliberately. Further, this involves repeatedly subjecting someone else to actions that affect their mental well-being. Examples of these actions include intimidation, humiliation, rejection, isolation, and excessive control.


Emotional abuse is a non-physical form of abuse. However, this type of abuse can escalate, and victims may eventually experience physical violence from their abuser.


It’s important to note, too, that emotional abuse doesn’t just occur between romantic partners. Parents can also be emotionally abusive to their children. Or, a sibling could be emotionally abusive toward another sibling.




What Are the Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?


Some people don’t realize that they’re in an emotionally abusive relationship. They may become so used to their parent, sibling, or partner exercising power and control over them that they don’t realize anything is wrong.


The following are some potential signs one might notice if their relationship has become emotionally abusive:






Are All Abusive Partners Mentally Ill?


Many people assume that a partner or family member’s abusive behavior is caused by poor mental health or a mental illness like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).



It’s true that a person can be mentally ill and abusive. However, as this resource from the University of Texas at El Paso points out, mental illness is never an excuse for abuse of any kind.



These are two separate issues and both need to be addressed with help from professionals. A victim of abuse does not have to stay with their partner or put up with mistreatment just because that person is mentally ill.




Do People Know When They Are Being Emotionally Abusive?


In many cases, the people who are abusing others often don’t realize that they’re in abusive relationships.


Abusers might assume that their behavior is perfectly normal and acceptable, especially if they were abused by someone else in the past. The results from the Crime Survey for England and Wales back this up and show that approximately 51 percent of adults who were abused as children went on to abuse others later in life.




Is Emotional Abuse Even a Real Thing?


Yes, emotional abuse is a real thing. As such, a person doesn’t have to be physically harmed in a relationship to have been abused.


Because there’s a lot of confusion around emotional abuse, and because it can be hard to “prove”.  Also, victims of emotional abuse are less likely to receive support when they leave abusive relationships.


According to Dr. Holly Gartler, the effects of emotional and psychological trauma are similar to those of physical trauma. She explained to The State Press that emotional abuse can contribute to anxiety, depression, PTSD, self-esteem issues, intimacy issues, and more.




Do I Have to Leave My Relationship if It Is Emotionally Abusive? Can It Change?


If someone is experiencing emotional abuse, they may think about leaving the relationship. Others may be hesitant to do so, though.


Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t the only option. Some people may choose to go to therapy and work with a professional to try and address the problems in the relationship and make it a healthier one.


Therapy can be effective, but both partners need to be willing to put in the work. Emotionally abusive partners may be hesitant to acknowledge their behavior. Further, they and might resist making a commitment to therapy. There is another alternative, which is Discernment Counseling.


Emotional Punching Bag


How to Get Away from Emotionally Abusive Parents?


If someone is dealing with an emotionally abusive parent or family member, it can be helpful to reach out to friends or other family members for support.


These individuals may want to contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline or the National Domestic Violence Support hotline, too. This allows them to talk to trained professionals and gain access to resources that can help.





How to Get Away from an Emotionally Abusive Partner?


Contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline is also an option for someone who’s dealing with an abusive partner. Experts on the other end of the call can offer support. Also, they can provide resources that help the victim to make a plan to get out of the relationship as soon as possible.


Some are not yet ready to leave an emotionally abusive partner, but want to build the courage to do so. For these people, working with a therapist skilled in relationship issues is highly recommended.




How Do You Recover from an Emotionally Abusive Relationship?


It is possible to have healthy relationships after being in an emotionally abusive one. It takes time, though.


After leaving an abusive person, it’s important for victims to spend time working with a therapist. They should do this to recover from and manage the effects of the abuse. This may include any PTSD appropriately. They should reach out to a friend or family member if possible, too, for additional support.





Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling. We make information for your own education. Our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by our staff. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Thus, it should not be used in place of formal medical advice.




Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

Need Help ?