The Mighty Phoenix

Support for Survivors of Incest, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence from author & survivor Marie Waldrep

 Emotional Abuse

What is Emotional Abuse?


   Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, manipulation etc. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased.


Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim's self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of "guidance," "teaching", or "advice," the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person. It creates scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones. In fact there is research to this effect. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim's self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.


Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone. 

Are You Emotionally Abused?

   Many women find that emotional abuse is difficult to name or even talk about. They often wonder if it is serious because you cannot see it, like bruises or broken bones. Emotionally abused women state that one of the biggest problems they face is that others seldom take it seriously.  These questions will help you identify if you are being emotionally abused, and provide some ideas on what you can do about it.

What is your relationship like?

* Do you feel that something is wrong with your relationship, but you don't know how to describe it?
* Do you feel that your partner controls your life?
* Do you feel that your partner does not value your thoughts or feelings?
* Will your partner do anything to win an argument, such as put you down, threaten or intimidate you?
* Does your partner get angry and jealous if you talk to someone else?  Are you accused of having affairs?
* Do you feel that you cannot do anything right in your partner's eyes?
* Do you get mixed messages, such as the reason you are abused is because he loves you?
* Are you told that no one else would want you, or that you are lucky your partner takes care of you?
*Do you have to account for every moment of your time?
*When you try to talk to your partner about problems, are you called derogatory names or nag?
* If you wish to spend money, does your partner make you account for every penny, or say you don't deserve anything?
* After an argument, does your partner insist that you have sex as a way to make up?
* Does he use the children against you in arguments?  Does your partner threaten that you will never see the children again if you leave?
* Does your partner blame you for everything that goes wrong?
* Does your partner tell you that you are no good for anything?

How are you affected?

*Are you unable or afraid to make decisions for yourself?
*Do you do anything you can to please your partner or not upset him?
* Do you make excuses for your partner's behavior?
* Are you forgetful, confused or unable to concentrate?
*Have you noticed changes in your eating, sleeping, alcohol or drug use?
*Have you lost interest or energy to do the things you used to?
* Do you feel sick, anxious, tired or depressed most of the time?
* Have you lost contact with your friends, family or neighbors?
* Have you lost self-confidence and feel afraid that you could not make it alone?

What can you do about it?

*Realize that emotional abuse is a serious problem and you can get help.
*Recognize that emotional abuse is just as bad or worse than physical abuse.
*Take your own safety and the safety of your children seriously.
*Know that emotional abuse can lead to physical violence or death.
*Know that you are not to blame for your partner's abusive behavior.
* Find people to talk to that can support you. Consider going for counseling.
*Recognize that you have the right to make your own decisions, in your own time, and that dealing with any form of abuse may take time.
* Trust yourself and your own experiences. Believe in your own strengths. Remember that you are your own best source of knowledge and strength, and that you already have the tools you need to survive.  

Where can you turn to?

* Women's help lines. Find more number in the front of your phone book. Here are some local numbers to help lines for abuse:

The Haven House Crisis Line: (770) 954-922  Administrative: (770) 954-1008 

Securus House 770-961-7233 or 1-800-33-HAVEN                                  

Promise Place Office 770-460-1604
Emergency pager 770-929-7529

* If you have been threatened with harm or death, or are being stalked (followed and harassed) by your partner or ex-partner, you can call the police. Dial 911. Get a TPO
*If you are considering leaving, especially if you have children, see a lawyer. Find a Domestic Violence Center that can help you come up with a safety plan to leave.
*Abused women are at the greatest risk of being harmed or killed when they leave. Ensure that you have a safety plan in place.