Emotional abuse can wreak havoc on a person’s sense of self. Consistent patterns of abusive language, bullying behaviors, and constant criticism can cause a person’s self-esteem to plummet. While it is most common in romantic relationships, emotional abuse can occur between family members, friends, and co-workers as well. It can also occur at any time in a person’s life, from childhood to adulthood.
Emotional abuse can be difficult to identify because it can be subtle in nature. Manipulation and other behaviors can make a person doubt their own way of thinking and make them question what is real and what is in their mind. Ultimately, emotional abuse leaves a person feeling trapped and alone.
What Constitutes Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse can cause damage that is invisible to others. Rather than leaving a physical mark on a person, it causes them to feel worthless, silenced, and self-loathing. The abuse can leave deep scars that makes a person unable to see themselves through another lens. They may feel they are not good enough and believe they will never find someone else, causing the person to remain in the abusive relationship.
Emotional abuse can be difficult to detect, especially when examining your own relationship. Sometimes, the easiest way to tell is by comparing your interactions with the person compared to interactions with other people. If the interactions you have consistently make you feel depressed, confused, anxious, or worthless, it is likely that the relationship is problematic. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking things could be worse, but in reality, emotional abuse trains you to accept this treatment as what you deserve.
Some signs of emotional abuse include:
- Making unrealistic demands
- Being unsatisfied no matter what you do
- Expecting you to drop everything for their needs
- Undermining or dismissing your thoughts
- Requiring you to explain why you feel the way you do
- Dismissing your requests or desires as ridiculous
- Making contradictory statements to create chaos
- Nitpicking your appearance
- Acting erratically
- Exaggerating your flaws to deflect from situations
- Humiliating you
- Manipulating you to make you feel guilty
- Using your beliefs against you to control a situation
- Treating you like you are beneath them
- Monitoring your social interactions
- Criticizing you in front of other people
- Using jealousy to manipulate you
- Demanding to know where you are at all times
- Doubting everything you say
- Trying to prove you wrong and act like they are always right
- Exhibiting jealousy about other relationships
Emotional Abuse and Addiction
Many people have difficulty when it comes to emotional abuse because it is hard to grasp how significantly it can impact a person. Because of the impact emotional abuse can have on mental health, it can lead to the development of other issues. In many cases, victims of emotional abuse become consumed by feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Mental and emotional health are often at the root of substance abuse disorders as well. In fact, in most cases of substance abuse, a person is also struggling with a co-occurring mental health disorder.
The link between substance abuse and emotional abuse is concrete. Emotional abuse leaves a person feeling powerless and in pain, and substance abuse provides a means of temporary escape. Even if a person knows that substance abuse will not help the situation, the desire to escape negative feelings can outweigh any reason or logic. This misuse can quickly develop into a vicious cycle in which a person continuously uses drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medication, but ultimately worsens their overall state of mind and exacerbates symptoms.
Dual diagnosis is vital to those who struggle with addiction and emotional abuse. The two become closely connected and impossible to address individually. In order to receive the most effective treatment, it is important to treat the two simultaneously. By first acknowledging its presence and its power over you, you can begin working through the experience and heal by taking back control of your life.
Combating emotional abuse can be difficult, but it is vital for healing and establishing boundaries moving forward. Part of the recovery process involves coming to terms with the fact that you cannot change or “fix” the abusive person in your life. Instead, in the interest of preserving your emotional and mental health, cutting off ties in the relationship and connecting with a support network can help you make the changes needed to support your recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.