The first step to accepting that you are undergoing abuse is to understand its symptoms.
No one likes to feel undermined. No one likes to have their self-esteem battered down to the point where they just stop believing in themselves. No one likes to be manipulated and broken down with words and mind games. No one likes to be the victim of emotional and verbal abuse. And no one should have to be one. But sometimes, some people end up falling prey to it unknowingly as the ones around them, whether it's their partners or their parents, break them apart bit by bit.
Well, you don't deserve it and the first step to getting away from it, is by recognizing the signs of emotional and verbal abuse. But there's one thing to be remembered — just because the abuse is not physical, doesn't mean it's not valid. The lack of external scars doesn't mean the internal ones aren't there.
According to Medical News Today, "Emotional and mental abuse involves a person acting in a way to control, isolate, or scare somebody else. The form of abuse may be statements, threats, or actions, and there may be a pattern or regularity to the behavior." It is under the umbrella of emotional abuse that verbal abuse is housed, wherein the latter aims to use words to degrade, humiliate, shame and demoralize you.
Health Direct states that such forms of abuse can be just are debilitating as other kinds of physical abuse and can cause serious negative effects on the physical and mental health of adults. According to the American Psychological Association, this form of abuse has also been linked to other mental health issues including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidality, and low self-esteem.
These are the most common signs of emotional abuse that you might have faced:
1. Withholding affection - When someone holds back their affection, it's their way of punishing and exerting control over you. They do it on purpose, in order to make you bend to their will. While sometimes, partners can withhold affection after a fight because they just don't feel like offering loving gestures at that time, it's occasional rather than frequent.
2. Lack of respect for your privacy - Though it may not seem like one, it is actually a subtle sign of emotional abuse. If your partner constantly checks your private emails or messages, either by doing it when you're not around or directly asking you the password for every account you have, they don't have any respect for your privacy, and more importantly, you.
3. Ultimatums - If your loved one blames you for them "having" to make you choose something, it's a form of a covert threat. Then when they give you a choice wherein you can rectify the situation, they're being "generous," placing the entire responsibility and blame of the consequences on you.
4. Disrespecting your personal items - When your partner is careless about things that are important to you, like a watch your father gifted you or a lamp that has special meaning to you, it's a sign of emotional abuse. They may break or lose it and it's their way of punishing you and reminding you of who has the power in the relationship.
5. Alienation - Abusive people often want to control just exactly who you are creating a meaningful relationship with. For those they don't like, they make sure to find ways to ruin it and at the end, they alienate you from your loved ones. Over time, you might feel like you've lost the support you once had with those like your friends and family.
6. Control of resources - If it wasn't enough that your partner controlled your emotional state, they also seek to control your finances and other resources. Whether it's taking charge of your money in such a way that you wouldn't be able to take care of those important to you without them, or controlling your access to your car, phone or other items, they want you under their thumb in any way possible.
7. Micro-cheating - Though we create meaningful relationships with other people, when your partner does it but refuses to create one with you while going to the extent of hiding it, then it's emotional abuse. This can be in the form of secret messages or refusing to tell you where they are going or even giving affection to someone else while withholding it from you.
8. Shutting down on you - When your partner refuses to communicate with you, dismisses your feelings as irrelevant or even insults your emotions, it's a sign that not only do they not respect you, they are toying with and emotionally abusing you. Especially when you want to discuss something about the relationship.
1. Threats - When your loved one uses threats to control you, such as that they'll take the kids and go or state that if you don't follow their dictate, they'll resort to worse methods, it's a sign of verbal abuse. It's a way to shame you and keep you in line so that you know who has the power in the relationship.
2. Name-calling and "pet names" - While everyone has certain pet names, when someone calls you names that are meant to insult you, they are verbally abusing you. Even using derogatory terms like "stupid", "loser" or worse terms, is their way of lowering your self-esteem, thus giving them the opportunity to control you.
3. Blame - Your loved one blames you for everything, even when it's not your fault. No matter what the issue is, if something doesn't go their way, they make you feel like you were the one who is always in the wrong.
4. Insults - When they tell you that you can never do anything right or that your appearance is "ugly" or your clothes are "disgusting", it's their way of breaking your confidence. They do it so much that you've even started believing it.
5. Denial - If your loved one denies responsibility, actions or hurtful words they spoke, it's a sign that they don't see you as an equal and believe that you will accept anything they say. When they manipulate you into believing that you are over-reacting over abuse that they doled out to you and make it seem like you were the one at fault, it indicates that they are gaslighting you. They will do anything to bring you under their control.
6. Dismissal of your feelings - When someone casually pushes aside your valid feelings about either the relationship or something important in your life, that too is a sign of verbal abuse. They make you feel unworthy of even having those feelings and you slowly start to believe that yourself.
You do not deserve it. Whether it's a partner, a family member, a friend, or a parent, you don't deserve to be broken down like so. If you find yourself being a victim of emotional and verbal abuse, find the help you need to get out of that toxic relationship. If you find it hard to cut ties, either figure out a way to make the other person realize what they are doing or ask for some external assistance in fixing it.
Because it's all about control for your abuser, you have to find a way to wrest it away from them so that you don't have to suffer anymore. You are not at fault and you certainly aren't alone.