Signs of Emotional Abuse

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: What are some signs of emotional abuse?
Answer: Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse often goes undetected. In fact, it’s possible that both the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it’s happening. Though it may not result in black eyes and broken bones, it is equally harmful. It has devastating consequences because the individual receiving the abuse is allowing something untrue to define him/her. Emotional abuse can occur in any relationship. It can happen between a parent and a child, a husband and a wife, or among relatives, or between friends. Since you asked for signs, I will try to give you a few that may be helpful:
•An emotional abuser may portray your opinions or feelings as always wrong.
•An emotional abuser may regularly ridicule you by dismissing your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings.
•An emotional abuser frequently treats the victim with contempt. This may take the form of eye-rolling, telling you “that’s dumb” when you attempt to have an opinion, or laughing at what you say in front of others, or even alone.
•An emotional abuser may have trouble apologizing, or apologizes matter-of-factly with no real sense of remorse.
•An Emotional abuser may make excuses for his/her behavior, or tend to blame others, or circumstances for his/her own abusive actions.
•An emotional abuser may blame the victim, for his/her lack of happiness.
•An emotional abuser may violate valid requests when you ask him/her to stop the behavior.
•An emotional abuser may use pouting, withdrawal, or withholding attention or affection.
•An emotional abuser may play the victim role to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for his/her actions and attitudes.
•An emotional abuser may treat you as an extension of himself or herself , rather than a separate person.
The fact that you relate to one or two of the above signs does not necessarily mean you are the victim of emotional abuse. On the other hand, if you identify yourself as being the victim of emotional abuse, it may be time to seek out professional help to assist you in conceptualizing the reality of the abuse, or the extent of the abuse.
It’s always possible that someone reading the above signs will recognize behaviors that identify him/her as an emotional abuser. If that happens, it is time to do a thorough inventory of the state of one’s being. This too may require professional help. Don’t be afraid to seek it out.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]