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Emotional, psychological and mental abuse


Emotional, psychological and mental abuse are often closely linked terms that can be used interchangeably.  The aim of the perpetrator of emotional abuse in relationships is to reduce confidence and esteem in order to make their victim increasingly reliant on them. They use tactics such as intimidation, bullying, constant criticism and keeping someone isolated from family and friends in order to exert control.

Emotional abuse in relationships is often a means of controlling the victim by having a strong mental hold over them.

Emotional abuse in relationships can include (but is not limited to):

  • Constant put downs which make their victim feel stupid, worthless and useless

  • Making them feel that they are a bad/incapable parent

  • Making them feel ugly or fat

  • Making them feel stupid and not good enough

  • Telling them they are mad or ill

  • Isolating them from family and friends

  • Not allowing them out alone, constant checking up or following them

  • Playing on their fears or phobias

  • Ignoring or using silence against the victim

  • Making false allegations about them or endlessly making accusations

Many survivors find that emotional abuse is difficult to recognise and even talk about.

They often wonder if it is serious because you cannot see it, like bruises or broken bones.
Everyone has arguments, and everyone disagrees with their partners, family members and others close to them from time to time, and we all do things at times that we regret, and which cause unhappiness to those we care about. BUT if this begins to form a consistent pattern, then it is an indication of domestic violence and abuse.

These questions may help you identify if you are being emotionally abused.

Do you feel that your partner does not value your thoughts or feelings?

Has your partner tried to keep you from seeing your friends or family?

Has your partner prevented you or made it hard for you to continue or start studying, or from going to work?

Does your partner constantly check up on you or follow you?

Does your partner unjustly accuse you of flirting or of having affairs with others?

Do you have to account for every moment of your time?

Does your partner constantly belittle or humiliate you, or regularly criticise or insult you?

Are you ever afraid of your partner?

Have you ever changed your behaviour because you are afraid of what your partner might do or say to you?

Will your partner do anything to win an argument, such as put you down, threaten or intimidate you?

Has your partner ever destroyed any of your possessions deliberately?

Has your partner ever hurt or threatened you or your children

Has your partner ever kept you short of money so you are unable to buy food and other necessary items for yourself and your children or made you take out loans?

Has your partner ever forced you to do something that you really did not want to do?

Has your partner ever tried to prevent you from taking necessary medication, or seeking medical help when you felt you needed it?

Has your partner ever tried to control you by telling you that you could be deported because of your immigration status?

Has your partner ever threatened to take your children away, or said he would refuse to let you take them with you, or even to see them, if you left him?

Has your partner ever forced or harassed you to have sex with him or with other people? Has he made you participate in sexual activities that you were uncomfortable with?

Does your partner tell you that no one else would want you, or that you are lucky your partner takes care of you?

Has your partner ever tried to prevent your leaving the house?

Does your partner blame you for everything that goes wrong?

Does your partner blame his use of alcohol or drugs, mental health condition or family history for his behaviour?

Does your partner control your use of alcohol or drugs (for example, by forcing your intake or by withholding substances)?


If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, this indicates that you may be experiencing domestic abuse

It is really important to remember that emotional abuse is never your fault, even though the person who is emotionally abusing you may be telling you that it is. It is not okay for someone to make you feel like you are useless. It may not feel like it but there are other people who will treat you with the respect you deserve, and who you can trust if you want to talk about what is happening. 

Things to Consider:

  • Know that you are not to blame for your partner’s abusive behavior.

  • Recognise 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.

  • Recognise that emotional abuse should be taken seriously.

  • Know that emotional abuse can escalate to physical violence.

  • Find people to talk to that can support you. Consider getting individual counseling from professionals who are trained about abusive relationships and will hold your partner responsible for the abuse you are experiencing.

  • Do not give up if community professionals are not helpful. Keep looking for someone that will listen to you and take emotional abuse seriously.

  • Trust yourself and your own experiences. Believe in your own strengths. Remember that you are your own best source of knowledge and strength.


Many survivors of emotional abuse in relationships state that the impact of the abuse is worse than any physical violence they experienced, however it was much more difficult to prove, to obtain protection, or even to get others to take them seriously.

If you think you are experiencing emotional, psychological or mental abuse please seek help – GET HELP NOW.

If you think you are abusing someone emotionally, psychologically or mentally, please seek help – ADVICE FOR PERPETRATORS.

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