Abuse, in any form, is never okay, and it’s something no one should ever have to go through. Physical abuse is a very pressing social issue being dealt with all over the world today, but while there’s plenty of charities, organizations, and social services dedicated to combating and preventing it, very little attention is given to understanding and helping those who suffer from emotional abuse.
Defined as the continued and deliberate mistreatment of another person by means of psychological aggression, intimidation, coercion, control, and emotional manipulation, verbal/emotional abuse is one of the most rampant but also most overlooked forms of abuse. It’s elusive, misunderstood, and much more difficult to recognize, but the negative impact it can have on a person’s mental health and emotional well-being shouldn’t be taken lightly.
With that said, here are 7 serious ways emotional abuse can affect its victims:
1. Recovery often takes a lot of time
While abuse of any kind often takes years to get over, the emotional trauma that results from emotional abuse is felt by victims for much longer than any sort of physical pain. Physical pain disappears after it heals, but psychological scars often stay with you for life. It’s hard to forget the hurtful things someone says to you, especially if you once considered this person to be near and dear to your heart. They betrayed your trust by humiliating you and belittling you, and that kind of pain isn’t easy to move on from. In fact, sometimes even the mere memory of it is enough to make a person re-experience the hurt all over again.
2. People can’t understand what you’ve been through
Sad to say, a lot of people still fail to understand just how serious emotional abuse can be. Many remain ignorant of the ways it can negatively impact a person’s life, and people tend to be much less sympathetic towards emotional abuse victims than they are towards those who suffered from physical abuse. Emotional suffering is personal, and it’s not something other people can see on the surface, but physical abuse leaves marks. People are more likely to intervene and help you when you’re being physically threatened than they are when they see you being verbally and emotionally assaulted.
3. It gives you a negative outlook on life
If you’ve ever fallen victim to emotional abuse, especially from a young age, it can do a lot to shape the way you view the world and those around you. Oftentimes, those who suffer from it tend to form a negative perspective on life and struggle with constant feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and hopelessness as they get older. If you were ever ignored, rejected, abandoned, manipulated, or isolated in any way as a child or an adolescent, it’s going to leave you with a lot of emotional baggage, as well as a more cynical and pessimistic worldview.
4. It gives you a negative view of yourself
There’s no arguing that both physical and emotional abuse can have very damaging and dangerous effects on a person, but while the former often robs you of your sense of safety and security, the latter has a way of messing with your head and tearing down your self-esteem. Emotional abuse is traumatizing, and it tends to stay with you for a long time. It’s extremely detrimental to your sense of self-worth and self-confidence, and can even lead you to develop an inferiority complex. After all, it’s hard to feel good about yourself when you have someone in your life who constantly criticizes you and preys on all your insecurities.
5. It has long-term psychological effects
Aside from hurting your self-esteem and self-concept, emotional abuse also brings about a sense of constant fear, dread, and anxiety in its victims. It puts them at higher risk for depression and PTSD, as well as self-harm and suicidal behaviour. People who have been emotionally abused tend to have a hard time controlling their emotions, which could lead to anger management problems or emotional instability. They also have difficulty forming and maintaining close relationships with others and struggle with matters of intimacy and emotional security.
6. It puts you at risk for mental illness
Victims of emotional abuse aren’t likely to reach out to others and ask them for help because they often feel that it’s something to be ashamed of, dismissed, or dealt with on their own. But the longer the abuse goes on, the more likely they are to resort to maladaptive ways of coping with their psychological and emotional distress. This is why a lot of studies show that emotional abuse is a large, contributing factor to the development of substance abuse and eating disorders in most patients.
7. It puts you at risk of becoming an abuser yourself
Last, but most certainly not the least, being a victim of emotional and emotional abuse makes you more likely to become an abuser yourself. Because everyone else is so quick to dismiss emotional abuse and make it seem like it’s not really a big deal, you might be tempted to take your frustrations out on others or reclaim your sense of power by emotionally abusing someone else. Statistics show that majority of children who have been victims of abuse (be it, physical or verbal) grow up to become abusers too, later on in their lives.
Emotional and verbal abuse can erode our sense of self and drain our emotional energy. It makes it hard for us to connect and be intimate with others, and it steals a lot of our happiness and mental wellness the more we are exposed to it. If you are a victim of emotional abuse, break the cycle and reach out to a mental healthcare professional today to get the help you need.
- O’Hagan, K. P. (2014). Emotional and Psychological Abuse: Problems of Definition. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19 (4); 449-461.
- Teicher, M. P., Anderson, S. L. (2011). The Neurobiological Consequences of Early Stress and Childhood Maltreatment. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 27 (10); 33-44.
- Grey, K., & Wegner, D. M. (2008) The Sting of Intentional Pain. Journal of Psychological Science; 19 (12); 91-102.