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Types of Emotional Abuse

Abusive Expectations

The other person places unreasonable demands on you and wants you to put everything else aside to tend to their needs. It could be a demand for constant attention, or a requirement that you spend all your free time with the person. But no matter how much you give, it's never enough. You are subjected to constant criticism, and you are constantly berated because you don't fulfill all this person's needs.

Aggressing

Aggressive forms of abuse include name-calling, accusing, blaming, threatening, and ordering. Aggressing behaviors are generally direct and obvious. The one-up position the abuser assumes by attempting to judge or invalidate the recipient undermines the equality and autonomy that are essential to healthy adult relationships. This parent-child pattern of communication (which is common to all forms of verbal abuse) is most obvious when the abuser takes an aggressive stance.

Aggressive abuse can also take a more indirect form and may even be disguised and "helping." Criticizing, advising, offering solutions, analyzing, proving, and questioning another person may be a sincere attempt to help. In some instances however, these behaviors may be an attempt to belittle, control, or demean rather than help. The underlying judgmental "I know best" tone the abuser takes in these situations is inappropriate and creates unequal footing in peer relationships. This and other types of emotional abuse can lead to what is known as learned helplessness.

Constant Chaos

The other person may deliberately start arguments and be in constant conflict with others. The person may be "addicted to drama" since it creates excitement.

Denying

Denying a person's emotional needs, especially when they feel that need the most, and done with the intent of hurting, punishing or humiliating (Examples) The other person may deny that certain events occurred or that certain things were said. confronts the abuser about an incident of name calling, the abuser may insist, "I never said that," "I don't know what you're talking about," etc. You know differently.

The other person may deny your perceptions, memory and very sanity. Withholding is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusing to listen, refusing to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. This is sometimes called the "silent treatment." When the abuser disallows and overrules any viewpoints, perceptions or feelings which differ from their own.

Denying can be particularly damaging. In addition to lowering self-esteem and creating conflict, the invalidation of reality, feelings, and experiences can eventually lead you to question and mistrust your own perceptions and emotional experience. Denying and other forms of emotional abuse can cause you to lose confidence in your most valuable survival tool: your own mind.

Dominating

Someone wants to control your every action. They have to have their own way, and will resort to threats to get it. When you allow someone else to dominate you, you can lose respect for yourself.

Emotional Blackmail

The other person plays on your fear, guilt, compassion, values, or other "hot buttons" to get what they want. This could include threats to end the relationship, totally reject or abandon you, giving you the the "cold shoulder," or using other fear tactics to control you.

Invalidation

The abuser seeks to distort or undermine the recipient's perceptions of their world. Invalidating occurs when the abuser refuses or fails to acknowledge reality. For example, if the recipient tells the person they felt hurt by something the abuser did or said, the abuser might say "You are too sensitive. That shouldn't hurt you." Here is a much more complete description of invalidation

Minimizing

Minimizing is a less extreme form of denial. When minimizing, the abuser may not deny that a particular event occurred, but they question the recipient's emotional experience or reaction to an event. Statements such as "You're too sensitive," "You're exaggerating," or "You're blowing this out of proportion" all suggest that the recipient's emotions and perceptions are faulty and not be trusted.

Trivializing, which occurs when the abuser suggests that what you have done or communicated is inconsequential or unimportant, is a more subtle form of minimizing.

Unpredictable Responses

Drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts. Whenever someone in your life reacts very differently at different times to the same behavior from you, tells you one thing one day and the opposite the next, or likes something you do one day and hates it the next, you are being abused with unpredictable responses.


This behavior is damaging because it puts you always on edge. You're always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you can never know what's expected of you. You must remain hypervigilant, waiting for the other person's next outburst or change of mood.

An alcoholic or drug abuser is likely to act this way. Living with someone like this is tremendously demanding and anxiety provoking, causing the abused person to feel constantly frightened, unsettled and off balance.

Verbal Assaults

Berating, belittling, criticizing, name calling, screaming, threatening

Excessive blaming, and using sarcasm and humiliation.

Blowing your flaws out of proportion and making fun of you in front of others. Over time, this type of abuse erodes your sense of self confidence and self-worth.