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Emotional Abuse Explained.

Antakya Biennial Artist Network, 2010.

Antakya Biennial Artist Network, 2010.

“The major difference is that victims of coercive control also have to deal with the added horror that their torturer is their partner – someone they once trusted and welcomed into their life, and who has access to the victim’s most intimate details to utilize as ‘tools’ in their torture…”   *Think Tank; Strengthening the Law on Domestic Abuse Consultation– UK Home Office
In March 2013 the UK Government, and May 2018 the Irish Government extended the definition of domestic abuse to capture coercive and controlling behaviour, in recognition that non-violent abuse can be as damaging as physical violence.

For more information on the new law please follow links below.


What is Emotional Abuse?

Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, and verbal or physical assaults. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased.

Emotional abuse is like brainwashing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of “guidance,” “teaching,” or “advice,” the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones.

Covert emotional manipulation occurs when a person who wants to gain power and control over you uses deceptive and underhanded methods to change your thinking, behavior and perceptions. Emotional manipulation operates under the level of your conscious awareness. Emotional manipulation and abuse lures you in and holds you psychologically captive. Victims don’t realize what’s going on while it’s happening.

Types of Emotional Abuse

Click on the links on each trait for much more information about a particular trait or behavior and some ideas for coping with each. Shared from Out of FOG;  an information site and support group offering help to family members and loved-ones of people who suffer from personality disorders.

Abusive Cycle – This is the name for the ongoing rotation between destructive and constructive behavior, which is typical of many dysfunctional relationships.

Alienation – The act of cutting off or interfering with an individual’s relationships with others.

Anger – People who suffer from personality disorders often feel a sense of unresolved anger and a heightened or exaggerated perception that they have been wronged, invalidated, neglected or abused.

Baiting – A provocative act used to solicit an angry, aggressive or emotional response from another individual.

Blaming – The practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem.

Denial – Believing or imagining that some painful or traumatic circumstance, event or memory does not exist or did not happen.

Dissociation– Dissociation is a psychological term used to describe a mental departure from reality.

Emotional Blackmail – A system of threats and punishments used in an attempt to control someone’s behaviors.

Sense of Entitlement – An unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable living conditions and favorable treatment at the hands of others.

False Accusations – Patterns of unwarranted or exaggerated criticism directed towards someone else.

Frivolous Litigation – The use of unmerited legal proceedings to hurt, harass or gain an economic advantage over an individual.

Gaslighting – The practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that they are going insane or that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false. The term “Gaslighting” is based on the 1944 MGM movie “Gaslight”.


Grooming – Grooming is the predatory act of maneuvering another individual into a position that makes them more isolated, dependent, likely to trust, and more vulnerable to abusive behavior.

Hoovers & Hoovering – A Hoover is a metaphor taken from the popular brand of vacuum cleaners, to describe how an abuse victim trying to assert their own rights by leaving or limiting contact in a dysfunctional relationship, gets “sucked back in” when the perpetrator temporarily exhibits improved or desirable behavior.

Impulsiveness – The tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning.

Imposed Isolation – When abuse results in a person becoming isolated from their support network, including friends and family.

Intimidation – Any form of veiled, hidden, indirect or non-verbal threat.

Invalidation – The creation or promotion of an environment which encourages an individual to believe that their thoughts, beliefs, values or physical presence are inferior, flawed, problematic or worthless.

Lack of Conscience – Individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience.

Magical Thinking – Looking for supernatural connections between external events and one’s own thoughts, words and actions.

Narcissism – A set of behaviors characterized by a pattern of grandiosity, self-centered focus, need for admiration, self-serving attitude and a lack of empathy or consideration for others.

Normalizing – Normalizing is a tactic used to desensitize an individual to abusive, coercive or inappropriate behaviors. In essence, normalizing is the manipulation of another human being to get them to agree to, or accept something that is in conflict with the law, social norms or their own basic code of behavior.

Pathological Lying – Persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.

Proxy Recruitment – A way of controlling or abusing another person by manipulating other people into unwittingly backing “doing the dirty work”

Sabotage – The spontaneous disruption of calm or status quo in order to serve a personal interest, provoke a conflict or draw attention.

Selective Memory and Selective Amnesia – The use of memory, or a lack of memory, which is selective to the point of reinforcing a bias, belief or desired outcome.

Self-Aggrandizement – A pattern of pompous behavior, boasting, narcissism or competitiveness designed to create an appearance of superiority.

Testing – Repeatedly forcing another individual to demonstrate or prove their love or commitment to a relationship.

Thought Policing – A process of interrogation or attempt to control another individual’s thoughts or feelings.

Threats – Inappropriate, intentional warnings of destructive actions or consequences.

Triangulation – Gaining an advantage over perceived rivals by manipulating them into conflicts with each other.

Tunnel Vision – A tendency to focus on a single concern, while neglecting or ignoring other important priorities.


The aftermath of emotional rape is savage. The trauma is severe, and the victim should pursue psychological help. A lack of understanding by family and friends makes things even more difficult. No one unless they have experienced it or have studied this type of abuse realizes how severely traumatized the victim is.

*Sadly some victims of emotional and psychological abuse attempt suicide as a result of hopelessness, helplessness and belief that there is no way out. Victims have reported that during the relationship psychopaths have actually encouraged or suggested their victims to take their own lives or have indicated they would put them through so much turmoil that the only recourse would be suicide.   *From Aftermath; Surviving psychopath a website founded by professor of psychology and psycopathy researcher, David Kosson, Ph.D, to provide help as well as education to those whose lives have been impacted by psychopaths.

If you live in Ireland and need help check out link below.  If you don’t live in Ireland, google for your local emotional care services.

Day by Day Support Services – Ó Lá Go Lá is a Not for Profit Organisation  registered in Ireland which was set up to provide supervised support to help reduce Suicide, Depression and other Stress Related Illness to service users, who are in need of emotional support and encouragement.

More on Psychological, Emotional Abuse – After Posts

Meet The Author

**Please note I am not a psychologist.  The ‘After Posts’ content  is formed to support, not replace, medical or psychiatric treatment. If you suffered or are suffering psychological abuse and not coping; suffering sever anxiety; not sleeping; fearful; unsettled;  please seek qualified professional care. 

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