In their first relationships, most teenagers experience infatuation, which can be a more consuming feeling than love. This infatuation could leave youths more susceptible to being victims of emotional abuse. In this article, we discuss the signs and effects of emotional abuse, and how to begin healing after leaving such a relationship.
What is emotional abuse?
When most people think of abuse, the first thing that comes to mind is likely physical abuse – something that leaves visible marks. Yet, not often discussed is emotional abuse, which leaves invisible scars that are just as damaging.
Emotional abuse is a form of mistreatment where the abuser causes their partner emotional or mental harm. Often, the intent of the abuser is to gain power and control by criticising, shaming or manipulating their partner.
Signs and effects of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is one of the most challenging forms of abuse to recognise. While they do not physically cause any harm to the victim, they are just as serious as they can be incredibly traumatising.
Some of the signs that could point to emotional abuse include:
- Shaming, humiliating or criticising the victim (for example, talking down to the victim or making jokes at the victim’s expense)
- Isolating the victim from their loved ones or friends
- Controlling and monitoring aspects of the victim’s life (for example, their whereabouts, what they wear, who they are interacting with on social media and who they spend time with)
- The abuser making threats to get what they want
- The abuser giving the victim the silent treatment until they get what they want
- Gaslighting — a form of manipulation where the abuser misleads the victim, causing them to question their own judgment and reality. This could be in the form of suggesting that the victim’s perceptions are wrong by saying things like “you are exaggerating”
- Accusing or blaming the victim for their abusive behaviour (which could result in the victim feeling guilty)
- The victim is often walking on eggshells around the abuser, due to the fear of triggering or provoking the abuser unintentionally and suffering dire consequences of the abuse
- Some victims may manifest physical symptoms such as headaches, body aches, eczema and more
Experiencing these behaviours repeatedly over time will instil self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness in a victim. Especially in teen relationships, emotional abuse can lead to serious consequences that will impact the victim’s mental well-being and day-to-day life in the long run. Some of the short-term effects of emotional abuse may include fear, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and more. On the other hand, prolonged exposure to emotionally damaging behaviours may lead to more serious effects such as anxiety, depression, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Breaking the cycle of abuse
Ending the cycle of abuse can be challenging, especially for victims of emotional abuse. However, that is not to say that it cannot be done. The first and most crucial step to breaking the cycle is to recognise and acknowledge that there is abuse in the relationship. Once you recognise that the cheerful “honeymoon” periods are just an act to help the abuser gain power and control over you, you can begin to pull away and break free from the relationship with the help and support of your loved ones.
Healing from emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is a type of trauma that can affect a victim even after they have broken free from the relationship. Counselling and therapy are effective ways to help a victim process the traumatic emotional abuse and begin their process of healing.
At Emotional Wellness, we provide professional counselling in Singapore. Our experienced psychotherapist has over 15 years of experience under her belt in various therapy services, which include youth counselling, relationship counselling, counselling for low confidence and more. Through integrative counselling and psychotherapy techniques such as schema therapy, gestalt therapy, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) and more, we can help you acknowledge the abuse, rebuild your sense of self, learn how to love yourself and recognise healthy relationships.
Schedule an appointment with us today and allow us to help you in your journey to healing from emotional abuse.