How to identify the five signs of abusive or controlling behavior

Updated July 20, 2017

Sometimes it is difficult to identify controlling or abusive behaviour in a relationship. Sometimes, the behaviour can be mistaken for the person having a bad day or just their personalities. Read on to learn how to identify the five signs of abusive or controlling behaviour.

Look at the physical aspect of the relationship. Any behaviour that involves coercion through physical touching, grabbing, holding, slapping, kicking, pushing, punching or threatening with any type of weapon fits into the controlling or abusive category. There is never an excuse for using physical coercion or abuse, and it's never the victim's fault if the abuser decides to use such behaviour.

Look at the environmental aspect of the relationship. Examples of this are if things of value are broken or shattered, purposefully punching a wall, or hitting a table. These are actually tactics designed to intimidate.

Look at the verbal aspect of the relationship. This behaviour ranges anywhere from general put-downs to derogatory comments, name calling and verbal threats. It's purpose is to oppress and demean.

Look at the sexual aspect of the relationship. This behaviour varies on a continuum. The lower end involves the right to say no. Moving up the scale, it involves coercing someone to engage in sexual activity through verbal or behavioural means.

Look at the psychological aspect of the relationship. Permission is required to pursue goals. There is an isolation from family and friends, authority with children is undermined, opinions are discounted or ignored, and things of importance are devalued.


The above is a guideline to use when trying to discriminate the signs of abusive or controlling behaviour. If necessary, a mental health professional can help in understanding this more specifically.

Things You'll Need

  • An open mind to try to see behaviour in an objective manner
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