Signs of a Psychological Abuse

Signs of psychological and emotional abuse by people in close relationships can be difficult to detect at first. The abuser uses words to make the victim doubt herself and question her perception of the abusive person's behaviour. The abuser trivialises and dismisses the victim's feelings, desires, preferences, appearance, friendships and needs. Abusers often use psychological abuse to gratify their own desires and/or to control other people.

Abuser's Appearance

Abusers may present a good face to the world and may be well liked by other people. In the relationship, however, abusers have unpredictable and severe mood swings. These can be a sign that the relationship may be abusive.

Abuser Disrespect

An abuser disrespects her victim by ignoring his feelings and belittling him. The abuser may ridicule the victim's religion, beliefs, ethnic background or class, and then dismiss his feelings of humiliation by saying the comment was joke. The victim is told that he has no sense of humour and is too sensitive. The abuser may give the victim the silent treatment or walk away without responding to the victim. Other disrespectful behaviour includes harsh criticising, name-calling, yelling, and rolling her eyes. Abusers often twist a victim's words and turn what he says against him.

Loss of Self-Esteem

As a victim experiences constant emotional abuse, her self-esteem may start to erode. The victim takes responsibility for the dynamics of the relationship with the abuser. The victim thinks that no one can understand her "unique" situation, and blames the abuse on the abuser's current problems or troubled past, not on the abuser himself.


The victim becomes frightened, depressed and anxious. He isolates himself and depends on the abuser to create his self-image. Family and friends try to warn the victim that he is being abused, but he can't accept that because he feels that the abuser's welfare is in his hands. An abuser may force a victim who is unwell to go to a social event to keep up appearances, but be resistant when the victim wants to socialise with his friends and family.

Emotional Captivity

An abuser at times flatters and praises his victim to hold her emotionally captive to him. The abuser aims to make the victim feel that she is the only person in whom the abuser can confide and gain understanding. By making the victim feel needed, the abuser inflicts feelings of guilt or shame if the victim wants to escape the relationship.

Escalating Control

When a victim seems to want to end a relationship, the abuser may try to escalate control over the victim by threatening to hurt herself or commit suicide. The victim responds by feeling overwhelmingly responsible for her welfare, and feels he must give in to the abuser's demands.

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About the Author

Carola Finch began freelancing for newspapers and magazines in 1976. She specializes in writing about people with disabilities, business, Christianity and social issues. Finch studied journalism and communications at Red River Community College.