Detecting Silent Emotional Abuse

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Detecting Silent Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is often do in a verbal way but the effect s of it are similar to physical abuse. / Photo by: Oleg Golovnev via Shutterstock


Emotional abuse often implies shouting, name calling and humiliating a person. It is associated with the abuser verbally attacking someone with a powerful voice that could be heard by everyone. This typical way of verbal abuse can often be easily identified.

However, there is a type of emotional abuse that is more concealed. It can be difficult to recognize since it does not look like abuse, especially since the abuser may be inclined to mask their attack with humor. As a result, it can be hard to call them out on it because the emotional offense was done in the form of a joke and if they react to it defensively, they risk being accused of being too sensitive. This is an illustration of silent emotional abuse.

Although emotional abuse is often found in romantic relationships, it can also occur among friends, family members and even in the workplace. According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), one out of 14 children in the U.K. have experienced emotional abuse.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Lonerwolf states that emotional abuse can also be called psychological or mental abuse. The goal of emotional abuse is to criticize, manipulate, exclude and embarrass the person so that they would submit to the abuser. Emotional abuse happens gradually and after some time. As a result, the victim’s sense of self-worth, self-confidence, ideas about themselves and perceptions slowly crumble.

Emotional abusers are characterized as being passive, subtle and quiet. They make it appear as if they are simply teaching, guiding, correcting or advising the victim. In effect, this can be disregarded and the abuse may last for several years.

Signs of Silent Emotional Abuse lists the signs that a person being silently emotionally abusive. These are the indicators:

1. Controlling behavior

This type of behavior involves the silent emotional abuser exercising control over a person’s possessions and aspects of their life such as access to their devices, time they can interact with their friends, constantly asking them about their daily tasks and examining their calls and social media.


2. Name calling and labelling

One of the most common practiced emotional abuse was name calling or name dropping. / Photo by: Phovoir via Shutterstock


In silent emotional abuse, name calling and labelling is done through a more indirect means. They may use degrading phrases that start with referring to their perceived weakness. For instance, the abuser may mention that a person is too stupid or too irresponsible to be able to do anything effectively.


3. Damaging a person’s self-esteem

In connection to name calling and labelling, the silent emotional abuser may blatantly ignore the individual’s positive traits, their efforts and their contributions. They will be quick to emphasize a person’s imperfections and downplaying their accomplishments. This may cause the victim to doubt their worth as an individual and their function in the society.


4. Manipulative affection

The abuser may use physical or emotional affection to a person in order to make them behave in a certain way or to obtain what they want from them.


5. Punitive behavior

A silent emotional abuser may punish a person for exhibiting a kind of behavior which they deem undesirable. They may do this by giving the victim the silent treatment, withholding affection or insulting them.

What are the Effects of Silent Emotional Abuse?

People who are subject to emotional abuse can have negative views of life. / Photo by: pathdoc via Shutterstock


Being subject to silent emotional abuse can have devastating effects on a person’s self-esteem and other parts of their life. Due to the fact that effects of emotional abuse are usually unnoticeable, they may not even know that they are affected by it. This may also be because the abuser has led them to believe that they are doing this, the subtle way of abusing, for their own good.

These are the effects of silent emotional abuse:

Decreases a person’s self-worth

Over time, because a victim may been constantly told that they are not competent, always wrong and stupid, they may come to believe that they really are that way, especially since those words comes from someone whom they think loves them.

It is easier to hide silent emotional abuse than physical abuse because unlike the latter, it does not show observable signs like bleeding or broken bones.

Constant self-doubt

Individuals who are experiencing silent emotional abuse may start to doubt themselves. They have the feeling that others do not feel they are worthy. They may often express statements that belittle themselves such as saying they are not good at something or that nobody would appreciate their presence at an event. They may try to avoid being part of activities because they have the belief that they might just ruin it or that no one would want them to be part of it.

Being too careful around the abuser

The victims will try their very best not to displease their abuser. They may attempt to prevent anything or anyone that may provoke the abuser to engage in abusive behavior. They may also stop others from trying to point out those behaviors done by the abuser in fear that they might get angry at them.

Looking for permission before speaking or answering

The result of habitually being controlled by a silent emotional abuser is that the individuals begins to lose their sense of independence. This makes them afraid giving suggestions, replying to questions or interacting with others without the permission of the abuser. They may appear reluctant and glance at their abuser as a sign that they would like to be permitted to speak.


The victim’s low sense of self-esteem may cause them to withdraw from others since they have reached the conclusion that no one wants them to be there, that they have no talents or special skills or that their abuser would just be disappointed in them.


How Can One Stop It?

Fortunately, more psychology experts are starting to acknowledge the existence of silent emotional abuse, Your Tango says. Since it is a form of emotional abuse that is not obvious, other people, including therapists, may find victims who try to share their experience hard to believe. In some cases, they may shamed, ignored or told to just get over it. Recently, the awareness and knowledge about silent emotional abuse is spreading with the aim inform others that abuse does not necessarily mean hitting or shouting.

If an individual has been experiencing silent emotional abuse, they are advised to get help from counselors, local organizations or their national victim abuse hotline. They need to be able to  take care of their mental and physical health by getting a support network that will aid them in properly creating their own personal boundaries. As a product of this, they will gain the strength to get out of the relationship and protect themselves.



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