Emotional Abuse: What are the effects

Author: Giselle Robel Giselle Robel
Category: Health

Emotional Abuse a deeper look

Emotional abuse is one of the most serious forms of abuse that may come before, during, or after periods of physical abuse. It is never the fault of the person being abused.

It can have several long- and short-term effects. And these might be physical like; racing heart and tremors, psychological (anxiety and guilt), or both.

For more information, keep reading to know what are the different types of emotional abuse, its short- and long-term effects, and some tips for healing and recovery. and on this article, we will also discuss how to seek help.

Types of emotional abuse

People may be subjected to emotional abuse from different people throughout their life. And there are several potential sources. This includes the following:

  • parents
  • romantic partners
  • friends
  • colleagues

Parental emotional abuse

Emotional abuse on child

People of all ages may encounter emotional abuse, including children. Contrary to what some people believe, a relative or close family friend is more likely to abuse a child than a stranger.

According to HelpGuide, some signs of emotional abuse toward children include the following:

-yelling, threatening a child, or saying curse words

  • shaming, belittling, or humiliating a child
  • telling a child that they are worthless, a mistake, or a bad kid
  • giving a child the silent treatment as punishment
  • limiting showing of affection
  • exposing a child to violence against others
  • calling a child names
  • negatively comparing a child with others

Relationship emotional abuse

In romantic relationships, emotionally abusive people may not be physically or sexually abusive in the beginning. However, emotional abuse can lead to physical abuse if the relationship continues down an unhealthy path.

emotional abuse can lead to physical abuse

It can be in the form of name-calling, demeaning, or any behavior that makes a person feel belittled or worthless. In some cases, a person may start to believe that they are ugly or unwanted, or that they cannot do better than the person they are with if emotional abuse is continuous.


Marriage does not give anyone the right to abuse their partner physically, sexually, emotionally, or in any other way. The signs of emotional abuse within a marriage are similar to those of emotional abuse within a nonmarital relationship.

Emotional abuse within a marriage may make a person feel as though they are not worthy or do not deserve better. It can also lead them toward other unhealthful thoughts or even suicide.

In the workplace

Emotional abuse at work often goes sometimes go unnoticed. However, it can occur in several different forms, from intimidation and deceit to shaming someone or making them feel guilty.

It could also manifest as a person being led to build false hopes and not having a colleague or manager to listen to their concerns.

Being subjected to it in the workplace may result in unfinished tasks. However, more importantly, it can have deeper emotional effects on a person's self-esteem and self-worth.

Recognizing the signs of emotional abuse

A person can and should look out for several signs of emotional abuse. Here are some signs within a romantic or marital relationship to watch for include:

  • using weapons as a means of threatening
  • withholding affection as a punishment
  • name calling, insulting, and continuous criticism
  • trapping a partner at home or preventing them from leaving
  • threatening to hurt children, pets, or other members of a partner's family
  • demanding to know where a partner is every minute
  • refusing trust, such as by acting jealously or possessively-trying to isolate a partner from their family or friends
  • destruction of a partner's property
  • gaslighting, or making a partner believe lies
  • monitoring where a partner goes, who they call, and who they spend time with-humiliating a partner
  • making accusations of cheating
  • jealousy of outside relationships
  • serially cheating on a partner and then blaming them for the behavior
  • attempting to control a partner's appearance
  • cheating to prove that they are more desirable than a partner
  • telling a partner that they are lucky to be with them
  • telling a partner that they will not find anyone better

If a person sees any of these signs within their relationship, they should seek help as soon as possible and should always be ready to act on it.

And also, if a person suspects that a friend or family member is experiencing emotional abuse, they should immediately report or consult a healthcare professional for advice or ask for help.

Short-term effects on the brain and body

Emotional abuse can be difficult for the person on the receiving end to accept that he or she is being subjected to it. At first, they may be in denial that the person they are in a relationship with is having emotionally abusive behavior. For example, they are feeling:

  • At first, shame
  • Secondly, hopelessness
  • Thirdly is fear
  • And lastly, confusion

As they deal with the emotional effects of this, they may also start to feel some physiological effects of the abuse. Such as:

  • moodiness-aches and pains
  • difficulty concentrating
  • muscle tension

However, the longer the emotional abuse occurs, the more prolonged these effects can become.

Long-term effects on brain and body

Emotional abuse, like physical abuse, can have long-term effects on the brain and body. In fact, according to one study severe emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse and contribute to depression and low self-esteem.

The study also suggested that emotional abuse may contribute to the development of chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

In addition, a person may experience:

  • insomnia
  • chronic pain
  • social withdrawal or loneliness
  • guilt
  • anxiety
  • eventual feelings that their partner or parent is correct, and that they are no good or ugly, for example

Children experiencing emotional abuse may develop effects such as:

  • a core feeling of worthlessness
  • difficulty regulating emotions
  • difficulty establishing trust
  • regression
  • sleep disorders
  • trouble developing relationships with others

Effects on personal relationships

A person who experiences emotional abuse, either as a child or within a relationship, may be less likely to trust people in the future.

For example, as they grow old, children might seek negative relationships that may continue to expose them to emotional abuse.

In addition to that, a person who went through emotional abuse within a relationship may have trouble getting close to others in the future.

Risk factors

As a child grows into adulthood, they might develop additional effects to those of the emotional abuse they experienced.

According to some research, children who undergo emotional abuse have a higher possibility to develop bad behavior and may choose poor relationships over healthy ones. They may also be more likely to experience emotional abuse again in their adult life.

There are also some long-term medical issues that can affect people subjected to emotional abuse. These include:

  • headaches
  • eating disorders
  • obesity-substance use disorders

In some cases, emotional abuse may lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A person who survives emotional abuse may not develop PTSD, but if they do, they may experience symptoms such as:

  • negative thoughts
  • angry outbursts
  • insomnia
  • nightmares

They may also be easily startled.

Seeking help

There are a lot of available support networks a person could lean on. However, it is important to remember that everyone moves at their own pace. Some people may not feel ready to seek help at any given point.

Some may ask for help from people they trust the most or feel comfortable with. Even without the intervention of a professional, seeking advice from trusted family members or friends. For children, a trusted teacher or school counselor may be able to help.

Additionally, people who are ready to take the next step can reach out to support organizations. For example, the Domestic Abuse Hotline is available 24/7 to provide help for those experiencing emotional and other types of abuse.

There may also be other local organizations available in a person's community, such as a place of worship or a community center.

Moreover, some people exposed to emotional abuse may need to speak to a professional psychologist or counselor. These professionals can help people deal with feelings of worthlessness often associated with emotional abuse.

Tips for healing and recovery

It is important for a person who is currently experiencing or who has ever experienced it, to know that the abuse is never their fault.

In some cases, a partner may even be using emotional abuse to prevent the person from leaving or seeking help.

Some tips for healing and recovery include:

  • getting adequate rest
  • eating a balanced diet
  • becoming more physically active
  • reaching out for help from family members, friends, or a health professional
  • reaching out socially to others, such as friends or coworkers
  • volunteering


It is never the fault of the person experiencing it. It can cause both long- term and short-term consequences for people subjected to it.

Children who have been subjected to emotional abuse may continue to feel its effects into adulthood. These effects could include extremely low self-esteem, seeking bad relationships, and other physical or mental effects.

There are resources available for people who experience seeking help.

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