Last week I categorized abuse into three areas: emotional, physical, and economic abuse.
This week I’d like to discuss emotional abuse and the forms it can take.
Verbal, mental, spiritual, and psychological abuse often fall under the umbrella of emotional abuse. These types of abuse are very damaging to the psyche and often are said to have longer term damage than physical abuse. Emotional abuse is thought of as a spectrum from very mild to extreme. Usually emotional abuse continues to get worse because the abuser obtains their goal of control and power.
Verbal abuse is characterized by an abuser’s explosive nature toward the victim. The victim often does not understand what sets off the abuser. Yelling, put downs, and arguing until the abuser ‘wins’ or the victim gives in are some examples. Uncontrolled anger and threats are also characteristics of verbal abuse.
Mental abuse covers many areas with the end result leading to the victim feeling belittled and lacking self-esteem. The abuser works to control the victim through blaming, withholding, judging, extreme jealousy, and forgetting or denying conversations ever took place, just to name a few examples.
Spiritual abuse is seen when an abuser uses religion to keep the victim in the relationship and controlled. Feeling ‘guilted’ to stay in a marriage because of the marital vows is a common example of spiritual abuse. The abuser distorts Biblical Scripture to try to prove that the relationship should be continued, when it’s apparent that it shouldn’t.
Psychological abuse is often called ‘gaslighting’. Gaslighting happens when the abuser repeatedly denies the truth and makes a concerted effort to have the victim doubt their observations and instincts. This makes victims doubt themselves which leads to uncertainty in all elements of their lives. Please read about gaslighting in greater detail in a previous blog. Click here to access it.
I hope this breakdown of the different types of emotional abuse will help you to understand this difficult issue.
Remember, if we can help just one victim, we’ve done our job!
I have used various sources to learn about emotional abuse, including www.loveisrespect.org. The books I used are as follows:
Caroline Abbott with Debbie Stafford, A Journey through Emotional Abuse: from Bondage to Freedom (Franklin, TN: Carpenter’s Sons Publishing, 2013).
Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (New York, NY: Berkley Books, 2002).
Patricia Evans, The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond (Holbrook, MA: Adams Media Corporation, 1996).