Emotional abuse can cause developmental trauma and PTSD
Emotional abuse can be as debilitating and damaging as physical or sexual abuse. However, emotional abuse rarely features as part of the picture.
One of the reasons why emotional abuse is often ignored is because of its nature. Many people do not realise that they are being emotionally abused. As a matter of fact, emotional abuse is part of our everyday life and we do it to each other all the time. Hence, it has been normalized.
What is emotional abuse then?
#Emotional abuse occurs when a person (intentionally or not, consciously or unconsciously) engages in behaviours that insults, threatens, invalidates, manipulates, rejects, blames, neglects, isolates, degrades, punishes, judges, humiliates or exerts control over other human being. The responses to emotional abuse include fear, shame and guilt. The person who is being subjected to the abuse may spend a long time thinking whether the other person´s behaviour is “normal”, they may even blame themselves because they are too “sensitive”. On the other hand, they may try to put themselves in the other person´s shoes to try to understand where they are coming from. In the end, the person who is receiving the abuse alters their behaviours, likes and believes in order to avoid being rejected or abandoned.
Emotional abuse can be extremely subtle as most behaviours taken on their own are not abusive. The problem arises when these behaviours are used in a systematic way with the intention to change the way others respond. Some examples may be: putting you down, calling names, accusing you of being mentally ill or too “sensitive”, cutting you off your friends and family, using threats, damaging property in outbursts of violence, making you feel unsettled or wary.
People who are abusive can also be expert manipulators who denied any responsibility for their actions. They may make you believe that you are the one to blame because you are …..fill in the blank. People who use abusive behaviours tend not to respect boundaries, which makes leaving the relationship very difficult. When you try to leave, they will appear full of regrets, promises, admissions of responsibility for aspects that do not work in the relationship, kindness and charm. Once you agree to return, the charm and kindness may remain for a short lived period and things go back to the same. It is an exhausting process which will provoke a traumatic response in people.
If you would like to know more about this issue, we offer a course on Complex Trauma.and abuse