Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship
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Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Emotionally abusive relationships do not carry the outward physical signs that can be present in other abusive relationships. The detrimental effects can range from subtle to obvious. The victim in an emotionally abusive relationship will often make excuses for the abuser, so it’s not always easy to recognize when someone is emotionally abused. Learning to spot the signs of someone in an emotionally abusive relationship is the first step in helping that person escape the abuse.

Step 1

Be aware of any sudden personality changes when your friend or family member is near her relationship partner. When someone is in an emotionally abusive relationship, she will usually become withdrawn and quiet when in the presence of the abuser because of the intimidation factor.

Step 2

Recognize when someone consistently accepts blame for things that go wrong. Someone in an emotionally abusive relationship is quick to take the blame, as this is how she is expected to behave in the relationship.

Step 3

Feeling Trapped

Watch for an inability to make any decision independently. Someone in an emotionally abusive relationship will feel like she needs to ask permission to do anything, whether it’s staying away from home for any extra time or spending any amount of money.

Step 4

Ask questions about the reasons for any unusual absences from work or school. When a person gets emotionally abused, she might feel the need to take time off to collect herself emotionally after an episode of abuse, or to recover from physical injuries. Although the abused person will make excuses, you can get closer to the truth by asking detailed questions about the story.

Step 5

Identify personality changes that increase a friend or family member’s isolation. If she’s in an emotionally abusive relationship, she’ll feel forced to become increasingly isolated. She might not be able to have any time alone with friends or not be able to stay away from home past a certain time.

Step 6

Be alert for behavior that appears to be controlling. If her partner in a relationship displays overtly controlling behavior, it’s a sign of emotional abuse. While controlling behavior does not always mean there is abusive behavior, it is a sign that should be considered along with any other signs of abusive behavior.


  • Emotional abuse is extremely harmful and can leave deep and lasting psychological scars.
  • It is common for emotional abuse to lead to physical abuse.
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