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Emotional Abuse: Signs & Seeking Help

Emotional abuse can be difficult to recognize, as there are seldom outward signs of it. Emotional abuse often occurs within the home, and is characterized by fear and control, rather than physical violence. While it involves a myriad of behaviours, emotional abuse can simply be defined as an intimate relationship in which one party systematically controls the other. Both females and males can be the recipient, or the aggressor in an emotionally abusive relationship.

In many ways, emotional abuse can produce more harmful long-term effects than physical abuse. One reason is that physical abuse tends to occur in a cyclical fashion, and a violent outburst is often followed by a period of remorse, affection, and generosity. Emotional abuse, however, tends to build over time, and the adverse psychological effects compound.

Signs of emotional abuse may include a partner:

• Monitoring your actions constantly
• Unfairly accusing you of being unfaithful
• Preventing or discouraging you from seeing friends or family
• Trying to stop you from attending work or school
• Heightened anger, frustration, or resentment toward you
• Controlling your finances
• Humiliating you in front of others
• Threatening to hurt you or people you care about
• Threatening to harm himself or herself when upset with you
• Possessive behaviour, including saying things like, “If I can’t have you then no one can.”
• Deciding things for you that you should decide (like what to wear or eat)

Seeking counselling for emotional abuse

If you are concerned that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, psychological counselling can assist you. In some cases, a relationship can be repaired, by teaching both parties compassion and understanding. However, it is often necessary to leave an emotionally abusive relationship, and in these cases, psychological counselling is important in building self-confidence, so that the individual is not continually attracted to similar relationships. Contact Dalton Associates at 1.888.245.5516 to connect with the support you need.


Stosny, Steven, Ph.D. (December 17, 2008). Are You Dating an Abuser? Retrieved from:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office. Violence Against Women. Retrieved from:


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