5 Subtle Signs of Emotional Abuse You Might Be Missing

Domestic abuse is unfortunately widespread. Over 3 million cases are reported each year in the US alone, with millions more suspected of going unreported, or even unnoticed. Verbal abuse is the most common form of maltreatment, but it also one of the least recognized because it is insidious and subtle. While lying, blaming, threatening, judging, criticizing, name-calling, ordering, and raging are easy to identify, there are other, less overt, forms that are more difficult to recognize, but still just as damaging. 


Blocking is a diversion tactic. The abuser switches topics or blames you to divert your attention from your concerns, often leaving you feeling disoriented and betrayed. Often the words used here can be summed up by the phrase “Shut up!” 

2.Interrupting and Undermining  

Finishing one another’s sentences is often seen as a romantic sentiment, but when an abuser does it, it’s to cut you down or to presume to know your feelings or statements. When abuser repeatedly uses this tactic, it can leave you feeling frustrated and questioning your self-worth. Most of the time, this tactic takes the form of interrupting aggressively or turning your own words (presumed or stated) against you. 


Instead of treating you as a partner or an equal, the abuser treats you as an adversary, turning your own words against you as if they were ammunition. Often, your beliefs, perceptions, opinions, or morals will be questioned or attacked, making positive and constructive conversation impossible. When you give up out of frustration, the abuser will insist that he or she “won” the argument, as if your concerns were part of a competition. 

4.Discounting and Belittling  

With this form of verbal abuse, the abuser makes you feel like your opinions are worthless or wrong. This scorn causes you to shut down, question your stance, or even your self-worth. 

5.Denying and Gas-Lighting  

Abusers often deny promises they made or events that happened, including abuse, which can make you question your memory and sanity. It is manipulative and maddening. They often combine contradiction with victim-blaming, which only increases the damage. 

Abuse in any form is damaging. Many of the above behaviors start slowly and progress over time, so the victim doesn’t realize how unlivable their situation is until the abuse reaches a dangerous (and often violent) point. If you, or a loved one, recognize any of the above behaviors, even if it is just occasionally, then make sure that you and your family are safe, and then seek further advice from a counselor. 

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