Symptoms of Emotional Abuse: Symptoms of Emotional Abuse


"I feel depressed, but my boyfriend/husband doesn't seem to care, and won't help me with it.
Is it possible that my depression is being caused by my relationship?"

Symptoms of
Emotional Abuse


Many women assume that if they're not being physically abused by their partner, then they're not being abused.  That's not necessarily true.   You may be in a relationship which is draining something from you -- you might not have recognized that your partner has eroded your self-esteem and happiness.



An abusive partner will railroad discussions, so that you don't have time to think about what's right and what's wrong in their behavior.

Take a moment to consider these questions.  Your partner might have behaved as though these things were okay, even though it's obvious that they aren't okay...:

Do you feel that you can't discuss with your partner what is bothering you?

Does your partner frequently criticize you, humiliate you, or undermine your self-esteem?

Does your partner ridicule you for expressing yourself?

Does your partner isolate you from friends, family or groups?

Does your partner limit your access to work, money or material resources? 

Has your partner ever stolen from you?  Or run up debts for you to handle? 

Does your relationship swing back and forth between a lot of emotional distance and being very close? 

Have you ever felt obligated to have sex, just to avoid an argument about it?

Do you sometimes feel trapped in the relationship?

Has your partner ever thrown away your belongings, destroyed objects or threatened pets?

Are you afraid of your partner?



One aspect of emotional abuse is that it eventually brainwashes the victim.


1. The brainwasher keeps the victim unaware of what is going on and what changes are taking place.

Your partner might control your finances, make plans for you, or not tell you what his plans are until the last minute.  He may talk about you to others behind your back, to isolate you from them.

2. The brainwasher controls the victim's time and physical environment, and works to suppress much of the victim's old behavior.  The victim is slowly, or abruptly, isolated from all supportive persons except the brainwasher.

Your partner might have insisted that you stop certain social, hobby, or work activities.  You might have gotten moved to a new location, farther away from your family and friends.  Or you may have been asked (or told) to reduce or stop contact with specific supportive people in your life.

3. The brainwasher creates in the victim a sense of powerlessness, fear, and dependency.

Verbal and emotional abuse creates these emotions, and they become stronger and stronger over time.

4. The brainwasher works to instill new behavior and attitudes in the victim.

Your partner trains to you behave in ways that he wants you to behave.  He gradually makes you feel differently about yourself, and erodes your confidence in yourself.

5. The brainwasher puts forth a closed system of logic, and allows no real input or criticism.

In other words -- What he says, goes.



arrowright.GIF (601 bytes) Phase 1 - TENSION BUILDING:
Tension increases, breakdown of communication, victim feels need to placate the abuser.
arrowdown.GIF (574 bytes)
Phase 4 - CALM:
Incident is "forgotten", no abuse is taking place.
Cycle of Abuse Phase 2 - INCIDENT:
Verbal and emotional abuse.  Anger, blaming, arguing.  Threats.  Intimidation.
arrowup.GIF (560 bytes) Phase 3 - RECONCILIATION:
Abuser apologizes, gives excuses, blames the victim, denies the abuse occurred, or says it wasn't as bad as the victim claims.
arrowleft.GIF (597 bytes)

The original three-phase Cycle of Violence theory was developed by Dr. Lenore Walker
The fourth phase was added by unknown persons in shelter handouts, pamphlets etc.


To consider whether your partner emotionally abuses you, look at the information available on physical abusers.  The patterns are similar:


* He was verbally abused as a child, or witnessed it in his own family.

* He has an explosive temper, triggered by minor frustrations and arguments.

* Abusers are extremely possessive and jealous.  They experience an intense desire to control their mates.

* His sense of masculinity depends on the woman's dependency upon him.  He feels like a man only if his partner is totally submissive and dependent on him.

* Abusers often have superficial relationships with other people.   Their primary, if not exclusive, relationship is with their wife/girlfriend.

* He has low self-esteem.

* He has rigid expectations of marriage (or partnership) and will not compromise.  He expects her to behave according to his expectations of what a wife should be like; often the way his parents' marriage was, or its opposite.  He demands that she change to accommodate his expectations.

* He has a great capacity for self-deception.  He projects the blame for his relationship difficulties onto his partner.  He would not be drunk if she didn't nag him so much.  He wouldn't get angry if only she would do what she's supposed to do.  He denies the need for counseling because there's nothing wrong with him.  Or he agrees to get counseling and then avoids it or makes excuses to not follow through.  He might not want her to get counseling because, he reasons, she wouldn't have any problems if she only turned to him.

* He may be described as having a dual personality -- he is either charming or exceptionally cruel.  He is selfish or generous depending on his mood.

* A major characteristic of abusers is their capacity to deceive others.  He can be cool, calm, charming and convincing:  a con man.

* The mate is usually a symbol.  The abuser doesn't relate to his partner as a person in her own right, but as a symbol of a significant other.   This is especially true when he's angry.  He assumes that she is thinking, feeling, or acting like that significant other -- often his mother.



Isolation from others - Low self-esteem - Depression - Emotional problems - Illness - Increased alcohol or drug use - Withdrawal from real life into an Internet alternative reality



If you suspect that your depression is being caused by, or intensified by, your relationship -- get help.  Visit our LINKS PAGE.

Websites, Resources, Books & Help


Letters about Emotional Abuse



New site by Lilac Lane:

about obsessed ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends, ex-wives, etc.



Male Victims - please click here



contact Lorelei

I've seen variations of the below text on MySpace.  It wasn't written specifically about this problem, but it struck me as a fairly accurate description of how impossible it is to interact with an emotional abuser.  (Damned if you do, damned if you don't.)

If you argue with him, he says you're stubborn.
If you're quiet, he argues with you anyway.
If you call him, he says you're needy and clingy.
If he calls you, he thinks you should be grateful.
If you don't act like you love him, he'll try to win you over.
If you tell him you love him, he takes advantage of you.
If  you dress sexy, he says you're a slut.
If you don't dress nice, he says you look bad.
When you don't sleep with him, he says you don't love him.
If you do sleep with him, he only does it the way he likes it.
If you tell him your problems, he says you're bothering him,
If you don't, he says you don't trust him.
If you try to bring up a problem, he says you're bitching.
If he brings up a problem, he yells.
If you break a promise, you "can't be trusted".
If he breaks it, it's because "he had to".
If you cheat, he wants to punish you by locking you up or beating you.
If he cheats, he expects to be given another chance.