Signs of Emotional Abuse

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In the article, Signs of Emotional Abuse, Maria Bogdanos writes that “emotional abuse can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us.” Emotional abuse does take place in Christian families, and it is important that pastors and other pastoral caregivers know how to recognize the signs of emotional abuse.

Who is affected by emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse can take place:

  • between parent and child
  • between husband and wife
  • among relatives
  • between friends

Why do people emotionally abuse other individuals?

Bogdanos explains, “The abuser projects their words, attitudes or actions onto an unsuspecting victim usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others.”

The article suggests a number of questions to ask if emotional abuse is suspected. The questions prepared by Bogdanos relate to the following categories of abusive behaviors:

  • Humiliation, degradation, discounting, negating, judging, criticizing
  • Domination, control, and shame
  • Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings
  • Emotional distancing and the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect
  • Codependence and enmeshment

Read Signs of Emotional Abuse to review the complete list of questions.

Power and control play a big part in emotional abuse.  An emotional abuser intentionally and repeatedly threatens or says harsh words to wear another person down. Once worn down, the victim will try to avoid hearing the threats or nasty words again by doing what the abuser asks. The result of emotional abuse is gaining power and control over another person.

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