About Abuse

Emotional Abuse

Updated: 
December 4, 2017

Abuse comes in many different forms. Even if there is no physical violence, abusive language can be very damaging to you and your children, and an abuser may use emotional abuse as a way to scare, isolate, and control you.  Common forms of emotional or psychological abuse are when your partner undermines your sense of self-worth by:

  • constantly criticizing you, your intelligence, your looks, your parenting abilities, etc.
  • calling you names, telling you that you are crazy, that no one wants you, making fun of you in front of others, etc.
  • damaging your relationship with your children by getting the children to participate in the abuse (e.g., telling your children to refer to you by a nasty name), criticizing your children or forcing you to do so, telling the children that you are worthless, that they should not listen to you, etc.
  • embarrassing you or humiliating you in front of others.*

Other forms of psychological abuse are when your partner causes you fear by intimidation, threatens to harm to himself/herself, abuses pets,** destroys property, makes you doubt or question your own view of reality (gaslighting), or causes you to be isolated from friends, family, school and/or work. 

Advocates who work with victims and survivors of domestic violence understand that these forms of emotional and psychological abuse can be just as damaging as physical and sexual abuse.  For ways to get help, you can go to our Emotional Abuse national resources or talk to an advocate or counselor at your local domestic violence organization, listed on our State and Local Programs page.

* National Domestic Violence Hotline, Abuse Defined page.
** The Animal Welfare Institute has information on their website about how abusers may use pet abuse as one of their intimidation tactics to gain or maintain power and control over the victim.