Dealing with Emotional Abuse: How to Stop Emotional Abuse
Dealing with emotional abuse is something that many men and women face in relationships. Whether it's a marriage, a friendship or even a work relationship, learning how to cope with emotional abuse can become a reality.
The first step in dealing with emotional abuse is learning to spot the signs. If you're not aware of the emotional abuse, you can't make it stop. The first sign of emotional abuse might be just something in the pit of the stomach, a vague feeling that something is "wrong." It's only by further assessing these feelings and the relationship that emotional abuse can be seen and stopped.
In short, in an emotionally abusive relationship one party will try to control and dominate the other party by using abusive techniques. There becomes a power imbalance in abusive relationships where the abuser has all the power and the victim feels that they have none. However, victims really do have the power in this situation to stop the emotional abuse, but it can be difficult.
Coping with Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse doesn't have to go unchallenged and coping with emotional abuse is more than just learning to "live with it." Emotional abusers are just like bullies on the playground and just like bullies, their abuse can be handled.
Use these techniques when coping with emotional abuse:1
- Understand the abuser – while it can seem counterintuitive to have compassion for the abuser, sometimes changing the way you view the abuser can give you insight into coping with the abuse. Often abusers are insecure, anxious or depressed and remembering that may help you to keep the abuse in its proper context – the abuse isn't about you, it's about them.
- Stand up to the abuser – just like the playground bully, emotional abusers don't like to be challenged and may back down if you challenge their abusive tactics.
- Find positive ways to interact with the abuser – if you can handle the abuser in a neutral way, you may be able to see the positive in the abuser and find new ways to interact with him or her that is positive. This is mostly seen in workplace environments.
- Change the subject or use humor to distract from the situation.
- Never support acts of emotional abuse of others.
How to Stop Emotional Abuse
Dealing with emotional abuse isn't always an option though, particularly in severe cases or in intimate relationships.
Abusers don't stop emotional abuse on their own and it is up to the victims and those around them to help stop the emotional abuse. Although a victim may feel "beaten up" by the emotional abuser and may feel like they are nothing without him or her, the victim still can still stand up to the abuser and assert their own power.
Stopping the emotional abuse takes courage. Use these techniques when stopping emotional abuse:
- Regain control of the situation by acting confident and looking the abuser in the eye.
- Speak in a calm, clear voice and state a reasonable expectation such as, "Stop teasing me. I want you to treat me with dignity and respect."
- Act out of rationality, with responses that will help the situation, and not out of emotion.
- Practice being more assertive in other situations, so you can be more assertive when being emotionally abused.
How to Stop Severe Emotional Abuse
In cases of severe emotional abuse, there may be no choice but to leave the relationship. Emotional abusers can only change so much as their behavior tends to be ingrained. If the abuser is not willing to change or get help for their abusive behavior, it is time for you to get your own help. No one deserves to be abused and help is available. Be sure to contact law enforcement if, at any time, you feel you or someone else is in danger.2
To stop severe emotional abuse:
- Remember you are not alone and that the abuse is not your fault
- Call a help-line http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/
- Go to Womanslaw.org to find state and national help: http://www.womenslaw.org/gethelp.php
- Contact a child and family welfare agency http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cse/extinf.html
- Talk to your doctor or other health professional
Read more information on: Emotional Abuse Help, Support and Recovery.
Last Updated: 26 May 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD