Emotional abuse

By Tin Bartolome

Posted at Jun 12 2015 02:38 PM | Updated as of Jun 12 2015 10:38 PM

This is perhaps the most insidious—and one of the most difficult to detect. Sometimes, neither abuser nor abused is aware that it is happening. Emotional abuse can be anything and everything between neglect and bullying. It can happen to any relationship—between spouses, parents and children, etc. And anyone can be a perpetrator—male or female.

What it is

“Emotional abuse is the use of anger to permanently and systematically control, humiliate, and break the spirit of another person—man, woman, or child.” http://www.gosmartlife.com/emotional-abuse-test

According to the site, it is characterized by intent of behavior, power disparity, escalation, duration and repetition and its forms include tyranny, dictatorship, harsh judgment, not caring for others, insensitivity, selfishness, lack of accountability, rejecting and excessive autonomy.

Signs and symptoms

There are many sites—healthcentral.com, liveboldandbloom.com, psychcentral.com, yourtango.com, lilaclane.com, drphil.com, etc., that define it and list signs and symptoms. Some lists have 21 signs, others have only 10, and one has 30! Indeed, it is surprising that those involved may not be aware that it is happening.

Humiliating or embarrassing you, constant put-downs and over-criticism, refusing to communicate, ignoring or excluding you, being unfaithful, using sarcasm, unreasonable jealousy, extreme moodiness, cruel or demeaning jokes, constantly making fun of you, withdrawal of affection, isolating you from friends and family, using money to control you and so much more, are some signs of emotional abuse.

More damaging

Psychology Today says emotional abuse tends to be more damaging than physical abuse because the former is cyclical while the latter usually happens daily. “The other factor that makes emotional abuse so devastating is the greater likelihood that victims will blame themselves. If someone hits you, it's easier to see that he or she is the problem, but if the abuse is subtle - saying or implying that you're ugly, a bad parent, stupid, incompetent, not worthy of attention, or that no one could love you - you are more likely to think it's your problem. Emotional abuse seems more personal than physical abuse, more about you as a person, more about your spirit. It makes love hurt.”

Healthyplace.com says that short term effects of emotional abuse include surprise and confusion, questioning one’s own memory, anxiety or fear, shame or guilt, aggression (as defense), becoming overly passive or compliant, frequent crying, feeling powerless, manipulated and undesirable while long-term effects include depression, withdrawal, low self-esteem and self-worth, emotional instability, sleep disturbances, physical pain without cause, suicidal thoughts or attempts, extreme dependence on the abuser, underachievement, inability to trust, feeling trapped and alone and even substance abuse.

Philippine context

I have observed this in many situations, in both poor and well-to-do families. While I do not have figures to show how prevalent this is in the country, I am sure that many will take a second look at the signs and symptoms of emotional abuse.

Some women are sole breadwinners, yet remain powerless and are abused. I once had help at home who constantly bought gifts for her significant other and would even buy ingredients for dishes she would cook for him and his siblings on her days off. When she is unable to send him load, he would curse her on the phone. When he got her pregnant and brought her to his parents’ home, he would send her just enough for their children’s food.

What to do

If you are unsure of whether you are experiencing this or not, and if the symptoms cited above just barely strike a chord in you or are vaguely familiar, take the tests you will find on sites like gosmartlife, playbuzz or healthyplace.

If you realize that you are indeed being emotionally abused, you can go to a counselor who can help you make a stand. You can also try to do it yourself. Promise yourself that you will no longer allow the abuse to continue: that you will no longer allow yourself to be humiliated or shamed, intimidated or controlled or that your feelings, ideas or values should no longer be trivialized. Know that silent treatment, like threatening words or stance is a hostile act and should not be tolerated. Do not keep what you are experiencing a secret. Find a trusted friend to confide in and resolve to do something about your situation.

After all, no one deserves to be abused, not even by loved ones.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.