Emotional Abuse: What Is It and How to Deal With Emotional Abuse as A Man

What is emotional abuse? How do you know you are in an abusive relationship? What are the types of emotional abuse? How do I get out of an emotionally abusive relationship? How do I recover from emotional abuse? If you are looking for answers to these questions, this article is for you.

Hi. My name is Sean Galla. I am a facilitator of support groups and support forums for men, including emotional support groups, with over 10 years of experience. My work involves providing safe spaces for men to talk about men’s issues, including emotional abuse and trauma.

This article offers a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking for support, information, and help better understand emotional abuse. Here is everything you need to know about this topic, including how to overcome and recover from emotional abuse.

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Written by

Sean Galla

An experienced facilitator, community builder and Peer Support Specialist, Sean has been running men's groups for 10+ years. Read Sean's Full Author Bio.

What is Emotional Abuse?

What is Emotional Abuse

While one may be familiar with the obvious signs of physical abuse, domestic abuse, and domestic violence, it can often be challenging to pick out the subtle early signs of emotional abuse and manipulation in a new relationship. Over time, these little signs build up and become more pronounced and persistent abusive behavior in the relationship.

Emotional abuse manifests as a need to control one party in the relationship through different tactics such as put-downs, embarrassment, criticizing, blaming, shaming, and manipulation. It involves attempting to scare, isolate and control an individual and often does not involve physical violence.

Also commonly referred to as psychological abuse, the Wikipedia definition of emotional abuse is a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another person to a behavior that may result in the effects of emotional abuse such as psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. This type of abuse is characterized by a power imbalance in a relationship, including gaslighting, bullying, and even abuse in the workplace.

Generally, a relationship, whether with family members or a lover, can be emotionally abusive if there is a consistent pattern of bullying and abusive language meant to wear down the other person’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth while undermining their mental health.  

Even though this form of abuse is most common in intimate relationships, it can also occur in other relationships, including friendships between co-workers, caregivers and patients, child abuse, and family members. Because of its nature, emotional abuse is one of the hardest forms to pick up on. Over time, the perpetrator’s pattern of behavior is meant to chip away at the victim’s self-esteem, making them doubt their idea of what is real and what is not.

The end goal of any form of emotional abuse is to gain control of the victim through isolating, discrediting, and silencing. These long-term effects leave the victim feeling trapped and too wounded to remain in the relationship and too scared to leave. This way, the cycle keeps repeating until they finally muster the courage to leave.

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How Do You Know It Is Emotional Abuse?

To tell if you are a victim of emotional abuse, you need to examine your relationship carefully. Since it is often very subtle, it can be hard to detect emotional abuse if you are not keen. Here are the most common signs of emotional abuse. While the abuser may not do all the things on the list, it is still an abusive relationship if you notice any signs.

Setting unrealistic expectations

An emotionally abusive person will always have unrealistic expectations. These can include:

  • Expecting you to meet their unreasonable demands
  • Demanding you spend all of your time together
  • Expecting you to put their needs first no matter what
  • Showing dissatisfaction, no matter how hard you give or try
  • Constantly criticizing you when you fail to complete tasks to their standards.
  • You are not permitted to have a different opinion from theirs.
  • Demand exact dates and times when discussing things that upset you and dismiss the event as if it never happened when you cannot do this.

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Invalidating you

Invalidation is a manipulative tactic used by abusers to control your thoughts and actions. Some common examples include:

  • Demanding that you explain your feelings over and over
  • Dismissing, undermining, or distorting your reality
  • Trying to define how you should feel and refusing to accept your feelings as you express them
  • Accusing you of being “crazy,” “too sensitive,” or “too emotional.”
  • Invalidating your opinions or ideas
  • Terming your wants, requests, and needs as ridiculous or unmerited
  • Accusing you of “blowing this out of proportion” or “exaggerating.”
  • Calling you selfish, needy, or materialistic when you express your wants or needs

Using humiliations and criticism

When someone is emotionally abusing you, they will use criticism and humiliation to undermine your self-confidence. Some common ways they do this include:

Name-calling and using derogatory nicknames 

They will use words such as loser, stupid, or other abusive terms to insult you. Sometimes, they will twist the abuse to use endearment words to confuse you, such as ‘my oversize pumpkin’ or sugarcoat words that make you feel insulted. They often ignore your request to stop.

Screaming and yelling 

They use a high tone of voice to intimidate you and make you feel small. While they may never hit you, the mistreatment involves pounding their fist on walls, damaging property, and throwing things around to scare you into submission.

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Patronizing and public embarrassment 

They belittle your ability to handle a situation, saying some things are beyond your brain’s comprehension. They will also pick small fights in public, make fun of your shortcomings when around other people and even share your secrets to embarrass you.

They can also use humiliation and criticism by belittling your accomplishments, insulting your appearance, and shutting down your interests.

Control and isolation

Control and isolation

The end goal of any emotional abuser is to control your thoughts and moves while isolating you from your friends and even family members. They want you to prioritize their needs while neglecting yours.

Some of the methods they can employ to try to control and isolate you include:

Dehumanizing you 

intentionally looking away when you speak or look at other things as a way of minimizing you and ruining your already low self-esteem.

Forbidding you from having a social life 

they beg you not to go out with friends or come up with things to distract you. Sometimes, they can start a fight and threaten consequences if you go out.

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they show or outrightly tell you that your boundaries, needs, and desires are stupid and unimportant.

They come between you and your loved ones 

they will tell your family members that you do not want to see them or visit them and make excuses for why you cannot attend family gatherings. They will also try to make you believe that your family does not care about you or think something is wrong with you. They will actively try to turn others against you.

Silent treatment 

they give you the silent treatment every time you go against their wishes and often use sexual abuse to communicate their annoyance with you.

Types of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can manifest in many different ways. Often, these signs are not always clear at the onset of a relationship and may start as a normal and loving partnership. The abuser starts to use different tactics as the relationship progresses. Some of the types include:

  •       Accusing you of cheating or showing other signs of jealousy and possessiveness
  •       Constant need and attempt to control the other person’s behavior
  •       Refusing to participate in the relationship but won’t allow you to leave
  •       Use of criticism
  •       Gaslighting
  •       Name-calling and verbal abuse
  •       Silent treatment

How to Deal With Emotional Abuse

Do not try to change them

Often, an abuser will make you believe that you have the power to change them or make them better. While you may want to help and make the relationship work, it is difficult for abusive people to change unless they seek professional help. The most you can do is encourage them to see a mental health professional.

Do not blame yourself

Remember that no one deserves abuse, no matter what your abuser says. Self-blame is common amongst survivors of emotional abuse. Part of healing is remembering that what happened was not your fault.

Put your needs first

Once you realize you are in a relationship with ab abuser, you need to learn to prioritize your needs. Take deliberate steps to protect and meet your emotional and physical needs. This will make it easier for you to set boundaries, seek help and leave the situation.

See a professional

Sometimes, emotional abuse can lead to PTSD. If you suspect that you suffered emotional trauma from the abuse, you should consider seeing a mental health provider for psychotherapy.

A trained healthcare provider or mental health professional takes you through eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you learn healthy ways of stress management, process your traumatic experience, and handle the effects of trauma.

You can also call the national domestic violence hotline to get help.

Find a support group


Support groups for emotional abuse survivors offer a safe and open space where survivors can share, learn and support each other through the recovery journey. Connecting with other people who understand can offer inspiration and help you feel less alone as you go through recovery.

If you are a man looking for an ideal emotional abuse recovery support group, Men’s Group is a leading online men’s support forum you can join.

About MensGroup

Men’s Group is a men-only online group that seeks to mentor all men, including emotional abuse survivors while equipping them with the right additional resources to become better versions of themselves.

Whether you are looking for a healing, support, or just a haven, Men’s Group has mentors ready to help you overcome your trauma while making new friends. Becoming part of MensGroup will build healthy relationships and become a better man even after the traumatic experience. Through this online group, you will connect with fellow men to help you heal and move on.


The greatest hindrance to seeking help for emotional abuse survivors is the fear of being judged and even blamed for what they went through. Support groups offer a safe space for survivors to come forth and be amongst other survivors. These groups make it easy for them to seek help and find healing away from society’s judging eyes. If you are a male survivor looking for support, MensGroup is an ideal support forum to find help and get back on your feet. You can lead a happy and normal everyday life by joining a support group even after the traumatic experience.

1. Emotional abuse in intimate relationships: The role of gender and age
2. What About the Men? A Critical Review of Men’s Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence
3. Psychological Effects of Partner Abuse Against Men: A Neglected Research Area
4. What are the effects of emotional abuse?
5. Why emotional abuse is often ignored