7 Red Flags of Covert Emotional Abuse
Start writing a post

7 Red Flags of Covert Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is extremely harmful, but it's not always easy to spot.

7 Red Flags of Covert Emotional Abuse

A slap in the face is obvious enough as physical abuse, but emotional abuse is far more difficult to define. It aims to take power away from a person using manipulation and a slow-but-steady degradation of a person's self-esteem. Not only is emotional abuse extremely harmful psychologically, but emotional abusers tend to be extremely intelligent and will rarely make their abuse obvious, making it extremely difficult to spot. Here are seven major red flags that can indicate that you may be experiencing emotional abuse.

1. They joke at your expense, even if it hurts you

Most forms of joking are completely harmless, but there is a fine line between poking fun at someone and using jokes as a form of manipulation. Someone who innocently pokes fun will stop if you calmly let them know that their jokes are bothering you.

An abusive person, however, will use your hurt as an excuse to hurt you more. Instead of empathizing with how you feel, they’ll let you know that you’re oversensitive and “can’t take a joke”. Most importantly, they’ll continue to make the same jokes in spite of how you feel.

2. You feel guilty or ashamed most of the time

Most people feel ashamed if they have done something legitimately wrong, but an abused person will feel this way more often than not. Emotional abusers use this as a tool to get away with their behavior by making their victims feel that they are “bad” and unworthy of better treatment.

They latch onto any small negative trait or action. Whether it’s the time you had a small bout of road rage or the time you forgot the milk in the trunk, they use it as a means to belittle you. They may even give you a long-winded lecture about your actions, even if you’ve already acknowledged your wrongdoing or mistake. This makes them the better person while making you feel small, flawed, and in need of their guidance.

3. They are never wrong

For emotional abusers, any criticism of their behavior is deflected back to you. What they did is either your fault or you’re remembering a situation wrong. They may even flat-out deny having said or done something, leaving you to question your memory or make you feel as though you are reacting inappropriately.

For as much as they are never wrong, you are never right.

This is called gaslighting. It’s a form of emotional abuse designed to make the victim question their recollection or response to an event, and therefore their own sanity. The abuser gains control because the victim eventually trusts them more than they trust themselves.

4. They don’t show empathy

“You’re overreacting.” “It can’t be that bad.” “Other people have it worse.” “You just want attention.” “I went through something far worse.”

These are all responses from a person who lacks empathy. It doesn’t matter how big or small your problem is; they simply cannot see it from your point of view. Even worse, they will typically use any problem you are facing as a weapon against you, either by taking advantage of your emotional vulnerability or by using gaslighting to convince you your response to it is abnormal.

5. They treat you like a child

Instead of your thoughts and ideas having the same weight as theirs, you are treated as not much more than a child. Emotional abusers use this tactic to make their victims feel reliant on them by questioning their own ability to make decisions or develop solutions.

6. They use forms of emotional punishment

A good rule of thumb is that punishment does not belong in a relationship whatsoever. An abuser may withhold affection, sex, or engagement as a way to punish their victim.

They may do this by being especially difficult or moody on an outing they didn’t care to go to, or by ostracizing their victim at a party. They do this to “train” their victim to behave a certain way, much in the same way one trains a dog or a child.

7. They use “Love-Bombing” to get you to forget anything was ever wrong

Abuse of any form is cyclical. It goes from bad to worse, and then suddenly the clouds clear and everything is sunny again. Soon after, the clouds start rolling in again.

Love-bombing is when an abuser says and/or does something so overwhelmingly kind, loving, and selfless that you are swept off your feet into oblivion once more. It can be a sudden apparent epiphany and promise to change, or lavish gifts, heartfelt sweet nothings, or anything else that satisfies what your heart has been deficient of during the abuse.

Love-bombing is the most dangerous part of emotional abuse because it can act as an eraser for the terror a person has put you through, and it can be used to confuse the resentment and pain you’ve developed in response.

These signs on their own may not necessarily indicate that you are experiencing emotional abuse, but cumulatively they can point to major issues. Furthermore, emotional abuse does not only occur in romantic relationships. Friends, family, and co-workers can all use emotional abuse as a control tactic. It is almost important to know that abusers do not change, no matter how much they promise that things will be different. They fully know that what they are doing is wrong, they simply don't care. Knowing the more subtle ways this abuse can manifest is the first step to emotionally arming yourself against it and moving on.

Report this Content
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers


Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series


Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?


Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less

14 Last Minute Valentine's Day Gifts Your S.O. Will Love

If they love you, they're not going to care if you didn't get them some expensive diamond necklace or Rolex watch; they just want you.


Let me preface this by saying I am not a bad girlfriend.

I am simply a forgetful one.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

10 Helpful Tips For College Students Taking Online Courses This Semester

Here are several ways to easily pass an online course.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

With spring semester starting, many college students are looking to take courses for the semester. With the pandemic still ongoing, many students are likely looking for the option to take online courses.

Online courses at one time may have seemed like a last minute option for many students, but with the pandemic, they have become more necessary. Online courses can be very different from taking an on-campus course. You may be wondering what the best way to successfully complete an online course is. So, here are 10 helpful tips for any student who is planning on taking online courses this semester!

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments