Emotional Abuse - Signs, Symptoms, and What to Do

Many of you are dealing with or have dealt with emotional abuse. If you’ve been in it, you know what it is. You know how stuck you feel, how humiliated, how scared, and how anxious it is to have to deal with psychological abuse.

The official definition of emotional abuse is, “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.” Some of the forms of emotional (or psychological) abuse are: name calling, threats (of violence or abandonment), social isolation (both in person and over the phone and internet), humiliating publically and privately, blaming you and your actions for their abuse, and denying or lying to cover up the abuse.  These are just some of the examples, follow the link at the bottom of this post for more.

Abuse in any form is serious, but emotional abuse is something that cannot always be seen and is very hard to prove. So what do you do if you find yourself in a situation where you have been or are being emotionally abused?

First, know the signs. If you even suspect that you are in an abusive relationship (in any form), know the signs so you can move onto the second step. If you’re divorced from someone you know is an emotional abuser, be aware that this will not change after a divorce. In fact, change in an abuser will likely never happen.

Second, reach out for help and support. You cannot and should not handle this alone. Emotional abuse takes a serious toll on your psychological well-being and making your way through it is not a solo project. There are coaches, therapists, counselors available to you, as well as friends and relatives. Having support means you have people in your corner reminding you:

  • that you don’t deserve what’s being said to you

  • that what’s being said isn’t true

Finally, wherever possible, limit or cut off communication.  When you’re in a co-parenting relationship with an emotional abuser, your communication should always be in writing. Not only do you have the chance to get your support involved in writing a thought-based reply, but what’s being said to you is documented.

Protect yourself, and protect your children. You are their support, so if that means therapy for you so that you’re at your best when providing support for your children - do it. If your children are dealing with an emotional abusive parent, empower them, document any signs of emotional abuse, and make sure they have the support and therapy they need to avoid long-term negative effects of having someone like this in their life.

Be aware of the signs, document wherever possible, and always reach out for support. This is not something you should handle alone.


Emotional abuse is very real. It leaves just as many bruises as physical abuse, but you don't see them. If your ex is an emotional abuser, you still need to co-parent. Learn how to communicate with someone who only wants to hurt you in the co-parenting after divorce videos. Click on the button below to learn more.