Emotional abuse has a sneaky side. It can slip by unnoticed, especially if it was something you got used to experiencing growing up or in a long-term relationship.

But just because it isn’t always obvious, that doesn’t mean it can’t cause a lot of damage. Emotional abuse – even without any other forms of abuse present – can lead to PTSD, depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other issues over time.
Pinpointing emotional abuse can also be tough because the term itself is a little vague, leading to plenty of misconceptions. But here’s what emotional abuse doesn’t mean:

· Experiencing or expressing emotions that upset other people

· Taking a step back from providing emotional support for others when you’re feeling too drained

· Telling someone “No”

·Having a disagreement or argument

·Making normal mistakes in relationships at times (ex: losing your temper, saying something you don’t really mean, snapping when you’re feeling hangry, getting defensive first before apologizing, etc.)

Emotional abuse is insidious, and different from the natural ups and downs experienced in most relationships. It’s when someone consistently and actively tries to emotionally harm someone else. Here’s what it can look like:
· Manipulation
· Controlling behaviors such as how you spend your time or who you spend time with
· Constant criticism
· Passive-aggressive jokes and put-downs
· Gaslighting – convincing you that what you experience and/or feel isn’t real or didn’t happen
· Triangulating you against others and vice versa
· Frequent lying
· Emotional invalidation
· Shaming
· Purposefully humiliating you in front of others
· Constant blaming instead of taking responsibility for their own actions
· Name calling and frequent insults
· Threatening
· Baiting you into arguments
These are just a few examples. Sometimes one or two of the above behaviors can show up briefly in a relationship, such as in times of stress or during major conflicts, but then get resolved. It’s when these behaviors become persistent, frequent, and prolonged that they can really begin to take a major toll.
Those who have suffered under prolonged emotional abuse can develop many of the same symptoms as those who have experienced physical abuse – including hypervigilance, low self-worth, self-harm, suicidality, eating disorders, flashbacks, nightmares, social anxiety, panic attacks, and difficulty trusting others.
When emotional abuse is experienced on a repetitive basis, it can turn you against yourself. The barrage of guilt messages and invalidation can get internalized to the point where even when you’re free from an emotionally abusive relationship, you end up telling yourself those same messages.
What helps? For starters, experiencing safe, healthy relationships. That may mean a relationship with a partner, family, friends, or a counselor – people who can begin to help you rewrite the negative messages you received from the emotional abuse you experienced. This takes time and repetition, but in the long term brings renewed confidence and connection.
Associated media for more signs and symptoms of emotional abuse:  https://psychcentral.com/lib/emotional-abuse-signs#what-to-do