5 Consequences of Emotional Abuse

27 February, 2019
Psychological abuse can cause emotional blocks and trauma that go far beyond what we may realize at first. These can even prevent us from establishing healthy relationships in the future - so it's essential that we pay attention to them as soon as we can

Emotional abuse is a type of violence that affects the emotional stability of the victim. It makes him or her feel intimidated, guilty and even completely worthless.

Usually, the aggressor is a manipulative person. He or she takes advantage of the love or affection that the other person feels to establish almost total control over their life.

Despite having such an intense effect, it’s also one of the most difficult types of abuse to identify. This is because most of the time those who suffer it aren’t even aware of it at the time.

What’s more, they usually find themselves justifying or explaining away the unacceptable behavior of the abuser. This is due to the emotional dependence they feel for their abuser (whether that be their partner, family member or friend)

However, something is especially worrying about this. Although it can be overcome with the right help, emotional abuse can end up leaving the victim with emotional baggage. This will make itself obvious in the person’s character or behavior sooner or later, often in unexpected ways.

For this reason, it’s essential that we get to know what these consequences can be. Plus, it’s important to find out what to do to tackle them. That way, they don’t become another obstacle to living well as a survivor of emotional abuse.

Here, we’ll take an in-depth look at 5 common symptoms that are sometimes wrongly overlooked.

1. Seeking Approval from Others

Emotional Abuse

A constant craving for approval from others is one of the classic long-term repercussions of psychological abuse.

It often manifests itself in unexpected ways through behaviors such as:

  • Always being desperate to please others
  • Changing personality according to another person’s way of being
  • Being overly kind
  • Putting their interests to one side to satisfy the needs of others

That need to feel accepted in the social environment, including with those closest to them, springs from a feeling of “not being enough.” Typically, the abuser planted this in the person’s mind over the course of the abusive relationship.

However, we should bear in mind that our true value as individuals isn’t solely based on what we do for others. In fact, in the long run such behavioral patterns can actually become a weakness.

What To Do About It

  • The first and most important step is to fully understand that patterns like these aren’t positive, especially if they end up increasing your pain.
  • When you realize that you’re falling into this pattern of behavior, it’s normal to feel like you just want to hide away from the world. However, that’s not the answer.
  • Instead, taking time for yourself to recover your sense of self-esteem and feeling of comfort with yourself is the best way to move forward.

2. Resentment

After suffering psychological aggression, it’s common to feel resentment. This may be both towards oneself and towards the person who caused the damage.

This accumulates over the course of time. Plus, it can end up manifesting itself in feelings of guilt, irritability and frustration.

In some extreme cases, the victim even experiences changes in their blood pressure, and can fall into a depression.

What To Do About It

  • One of the ways to heal the soul in the face of resentment is through seeking forgiveness.
  • It’s not something that can be achieved overnight. However, it is possible to achieve it if you put effort into stopping feeding those negative emotions that you notice yourself experiencing.

3. Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are psychological disorders that commonly affect people who have found themselves subject to physical or emotional abuse.

The destruction of their self-esteem and the constant feelings of guilt they experience create a negative swirl of emotion that can lead them on the path to self-destruction.

If it’s not kept in checked, such feelings can even end up leading us to feel that you want to die. Thus, feelings of hopelessness and trouble sleeping are also very common for people in this situation.

What To Do About It

  • If you’re recognize any of the feelings we described or know someone who may, it’s essential to seek professional psychological help.
  • There are also courses of medication that a professional can point you towards that may be able to provide some relief.

4. Trouble Relating to Others

A very big consequence of emotional abuse is the fear it can leave behind. Survivors may have great trouble establishing new relationships. This is often because they’re terrified of falling back into a situation like the one they previously escaped from.

The devastating impact of emotional abuse on their emotions can even diminish their ability to function on a day-to-day basis and engage in conversation with others.

What’s more, since problems with self-esteem and feeling safe linger on long after the actual emotional abuse comes to an end, survivors often remain at greater risk of falling into toxic relationships in the future. 

What To Do About It

  • The best relationships are those that are built up over time, based on both people accepting themselves and, equally, accepting the other person as they are.
  • Working on your self-esteem and learning how to get to know other people before establishing relationships are essential first steps for anyone who wants to build something healthy in the aftermath of emotion abuse.

5. Feelings of Numbness

Image of young man begging his girlfriend to forgive him

Going through painful situations in which your self-esteem has been attacked often leaves you with blockage that prevents you from feeling and expressing your emotions.

In such cases, the survivor may not feel “bad” exactly. However, he or she doesn’t experience feelings of happiness, either, even when he or she has good reasons to be happy.

It’s as if despite overcoming the aggression, there is still an internal obstacle that prevents the survivor from experiencing the full range of emotions that used to arise spontaneously prior to the abuse.

What To Do About It

  • These feelings of numbness can absolutely be overcome. Everything is a matter of time and will.
  • In fact, feeling numb can be a great help at first. It can help you make better, more impartial decisions. At the beginning it can be difficult. However, you will find over time that the wounds are healing and that you’re more able to feel like you once used to.
  • The people around you at this time are of utmost importance. Make sure you surround yourself with people who help you get rid of the negative emotions you’re feeling completely.

The consequences of psychological abuse won’t disappear overnight. Healing, moving on and growing past it is a process that requires support, understanding and a lot of willpower.

At first,everything may look bad and you may fear that the wounds caused by the trauma you have suffered will never heal. However, know that with love and time you’ll be able to break through what you’ve suffered and live the life you deserve.

  • Almendros, C., Gámez-Guadix, M., Carrobles, J. A., Rodríguez-Carballeira, Á., & Porrúa, C. (2009). Abuso psicológico en la pareja: aportaciones recientes, concepto y medición. Behavioral Psychology/Psicología Conductual17(3), 433-452.
  • Carballeira, Á. R., Almendros, C., Solanelles, J. E., García, C. P., Martín-Peña, J., Javaloy, F., & Carrobles, J. A. I. (2005). Un estudio comparativo de las estrategias de abuso psicológico: en pareja, en el lugar de trabajo y en grupos manipulativos. Anuario de psicología/The UB Journal of psychology36(3), 299-314.
  • García-López, L. J., Irurtia, M. J., Caballo, V. E., & del Mar Díaz-Castela, M. (2011). Ansiedad social y abuso psicológico. Psicología Conductual19(1), 223.