8 Signs of Abuse on WhatsApp

Mistreatment through WhatsApp includes control, manipulation, and abuse behaviors that can go unnoticed. Learn how to identify it here.
8 Signs of Abuse on WhatsApp
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 11 May, 2023

The Internet and social networks have become an essential part of our lives and are therefore key to human relationships. Messaging applications in particular have transformed the way we relate to each other. That’s why it’s important to know how to recognize the signs of abuse on WhatsApp and other similar applications in time.

It’s estimated that more than 50% of young people between 18 and 30 years old have experienced some kind of cyberbullying. Among its manifestations are control, surveillance, and manipulation exercised through this type of chat.

Such abusive behaviors can be directed at people with whom any type of bond is shared (such as friends or family), but are especially common in romantic relationships.

One of the main problems in this regard is the difficulty in identifying that one is being abused. Many of these behaviors are often normalized, minimized, and overlooked, but their repercussions on the mental health of the victim are indisputable. So, here are some signs to watch out for.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: 6 Forms of Verbal Abuse from Your Partner that Should not be Tolerated

Common signs of abuse via WhatsApp

8 señales de maltrato a través de WhatsApp
Demanding an immediate response is one of the most common signs of abuse on WhatsApp.

Abuse via WhatsApp includes all those behaviors aimed at controlling, manipulating, or emotionally harming the victim. Contrary to what might be thought, this type of abuse affects men and women at similar rates during adolescence.

Thus, it’s very important that everyone is prevented. Abuse can present itself with many different faces; however, the following are some of the most common manifestations.

Demanding immediate answers

Demanding immediate answers is one of the most common behaviors. The person gets angry if their partner doesn’t respond immediately to their messages and accuses them of a lack of interest or of not prioritizing the relationship.

They don’t understand (or don’t respect) that no one has to offer constant and exclusive availability, that there may be other matters to deal with, and that it’s completely legitimate not to respond until it’s possible to do so.

Forcing you to chat whenever you’re online

Every time the victim enters WhatsApp, he or she has to start a conversation with her partner; otherwise, the latter gets annoyed and starts with reproaches, suspicions, and manipulation. You’re also not allowed to be chatting with other people without attending to your partner because the latter interprets it as a lack of respect.

Making you send your location

The possibility of sending the location (in a timely manner or in real time) is a great control tool for those who exert abuse through WhatsApp. Thus, they may often force their partner to show where they are at every moment, with the excuse perhaps of making sure they’re not lying or committing infidelity.

Asking for photos or videos to keep an eye on you

In relation to the above, it’s also common to find people who ask their partners to send photos or videos at specific times of the day. For example, while they’re in class or having lunch with friends.

The purpose of this request is to check that they’re really where they say they are and with whom they say they are with. Sometimes, even their companions are forced to appear in the photos or videos to calm the suspicions of the other.

It can also happen that graphic evidence (screenshots) of who you’re talking to on WhatsApp is requested. In short, the aim is to control the victim’s life and relationships.

Blocking you or ignoring you

Abuse isn’t always active and direct; sometimes, it takes a passive-aggressive form that’s just as harmful or more harmful than the previous cases. For example, when after an argument one of the people ignores the other or even blocks him/her from the application.

In this way, it generates enormous anguish by leaving him/her without the possibility of expressing him/herself, without explanations or means of communication, and in total uncertainty. With this type of attitude, the person on the other side is subdued and generally ends up apologizing and accepting any term as long as the “punishment” of silence is removed.

Deciding which photo should be shown in your profile

Does your partner get offended, angry, or complain when your WhatsApp profile picture doesn’t show both of you? Does he/she ask you to remove or change some images because he/she doesn’t like how or with whom you appear in them?

This type of manipulation is very common and infringes on your individual freedom. Everyone is free to choose what to show on their profiles and being in a relationship doesn’t give the other person the right to decide for you.

8 señales de maltrato a través de WhatsApp
Control on WhatsApp is evidenced, for example, through the requirement to share passwords or locations.

Giving each other passwords and unlocking patterns

This is one of the most widespread and normalized signs of abuse through WhatsApp. The younger population in particular has come to consider that sharing passwords with a partner is necessary, mandatory, and a sign of trust. If not done, this can generate suspicion and distrust in the other when, in reality, respect for privacy is a priority and fundamental aspect of any relationship.

Like this article? You may also like to read: 5 Forms Of Emotional Abuse We Don’t Always Recognize In Time

Forced sexting

Finally, we shoudln’t forget one of the most harmful and dangerous abusive behaviors: sexting. This involves forcing or coercing the partner to send images or videos with explicit content or to participate in sexual conversations without really wanting to do so.

How to act against these abusive behaviors through WhatsApp

If you’ve recognized any of the above points, it’s important that you take action in this regard. First of all, remember that none of these actions is natural or healthy in a relationship; on the contrary, they are signs of abuse.

Keep in mind that being in a relationship doesn’t force you to lose your individuality or your rights. You can and should still talk to other people, have your free time, protect your privacy, and not need to offer explanations for irrational fears.

To be able to deal with these behaviors, it’s important not only to understand where the limits of love are but also to have solid self-esteem. It is this confidence that will allow you to say “no,” to put a stop to intrusive and controlling behaviors, and not give in to emotional manipulation.

If you feel like you’re not strong enough to do so or feel guilty about denying your partner these privileges, seek professional counseling. Control and abuse can escalate and cause significant psychological damage to your health.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Reed, L. A., Tolman, R. M., & Ward, L. M. (2017). Gender matters: Experiences and consequences of digital dating abuse victimization in adolescent dating relationships. Journal of adolescence59, 79-89.
  • Borrajo, E., Gámez-Guadix, M., & Calvete, E. (2015). Cyber dating abuse: Prevalence, context, and relationship with offline dating aggression. Psychological reports116(2), 565-585.
  • Díaz, P. (2015). El ciber-acoso entre parejas adolescentes. Departamento de Ciencias de la Comunicación y Trabajo Social. Facultad de Ciencias Políticas, Sociales y de la Comunicación. Universidad de La Laguna.
    [Citado 07 de enero 2021]. Disponible en:

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.