You Don’t Need to Be in a Relationship to Experience Emotional Abuse

By: Sandrine Sader

Emotional or psychological abuse is a controlling behavior in which the abuser bullies the victim by constantly blaming them, lying to them, criticizing them, and attacking them in ways that are harmful to their mental health. When people talk about abuse, it is generally referred to in a context of a romantic relationship, which is very common, and is taken seriously and warned about. Nevertheless, emotional abuse often happens in friendships too, especially among teenagers who tend to get attached easily.

It can take many forms like jealousy, control, constant arguing, verbal abuse, gaslighting, refusing to take responsibility, giving the silent treatment, etc.

Emotional abuse is hard to recognize since, in most cases, an abuser is a person that the victim trusts and the signs can be difficult to recognize, considering that the victim is manipulated into thinking they are wrong.
How do we acknowledge being in an abusive relationship in order to stay away from it?

Being exposed to repetitive lying, which involves the person denying their mistakes and not taking responsibility, blaming you constantly and making you feel guilty for every fight, while they are the one who starts arguments just for the sake of arguing, is one of the main red flags which indicates a toxic friendship. Being insulted and disrespected for your identity, opinions, and values, and being told they’re illogical, and having your fears, morals, and boundaries repeatedly crossed or actualized in an attempt to control you. Whether it is by making jokes at your expense or being treated as inferior, it can definitely show that the friendship isn’t healthy and isn’t based on respect.

You have to remember that respect is the basis of any interaction, and if it isn’t respected from the start, it is problematic, especially in a close relationship like friendship. After trying to communicate and talk about your point of views, being told that you constantly start arguments, while the other person is always the main source, being given the silent treatment, and being ignored as a “punishment” for your mistakes, being told your feelings and needs are unrealistic, being undermined and told you’re “too sensitive” or even “crazy”, and being criticized for everything. Finally, the signs can go as far as being pressured to fit their benefit, being treated like their property, feeling forced to spend time with them at the risk of losing your friendship.

Emotional abuse can have many effects on the victim, like leaving them with psychological trauma, anxiety disorders, persistent depressive disorder, or post-traumatic-stress-disorder.

Although the profile of an abuser can’t be described as the same pattern, and the sex or gender of the person isn’t a reliable indicator, there is a pattern that can be found in most of them. They tend to be violent or aggressive, mentally or physically, which includes jealousy, drastic mood changes, and poor to no self-control.

You can escape an emotionally abusive friendship by noticing the red flags in the early stages and acknowledging the situation and remember, if your relationship with someone causes you stress, anger, guilt, or sadness, it is qualified as an unhealthy relationship: there is no mutual respect.

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