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Emotional Abuse: Here’s what you need to know

Emotional abuse is when someone constantly puts you down and threatens, teases, bullies, humiliates or intimidates you.


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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Emotional abuse can damage your self-esteem or make you feel worthless or unloved. It can be very frightening and can affect you long after the abuse has stopped happening.

It happens when someone constantly threatens, teases, bullies, humiliates, intimidates, calls you worthless or betrays you. 

What are examples of emotional abuse?

The following all count as emotional abuse:

  • Someone always telling you that you’re worthless, stupid, or you’re not going anywhere in life. The criticism could come from a parent, family member, boss, teacher or someone your own age.
  • If you’re threatened with violence or someone makes you feel frightened by what they say.
  • Constant put downs about what you wear, your looks or what you do, even if they’re said as a joke.
  • Very jealous and controlling behaviour, when someone tries to influence who you speak to, what you wear or who your friends are.
  • Twisting the truth to make you feel guilty for things that aren’t your fault.
  • If someone tries to control you, and this control begins to have an impact on your day-to-day life or causes you fear.

What can I do if I'm being emotionally abused?

  • Know that this is not your fault. Recognise that this behaviour is emotional abuse, and that it is unfair and unjustified.
  • Don't believe what the abuser says of you.
  • Talk to someone you trust about what's going on. Even after the abuse has stopped you might have emotional or self-confidence problems. Visit a counsellor who can help you to work through your feelings.
  • If you're not ready to speak to someone you know, you can talk to Samartians in confidence. Their 24 hour freephone number is 116 123.
  • You can also contact Childline on 1800 666 666, text 50101, or chat on childline.ie
  • If you are living with someone who is abusing you and you need to get out, there are places you can turn to for help. You can contact SAFE Ireland (women) and AMEN (men) for help.
  • Telling someone you’re being abused by a family member doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll be taken away from your family, the social services will try to work out a situation that means you're safe from abuse but where possible with your family.​

Sometimes emotional abuse can lead to physical abuse or domestic violence. In these situations it is important to realise that it is not your fault – regardless of what your abuser may tell you. If you find yourself in this situation here are few things you can do.

Who can I talk to?

If you need someone to talk to right now you can call Samaritans for free on 116 123, text 087 2 60 90 90 (standard rates), or email jo@samaritans.ie 

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Published January 14th, 2013
Last updated April 24th, 2018
Tags emotional abuse abuse
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

Need more information?

Request to speak with a youth worker in your area over the phone, by email or text. They may be able to assist you by providing further information specific to your needs.

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