Looking after yourself when experiencing emotional abuse

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

Written by Ciara Mulligan


Domestic abuse can take many different forms and can affect anyone in any type of relationship. One topic that I find is not spoken about enough is domestic abuse in the family home where the child, teenager or young adult are subjected to emotional abuse. This particular form of domestic abuse can have a number of consequences.

As a teenager or young adult, you may be asking yourself: how are you supposed to maintain a normal life in the midst of this? How are you supposed to leave and find accommodation elsewhere with no financial support? These questions are the most difficult to answer. However, there are answers and there is always a solution to the problem.

You are not responsible for the abuse. There is no excuse for emotionally abusive behaviour. The responsibility for abusive behaviour lies with the person being abusive. No one should have to go through it and I would encourage anyone to seek support if you find yourself in that situation. The path to feeling safe after emotional abuse is different for everyone. Little things you can do to care for yourself in an ongoing way can play a part. Here are some simple steps that can be useful when looking after yourself. While they may not be able to fully solve the problem they can most definitely guide you on your journey.


Create a support network

If you are living in a harmful environment it is important to create a support network for yourself whether this be your friends, distant relatives, boyfriend/girlfriend/partner or supportive adult. Your support network will be your rock. It is important to have someone reliable in your life as you don’t know what can happen from one day to the next. It may be a good idea to develop a safety plan, thinking of where you could go in an emergency and how to get there. You can see some sample safety plans at thehideout.org.uk.


Protect yourself & keep busy

Secondly, it is important to mind yourself, your mind and your own mental and physical wellbeing. In extremely difficult circumstances it is easy to forget the importance of minding yourself. One great way to do this is by taking up an activity outside of your home. For example, join a gym, join a class in something that interests you (art, design, tech). It is good to keep busy and do things you enjoy.


Set goals for yourself

Create a plan for your future and ask yourself where you want to be in 5 or 10 years time. Make a goal for yourself and try to stick to it. This could be to make sure you educate yourself, finish third level education and put yourself out there in the working world – or something completely different. Try to stay engaged with your education as it’s an important area of your life and key to independent living. Wanting to seek accommodation elsewhere can be your motivation to work hard and achieve your goals. While there may be tough times, good times will always follow. So, try to stay positive!


Fuel yourself

One aspect I cannot stress enough is to eat properly. Make sure you are fuelling your body with nutritious food. Often, stressful environments can cause individuals to lose their appetites and this can deter you from reaching the finishing line.


Seek help

Most importantly, do not be afraid to seek professional help. Traumatic events can affect our mental state in the long run and they have the potential to haunt you for a long period of time. Professionals can guide you on your journey and teach you coping mechanisms to deal with any trauma that you may be experiencing. Seeking help is a positive decision with positive outcomes. You can also find some information and support online with websites such as thehideout.org.uk.

Whether you choose to seek professional help or not, do not stay silent about the abuse. Talk about what is happening to you with a friend, a trusted teacher or other adult or a professional. You do not have to face emotional abuse alone.

If you are to take away three points from this let them be: to focus on yourself, keep busy and to know that you are not the problem. Talk to somebody about the advice and break the silence. Let the tough times be your motivation to strive.

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