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How To Know If You Are In An Abusive Relationship

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Not all abusive relationships are physically violent. In fact, emotional abuse within relationships is even more common than physical abuse. And it’s harder to recognize, because it can masquerade as an intense form of love and devotion. An abusive relationship often seems incredibly passionate and romantic at first, and then gradually descends into manipulation and cruelty. 

Research shows that young adults are more vulnerable to abusive relationships than other age groups, particularly emotional abuse. Young women in their mid-20s are most likely to experience abuse within a romantic relationship, and the World Health Organization reports that about a third of all women report having been in at least one abusive relationship with a partner. Moreover, a platonic relationship can also be abusive—such as a relationship with a co-worker, a parent, or a friend.

Read on for tips on how to know if you’re in an abusive relationship.

What Is Considered Abusive Behavior?

An abusive relationship—also known as domestic violence, intimate partner violence, or dating abuse—involves one partner attempting to cause physical, sexual, or psychological harm to the other. This can encompass a wide range of behaviors. For example, sexual abuse within a relationship refers not just to violent sexual behavior or forcing someone to have sex when they don’t want to, but also involving other people in a couple’s sexual activities when one partner doesn’t want to, ignoring a partner’s feelings regarding sex, or pressuring someone to dress in a sexual way.

In cases of psychological abuse, also known as emotional abuse, the abuser uses words and actions to frighten, control, and isolate their partner. Emotional abuse includes the following categories and signs of abusive behavior:

  • Humiliation: insulting, criticizing, name-calling, embarrassing the other person in public, belittling their accomplishments, posting unflattering photos or videos of them on social media
  • Control: acting jealous and possessive, monitoring the other person’s behavior, reading their texts and emails, demanding all their time and attention, pressuring them to use drugs or alcohol, using social media to track their activities, trying to control who they follow on social media
  • Blaming and gaslighting: accusing the other person of cheating, denying abusive behavior or blaming it on the victim, claiming their problems are the other person’s fault
  • Neglect and isolation: refusing to communicate, turning other people against the victim, withholding affection, preventing the other person from seeing friends or family

Know the Facts

By age 28, 56 percent of young adults say they have either perpetrated or been a victim of some form of relationship abuse, according to the National Institute of Justice.

How to Know If You Are in an Abusive Relationship vs. a Codependent Relationship

Abusive relationships can be codependent, and vice versa. In a codependent relationship, one or both people experience an unhealthy level of reliance on the other. A codependent person may feel they are worthless without the other person. Sometimes referred to as a “relationship addiction,” codependency disorder is typically associated with low self-esteem, fear of being abandoned, and poor communication, among other symptoms and behaviors. Parents and children, siblings, romantic partners, and even friends can have codependent relationships with one another.

Codependency is often associated with relationships in which one or more people struggle with substance abuse or other addictions. However, there are other causes of codependent behavior, such as mental illness or abuse within a relationship or family. For young adults, codependency disorder is often the result of attachment wounds experienced in their family of origin. If the parent-child relationship was dysfunctional, emerging adults can struggle with codependent behavior as they begin forging relationships outside the family.

Psychologically or mentally abusive relationships are especially insidious because the victim becomes accustomed to their partner’s behavior, thinks it’s “normal,” and has started to believe what their abuser says about them. If you think you or a loved one might be in this situation, consider whether one or more of these 10 signs of an abusive relationship are present.

1. You don’t feel free to make your own choices. The other person tells you how to dress and how to act, tries to control who you spend time with, and keeps track of where you go and what you do all the time.

2. You’re always apologizing. You’re afraid of how your partner may react, so you apologize for your actions, even if you’re not sure what you’re sorry for, in order to head off their anger and accusations.

3. You don’t talk about the relationship with friends or family. You avoid discussing the other person, minimize their abusive behavior, or make excuses for it if your friends or family members call it out.

4. Your partner “love bombs” you. They try to make up for abusive behavior with exaggerated compliments, extravagant gifts, or telling you they “can’t live without you.”

5. You feel like everything that’s wrong with the relationship is your fault. Emotional abuse often includes convincing the other person that they need to be criticized and told what to do because of their poor behavior, and if they were “better,” there wouldn’t be a problem.

6. Your disagreements turn into screaming fights. Rather than being productive, arguments escalate into yelling and insults that may feel threatening and scary.

7. You never know which version of your partner you’re going to get. They’re hot and cold by turns, sometimes withdrawn or insulting, and then drawing you back in by being suddenly attentive and loving.

8. You get shut down when you try to communicate. The other person dismisses your needs or concerns, or responds to them with sarcasm or disgust.

9. You’ve lost confidence in your own perspective. You’ve been told so many times that you’re wrong, stupid, or crazy that you’ve started to believe it.

10. You’ve forgotten what you used to be like before the relationship. You spend so little time on your own, doing things you care about, or spending time with close friends that you don’t remember what it felt like to be a strong and independent person.

The Mental Health Consequences of Being in an Abusive Relationship

Abusive relationships take a heavy toll on an individual’s self-esteem, self-worth, well-being, and sense of autonomy. The mental health consequences can include depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of shame and guilt. In addition, abusive relationship PTSD may lead to similar symptoms as other types of PTSD: flashbacks, social withdrawal, difficulty concentrating, chronic pain, and insomnia.

In a study of young adults (ages 18–25), female participants who had experienced relationship abuse as teens reported more heavy drinking, depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and smoking, as compared to study participants who had not been abused. Male participants who had been victims of abuse reported increased antisocial behaviors, suicidal ideation, and marijuana use.

Moreover, both young women and young men who had experienced abuse were more likely to have been in more than one abusive relationship. Once an individual adapts to being victimized and starts to believe they deserve to be treated this way, they may return to this pattern in relationships until they take action to stop the cycle.

Healing from an Abusive Relationship

Once an abusive relationship is over, it’s important to take steps to repair the damage it has done to one’s self-worth, self-confidence, independence, and ability to trust others. Recovering from emotional abuse begins with acknowledging that the abuse took place, rather than minimizing or denying it to yourself.

The next step is to start changing the mental patterns that are linked to abuse. That includes shifting negative thoughts and beliefs, such as thinking the abuse was all your fault, that you will never be in a heathy relationship, or that you could have done something different that would have prevented the abuse. In addition, healing from an emotionally abusive relationship involves honoring your own needs and desires by doing what you love and what makes you truly happy. That includes cultivating authentic connections with trusted friends who have your best interests at heart, and practicing self-care to rebalance the nervous system after the chronic stress of an abusive relationship.

At Newport Institute, we support young adults in recovering from emotional abuse by guiding them to explore underlying causes, rebuild self-worth, and find their own footing as a strong, independent individual who deserves to be loved exactly as they are. Contact us today to find out more about our approach to young adult mental health treatment.

If you need support in leaving an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233). If you feel physically threatened, call 911 immediately.


Violence Vict. 2013; 28(5): 804–821.
Pediatrics. 2013 Jan; 131(1): 171–8.
Prev Med. 2002 Nov; 3(4): 260¬–8.

Co-Occurring Disorders / July 8, 2021

What It Is and Signs to Watch For

You might be familiar with many of the obvious signs of emotional abuse and manipulation. But when you’re in an abusive situation, it’s easy to miss the subtle early signs that build up to a a persistent undercurrent of abusive behavior.

Emotional abuse involves attempts to frighten, control, or isolate you. This type of abuse doesn’t involve physical violence, though it might involve threats of violence directed toward you or your loved ones. It’s characterized by a person’s words, actions, and the consistency of these behaviors. Abuse may start gradually, but it happens again and again.

People of any age or gender can abuse or experience abuse. And abuse doesn’t just happen in the context of romantic relationships. The person abusing you could be your spouse or romantic partner — but they might also be your business partner, parent, caretaker, or even your adult child.

Regardless, you don’t deserve the abuse, and it’s definitely not your fault.

Continue reading to learn how to recognize the signs of emotional abuse and get some guidance on what to do next.

Someone abusing you may use different tactics to undermine your self-esteem.

Examples include:

  • Name-calling and derogatory nicknames. They’ll blatantly call you “stupid,” “a loser,” or use other insults. Maybe they use terms of “endearment” that actually highlight things you’re sensitive about — “my little nail biter” or “my chubby pumpkin” — and ignore your requests to stop.
  • Character assassination. This usually involves the word “always.” You’re always late, wrong, screwing up, disagreeable, and so on. They might say these things to you, or use them to describe your behavior to others.
  • Yelling. Screaming, yelling, and swearing can intimidate you and make you feel small and inconsequential. Maybe they never hit you, but they do pound their fist, throw things, or damage property.
  • Patronizing. They belittle you by saying things like, “I know you try, but this is just beyond the scope of your brain.”
  • Public embarrassment. They pick fights, share your secrets, or make fun of your shortcomings in public.
  • Dismissiveness. You share something important to you and they reply with, “What? Who cares about that?” Body language like eye rolling, smirking, head shaking, and sighing help convey the same message.
  • “Joking.” When you express discomfort with something they’ve said, they snap back, “Can’t you take a joke? Grow up. ” You’re left feeling foolish and wondering whether you are, in fact, too sensitive.
  • Insulting your appearance. As you head out, they stop you at the door. “You’re wearing that ridiculous outfit? No wonder you can’t get a date.” Or they constantly say you’re lucky they chose you, since they could find someone so much more attractive.
  • Belittling your accomplishments. They brush off your achievements, saying they don’t matter, or claim responsibility for your successes.
  • Putting down your interests. They suggest your hobby is a waste of time. “You’ll never be any good at the piano, so why do you keep trying?” Really, they’d rather you not participate in activities without them.
  • Pushing your buttons. Once they find something that annoys you or makes you uncomfortable, they begin to mention it every chance they get, ignoring your requests that they stop.

Abusive behavior relates to the desire to maintain power and control. Someone abusing you might attempt to manipulate you into doing what they want you to do, often by making you feel ashamed of your inadequacies.

They may try to control you by:

  • Making threats. They imply — or say outright — that they’ll fire you or report you for being an unfit parent. They might even say something like, “There’s no telling what I might do,” to keep things vague and leave you afraid.
  • Monitoring your whereabouts. They want to know where you are, always, and insist you respond to calls or texts immediately. They might show up at your work or school, just to check you did actually go there.
  • Spying on you digitally. They demand your passwords, or insist you go password-free, and regularly check your internet history, emails, texts, and call log.
  • Gaslighting. Someone abusing you may deny that specific events, arguments, or agreements ever happened. This tactic can leave you questioning your own memory, not to mention your mental health and well-being.
  • Making all the decisions. This might involve closing a joint bank account and canceling doctor’s appointments. They may insist you withdraw from school and resign from work — or do so on your behalf. Or maybe they tell you what to wear, what to eat (and how much), or which friends you can spend time with.
  • Controlling your access to finances. They keep bank accounts in their name and make you ask for money. They also expect you to keep your receipts and account for every penny you spend.
  • Emotional blackmailing. Someone using this tactic will attempt to get you to do things by manipulating your feelings. They might use tricky questions to “test” you, take on the role of victim, or try to guilt-trip you.
  • Lecturing you constantly. After you make a mistake, no matter how minor, they catalog all of your errors with a long monologue. They describe all the ways you’ve fallen short and make it clear they consider you beneath them.
  • Giving direct orders. From, “I don’t care what happened. You stay here until you get that client back, or you’re fired,” to “Stop taking the pill,” they expect you to do everything they say without question.
  • Having frequent outbursts. They told you to cancel that outing with your friend, or put the car in the garage, but you didn’t. So, they become enraged, angrily shouting about how inconsiderate and uncooperative you are.
  • Feigning helplessness. They say they don’t know how to do something, hoping you’ll simply do it yourself instead of taking the time to explain it.
  • Unpredictability. They explode for no clear reason, then suddenly shower you with affection. Or maybe their mood shifts from upbeat to dark and angry with little warning, leaving you never sure what to expect.
  • Walking out. A partner or parent might leave a social event suddenly, so you have no way home. A supervisor might exit during a discussion about your assignment, so your questions remain unresolved.
  • Stonewalling you. During a disagreement or conflict, they shut down, refusing to respond to your attempts to communicate.

People who abuse others often try to create a hierarchy that puts them at the top and you at the bottom.

Examples might include:

  • Jealousy. They accuse you of flirting or cheating, or say you’d spend all your time with them if you truly loved them.
  • Using guilt. They might try to guilt-trip you into doing something by saying things like, “You owe me this. Look at all I’ve done for you,” in an attempt to get their way.
  • Unrealistic expectations. They expect you to do what they want, when they want you to do it. They think you should always prioritize their needs, do things according to their standards — and you absolutely shouldn’t hang out with your friends or family if there’s any chance they might need you.
  • Goading and blaming. People who manipulate and abuse typically know just how to upset you. But once you do get upset, they pin the blame back on you — after all, it’s your fault for being so sensitive and incompetent.
  • Denying the abuse. When you express concerns about their behavior, they might deny it, seemingly bewildered at the very thought. They may even suggest you’re the one with anger and control issues, or say they only get angry because you’re such a difficult person.
  • Trivializing. When you explain how much something they said or did upset you and hurt your feelings, they accuse you of overreacting or misunderstanding the situation.
  • Blaming you for their problems. When things go wrong, they always blame you. If only you’d been a more loving child, a more supportive partner, or a better parent, they might say, their life would be fantastic.
  • Destroying and denying. They might throw your phone down to break it, “lose” your car keys, or destroy other important possessions, then deny it or say it happened accidentally.

Someone abusing you will generally try to get you to prioritize their needs and neglect your own.

Often, they’ll also make an effort to isolate you by coming between you and your supportive loved ones — a step which, of course, leaves you more dependent on them.

Tactics they might use include:

  • Dehumanizing you. They’ll intentionally look away when you’re talking or stare at something else when speaking to you in an effort to make you feel unimportant.
  • Keeping you from socializing. Whenever you have plans to go out, they come up with a distraction or beg you not to go.
  • Invalidating you. They might suggest or say straight out that your needs, boundaries, and desires don’t matter to them.
  • Trying to come between you and your family. They’ll tell family members you don’t want to see them or make excuses why you can’t attend family functions. Later, they might tell you that your loved ones don’t care about you or think there’s something wrong with you.
  • Using the silent treatment. They might ignore your attempts at conversation in person, via text, or over the phone.
  • Withholding affection. They won’t touch you, even to hold your hand or pat you on the shoulder. They may refuse to have any intimate contact if you offend them, or they want you to do something you don’t want to do.
  • Shutting down communication. They might wave you off, change the subject, or simply ignore you when you want to talk about important concerns.
  • Actively working to turn others against you. They might tell other people in your life, including co-workers, friends, and even your family, that you lie, have lost touch with reality, or have had an emotional breakdown.
  • Denying support. When you need emotional support or help with a problem, they might call you needy, say the world can’t stop and wait on your problems, or tell you to toughen up and fix it yourself.
  • Interrupting. They might get in your face when you’re in the middle of an activity and take away your phone or anything else in your hands to let you know your attention should be on them.
  • Disputing your feelings. No matter what feeling or emotion you express, they might insist you shouldn’t feel that way. For example, “You shouldn’t be angry over that,” or “What have you got to feel sad about?”

Learn more about codependency and how to overcome it.

If you believe you’re experiencing emotional abuse, trust your instincts.

Abuse is never your fault, and you don’t have to live with it

If you fear immediate physical violence, get to a safe place if you can. You can also call 911 or your local emergency services for help.

If you aren’t in immediate danger and you need to talk or find some place to go, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. This free, confidential 24/7 hotline can put you in touch with service providers and shelters across the United States.

Find more resources here.

These tips offer a place to start:

  • Don’t try to fix them. You may want to help, but it’s often difficult for abusive people to change their behavior without professional support. You can encourage them to work with a therapist, but they have to make the choice themselves.
  • Avoid self-blame. Remember, you never deserve abuse, no matter what you’ve said or done. The only person responsible is the one engaging in abusive behavior.
  • Prioritize your needs. Taking care of your physical and emotional needs can help you move forward to a place where you feel comfortable setting boundaries, reaching out for support, and leaving the abusive situation.
  • Avoid engaging with them. Don’t reply to their text messages, phone calls, or emails. If you can’t avoid working or spending time with them, try to keep another person with you and limit your conversation to essential topics.
  • Set personal boundaries. Decide how you’ll avoid responding to manipulation or getting pulled into arguments. Express those limits to the person using abuse tactics and stick to them. You might say, for example, “If you call me names, I’ll go home,” or, “If you start teasing me in public, I’ll leave.”
  • Build a support network. It might feel frightening to open up about what you’ve experienced, but reaching out to loved ones and a supportive therapist can go a long way toward helping you get the support you need to heal.
  • Exit the relationship or circumstance. State clearly that the relationship is over and cut all ties, if possible. Block their number and social media accounts, and ignore attempts to reach out.
  • Give yourself time to heal. Take space to focus on your needs and recovery. This might involve rediscovering your sense of self, creating a new self-care routine, and talking with a therapist who can offer guidance with recovery.

Leaving an abusive relationship often proves more challenging if you’re married, have children, or have shared assets. If that’s your situation, a good next step involves seeking legal assistance.

A domestic violence advocate or mental health professional can also help you develop an exit plan to leave the relationship safely.

The following resources can also help you come up with a plan:

  • Visit this website for educational information, a free hotline, and a searchable database of services in your area.
  • Love Is Respect. This nonprofit organization offers teens and young adults a chance to chat online, call, or text with advocates.

Signs of an abusive relationship

What is an abusive relationship?

Abusive relationships (from the English abuse - insult, abuse) is a term that describes any relationship in which one person shows power and control over another in a negative way. The abuse can be physical, but it can also be emotional, verbal, financial, or any other type of behavior that keeps one person in control of another. nine0003

Although there are many common aspects of an abusive relationship, each individual relationship looks a little different. Moreover, people in abusive relationships often find it difficult to recognize that they are in one. One of the most common aspects of an abusive relationship is that the abused person insists that what they are doing is normal and not harmful, making it difficult for the victim to understand their situation.

There is no such type of person who would be immune from abuse or could not become intruders. People of any nationality, age, gender, or sexual orientation can be victims of abuse. It is never the fault of the abused person; Responsibility for violence always lies with the abuser. nine0003

People who are victims of abusive relationships often live with a range of problems resulting from abuse, including:

  1. Feeling of isolation.
  2. Embarrassment.
  3. Depression.
  4. Anxiety.
  5. Suicidal moods.
  6. Addiction.
  7. Injuries.
  8. Financial difficulties.

While some conflict is normal in any relationship, a healthy relationship involves two people who can disagree, argue, and have their own opinions.

An abusive relationship involves one party controlling the thoughts, feelings, or actions of the other. Recognizing the signs can help you avoid or exit an abusive relationship.

Signs of an abusive relationship

While each abusive relationship uses different methods of control, the underlying themes remain the same. In an abusive relationship, one party uses their power over the other party to prevent them from doing anything other than what the abuser wants. Here are some signs to look out for:

Communication control

People who are being abused may try to monitor your interactions with other people. They may ask you to read your texts and emails, access your devices without permission, or even install tracking software to monitor your social life. Subsequently, they will often use this against you.


Abused partners also tend to isolate the people they are abusing. The offended person may spread lies about you or try to convince you that your family and friends don't really love you. Either way, the goal is to cut you off from support systems that might otherwise help you get out of the relationship. nine0003

Financial control

In some cases of abusive relationships, the abused party tries to deprive the partner of control over their finances. This is done in order to make it difficult to leave the relationship. The offended person may deprive you of access to their accounts, hide information about your financial situation, or try to force you to quit your job.


Another common abuse tactic is to get you to do something you don't want, whether through pleading, threats, force, or emotional manipulation. This may include sexual activities, but it may also include any other behavior that you don't want to do. Hurt people may also use coercion to keep you in the relationship if you try to leave. nine0003

Emotional manipulation

One of the most common types of abuse is emotional abuse. It may include: insulting you humiliating you in front of others making you feel "crazy" calling names making you feel guilty for ordinary actions. In a healthy relationship, both partners strengthen each other. Abusive relationships mean that one side destroys the other.

Physical abuse

Finally, physical abuse is the most well-known sign of an abusive relationship. If your partner hits you or hurts you in any way, your relationship is most likely abusive.

Solving the problem of abusive relationships

If you are in a relationship where you are being abused, the best course of action is to end it and leave your partner. It can be scary, so it's important to have a plan of action. Before leaving, find out where you are going and let friends or family know that you are planning to leave your partner. nine0003

You can also seek help from local resources if you need a place to go or help getting back on your feet.

Support and Resources

If you need support to leave an abusive relationship, the following organizations can help you:

Phone numbers:

  • 102 - National Police of Ukraine;
  • 15-47 - government hotline for victims of domestic violence; nine0016
  • 116-123 or 0 800 500 335 - La Strada;
  • 772 or 0 800 500 225 - National Children's Hotline;
  • mobile teams of the Ministry of Social Policy in the regions;
  • UNFPA day centers;
  • @police_helpbot is a chatbot in Telegram from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Source: psychologist Dnepr

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How do you define an emotionally abusive relationship?

Many people find themselves in the middle of an emotionally abusive relationship without realizing it. Emotional partner abuse is a form of abuse that no one should agree to or put up with. In this case, it is important to contact a professional who will help the person cope with the situation and solve the problem as quickly as possible.

In the next article we will talk about a number of rather obvious signs indicates that the relationship is emotionally abusive.


  • 1 hostile behavior
  • 2 Angry behavior
  • 3 problems of connection
  • 4 is to blame for all
  • 5 Control attitude
  • 6 What to do in emotionally insulting relations

Enemble of the brightest elements of an emotionally abusive relationship. nine0075 The person uses manipulation and aggression

when it comes to solving various problems that may arise in a couple. This hostility is constant and habitual, which gradually undermines the relationship in question.

angry behavior

In an emotionally abusive relationship, one of the parties is always angry and acts angry towards the partner. This, as usual, causes great emotional damage to the couple. Rabies can be caused by various reasons, although this is not justified. In this case, it is important to contact a professional, who knows how to set guidelines to be able to manage and control said anger.

Communication problems

In this type of relationship, the parties hardly talk and there is clearly not enough communication. . Silence is a very obvious form of punishment and abuse for a couple. Communication is important and key when it comes to making certain relationships work. If things are not talked about clearly, the relationship becomes toxic with all the bad things it means for their good future. nine0003

to blame for everything

One of the characteristics of an emotionally abusive relationship is blaming the partner for everything. Resorting to a sense of guilt and thereby mocking a partner on an emotional level, the minimum and all nonsense is used. The constant feeling of guilt causes significant harm and self-esteem, and self-confidence.

controlling attitude

The last sign that this is an emotionally abusive relationship is that the partner is completely in control. nine0075 Said control assumes that the person does not have any autonomy. and is in the hands of a toxic person. Controlling behavior is a very obvious way for a couple to show some kind of emotional aggression and insults.

What to do in an emotionally abusive relationship

As discussed above, many people fail to recognize that they are in an emotionally abusive relationship. In case of doubt and detection of certain signals on a daily basis, it is important to contact a professional who is able to assess the situation and give appropriate recommendations to solve this problem.

Learn more