Behind closed doors, a seemingly loving couple may hide a dark secret that no one, even the closest of their relatives, knows.
Abuse victims mostly remain mum about it. Abuse comes in many forms and we can categorize it as physical and emotional.
Both physical and emotional abuse comes with serious and sometimes lifelong consequences for the victim. And although it is quite common for a person to suffer emotional abuse alone, there are almost no cases of purely physical abuse.
It is accompanied by a range of emotionally abusive behaviors, making the victim’s life a living hell. How can a victim deal with physical and emotional abuse? Is it possible to move past the trauma and pain caused by loving an abusive partner?
What is the definition of emotional abuse?
Before we learn what is emotional abuse’s impact, let’s define emotional abuse first.
This form of abuse focuses on the emotional aspect of the victim and includes behaviors that aim to manipulate another’s emotions.
Emotional abuse focuses on stripping the victim of self-love and happiness. The abuser can also turn the victim’s emotions against them, often blaming them for their misery.
Emotional abuse meaning is when the abuser withholds love and affection until they get what they want from the victims. Learn more about emotional abuse here.
What is the definition of physical abuse?
Physical abuse definition, in any form, is a behavior that has a deliberate intention of causing physical harm. What does this mean?
Many of us think of physical abuse through the images of a person being heavily beaten, punched and thrown around against a wall. Although this, unfortunately, also happens too often, physical abuse is much more than just that.
Any form of unwanted physical contact, when aggressive and meant to cause you pain and humiliation, can be considered physical abuse, especially when it is repeated often.
For example, apart from using weapons, beating, hitting, and kicking, pushing or pulling someone to go somewhere or not to leave is also physical abuse.
That is also physically abusive behavior if someone grabs your clothing or holds your face to force you to look at them. Or throwing something at you, whether they hit or miss, is, as well, a form of an abusive act. You can learn more about physical abuse meaning here.
What is the difference between emotional and physical abuse?
What is the difference between physical abuse vs. emotional abuse, and which is worse?
Mental, physical, and emotional abuses are all destructive. It’s hard to pinpoint the worst because they can all harm a person.
We can immediately notice physical abuse not unless the abuser hides their victim from other people. We could see bruises, burn marks and scars.
Sometimes, physical deformity caused by physical torture can also be visible. There are also unexplained physical signs, such as broken bones, ribs, or even injuries, such as internal bleeding and scarring.
Emotional abuse, commonly, wouldn’t show any physical signs. Most often, in front of other people, they could be a happy couple. However, inside their home, mental and emotional torture is prevalent.
You may know the psychological vs. emotional abuse terms, but many victims share both. The abuser may not cause physical pain but inflict emotional and psychological abuse.
Unfortunately, emotional abuse often goes unnoticed for many years, and the victim can no longer break free from the abuser. The abuser may only show because of the extreme signs of mental trauma.
A victim may experience both physical and mental abuse by the same abuser. Some abusers may start with emotional abuse and become satisfied with physical abuse later.
Soon, the victim will no longer know the sense of reality, the feeling of happiness, and even their self-worth.
5 signs of emotional abuse
Physical abuse is fairly easy to detect. On the other hand, emotional abuse is a much subtler form of abusive behavior. For example, it can (and often does) get disregarded and dismissed as merely a more temperamental relationship.
Nonetheless, emotional abuse can sometimes leave even deeper scarring on one’s soul than physical abuse does.
In many cases, the victim and the abuser might not be fully aware of what is happening in their interaction, especially if it occurs in a parent-child relationship. There are so many nuances in human contact that it can be difficult to draw the line between emotional abuse and normal, sometimes angry, reactions.
Nonetheless, unlike non-abusive emotional outbursts, which normally happen, abuse involves a pattern of regular demeaning, brainwashing, bullying, insulting, and similar behavior.
It is also shaming, manipulation, intimidation, and gradually undermining the victim’s confidence and self-worth. The perpetrator attempts to control, dominate and have absolute authority in the relationship and absolute submission by the victim.
Here are just five signs of emotional abuse:
1. Making demands that are impossible to do
An emotional abuser would always make demands they know you won’t be able to comply. They do this for fun and to see you get nervous and scared of their anger once you admit failure.
For example, asking you to come home in five minutes even though your partner knows you’re at work and it takes at least 15 minutes to drive home.
2. Invalidates your feelings
In a relationship, a couple should respect one another, including their opinions and feelings. This is not present in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Most of the time, you may feel you’re not allowed to talk, give your opinions, or even share what you feel because this will only lead to your abuser shaming you and invalidating your feelings.
3. Wants to create chaos in the relationship
Out of nowhere, your partner finds something to hate about you. It could be undercooked food, dirty laundry, or even your look.
For an emotionally abusive partner, part of manipulation is creating chaos and seeing how it negatively affects you. It gives the abuser satisfaction.
4. Often uses emotional blackmail
Emotional blackmail is always present in this type of abuse. The abuser would often withhold love, affection, and even attention depending on how they perform and comply with their needs and wants.
In the end, seeing you beg and work hard for love gives them satisfaction while destroying you.
Blackmail is also common if a person has NPD or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Do you suspect that your partner or someone you know has NPD?
Kati Morton shares the eight obvious signs.
5. Isolates and controls your life
In emotional abuse, the perpetrator will control the victim’s social interaction to prevent them from seeking help. The abuser may control when you go out, who you will meet, and even what you can say to them.
This way, the abuser will have full control of the victim and there would be no way for them to regain the strength to break free.
5 signs of physical abuse
Between physical and emotional abuse, physical abuse can be more obvious. However, there could be many forms of physical abuse. We’ll discuss the different signs of physical abuse below:
1. Cuts, bruises, burns
This is the most common sign of physical abuse. Visible cuts, bruises, and burns will be common.
Often, the victim won’t even try to show this on purpose. Instead, this evidence would be hidden from their peers and family.
They would wear long sleeves and hats or even reason out that they fell or had an accident. Eventually, these alibis won’t work anymore.
Related Reading: How Do Guys Feel When You Cut Them Off?
2. Restraint marks
Some abusers would tie or restrain their victims to avoid them escaping. This may show restraint or grip marks. The abuser can use materials such as chains, zip ties, cloth, and many more.
3. Unexplained injuries
Hospitals know when to ask questions to suspected victims. These people would be rushed to the hospital because of unexplained injuries like a broken rib, pelvis, arms, or hands.
This would also involve unexplained internal bleeding, among the signs that their patient is a victim of physical abuse.
4. Unexplained pain
Some people who can still go out may go to the hospital for unexplained pain in their head, stomach, and private parts. This is where no physical sign may be seen, but internally, bleeding, bruising, and trauma can be present.
Related Reading: Healing From the Emotional Pain of a Breakup
5. Unwanted pregnancy
For some, physical abuse means getting unwanted pregnancy, which shows rape and abuse. This also happens when a woman gives birth without prenatal care or help.
The violence at the end of the cycle rarely has anything to do with a change in the victim’s behavior. It’s usually merely the need for control and domination that grows and isn’t satisfied with “regular” emotional torture.
The physical outburst in various degrees is usually the only possible outcome of a seemingly innocent argument.
There can be many more signs of physical abuse, and it could often accompany emotional-physical abuse. Abuse can be broad and could affect even the people around the victim.
Related Reading: Relationship Breakdown During Pregnancy – Causes and Ways to Deal with It
How to deal with emotional abuse: 5 ways
Depending on many factors, the perpetrator usually spends the next few days or weeks in an apologetic mood, sometimes upright wooing the victim, courting her (as most victims of physical abuse are females or children) with kindness and gifts.
Yet, this period of apparent regret always starts to crumble and the cycle starts all over again. With that being said, you may ask, is it possible to know how to deal with emotional abuse?
1. Reach out
Connect with the people who can help you. Opening yourself up to people might seem difficult and scary, but this is an important way to get some support into your life.
Related Reading: 5 Examples of How to Respond to an Ex After No Contact
2. Understand the abuse
It is often difficult to understand that you are being emotionally abused. So, knowledge is the only power that can help you out. Once you can understand it, you can take steps to stop it.
Recognize the patterns of emotional abuse. Knowing this will help you gain control.
3. Maintain boundaries
Establish boundaries with your partner that help you protect yourself physically and emotionally. You need to muster your courage and do what you must to not get hurt.
4. State your needs
You might hesitate to state what it is that you need to feel safe and content in a relationship. Assert all your needs honestly and openly.
Speak up when you must so that there are no misunderstandings and assumptions that help an abusive partner to take advantage.
5. Regain your power
In a relationship, an abuser usually takes all the power that the victim has to exploit situations and words to their advantage,
Regain control of your life and aim for a balance of power within the relationship. Using these, you could get back some of the power you may have given to your abuser.
Learn more about how to use these tips and deal with emotional abuse here.
How to deal with physical abuse: 5 ways
Physical abuse can show in many forms. It could be in the form of pushing, grips, or can go as far as breaking bones, starvation, and even rape.
Prolonged physical abuse can sometimes lead to trauma and even death. It could affect men, women, and even children. If you find yourself in this situation, you must know what you need to do.
It would help if you acted fast and needed a sound mind because your life might depend on it. Here is how you can deal with physical abuse:
1. Get away from the abuser ASAP
Don’t wait for the perfect time to talk to your partner or wish this person could change. No one deserves an abusive partner. Get away ASAP when your partner lays a hand on you or does things that hurt you.
If you have kids, leave the moment you can. There is no reason for you to stay in an abusive relationship.
2. Get immediate help
If you can’t leave and have experienced physical abuse, then call 911. Don’t let your partner intimidate you because the moment you do, this person will also add emotional and psychological abuse. You can also call your family or friends and ask for immediate help.
3. Talk to your family and friends
Once you have successfully escaped your partner, your battle is still ongoing. Most of the time, the abuser will try to find you and get back to you.
There will be sweet promises, blackmail, or any other tactic to get you to forgive and get back together.
Talk to your family and friends and let them know what happened, so they know how to protect you. You will also need all the support that you can get.
4. Seek professional help
Now that you are out of danger, it’s time to focus on your trauma. Please seek a professional relationship therapist and tell them what happened, what you’ve been through, and what you feel.
This will help the professional therapist to help you get through the trauma and help you get back on your feet.
5. Get your life back
It will take a while before you can start rebuilding your life. Some physical abuse victims need time to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Aside from healing from the physical abuse, the victim will also have to heal emotionally. The trauma that the abuser has done can’t be fixed in a week.
Some take months to overcome PTSD. While others can easily recuperate, some will need multiple treatments.
You need to deal with and escape your abusive partner by standing up for yourself, seeking help, and being brave enough to start your life back.
Related Reading: How to Heal from Emotional Abuse
Some commonly asked questions
Abuse, whether physical or psychological, can damage a person’s sense of self and confidence. Answering certain questions can help protect you from further damage and uncertainty.
What is the difference between emotional and psychological abuse?
What is the difference between mental abuse vs. emotional abuse and which one is more destructive?
Mental vs. emotional abuse are two different terms, but many think of them as the same term because of the similarities. In both cases, there is no physical evidence of hurt or marks on the body.
However, they are just as destructive as physical abuse.
They slowly damage the victim’s self-love, confidence, and even their sense of reality.
The difference between mental and emotional abuse is that psychological abuse focuses on destroying the person’s sense of reality, making them think they are worthless.
Does emotional abuse cause the same damage as physical abuse?
A victim of emotional abuse can undergo “only” this form of suffering, as not all emotional abusers also engage in physical aggression.
For many abusers, putting their victims down and making them feel unworthy gives them enough control and power.
Nonetheless, with almost no exception, physical abuse goes hand in hand with other forms of abuse, especially emotional abuse.
We have to remember that both physical and emotional abuse is damaging. However, with physical abuse, the damage is more obvious, and we can easily see the effects.
For example, a woman who experiences physical abuse will have internal bleeding, fractures, and bruises. Along with the physical pain, the victim would also have to endure the trauma of emotional and psychological abuse.
For emotional abuse, not all abusers will show physical aggression.
Most of the time, the abuser’s emotional tactics will start after a few months or a few years of being together. Then, over time, the traits of the emotional abuser become frequent, slowly invalidating the victim’s rights to feel and think.
Physical, mental, and emotional abuse will have enormous negative effects on the victims, but physical abuse requires urgency because your life may be in danger.
What could be the long-term effects of physical and emotional abuse?
The dynamics of such a relationship usually revolve around a cycle of a short calm, followed by a gradual progression in emotional abuse, belittling, insults, curses and mind games.
This period can last for as short as a few days or as long as months. But in cases of combined abuse, it always ends in a culmination in the form of physical violence.
Both physical and emotional abuses have short-term and long-term effects on the victims.
For those who have been a victim of both physical and emotional abuse, long-term effects include:
– Low self-esteem because they don’t see themselves as a person of value.
– Trust issues because of the trauma that they experienced. The wounds may heal but not the psychological effects.
– Learning difficulties due to poor social skills and self-confidence.
– Physical deformities caused by the abuse.
– Anxiety due to the traumatic experiences with the abuser.
– Depression for being unable to move on or that feeling that you can’t get your life back.
For those who have experienced emotional abuse, long-term side effects may include:
– Anxiety over the past or PTSD
– Lack of trust since you’ve already experienced falling for a seemingly perfect person that ended up as an abuser.
– Poor self-esteem due to invalidation and gaslighting.
– Anger issues due to the feeling of helplessness as a victim. This may develop into a bigger problem without the intervention of a therapist.
– Depression is the emptiness that you are feeling. The abuser might be gone, but the scar of the abuse is still there.
– Suicidal thoughts when it’s too late to move on and start your life again.
If you recognize your relationship along these lines, there are several things to consider. First of all, both kinds of abuse may leave permanent consequences for your physical and psychological health.
But, if you are subjected to physical abuse, your life might be endangered more directly, and you might want to consider the safest route out of this unhealthy dynamic.
Victims of physical and emotional abuse must seek help from their loved ones, professionals, and the community. You might need shelter and a safe place to be while the storm passes.
If you decide to work on your relationship and your partner expresses the will to change, seeing a psychotherapist individually and as a couple is the right thing to do at this stage. In all instances, your safety needs to come first at all times.
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