Leading GP shares 10 signs of emotional abuse in a relationship

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a horrific rise in domestic abuse in the UK, with charities, such as Refuge, reporting an 800% increase in website visits [1] compared to pre-lockdown.

This abuse can come in many forms, from physical violence to less visible methods of emotional manipulation. The latter can be harder to recognise and be more subtle, but it is often equally as devastating.

That’s why emotional harm is set to be included in the new definition of domestic abuse, currently being debated by the House of Lords in the landmark Domestic Abuse Bill [2].

This is definitely progress, however emotional abuse remains hard to spot for those within these relationships, as it is often disguised as love, or being ‘over-protective’.

With this in mind, Dr Rhianna McClymont, lead GP and Madeleine Gauffin, Licensed Psychologist and Psychotherapist at Livi, the digital healthcare platform, shares 10 warning signs to look out for.

  1. Your partner constantly criticises you

If your partner continuously criticises or belittles you, this could be a form of emotional abuse.

Constant negative remarks about you or the things that you do can be really damaging to your mental health and make you feel that you’re never good enough.

Similarly, while arguments are common in relationships, the blame shouldn’t always be put on you, so watch for your partner repeatedly saying things are your fault.

  1. Your partner humiliates you in public

Another sign is your partner shaming you in front of other people, whether that’s family, friends or even members of the public. Such humiliation is undermining and can destroy your self-esteem.

  1. You are the subject of cruel jokes

In lots of relationships, partners will playfully tease each other and have a laugh, but it’s not ok if you are constantly the butt of the jokes and they are hurtful or cruel. Your partner may tell you that you’re over-sensitive if you get upset, but that’s just another form of abuse.

  1. Your partner ‘gaslights’ you

Gaslighting is where a person makes you doubt yourself – your memories, your judgement, your perception of things, for example. Your partner might insist that you said or did something when you didn’t or deny saying things that you know they said.

  1. Your partner denies the abuse

If your partner keeps denying that they are abusing you or downplays what is happening, that often means that the opposite is true. They may try to justify their actions with excuses and even apologies, but nothing vindicates abuse.

  1. Your partner isolates you from your friends and family

Emotional abuse is often about control and your partner will have more of it if they keep you away from your support network. They may try to isolate you from your family and friends, making you lose perspective and grow more dependent on your abuser.

  1. Your partner controls your finances

Another form of abuse concerns money, with your partner restricting your finances or closely monitoring everything you buy. They might give you insufficient money to live, so that you are once again in their control.

  1. Your partner threatens you

Sometimes abuse can be more explicit, in the form of verbal threats. Your partner might threaten to hurt you physically, leave you or make you suffer in some way.

  1. Your partner damages your things

To punish you or simply to establish control, your partner may destroy your personal items or things that you care about. They might also invade your personal space to make you feel uncomfortable in your own home.

  1. You are emotionally blackmailed

Your partner might also use emotional blackmail to get you to do things that you don’t want to do. They might play on your fear, guilt or compassion to force you to do something, perhaps making you feel that you are indebted to them in some way.

Madeleine Gauffin, Licensed Psychologist and Psychotherapist at Livi, said: “Emotional abuse is extremely harmful and can lead to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, as well as having a huge impact on self-esteem. The first thing is to recognise that things aren’t right – emotional abuse is complex, and it can take a while for someone to realise what’s going on.

“The longer the situation continues, the greater the risks to your mental and physical health, so you should really reach out to someone as soon as possible. If you’re in an abusive relationship and don’t know where to turn, you can talk to a doctor and they will be able to help.

“During lockdown, partners are at home together a lot more, which can create more opportunities for abuse to occur. But don’t let the pandemic put you off if you need to escape the situation. The longer you stay, the worse it can get.”

For more information about emotional abuse in a relationship, including if you suspect a friend is suffering from this, and the forms of support available, visit: https://www.livi.co.uk/your-health/10-signs-of-emotional-abuse-in-a-relationship/