Emotional Abuse — The Hidden Abuse

Emotional Abuse — The Hidden Abuse emotional abuse — the hidden abuse
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“At least, it was not physical” is one of those initial statements we might tend to make when someone has been or is in an unhealthy relationship.

In fact, before I started learning about emotional abuse and toxic relationships, I remember someone close to me telling me this, “He has never raised his hand on her, he is not that bad.” It’s one of those statements that waters down other forms of abuse that are not physical or clear physical violence.

I wasn’t much aware then but I still felt like it didn’t make sense for someone to persevere and stay in a clearly unhealthy marriage which had everything undesirable (yelling, financially abusive ways and any other unhealthy behavior you can think of). It was just devoid of physical violence and it was more of as long it does not leave a physical scar, it’s not abusive or it’s not that bad and one should live with it.

In short, everyone around you who’s not experiencing physical abuse is in a ‘normal’ relationship and this is what makes it so twisted.

It’s one of those reasons which made me ‘detest’ marriage and I am now grateful that I am not leading the path laid down by my conditioning and cultural upbringing. Unlearning and learning led me to understanding aspects like conscious relationships, narcissistic abuse as well as emotional abuse and that’s what this article will be about.


Being from Kenya, I’ve seen other emotionally abused people drag other emotionally abused people back to their emotionally-abusive marriages. Back then I didn’t understand but once I started opening my eyes, I now know why people and society behave like crabs in a bucket. It’s sad reality but it’s still reality and we have to face it.


In this article we’re going to have a comprehensive look of what emotional abuse is, why it’s so dangerous, how to spot emotional abuse and how to keep yourself safe from emotional abuse.

What Is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse has various definitions but for the purpose of this article, let’s explain it as any consistent and repetitive pattern of harmful behavior that is not physical but leaves a dent in your self-worth and self-esteem as well as undermining your mental health.

In simple terms, it’s that harmful behavior that doesn’t leave a physical scar but eats you on the inside. It’s like physically you look unscarred as there’re no ‘clear’ visible scars but on the inside, you feel so dead.

That’s why it’s hidden abuse, since you may not ‘see’ the bruises and scars but the damage is being felt on the inside or on the way you carry yourself on your day-day-day life. The perpetrator of emotional abuse can be your family member, partner, friend or just someone close to you.

It’s one of the hardest forms of abuse to recognize because of stigma, its subtlety and lack of awareness.

Nonetheless, it’s very dangerous because it erodes who you are without you being aware of what’s really going on. It slips under the radar and you won’t even know what hit you. You might know that something feels off about how your partner is treating you but you’re can’t really speak out about it because very few people will hardly believe you.

For example, just imagine, a macho man coming out and sharing about how his wife is calling him names, intimidating him or subjecting him to other form of emotional abuse? The common response he will get is, of course, to “man up”. This further leaves a dent in his already fragile self.

Same applies to anyone who’s been subjected to emotional abuse, they don’t really have ‘clear’ evidence to prove their claims.

In fact, it will be viewed as “just words” or you being “petty.” It’s just normalized to the point where someone is afraid to even speak up or to get out of that abusive relationship. The only option remaining is to just suppress your emotions and stick to that emotionally abusive relationship which further ruins your mental health. The long-term effects can lead to PTSD and depression which may lead to suicide ideation or self-harm.

Another thing about emotional abuse is it slowly kills your inner strength and inner voice, to the point where you cannot stand for yourself or even stick to your boundaries. It simply cripples and silences you.

When you are silent, you will be silent even when the abuser resorts to sexual abuse and outright physical violence. Emotionally abusive marriages can escalate to physical abuse but with far more dangerous consequences because the victim’s voice was silenced with emotional abuse.

How Do you Spot Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse can be so difficult to spot because it happens behind close doors and the perpetrator may only be subjecting you with it but acting ‘nice’ in front of other people. If you feel hurt, frustrated, worthless, anxious, confused, socially withdrawn, crazy, stupid or you just feel less of a human being every time you interact with them then chances are you’re being emotionally abuse.

The key thing to spot is if you feel that someone is constantly undermining your sense of self. Below are some of the common signs of emotional abuse: –

1. Blame Shifting — Being constantly blamed for what’s beyond your control or for their behavior and actions. Emotional abusers do this to avoid taking responsibility and painting you as the one who’s to blame. Read more here.

2. Intimidation — Outright threats of harm, ruining your life or just instilling fear in you so that you can do as they wish.

3. Isolation — cutting ties between you and outside world (your family, friends, hobbies).

4. Guilt- tripping- Making you feel guilty about something you’ve done or not done so that you can do as they wish.

5. Gaslighting- Distorting your sense of reality and convincing you that your sense of reality is distorted. Makes you feel confused, anxious and crazy. Not being able to distinguish what’s true from what’s not.

6. Constant Criticism and Belittling — Making constant negative comments, insults or put-downs about you so that you can feel small or inadequate.

7. Too much Control — Controlling who you talk to, what you do or what you wear, tracking your every move or just any form of excessive control in your life. You even feel like you can’t ‘breathe’ easily and freely without informing them.

8. Humiliation — behaviors that aim at embarrassing you or degrading you in front of others.

9. Ridiculing — constant harsh jokes that make you feel bad about yourself.

There are many signs of emotional abuse but the best determinant is to look at it from your own eyes, from the eyes of the one who’s receiving them.

However, you might know all these things but you may still find yourself entangled in an emotionally abusive relationship because some may not look outrightly abusive e.g. jokes, gaslighting, control etc.

So, why is it difficult to spot emotional abuse even when you ‘know’ about it?

Emotional Abuse — The Hidden Abuse emotional abuse — the hidden abuse
Source: https://gemstatepatriot.com/blog/frogs-boiling-water-and-the-normalcy-bias/

To understand the insidious nature of emotional abuse, the metaphor of “frogs in boiling water” always comes in handy. The metaphor states that if you put a frog in boiling water, it will immediately jump out to avoid being burned.

However, if you put the same frog in cool water and then slowly turn the heat up, the frog will adapt to the increasing temperature and may not even realize that it is being boiled alive until it is too late.

Likewise, emotional abuse mostly starts small and gradually escalates over time, making it more difficult for the victim to recognize that they are being emotionally abused. The abuser may start with small digs, subtle intimidation, ‘harmless’ jokes, sarcasm, and then gradually escalate to more severe forms of emotional abuse like excessive control or isolation.

As time goes by, the victim may become adapted to these harmful behaviors and may not comprehend the full extent of the abuse until it has escalated to very dangerous levels (depression, self-harm, even to physical abuse).


Emotional abuse is abuse and you don’t need to see the scars for you to jump out of the boiling water. Your emotional pain, your damaged self-esteem, your codependence, your ruined dreams and goals are enough evidence for you to rise and pick yourself up. Those around you may not understand and may constantly invalidate your experiences but the more you stay, they more you’ll be deeply entrenched in that hurtful environment. It may not be easy and the odds may be against you but we need to break this cycle together.

One last thing is even if you’re well aware of emotional abuse, never close your eyes when you get into a relationship. Actually, you should be more alert and working on yourself more when you’re in a relationship so that you can see things clearly without letting your feelings and you conditioning cloud your judgment. That’s why regardless of if you’re single or in a relationship, always work on yourself as that’s the only gate pass to a healthy relationship with yourself and a fulfilling life.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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