Psychological Abuse: Identify It To Get Out Of It

Last updated by Lauren Hart

A little belittling remark here, minimizing our emotions there... So many little things that show us that we’re being psychologically abused. It may seem trivial, but that’s the problem. We downplay it too much, which makes it the most common type of abuse. So, how do you identify psychological abuse? What should you do if you’re a victim? Let’s explain.

Psychological Abuse: Identify It To Get Out Of It

What is psychological abuse?

Psychological violence or abuse is a form of harassment or mental abuse of a person that doesn’t involve physical violence. It’s part of, but not limited to, domestic violence. It can be found in the workplace (a superior towards an employee), in the family (a family member who makes comments), or through a fake friendship.

👉 Unlike physical violence, mental violence is invisible. But we can recognize it through acts or words that seem harmless, but which will generate a growing sense of unease by being repeated.

The desire to hurt

Sometimes we think things through and hurt someone we love. Does this mean that we’ve committed emotional abuse? To find out whether you’re a toxic person, you need to distinguish between two things: whether it’s conscious or unconscious, and whether it’s repeated.

⚠️ When someone consciously commits emotional abuse, their aim is to manipulate and dominate their victim through toxic behavior that we can learn to identify.

How can psychological abuse be identified?

It’s vital that you learn how to detect psychological abuse, particularly in a relationship. That’s where it’s most likely to be found. You should therefore look out for:

  • Belittling and bad-mouthing with this kind of statement: “You don’t do anything, you don’t know how to do anything anyway, what’s the point of me asking you to do anything!”
  • Discrediting: “You’re talking rubbish, poor thing!”
  • Insults or humiliation: “You’re not going out like that, are you? Have you seen what you look like?”
  • Threats or blackmail: “If you talk about it, you won’t be able to see the kids again!”
  • Deliberate forgetfulness: “Oh no, I don’t remember you telling me that!”
  • Accusations and blaming: “It’s your fault we’re always arguing, you don’t do anything to help the situation!”
  • Fake jokes / unfunny jokes: “You’re fired, next Monday you’re clearing out your desk! No, I’m only joking!”
  • Indifference

A tool exists to help us identify this kind of abuse: the violentometer. This indicator was originally created for women in the context of domestic violence, but anyone can use it! By using it, you can learn to detect the following points:

👉 Intimidation, threats, insidious innuendo, anger, a desire to control, criticism, bad-mouthing, etc.

The aim is to sow seeds of doubt in the victim’s mind by constantly making contradictory statements, telling lies, implying things or leaving things unsaid. What’s the worst part? The manipulator says he’s doing it for good reasons (love, budget, children, etc.). The victim is always the guilty party in the eyes of the other person. The manipulator says he’s acting as a result of the victim’s behavior. This is another way of turning the tables and blurring the traces of psychological abuse.

Who are the victims of psychological abuse?

The fact that the perpetrator of psychological abuse is manipulative doesn’t help victims to become aware of this toxic game 😟. So how do you know if you’re being abused then? There are some unmistakable red flags that are present in many contexts.

It’s often women and children who are the victims of a jealous spouse, a boss who doesn’t trust them, a father who puts pressure on them... The patriarchal construct influences men to behave in unhealthy ways and become narcissistic perverts. However, men can also be victims of psychological abuse, especially if they show their emotions and sensitivity easily...

The consequences of mental abuse

When you’re a victim, you have the impression that the aggressor’s right. You end up feeling guilty, inferior and incompetent. This creates a great deal of psychological suffering that gives rise to numerous symptoms:

  • Trouble sleeping,
  • Chronic fatigue,
  • Depersonalization,
  • Generalized anxiety,
  • Trouble concentrating,
  • Depression,
  • Eating disorders,
  • Substance addiction (smoking, alcohol, drugs)
  • etc.

As a result of being repeatedly subjected to acts or words of psychological abuse, the victim will develop numerous emotional shocks and significant trauma. What’s more, the perverse effect of mental abuse is that it creates an emotional anesthetic. As a result, the victim often displays paradoxical behavior and finds it difficult to separate from or fight the aggressor, which is what characterizes Stockholm syndrome.

What should you do if you’re a victim of psychological abuse?

It’s difficult to recognize that you’re being psychologically abused, especially when you have low self-esteem. We always play it down because we’re often being mentally manipulated. Nevertheless, from the very first remark, you need to identify the abuse so that you can then break the bond of domination.

👉 If in doubt, ask yourself the following questions: Am I being put down? Do people say things that make me feel devalued? Does this happen often?

Talk, act, rebuild yourself

It’s essential that you find an ally among your close ones to talk to. If you’re isolated, it’s important to have external support, such as an association that helps victims of psychological abuse. If you see someone you know being a victim of emotional abuse, you need to help them on the road to awareness.

The final stage is to rebuild your life, away from the person who caused all the violence. It’s important to have psychological counseling if you’ve been mentally abused. This is necessary to regain self-confidence and to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder.

Editor’s note: Psychological abuse is just as destructive as physical abuse

Psychological abuse may be less visible than physical abuse, but it’s just as destructive. Not to mention the fact that the victim is often met with incomprehension from those around them. The first step is to spot this verbal abuse and understand the mechanisms involved in order to free yourself from this hold. Hold over you, control, manipulation, emotional blackmail, dependency, harassment, passive-aggression, etc. are all possible mechanisms. If you think you may be a victim, or if you have the slightest doubt, don’t wait to contact a psychologist.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!


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Article presented by Lauren Hart

Writing is a beautiful means of expression that I cannot do without. It has allowed me to channel my hypersensitivity, plus I love writing about psychology and personal development. For me, self-understanding is the best way to move forward!

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Wengood's favorite tunes 🎵

Wengood's playlist


  1. Only LoveBen Howard
  2. Invalid date
  3. Fix YouColdplay
  4. Beautiful DayU2
  5. Thinking out LoudEd Sheeran
  6. White FlagDido
  7. Lay Me DownSam Smith
  8. Nine Million BicyclesKatie Melua
  9. Put Your Records OnCorinne Bailey Rae
  10. Summertime SadnessLana Del Rey
  11. Imagine - Remastered 2010John Lennon
  12. Shake It OutFlorence + The Machine
  13. Space Oddity - Love You Til Tuesday versionDavid Bowie
  14. What A Wonderful WorldLouis Armstrong
  15. With Or Without YouU2
  16. HelloAdele
  17. Don't Stop Me NowQueen
  18. Skinny LoveBirdy
  19. WingsBirdy
  20. Californian SoilLondon Grammar

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." 

- Oscar Wilde

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