44 signs of emotional abuse
Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
March 14, 2024 ·  5 min read

Don’t Ignore These 44 Signs of Abuse

Recognizing the signs of abuse is crucial for safeguarding personal well-being and fostering healthy relationships. From subtle manipulations to overt aggression, these indicators serve as vital red flags demanding attention and action. Whether it’s emotional coercion, physical violence, or financial control, no form of abuse should be dismissed or tolerated. By acknowledging these warning signs and seeking support from trusted individuals or professional resources, individuals can empower themselves to break free from abusive dynamics and cultivate environments of respect, dignity, and safety.

Examples of humiliation, negating, and criticizing

Examples of humiliation, negating, and criticizing
Image Credit: Pexels

In the realm of emotional abuse, various insidious tactics are employed to undermine an individual’s sense of self-worth and control their behavior.

Verbal Insults:

signs of abuse: Verbal Insults
Image Credit: Pexels

Examples include name-calling, mocking, and using hurtful language to belittle the victim, eroding their self-esteem.


Image Credit: Pexels

Manipulating someone into doubting their perceptions, memories, or sanity, causes confusion and self-doubt.


signs of abuse: Isolation
Image Credit: Pexels

Limiting access to friends, family, or support networks, fostering dependence, and controlling the victim’s social interactions.

Constant Criticism:

Constant Criticism
Image Credit: Pexels

Frequently pointing out perceived flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings to undermine the victim’s confidence and sense of self-worth.

Threats and Intimidation:

Threats and Intimidation
Image Credit: Pexels

Expressing or implying physical harm, making the victim feel unsafe, or using fear as a means of control.

Financial Control:

signs of abuse: Financial Control
Image Credit: Pexels

Restricting access to money, controlling finances, or sabotaging economic independence to exert power and limit autonomy.

Emotional Neglect:

Emotional Neglect
Image Credit: Pexels

Withholding affection, emotional support, or validation, leaves the victim feeling unloved, unworthy, or abandoned.


Image Credit: Pexels

Using deceit, guilt-tripping, or playing mind games to influence the victim’s thoughts, feelings, or actions.

Public Humiliation:

signs of abuse: Public Humiliation
Image Credit: Pexels

Disparaging or ridiculing the victim in public or private settings, erodes their dignity and causes shame.

Blaming and Shifting Responsibility:

Blaming and Shifting Responsibility
Image Credit: Pexels

Assigning blame for problems or difficulties to the victim, deflecting responsibility for the abuser’s actions.

Control of Communication:

Control of Communication
Image Credit: Pexels

Monitoring or controlling the victim’s communication channels, such as restricting access to phones or the internet.

Emotional Blackmail:

signs of abuse: Emotional Blackmail
Image Credit: Pexels

Using emotional manipulation to gain compliance, often by threatening to reveal sensitive information or secrets.

One of the most common signs of abuse – Invalidation:

Image Credit: Pexels

Dismissing the victim’s feelings, experiences, or opinions makes them feel insignificant or unworthy.


Image Credit: Pexels

Refusing to communicate or engage in discussions leaves the victim feeling ignored, isolated, and invalidated.

Humiliation and Degradation:

signs of abuse: Humiliation and Degradation
Image Credit: Pexels

Engaging in acts or comments that demean the victim, attacking their dignity and self-respect.

Examples of Shame:

Examples of Shame
Image Credit: Pexels

Weaponization of shame is a destructive tactic used to exert control and manipulate victims.

Public Humiliation:

Public Humiliation
Image Credit: Pexels

Disparaging or ridiculing the victim in public to shame and degrade them.

Body Shaming:

signs of abuse: Body Shaming
Image Credit: Pexels

Making hurtful comments about the victim’s appearance or body to induce feelings of inadequacy.

Criticism of Abilities, a rather frustrating sign of abuse:

Criticism of Abilities
Image Credit: Pexels

Constantly undermining the victim’s skills, talents, or capabilities, eroding their self-confidence.

Cultural or Racial Shaming:

Cultural or Racial Shaming
Image Credit: Pexels

Using derogatory language or stereotypes related to the victim’s culture or race to induce shame.

Read More: 7 Signs of a Toxic Family


signs of abuse: Guilt-Tripping
Image Credit: Pexels

Manipulating the victim by inducing guilt for their actions or choices.

Labeling and Name-Calling:

Labeling and Name-Calling
Image Credit: Pexels

Assigning negative labels or using derogatory names to demean and shame the victim.

Public Exposure of Secrets:

Public Exposure of Secrets
Image Credit: Pexels

Revealing private information or secrets to embarrass and humiliate the victim.

Emotional Blackmail:

signs of abuse: Emotional Blackmail
Image Credit: Pexels

Using emotional manipulation to make the victim feel responsible for the abuser’s emotional state.

Blaming for Abuse:

Blaming for Abuse
Image Credit: Pexels

Blaming the victim for the abuse, suggests they deserve it.

Intimate Shaming, a hurtful sign of abuse:

Intimate Shaming

Using intimate details to shame the victim, creates feelings of embarrassment or degradation.

Invalidation of Feelings:

signs of abuse: Invalidation of Feelings
Image Credit: Pexels

Dismissing the victim’s emotions or experiences, and making them feel their feelings are unwarranted.

Parental Guilt:

Parental Guilt
Image Credit: Pexels

Exploiting parental insecurities, making the victim feel guilty or inadequate as a parent.

Criticizing Life Choices:

Criticizing Life Choices
Image Credit: Pexels

Judging and shaming the victim for their life choices, including relationships, career, or personal goals.

Social Exclusion:

signs of abuse: Social Exclusion
Image Credit: Pexels

Deliberately excluding the victim from social activities or events to isolate and shame them.

Examples of Accusing Blame and Denial:

Examples of Accusing Blame and Denial
Image Credit: Pexels

Accusing blame involves unfairly assigning responsibility to the victim for problems or issues, fostering a sense of guilt and inadequacy. 

Blaming the Victim – a common sign of abuse:

Blaming the Victim
Image Credit: Pexels

Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior onto the victim, making them feel at fault for the mistreatment.

Denial of Abuse:

signs of abuse: Denial of Abuse
Image Credit: Pexels

Flatly rejecting or minimizing the existence of abuse, dismissing the victim’s experiences and emotions.

Read More: 7 Parenting Mistakes Everyone Should Try to Avoid

Projecting Fault:

Projecting Fault
Image Credit: Pexels

Attributing one’s negative traits or actions to the victim, deflecting accountability for wrongdoing.

Accusing the Victim of Exaggeration:

Accusing the Victim of Exaggeration
Image Credit: Pexels

Dismissing the severity of the abuse by accusing the victim of exaggerating or fabricating their experiences.

Gaslighting Through Denial:

signs of abuse: Gaslighting Through Denial
Image Credit: Pexels

Using denial as a form of gaslighting, causes the victim to question their perception of reality.

Blaming External Factors:

Blaming External Factors
Image Credit: Pexels

Attributing abusive behavior to external factors (stress, substance abuse) rather than taking personal responsibility.

Manipulative Apologies:

Manipulative Apologies
Image Credit: Pexels

Offering apologies without genuine remorse, using apologies as a means to manipulate and avoid accountability.


signs of abuse: Victim-Blaming
Image Credit: Pexels

Holding the victim responsible for the abuse, suggesting they somehow provoked or deserved the mistreatment.

Selective Memory and Forgetfulness are a sign of abuse:

Selective Memory and Forgetfulness

Claiming forgetfulness or memory loss to avoid acknowledging specific instances of abusive behavior.

Blaming Mental Health:

Blaming Mental Health
Image Credit: Pexels

Attributing abusive actions to mental health issues without taking responsibility for seeking help or change.

Denying the Impact:

signs of abuse: Denying the Impact
Image Credit: Pexels

Downplaying or denying the emotional, physical, or psychological impact of the abuse on the victim.

Minimizing Accountability:

Minimizing Accountability
Image Credit: Pexels

Avoiding accountability by downplaying the significance of one’s actions or their role in the abusive dynamic.

Blaming Cultural Norms:

Blaming Cultural Norms
Image Credit: Pexels

Excusing abusive behavior by attributing it to cultural norms, societal expectations, or upbringing.

Denying Intent:

signs of abuse: Denying Intent
Image Credit: Pexels

Claiming that abusive actions were unintentional, denying the deliberate harm caused to the victim.

Deflecting Blame Through Comparison:

Deflecting Blame Through Comparison
Image Credit: Pexels

Comparing one’s actions to others in an attempt to minimize responsibility and avoid blame for abusive behavior.

In conclusion, the presence of any of these signs of abuse should never be overlooked or minimized. They serve as critical markers of unhealthy dynamics within relationships, signaling the need for intervention and support. By acknowledging and addressing these warning signs, individuals can reclaim their autonomy, protect their well-being, and strive towards relationships built on mutual respect and trust. Ignoring these signs only perpetuates cycles of harm, while confronting them paves the way for healing and empowerment.

Read More: Anxiety Disorders May Be Caused By Exposure To Narcissistic Abuse


  1. “How to Recognize the Signs of Emotional Abuse” HealthLine. Ann Pietrangelo and Crystal Raypole. July 13, 2023.
  2. “Are You Experiencing Emotional Abuse and Not Aware of It?” Psych Central. Hope Gillette. February 7, 2022.