The Emotional and Psychological Signs of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse includes both emotional and psychological abuse and/or physical violence. It does not distinguish between race, age, gender, culture, sexual orientation or social economic status. It is important to note that while women are usually characterized as the victim in domestic abuse situations, men can also be victims, especially when it comes to emotional and psychological abuse.

Recognizing the warning signs of an abusive relationship is the first step in ending the abuse. The person that you love should not abuse you. You do not deserve that type of treatment. Furthermore, if you know of someone who is being abused by a loved one then it is important that you encourage that person to seek help.

What is Domestic Abuse (Domestic Violence)?

Domestic abuse, also referred to as spousal abuse and domestic violence, occurs when an individual tries to dominate his/her partner. The goal of this type of abuse is to gain control over you through physical violence, criticism and/or intimidation. Although you love your abuser, he/she does not care about your feelings. He/she uses fear, pressure, threats, shame and/or bullying to dominate you and maintain control over your thoughts and actions. It is not uncommon for an abuser to terrorize you or threaten to harm you and your loved ones (parents, siblings, friends and/or children) in order to keep you under his/her control.

What Are The Signs of Domestic Abuse?

It is important to recognize the signs of domestic abuse early so that you or someone you love can seek help and end the abuse. Domestic abuse typically begins with threats and progresses until physical violence is involved. This type of abuse can have long-lasting emotional, psychological and physical effects. When you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, you may experience low self-esteem and self-worth, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, depression, anxiety and/or suicidal thoughts.

You deserve to be happy so the first step in ending an abusive relationship is to recognize that you are indeed in an abusive relationship. Once you accept that you are in a dangerous situation, you will be more likely to seek help.

Signs That You Are In an Abusive Relationship:

You are isolated from everyone.

When you are in an abusive relationship, your partner will more than likely try to separate you from the people who love you (friends, family, co-workers, etc.).He/she will stress the need for privacy and complain if you express a desire to visit people or have people visit you. If you work outside of the home your abuser may constantly remind you not to share any details about your home life with your co-workers.

He/she will force you to turn down invitations to parties, events, etc. In addition your abuser may try to put a wedge between you and your family so that communication between the two of you is sparse at best. You abuser will insist that you spend all of your free time with him/her. Domestic violence abusers tend to be extremely paranoid; constantly questioning where you are, where you are going and who you are talking to.

You are constantly afraid.

When you are in an abusive relationship, you are constant afraid of what your abuser will do. You may experience an anxiety attack if you are running late because you know that your abuser will be angry with you and therefore may become emotional, psychologically or physically abusive towards you. Typically domestic abuse begins with threats and intimidation and accelerates until physical violence is involved.

When your abuser becomes upset with you, he/she may punch walls, throw things, break objects, clench his/her fists and pretend to hit or punch you. He/she may also grab you, push, kick, punch or slap you. In some cases, your abuser may prevent you from leaving the room until he/she is ready for you to leave.

You are constantly criticized.

When you are in an abusive relationship, your abuser may constantly criticize and belittle you in private and in the company of other people. The goal is to make you feel worthless and insignificant. If your abuser can devalue you by shaming you then he/she can maintain emotional, psychological and physical control over you.

Do not expect you abuser to feel regret, apologize or take responsibility for his/her actions, because abusers rarely do. Instead, an abuser will blame you for his/her negative behaviors. He/she will try to convince you that you provoked him/her or that you did something that made him/her abuse you. That is a lie. Domestic violence abusers tend to Havre unrealistic expectations for their partners so if you do not behave, look or respond perfectly you are at risk for abuse.

You frequently have injuries.

When you are in an abusive relationship, you more than likely constantly have old or healing bruises and/or injuries. Co-workers, acquaintances, friends and family members may comment on the injuries, but if you are in denial you will make up excuses to cover up what is really happening to you. If you are in a healthy relationship you should not have injuries.


Kurst-Swanger, K. & Petcosky, J. L. (2003). Violence in the home: Multidisciplinary perspectives (Psychology). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Lazenbatt, A. & Thompson-Cree, M. E. (2009). Recognizing the co-occurrence of domestic and child abuse: A comparison of community-and hospital-based midwives. Health & Social Care in the Community, 17(4).358.


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