Google the word emotional abuse. No, you didn’t enter the words incorrectly. It defaults to a definition of psychological abuse which states is a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting, or exposing, another person to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The key phrase changes because psychological violence, emotional abuse and mental abuse are all categorized under the umbrella of psychological abuse – which in itself is deterring.
Think about it – if you’re a victim of emotional abuse, the last thing you want to feel like it a category under a sub-category because what your feeling is traumatic and painful. Your turmoil shouldn’t be a sub-category of an umbrella – point number one of why emotional abuse is not considered to be as accepted within our culture.
Emotional abuse is on a much larger scale than physical abuse – which is why some people don’t get it. The marks are not visible to a stranger. Instead the bruises and lacerations are too deep for the naked eye and are only felt by the victim. We live in a society where we have to circumstance everything with proof – which is a good and bad thing. Instead of taking someone’s word, as human beings we feel the need to provide proof and validation. And it’s only at that point do we feel like things are “real”. Epi.org says that emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Again, none of those elements are visible and are institutionalized on a person-by-person basis. The course of action causing emotional abuse can also range – constant berating and belittling, intimidation or by the false basis of guidance, teaching, or advice.
Furthermore, the lists of types of emotional abuse also range which can also be confusing to an outsider because there is no physical proof. Abusive expectation, aggressing, constant chaos, denying, dominating, emotional blackmail, invalidation, minimizing, unpredictable responses and verbal assaults are the main categories of emotional abuse – however, it’s important to remember that some instances can be a compilation of a few or many of these categories.
Emotional abuse affects everyone. There’s children and partners in domestic violence cases, there’s sexual harassment in the workplace, there’s the post-traumatic stress disorder and many other situations that bring forth emotional abuse properties and cases. For the person who’s never experienced any emotionally abusive situation, they can’t wrap their head around the thought of hurting so bad to have a name for it. Sure, everyone has a bad day or endures a rough time within their lives, but to categorize it into a statistic is difficult for people to comprehend. And on the opposite side, there are people who’ve been subjected to so much emotional abuse throughout their life that they may not know any better. These individuals don’t know how else to function therefore, they assimilate normality with emotional abuse – which is very scary.
People don’t get it. Which is very unfortunate. It’s important to recognize that something that isn’t visible to the eye is still tangible. For example we can’t see Jesus Christ, but we still believe. Therefore, why can’t others believe in abuse that effects a person’s general make-up? The numbers are staggering and terrifying because when you review numbers of physical cases you have to wonder – how many of these cases could have had a happier ending if someone would have recognized the emotional abuse that took place prior? Take these numbers for example:
- According to the American Psychological Association, 4,774,000 women in the United experience physical violence by an intimate partner each year.
- The World Health Organization has reported women lose 8,000,000 days of paid because of the abuse perpetrated against them by current or former male partners. This loss is equivalent to over 32,000 full-time jobs.
- 81 percent of women who are stalked by a current or former male partner are also physically abused by that partner.
- Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families according to the National Coalition for the Homelessness.
- 10,000,000 children are exposed to domestic violence every year.
Emotional abuse is a real thing and based on the statistics it generally leads to other avenues of tragedy. A study of college students by Goldsmith and Freyd report that many who have experienced emotional abuse do not characterize the mistreatment as abusive. Moreover, the same study revealed that these people also tend to exhibit higher than average rates of alexithymia – which is identified as the difficulty distinguishing and processing their own emotions. Other studies show that this is primarily the case when referring to victims of abuse within intimate relationships, as non-recognition of the actions as abuse may be a coping or defense mechanism in order to either seek to master, minimize or tolerate stress or conflict. Taking a deeper look into the situations reveal that the children, who are witnessing these abusive acts, often grow up to become parents who abuse their own children, either emotionally or otherwise, due to the child’s development being impaired in all domains of functioning.
Another environment where emotional abuse frequently occurs is in the workplace. Goldsmith and Freyd’s study also found that 31 percent of women and 21 percent of men who reported workplace emotional abuse exhibited three key symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The PTSD can then escalate to a number of other issues such as: psychological stress and health impairment due to a loss of motivation, decreased work or school performance, having to drop courses, change academic plans, or leave school in fear of harassment repetition, being objectified and humiliated by scrutiny and gossip, loss of trust in environments similar to the former harassed environment, loss in trust in the types of people that occupy similar positions as the harasser, effects on sexual life and relationships with significant others, weakening of support network, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sleeplessness and/or nightmares, eating disorders, alcoholism and drug abuse. The list could go on and on or even result in a combination of several issues.
Emotional abuse is horrific for those who are direct victims and even for others who are abused second hand. The world needs to stop only correlating tragedy with physical evidence and recognize that some cuts run much deeper.