Find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions on the Forums.

Forums guidelines

Our guidelines keep the Forums a safe place for people to share and learn information.

how do we know when we are being emotionally abused?

Community Member

Hello everyone,

I would like to know how do when we are being emotionally abused when we suffer from depression. Because depression makes you overly sensitive to criticism and causes frustration for our family. When I described my situation to three different psychologists, all said I was being emotionally abused. These incidences were; my partner went and received a a sexual service when we were in an online relationship, before we met in person, and claimed he's done nothing wrong because he didn't consider us in a relationship at that time; several occasions he has blocked my number and ignored me for 3 days at a time when he got angry at me- he claims everyone gets angry in relationships and why does it hurt just not speaking for a few days? and lastly, he said I'm lazy and not meeting up to his expectations because I'm currently off sick from work.

I don't know how to differentiate what is acceptable and what isn't because of my state of mind. He said the idea he is being abusive is absurd because he never shouts or hits me. He thinks emotional abuse is a fake construct. Thoughts?

14 Replies 14

Community Champion
Community Champion

Fleur welcome to the forum,

thanks for making your first post.

I have often been accused by family and loved ones of being too sensitive and not being able to handle feedback ie criticism so I can relate to what you say.

I can see that your partner's words and behaviour have hurt you and you have tried to make sense of it all by consulting psychologists.

I feel if you are hurt by your partner's actions then there is a problem. Also you have explained how you feel and he then seems to attack you. Emotional abuse is recognised as a real thing and can be as damaging as physical abuse.

Sure people get angry in relationships and can sulk for a while but 3 days when he knows how sensitive you are seems a bit uncaring.

What do you think? Do you feel he is being unreasonable or do you feel you are over reacting.

Calling some one you are supposed to care for, lazy does not seem very helpful especially when you are sick.

I know I can overreact at times and I feel very sensitive and like you I check with other people to see if maybe I have taken things out of context.

Thanks for your post.


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

I’ve always found a good sign that someone is being emotionally abusive is when they tell you that you are being “too sensitive” or “thin skinned” or “it’s all in your head”. Most normal people would apologize and never do it again if you told them something was hurting your feelings, not deny it’s ecistence. You always know the truth by the way it feels. Listen to your gut, if something doesn’t feel right then it usually isn’t.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Dear Fleur

Welcome to the forum. It's a good place to tell your story and get some help. Yes your partner is being emotionally abusive. These are put downs from him and are not acceptable.

I can relate to them all, especially the ignoring you part. My ex would not speak to me for days though we were in the same room and every time I would end a wreck. He did it in front of our children and I have no idea how much they were distressed by this. According to the ex I was also lazy and inconsiderate. He complained that I did nothing around the house, couldn't be bothered to take the children for various sporting and other activities, gave me the silent treatment and took it out on the children if I disagreed with him.

All very nasty and I put up with it for years before leaving. So again yes, you are being abused. Juliet is right about listening to your body. It knows when things aren't right and tries to tell you.

Quirky has lots of valid comments. Being sensitive is something we learn when we become depressed. No good anyone telling you to get a thicker skin, because it doesn't work that way. No one has the right to abuse another, physically, sexually, emotionally or mentally.

I hope you will write in again.


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Fleur, thanks for posting your comment.

I would think by blocking your phone number for 3 days is certainly emotional abuse, the same as when my wife went to the bedroom and shut the door, the silent treatment is emotional abuse just as financial holding money back from you is also emotional abuse.

Criticising you for what you are doing all the time or what you aren't doing is once again, emotional abuse.

A person who experiences criticism may have a decrease in motivation to avoid further criticism, however, this could be a reason to develop depression.

The continual silent treatment was one reason I became depressed, although I was hiding it so no one knew about it.

Best wishes.


Community Member

Hi Fleur,

I'm new to the forum and perhaps a little late to this discussion so I hope you don't mind me responding.

Emotional abuse is a very real thing and there is a lot of information about it online. I know from personal experience though that it can be hard to identify in the moment, and certainly very difficult to respond to as it's happening. Reflection can help a lot, so I encourage you to keep talking to people about it so you can start to understand and identify the different tactics, and learn appropriate responses.

Something my ex has said to me many times is that he never did anything bad enough to warrant me leaving, that he never hit me. There's two things wrong with this, first is that there's no "line" that can or cannot be crossed that represents abuse. Hitting is not okay, but neither is any other tactic designed to manipulate you into submission, whether it be yelling, ignoring, calling you names including lazy, embarrassing you etc. If the behaviour is abusive, then it's simply unacceptable.

The second aspect wrong with this statement is that the abuser has no right to decide on your behalf what is acceptable. If you don't find his behaviour acceptable, then it is your choice to voice this. If he decides not to change his behaviour, it is your decision whether you stay or leave. You do not need his permission or consent to determine what is acceptable behaviour toward you.

I hope this has been helpful, and I wish you all the best.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Fleur1992

It might help a little to look at it from a different angle; instead of questioning emotional abuse you can question what a healthy relationship looks like.

I believe a healthy relationship involves evolving together, both as a couple and individually within the relationship. Helping each other through challenges (including emotional ones) is a part of a healthy sense of growth, which often brings people closer together. For one member of the relationship to be promoting a such sense of separation and neglect, is basically no good at all. Sounds like this guy is abusing the privilege of being in a relationship with you and it is a privilege, to have the opportunity and gift of evolving with another person.

Definitely some abuse going on here Fleur1992. I suggest you find another far more evolved person to grow with, someone who will inspire you to feel greater health (for a start), as opposed to calling you lazy. This dude sounds like he's far more interested in the relationship he has with himself.

Take care of yourself!

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Fleur

We haven't heard from you for a few days. How are you going? I hope all is well with you.

Your situation is tough and I do understand how helpless it can make you feel. Shouting or hitting are two forms of abuse and because he does not do that does not mean he is not abusive. Emotional and psychological abuse are very effective weapons and if possible, are even more despicable than shouting and hitting.

Can you post in again and tell us what is happening for you? I am concerned.


Hey there. I have a friend who picked me up from hospital and invited me home to stay in her small flat to recover and I was only there a short time when I realised that she was being quite abusive in her analytical way and attempting to disassemble my mind and really try to "get into" my head. She dominated every conversation we had and anything I said such as "look at the bee on the flowers there, dosen't he look happy doing his little job" was completely deconstructed and pulled apart to remove any kindness or love or wonder from it and the lecture would literally go for an hour to the point where I could not even get a word in and the beautiful bee was reduced to a "clockwork creature that doesn't care about being happy or the color of the flowers " It took me awhile to work out her game but she is a master manipulator and was probably attempting to ruin my mindfulness in hindsight. She has also said things along the lines of "stay away from my friends ( that she introduced me to so I would not feel so lonely) because they are so worried about my behavior " when nothing untoward happened and added just for a devastating after thought that they said I have "crazy eyes". I have woken up to this sick unit and when she wants to help someone its to elevate her self above others because she has bi polar but every one else is much sicker than she is. I have removed her from my life and will not make the same mistake again

Hi to all...

I was emotionally abused by my husband for years & was very confused about what was happening.

Unknown to me (or anyone else) at the time that I was suffering from severe GAD & Narcolepsy, I was called many names, like crazy, mental, stupid... He would openly tell people to ignore me, he would disrespect me both alone & in front of other people (eg. buying drinks for everyone at the table except me, buying drinks for other women but not me...),he believed sex/sexual acts were justified "payment" for helping around the house, and he even had me "check in" with photo evidence if I wasn't home from work on time.

I knew it was wrong for him to treat me that way & I knew I didn't deserve to be treated that way, but nor did I believe I deserved better, either. He made me feel like no one else would want me & that it was him or nobody. I was terrified of being alone, so I stayed.

I married him & had a child with him, and it was only then that I found the strength to leave.

Some accused me of using him to have a baby. My response was that I wouldn't have put up with him & his treatment of me for 7yrs if all I cared about was getting pregnant.

I didn't really WANT to be alone, but I definitely didn't want to be with him the rest of my life! Being alone is better than being with the wrong person, and anyone who calls you names, disrespects you, undermines you, or intentionally hurts you in any way is not worth being with. Maybe some people are "too sensitive," but if you love that person, you accept their sensitivity & help to protect them & encourage them to grow & learn to protect themselves. If someone you love told you they suffered arachnophobia, would you throw a spider at them, or would you jump up & protect them from all the rubber spiders in the party store?

Be with someone who accepts you & is willing to defend who you are xx.