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Emotional abuse can happen to anyone at any time in their lives. Children, teens and adults all experience emotional abuse. And emotional abuse can have devastating consequences on relationships and all those involved. Just because there is no physical mark doesn't mean the abuse isn't real and isn't a problem or even a crime in some countries.

In some respects, emotional abuse is more devastating than physical violence, due the greater likelihood that victims will blame themselves. If someone hits you, it's easier to see that he or she is the problem, but if the abuse is subtle saying or implying that you're ugly, a bad parent, stupid, incompetent, not worth attention, or that no one could love you - you are more likely to think you’re the problem. Emotional abuse seems more personal than physical abuse, more about you as a person, more about your spirit. It makes love hurt.


One definition of emotional abuse is: "any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth."

Emotional abuse is also known as psychological abuse or as "chronic verbal aggression" by researchers. People who suffer from emotional abuse tend to have very low self-esteem, show personality changes (such as becoming withdrawn) and may even become depressed, anxious or suicidal.

Emotional abuse is the ongoing emotional maltreatment of a child. It’s sometimes called psychological abuse and can seriously damage a child’s emotional health and development. Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare or humiliate a child or isolating or ignoring them. Children who are emotionally abused are often suffering another type of abuse or neglect at the same time but this isn’t always the case.

Below are some of the suicide cases caused by emotional abuse in Malaysia.

On 1 February 2018, Malaysia shocked by the 14-years-old schoolgirl committed suicide after being accused of stealing a teacher’s hand phone in school. Below is the chronology of the incident why the student was committed suicide and what prompted her to take it;

1. The student was accused of stealing her teacher’s Iphone

2. The student was taken to a room and was forced to confess that she stole her teacher’s Iphone.

3. The student was also locked up in a room for five hours without food and permission to use the toilet.

4. A teacher aged 40 years old has accused the student of stealing her phone but the student repeatedly denied. Then another teacher acted to hit the student's back in front of her other school friends.

5. After failing to show proof that the student was stealing and did not find evidence, the teacher later reportedly embarrassed the student in front of other students.

Besides that, in the New Straits Time - May 28, 2017 state that over 7000 calls made to Befrienders last year had suicide intention. On average, 20 of the 68 people who call Befrienders Kuala Lumpur daily for help have suicidal thoughts. The number of people crying out for help has increased by 16 per cent, from 21,256 in 2015 to 24,821 in 2016.

Befriender’s KL publicity director Ardy Ayadali said 7,446 who called in 2016 had suicidal intentions, compared with 5,739 in 2015. “Although suicide is more common among older people in most parts of the world, research shows that suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 15 and 29 in Malaysia,” he said. “The numbers are higher when it comes to email, as the younger generation prefers to write.” Befrienders received 3,443 emails from people reaching out for help last year, compared with 2,685 emails in 2015 and 2,283 in 2014. Eighteen per cent of the emails were from youth under 19, 27 per cent were from the 20 to 29 age group and five per cent were from the 30 to 39 age group. The remaining 46 per cent of emails did not mention the senders’ ages.

“Most of the time, all they want is to end the emotional pain that they are feeling. And when nothing else works, suicide comes to mind.” Ardy said the most common trigger for suicide among the callers was depression.

Six Types of Emotional Abuse

1. Rejecting

Parents or caregivers who display rejecting behaviour toward a child will often [purposefully or unconsciously] let a child know, in a variety of ways, that he or she is unwanted. Putting down a child's worth or belittling their needs are some ways this type of emotional abuse may manifest. Other examples can include telling a child to leave, or worse, to get out of your face, calling him names or telling the child that he is worthless, making a child the family scapegoat or blaming him for family/sibling problems. Refusing to talk to or hold a young child as he grows can also be considered abusive behaviour.

2. Ignoring

Adults who have had few of their emotional needs met are often unable to respond to the needs of their children. They may not show attachment to the child or provide positive nurturing. They may show no interest in the child, or withhold affection or even fail to recognize the child's presence. Many times the parent is physically there but emotionally unavailable. Failing to respond to or consistently interact with your child constitutes emotional and psychological abuse.

3. Terrorizing

Parents who use threats, yelling and cursing are doing serious psychological damage to their children. Singling out one child to criticize and punish or ridiculing her for displaying normal emotions is abusive. Threatening a child with harsh words, physical harm, abandonment or in extreme cases death is unacceptable. Even in jest, causing a child to be terrified by the use of threats and/or intimidating behaviour is some of the worst emotional abuse. This includes witnessing, hearing or knowing that violence is taking place in the home.

4. Isolating

A parent who abuses a child through isolation may not allow the child to engage in appropriate activities with his or her peers; may keep a baby in his or her room, unexposed to stimulation or may prevent teenagers from participating in extracurricular activities. Requiring a child to stay in his or her room from the time school lets out until the next morning, restricting eating, or forcing a child to isolation or seclusion by keeping her away from family and friends can be destructive and considered emotional abuse depending on the circumstances and severity.

5. Corrupting

Parents who corrupt may permit children to use drugs or alcohol, watch cruel behaviour toward animals, watch or look at inappropriate sexual content or to witness or participate in criminal activities such as stealing, assault, prostitution, gambling, etc. Encouraging an underage child to do things that are illegal or harmful is abusive and should be reported.

6. Exploiting

Exploitation can be considered manipulation or forced activity without regard for a child's need for development. For instance, repeatedly asking an eight-year-old to be responsible for the family's dinner is inappropriate. Giving a child responsibilities that are greater than a child of that age can handle or using a child for profit is abusive.

Signs and Symptoms

Emotional abuse symptoms vary but can invade any part of a person's life. Signs of emotional abuse include:

• Yelling or swearing (read about: Emotional Bullying)

• Name calling or insults; mocking

• Threats and intimidation

• Ignoring or excluding

• Isolating

• Humiliating

• Denial of the abuse and blaming of the victim

Emotional abuse, like other types of abuse, tends to take the form of a cycle.2 In a relationship, this cycle starts when one partner emotionally abuses the other, typically to

show dominance. The abuser then feels guilt, but not about what he (or she) has done, but more over the consequences of his actions. The abuser then makes up excuses for his own behaviour to avoid taking responsibility over what has happened. The abuser then resumes "normal" behaviour as if the abuse never happened and may, in fact, be extra charming, apologetic and giving – making the abused party believe that the abuser is sorry. The abuser then begins to fantasize about abusing his partner again and sets up a situation in which more emotional abuse can take place.

Short-Term And Long-Term Effects Of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is far worse than any other kind of violence as this hurts a person psychologically. The short-term impact of emotional abuse includes surprise, shock, low selfesteem,

aggression, fear, and guilt. The long-term impact, which is much more severe, includes depression, intense aggression, suicidal tendencies, sleep disorders, trust issues, clingy behaviour, underachievement, and substance abuse.

Emotional abuse is far worse than physical abuse as the impact lasts much longer. Torturing a person this way breaks them from inside out and sometimes beyond repair. The victims

might survive in a better shape if the abuse is for a shorter period. But even this has the potential to leave long-term impressions on those at the receiving end.

Short-Term Effects Of Emotional Abuse

Short-term responses to emotional abuse are often that of shock and/or surprise. The abusive behaviour is quite unexpected and crushes a person’s balance in life. Everything you believe

in comes crashing down with a new, harsher reality. Here’s how the victims might react and what they might experience:

1. Mingled Feelings Of Confusion And Denial

The victims of emotional abuse, be it adults or children, are usually surprised that the situation even happened. They are confused and show symptoms of denial. They end up

questioning their sanity, that they might have imagined the scenario.

2. Strong Feelings Of Fear And Guilt

The victims might be constantly scared of their situation and of the abuser. They also tend to blame themselves for the situation and feel guilty for having caused it, which is almost never

the case. Child victims might apologize frequently, fear to speak up, and be docile all the time.

3. Extreme Feelings Of Either Aggression Or Compliance

Some child and adult victims become completely aggressive, either toward the abuser or toward others, which is more likely. Some others become absolutely passive and bow down

to everything the abuser says. They might also show frequent outbursts of crying.

4. Low Self-Esteem

Those going through such a gruesome phase are low on self-esteem and have negative thoughts and behaviors:

• Feeling manipulated and used

• Avoiding eye contact

• Feeling helpless and undesirable

Children express a lot of anxiety and are wary of everything around them. They’re not confident around anybody and remain quiet most of the time.

Long-Term Effects Of Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse of a short period or an ongoing one leaves a long-term impression on the victims, especially kids. The wounds such an abuse causes will not heal for a long time or

forever. While adults might sustain a short period of abuse better, nobody can handle an abusive relationship for too long. Here are the long-term issues that arise in the victims of emotional abuse:

1. Depression and Withdrawal

Victims who’ve gone through emotional abuse for a long time feel lonely, due to either a lack of help or their inability to approach someone for help. Psychologically beaten down

constantly, the low self-esteem becomes a defining behaviour and slowly leads to clinical

depression. Without outside help or on-time treatment on time, their depression might get more serious, beyond any possible help.

Adults withdraw to themselves and learn to keep to themselves. But children who go through such abuse at a young age either lose or never learn the ability to express their feelings. They

grow up to be a closed-up person incapable of happy feelings or relationships; they can never open up to anyone in their life.

2. Aggression

Victims of emotional abuse, even if physically capable of taking action, are helpless when it comes to their abuser. Their assumed emotional connection with the abuser stops them from reacting violently. This aggression is usually expressed toward others. Adults might be overly aggressive with their kids, house help, friends, or colleagues. Children, however, tend to become bullies in school, picking on other kids, and thus become incapable of having meaningful relationships. They in still the fear they feel on the inside in others.

3. Sleep Disorders and Nightmares

Each day experiencing the abuse is traumatizing with not one good to look forward to. In such an atmosphere, sleep also gives no relief from the harsh life with constant nightmares.

Both adult and child victims of emotional abuse tend to suffer from insomnia, excessive sleep, and/or intense nightmares.

4. Clinging to the abuser

In some cases, although the abuser gives no good reason to do so, the victims empathizes with him/her. They manage to rationalize their abuser’s behavior and take their side. Such behavior can make it hard for a third person to help the victims get out of the situation. Children tend to cling to their abuser. They constantly seek their attention hoping for some positive reaction, even if it just results in further abuse.

5. Suicidal Tendency and Self-Harm

Those going through emotional abuse for a long time will think of harming themselves and ending it all once and for all. Adults might start trying small ways to hurt themselves or act on suicidal tendencies. Children show extremely aggressive, careless behavior, a fearlessness that has the potential to kill or hurt them severely.

6. Substance Abuse

When personal relationships don’t work, the victims of emotional abuse turn to other ways to feel happy in life. They end up becoming addicted to alcohol, drugs, and other such harmful habits. Child victims tend to start smoking at an early age and it’s all downhill from there.

7. Trust Issues

Being abused by a person who was supposed to care for you can break a person completely. This naturally results in a general feeling of mistrust toward everything and everyone. Adults might shy away and deny any offer of help as they might imagine that you’re out to harm them in some way. This applies to children as well, who refuse to believe in anyone and might thus never have a steady relationship in their life.

8. Non-Performer at School/Work

Suffering through emotional abuse, adults tend to be disinterested at work, not being able to concentrate on anything. Children do not socialize in school, do not respond to teachers, might be incapable of learning anything, and are distracted. Although they might have the potential to do things better, their psychological state will be such that they cannot do so.

9. Eating disorders

The general disinterest that is common in victims of emotional abuse also applies to eating habits. Be it an adult or a kid, the victims might not be interested in keeping themselves well-fed, and some are denied that privilege. This gradually leads to some form of eating disorder.

Solution of Emotional Abuse

Notice common forms of emotional abuse

One of the solution of emotional abuse is we should notice common forms of emotional abuse. Not all abuse happens to the same degree, or in the same way. However, there are a few clusters of behaviour that usually constitute emotional abuse, including:

1. Humiliation, invalidation and criticism: You feel like you're constantly being put-down, judged, or told that you're being too sensitive.

2. Domination, control and shame: You feel infantilized, and you find yourself asking "permission" to engage in regular activities.

3. Denial and unreasonable demands: The other person cannot accept blame or apologize, and he or she consistently denies or embellishes facts.

4. Isolation and neglect: You're subjected to the "silent treatment," and denied affection or attention as punishment.

5. Co-dependence: Your personal boundaries are consistently violated, and the other person relies on you as their sole emotional support.

Be aware of gas lighting

Other solution is, be aware of gas lighting. Gas lighting is the slow process of being led question your own sanity or reality. It's a particularly subtle form of emotional abuse, but it can have extremely damaging consequences. You might be suffering from gas lighting if:

1. You constantly second-guess yourself.

2. You're always apologizing, even for insignificant or non-existent errors.

3. You know something is terribly wrong, but you can't put your finger on it.

4. You struggle to make simple choices.

5. You find yourself wondering if you're too sensitive.

Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of a healthy relationship

Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of a healthy relationship. It can be difficult to recognize abuse if you have no idea what a positive relationship looks like. If you feel like you're missing out on the majority of these things, though, you might consider the possibility that you're being emotionally abused:

1. Good will and emotional support

2. The right to your own feelings and opinions, even if they differ from the other person's

3. Encouragement of your interests and accomplishments

4. A lack of physical or emotional threats, including angry outbursts

5. Respectful language that steers clear of name-calling or put-downs

Bring up the problem in a calm environment

Throwing down an accusation of emotional abuse in the midst of a heated argument — even if your claim is perfectly legitimate — is a recipe for disaster. Instead, consider these less confrontational alternatives:

Ask the other person if you can have a calm discussion. Instead of bringing up the term "emotional abuse," say that you think there are things that both of you could work on to make your relationship better. Use plenty of "I" language, such as "I feel like I'm being infantilized when I have to ask permission to go out," instead of hurling accusations that start with "you."

Write a letter. If you feel like a reasonable, relaxed talk is out of the question, put your concerns to paper. The benefit to this method is you can make sure that you're saying exactly what you mean in a way that's constructive as possible. Write out a few drafts, and try to avoid directly accusatory statements that will ignite the other person's anger. For example, instead of saying "You make fun of me and I hate it," try "I feel like I'm being mocked and humiliated."


It's important to remember that emotional abuse is not the victim's fault and that no one deserves to be abused. Armed with these two pieces of information, emotional abuse recovery is possible.

Any of the organizations listed under the emotional abuse help section can point the way to emotional abuse recovery resources. Typically some form of therapy is needed to fully recover from severe emotional abuse. These abusive patterns often become deep-seated and without help, abuse victims may repeat the pattern in other abusive relationships.

General counselling, psychotherapy (talk therapy) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can all have a place in emotional abuse recovery.


*Gregory L. Jantz Ph.D..2015. What is Emotional Abuse?

*New Straits Times (2017) Suicide on the rise among Malaysian youth

*Understanding the Six Forms of Emotional Abuse, Oliver Tuthill, Autumn Tree Productions, 1998

*"Emotional abuse". Counseling Center, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. 2007. Archived from the original on 20 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2013.

*Smith, Melinda; Segal, Jeanne (December 2014). "Domestic violence and abuse: signs of abuse and abusive relationships". Retrieved 14 February 2015.

*Jagatic, Karen; Burnazi, Laurela (September 2000). The nature, extent, and impact of emotional abuse in the workplace: Results of a statewide survey. Toronto, Canada: Academy of Management. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Conference.

*Goldsmith, Rachel E.; Freyd, Jennifer J. (April 2005). "Awareness for emotional abuse". Journal of Emotional Abuse. Taylor and Francis. 5 (1): 95–123.

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