The Signs of Mental Abuse

Abuse in relationships can take many forms, including physical, mental and sexual. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one in four women has experienced domestic violence. Although physical violence often draws the most attention, mental violence can be just as dangerous. Knowing the signs of mental abuse can help you avoid or escape a harmful relationship, as well as help you recognize if a loved one is being mentally abused.

A woman clutches at her hair as her husband intimidates her while standing over her at the dining table. Credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images


In a mentally abusive relationship, the abuser often shows signs of extreme jealousy. He may demand to know everywhere you go, question you incessantly about people you hang out with, including family and friends, and even demand that you stop seeing these people. The abusive partner may also display excessive jealousy of other men, especially your exes. Your partner may say that the jealousy is just because he cares so much, but in reality it is often a deep insecurity that will only worsen. Abusive lovers often use their jealousy as an excuse to be controlling, demanding that you do not attend social events or, in extreme cases, not go to work.


Another form of mental abuse is showing disrespect by mocking, criticizing or humiliating the victim. An abusive person will often call her lover names such as stupid, fat, lazy, ugly or useless. The aggressor will also show disrespect by interrupting, ignoring and yelling at her partner. She may mock the victim in public, trying to shame and embarrass him. Another mentally abusive tactic is to lie to, betray and cheat on a partner, which are all forms of disrespect. The abuser will often twist the events around to blame the victim, making it seem like the victim caused the betrayal.


Control is a central element in abusive relationships. The aggressor often uses mind games, anger, threats and insults to dominate the victim and control her actions and habits. A mentally abusive boyfriend may tell his girlfriend how to dress, where to go and even who to talk to. He may demand that she stay home with him instead of going out with friends or seeing family. He may threaten to harm her or himself if she leaves or talks to anyone about the relationship, or he may threaten violence against her children or pets. Abusers will also use putdowns, bullying and humiliation to make the victims feel paralyzed and unworthy of a better relationship.

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