Emotional abuse: A toxic relationship of which one needs to get out

Crying woman with bruised
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Abuse can take many forms and is always detrimental to a person’s life. It can occur in nearly any relationship. Some forms can be easier to spot, such as physical abuse, as it may leave marks and bruises on an individual. However, there are certain forms of abuse that even the recipient may find difficult to spot. اضافة اعلان

Abuse can be subtle but have a profound negative impact on a person’s life. One such form is emotional abuse; understanding the many ways emotional abuse may occur can help one recognize it and help put an end to it.

What is emotional abuse?
Emotional abuse is a way of controlling an individual by using emotions. The ultimate goal is manipulation. Emotional abuse generally involves a consistent pattern of abusive words and bullying behavior, which usually makes individuals have lower self-esteem and worsening mental health. It is one of the most difficult forms of abuse to spot since it is typically subtle; it may, however, at times, be overt and blatantly manipulative.

Emotional abuse cases in Jordan
Measuring the prevalence of abuse cases is difficult. A large amount of abuse goes unreported, either out of fear or from a lack of understanding that abuse is occurring in the first place.

However, based on many studies on the subject, it is estimated that 50–80 percent of adults will experience emotional abuse.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 36.3 percent of children will experience emotional abuse. Jordan, unfortunately, is no exception to this global trend.

A 2021 study set out to assess the prevalence of different forms of abuse of Jordanian women in rural and urban households. The study found that roughly 50 percent of women experience emotional abuse; rates of emotional abuse were higher in urban households (57.3 percent).

A 2012 study focused on the many aspects related to violence against Jordanian women. One such aspect was women’s own beliefs regarding a husband’s abuse of their wife; 72 percent of women participants agreed with the statement that the husband has the right to punish any member of the family, including the wife. This may be an underlying societal aspect that explains why the prevalence of abuse is high in Jordan.

Abuse, especially emotional abuse, is not something that happens exclusively to women. Another 2021 study wanted to assess emotional abuse experienced by Jordanian men in marriages. All the 1,003 Jordanian men randomly selected said that they had experienced some form of emotional abuse. Although this does not necessarily show prevalence, it does serve as an important note. As mentioned in this particular study, many other studies have found that emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse perpetrated by women.

Children are also subject to emotional abuse. A study conducted by WHO found that 58.3 percent of children between the ages of 8 and 17 experienced at least one form of psychological violence, which encompasses emotional abuse. The most common form included being shouted at, cursed at, insulted, refusal to speak to the child, and blaming the child for things out of his control.

The overwhelming majority of emotional abuse suffered by children was perpetrated by family (37.1 percent by siblings and 27.9 percent by parents), but also by teachers (5.7 percent), and peers.

Types of emotional abuse
Studies on emotional abuse are still relatively new and classifications are still being made. However, emotional abuse can broadly be categorized into four different types, many of which overlap. These categories are degrading, shaming, accusing, and isolating.

The purpose of degrading is to undermine self-esteem. It can be done in different ways, but generally involve humiliating, negating, and/or criticizing. Common examples of this include belittling accomplishments, calling derogatory names, and insulting one’s appearance. Degrading may be hard to spot from the outside looking in, but shaming may be a little more obvious.

The purpose of shaming is to make the other person feel inadequate and ultimately manipulate one into becoming dependent on one’s abuser. Common examples of this include monitoring one’s whereabouts, controlling access to finances, and/or constant lecturing.
Studies suggest that the outcome of emotional abuse can be just as severe as that of physical abuse. In general, it can create a feeling of self-doubt, worthlessness, and self-loathing. One of the greatest impacts of emotional abuse is the loss of self.
With accusing, the purpose is to establish a hierarchy where one is in control by weaponizing emotions. This can include trying to instill guilt, trivializing a problem, and/or blaming someone else for one’s own problems.

Lastly, someone who emotionally abuses tries to isolate the individual. This serves two functions: separate a person from anyone who may intervene and stop the abuse; get the abused to prioritize the abuser’s needs. This can be done by actively turning others against the abused, dehumanizing him/her, and/or issuing ultimatums.

Effects of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse can have a profound impact on one’s mental health and general well-being. Studies suggest that the outcome of emotional abuse can be just as severe as that of physical abuse. In general, it can create a feeling of self-doubt, worthlessness, and self-loathing. One of the greatest impacts of emotional abuse is the loss of self.

When the abuse is continuous and severe, all the criticism chips away at the realistic view one has of oneself. In time, one may start to believe the things one’s partner says and cause the abused to become hypercritical of the self. This will ultimately create a loop where the abused no longer feels worthy of anyone else’s affection and becomes trapped within a relationship, while being abused further. Eventually, the abused may begin to feel like a burden to others and isolate him/herself from friends and family. This cycle of abuse can have a profound effect on one’s mental health and cause disorders such as depression, anxiety, and even eating disorders.

Getting help
There are certain situations in which the relationship can be salvaged, but it is important to know that one will likely need an exit strategy.

One of the first steps one can take is to make oneself a priority. Abusers want the abused to put their needs above their own; instead, the abused should focus on their own mental and physical health.

Next, one needs to establish boundaries by making it known that one no longer accepts to be treated a certain way; if the abuse continues, the conversation should end and the abused should leave the room.

Lastly, it is important to remember that the abuser’s behavior is not the fault of the abused. More often than not, abusers’ actions are unprovoked, and usually there is nothing one can do to fix them. At a certain point, it is best to not engage with the abuser.

Do not apologize or try to provide an explanation. Simply walking away, if the situation allows for it, may be the best outcome. If a partner, friend, or family member has no intention of fixing their behavior, then you will need to find a way out.

Creating a support network can help make this process easier and therapists can help you manage trauma endured. Jordanian Women’s Union is a group that aims to help women in abusive relationships. They have a hotline that provides counseling, as well as social and legal guidance for abused women. If you or someone you know is in need of their services, their hotline is 065675729.

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