Nothing is more damaging to your confidence and self-esteem than being in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Unlike physical abuse which rears its ugly head in dramatic outbursts, emotional abuse can be more insidious and elusive. In some cases, neither the abuser nor the victim are fully aware it's happening.
The most obvious scenario for emotional abuse is in an intimate relationship in which a man is the abuser and the woman is the victim. However, a variety of studies show that men and women abuse each other at equal rates.* In fact, emotional abuse can occur in any relationship -- between parent and child, in friendships, and with relatives.
So what is emotional abuse? It involves a regular pattern of verbal offense, threatening, bullying, and constant criticism, as well as more subtle tactics like intimidation, shaming and manipulation. Emotional abuse is used to control and subjugate the other person, and quite often it occurs because the abuser has childhood wounds and insecurities they haven't dealt with -- perhaps as a result of being abused themselves.
They didn't learn healthy coping mechanisms or how to have positive, healthy relationships. Instead, they feel angry, hurt, fearful and powerless.
Male and female abusers tend to have high rates of personality disorders including borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Although emotional abuse doesn't always lead to physical abuse, physical abuse is almost always preceded and accompanied by emotional abuse.*
The victim of the abuse quite often doesn't see the mistreatment as abusive. They develop coping mechanisms of denial and minimizing in order to deal with the stress. But the effects of long-term emotional abuse can cause severe emotional trauma in the victim, including depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder.