Emotional Wellbeing


Mental Health



Mandy Kloppers

Emotional abuse and depression

It is nearly impossible to stay upbeat and happy when your optimism and spirit are being eroded away by an abusive partner. Emotional abuse and depression are closely linked but many overlook the connection. Emotional abuse is hard to pick up on but it’s effects can be devastating. Tell a decent, mentally healthy person that they have upset you and they will try to understand why and try to avoid that behaviour in the future. Tell an emotional abuser that they have hurt you and they will twist it around. By the end of that conversation it will somehow all be your fault. You’ll be accused of being too sensitive or be asked, “Can’t you take a joke?”. These subtle emotional blows can weaken even the strongest person and leave them with self doubt and an inability to make decisions as they used to.

Emotional abuse and depression often go hand in hand as emotional abuse can be likened to ingesting a slow poison. It robs you of your self confidence and your views of the world and makes you doubt everything – how worthy you are as a person, how accurate your judgements are and will lead to confusion and an underlying sense of loss although you may not know exactly why.

Signs of emotional abuse:

1) They are always right

Somehow, you will always be in the wrong. Facts and events get twisted and you will always end up being the guilty party. Nothing they do is ever their fault. They will have one set of rules for themselves and another set for everyone else. They do not take responsibility for their part and trying to get them to own up to something will leave you disappointed and frustrated.

2) They blame others

As previously mentioned, emotional abusers are never to blame for anything that goes wrong. They will somehow always be the victim. They will steadfastly refuse to apologise for their actions and blame anyone else,anything else to get off the hook. You are wasting your time if you hope that your emotionally abusive partner will apologise and work hard to change his/her ways. Why should they when it’s not their fault?

3) Gas-lighting

This involves making you believe things that didn’t really happen or aren’t really there. For example telling you that they have told you about an upcoming party that you are 100% sure they never told you about. They will never doubt themselves. Instead they will roll their eyes and insist they told you leaving you to doubt your memory. They will push their version of reality on to you and you may end up feeling as if you are going crazy, not knowing what is true anymore.

4) They are critical of others but do not apply the same rules to themselves

Emotional abusers often have low self-awareness. This is often because they are more tuned in to others in order to control them and manipulate them. Apart from being quite controlling characters, they are known for their constant put-downs.

“Why are you wearing that?”, “Why did you do that?” or “I hope you’re not going to put that there?”  These are all examples of typical questions that an emotional abuser would use. They are leading questions suggesting that what you are doing is wrong. They are said in a tone that makes a person feel on edge with a need to explain themselves. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead of explaining yourself, send them a question back “Why are you asking?”. They want to throw you off guard and make you explain yourself. Be more assured in your behaviour and remind yourself that you don’t need to explain every action you do. Get them to give their reasons instead of you giving them reasons. Put the spotlight back on them as much as you can.

Emotional abusers will rarely admit to any abuse.Many of them will have learned this unhealthy way of acting due to a dysfunctional childhood. Usually where they were suppressed by angry despotic type parents. They couldn’t show anger and had to learn emotional manipulation instead. They are often low in self esteem and will put on an act of bravado to seem bigger and better than they feel they are inside. This is why they put others down around them. It’s an attempt to feel superior and keep those that threaten them in their place. There is a lot of misguided and unhealthy ‘self-talk’ that goes on for an abuser. They will convince themselves that they know better than others, a self-righteous attitude almost.

5) They are often opinionated and controlling – they “always know best”

When you actually look at them and what they have achieved, you will see that it isn’t nearly as amazing as they think it is. They may have an air of entitlement, be opinionated and bossy. They will also find it almost impossible to genuinely experience empathy for others. In fact, emotional abusers are often narcissists in many ways. It’s all about them.

You can’t change an abuser. Don’t bother trying – it will just leave you exhausted.You may have normalised their behaviour, allowing them to continue the abuse. What would seem unacceptable to most people is something you now accept as normal behaviour. This is a very dangerous scenario as your view of reality can become skewed and this works in the abuser’s favour, not yours.

The slow erosion of your confidence and sense of self will take it’s toll and depression is likely to follow. If you think you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship, get help. With depression, it can become even harder to leave someone who is emotionally abusive so I advise speaking to friends and/or finding a therapist and getting perspective on the relationship. If others think you are in a bad relationship, it might be time to have a break from the relationship and work on yourself a little – this way you can see if the depression begins to lift. It can be a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation but something has to shift if you want to maintain your sanity and get a hold of your situation.  Remind yourself that you deserve someone who cares about your happiness, who doesn’t pick on you endlessly and who is balanced enough to take responsibility for his/her part and actions in the relationship.

Emotional abusers are the losers of life – they can’t make it on their own so they blame others for their weaknesses and prey on the vulnerable people they meet. If you want a better life, get rid of the loser.

Mandy X