Emotionally Abusive Family Members – What You Need To Know

As we grow up we’re told “oh at least you have a loving family” “you have something not all families have” “they can’t be that bad” and the usual “you’re overreacting”. We’re often scared to speak up due to the consequences our words may have, but what about the lifelong consequences their words have on us?

If you’re wondering how is it really like living with an emotionally abusive family member, please keep reading to obtain an insider.

Know The Signs

Just as physical abuse, emotional abuse can leave some permanent marks that along the way could make more damage than physical abuse.

I am not saying that physical abuse doesn’t have any damages or leave any scars, because I certainly know it does.

Emotional abuse can happen in so many ways, at any given moment. It doesn’t only include emotional abuse by a partner, but it can also include emotional abuse by a family member. If you weren’t aware, it happens more often than what you may think. In fact, there are times when the victim doesn’t even know they’re being emotionally abused. For that matter, an abuser may not be conscious of the wrongs they’re doing themselves, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t wrong.

Here are some of the signs that you should be aware of when regarding emotional abuse:  Emotional abuse

• Yelling – A usual tactic used by abusers to intimidate their victims and make them feel vulnerable.

• Insults towards your looks – It is not normal for a person to degrade the way you look or the way you dress. They will make it seem like you “need” to follow the standards that they “think” are what you should look like.

• Financial control – I have seen this too many times to count. If someone is keeping their bank accounts and money away from you (money that it’s yours) and they threaten you with not providing this help for your needs, that is abuse. To start with, it’s not even their money in the first place, so why are they keeping it from you?

• Derogatory-name calling – Some people may be used to hearing others call them “stupid” or “you’re an idiot” but, do keep in mind that this is actually something to keep an eye on, and be aware that it is not alright.

• Not caring about your feelings – Abusers seek power and they will do anything to gain that against you; even if that means being indifferent towards the way you feel or completely putting aside your needs.

• Blaming you for what happens to them – We see this way too often. An abuser will make every possible effort to turn the tables, and make you feel like everything is your fault. They will tell you that you should be more respectful towards them if you don’t want to have bad things keep happening.

• Making you feel bad for your interests – Once you start being vocal about the things you like and the things you enjoy, an abuser will tell you that they don’t like that thing you like. They will make it seem like you don’t have a good taste or even prohibiting you from liking said thing.

• Controlling your decisions – You may feel confident about what you wish to accomplish, but in an abuser’s eye, you’re just doing it wrong. They will tell you what you “have” to do and how to do it.

• Guilt – Abusers will make yourself feel guilty for wanting, needing or saying something. They would even go as far as to say that they once did one thing for you, and now you’re just being ungrateful.

• Turning others against you – In their eyes, you do everything wrong, so they will try to find a way to make others see what they’re trying to portray you as.

• Isolation – This can be such a dangerous thing. Abusers tend to keep you isolated because they’re afraid you might say something. They don’t want you to discover the world on your own, much less be happy.

• Denying something that’s true – This can be regarding an argument, opinion or even an action. Everyone knows it’s true. You know it’s true, but they would never admit to you that you’re right.
• Walking out but never accepting the wrongs – Once they get tired they will walk out. They will make it look like you’re a burden to them or your family.

These are only some of the most common signs, but please note that there are more signs related to this issue. This is my take due to personal experiences.

But They’re Your Family

It blows my mind thinking about how people will find excuses and even accuse you of exaggerating everything, just because they know your family and everything you say doesn’t fit the standards of abuse.


It doesn’t matter who the person is. No one has the right to make you feel like you’re worthless or make you question your every move. It doesn’t matter if they’re your parents, partner, friends or family, abuse is abuse and no one should tell you otherwise.

It is not up to the world to debate whether you’re in an abusive household or not. Your feelings matter and those should be enough for you to reach out or seek help.

Keeping Silence

It’s hard dealing with abuse. Especially if when it first started you didn’t know it was actually abuse. You were so used to it that you saw it as a normal thing. Isn’t it normal?

We want someone to witness the abuse so that we can somehow feel safe, but someone knowing only spikes up our anxiety. We don’t want to destroy the family, besides, it may have been our fault, right? It would’ve only gotten worse if I said something.

These things keep running up in your mind and you’re so terrified of seeing what would actually happen, but that just becomes an illusion. You think that there’s no way that you will get out of that toxic environment.

What happened when you do, in fact, get out of that abusive situation? It’s a scary feeling. You don’t know what to do nor what to say. You do feel relief, after all those years of trauma and avoidance, you’re finally free. But still, somehow, you feel empty; like you’re actually missing that environment. That is completely normal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you for feeling that way.

What’s Next?

Healing starts once you’re out of that toxic environment. It doesn’t take a few days or a few months. It can take years or even a lifetime to recover from the abuse. The only thing we can do is find tools that would help us better our mental health.

Abuse can lead to depression and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). If you feel like you’re presenting any symptoms, please reach out. If you’re unsure, scared or too anxious to make an appointment you can find other ways to get the help you need. I wrote an article about Online Therapy if you’re interested I will leave it right here.

The aftermath’s of trauma can also change your behavior, you may develop insomnia or even chronic pain. Know your body and search within yourself what’s causing you to do certain things or act a certain way. There is nothing wrong with you, please don’t think otherwise.

Some people just think that after going through such horrific abuse that you will know when someone starts treating you wrong, but in reality, you don’t really know. Being so used to something leads to attachment and attachment leads to looking for that one thing in other people, which can be really dangerous. For said reason, I advise you to seek professional help or as I said, other options that don’t require you going to a doctors office.

Healing takes time and you should do it at your own pace.

Online Therapy  

Living With PTSD

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18 thoughts on “Emotionally Abusive Family Members – What You Need To Know”

  1. Thanks for writing this article.  More people need to realize how damaging emotional abuse is.  To be honest, the reason the physical abuse is so bad isn’t the physical part of it.  It’s that physical abuse almost never only physical, it’s always accompanied by emotional abuse too.  But people don’t realize that emotional abuse is the real damage, even without the physical.  

    My least favorite part of being in an abusive relationship?  He tried to make me feel crazy.  Manipulating things and acting as if I was remembering things wrong, or doing stupid things that I never caught onto at first, until afterward.  All that you listed happened, too.  Putting down my friends, me, but they’re smart, they do it in this side-eyed type way that makes you feel guilty without being very direct about it at all.  It can be subtle without any yelling at all.  It’s not a good feeling.  Thanks for writing about this!

    1. Thanks for writing this article I’ve gone no contact with all my family having had them gang up with my abusive ex to gaslight dehumanise & pretend they don’t hear my words or thoughts i literally thought I was insane until I met some normal people the whole world isn’t like that & people are kind considerate & compassionate. It’s hard to believe & feels very disorienting at the start. I am healing but it’s very slow I have a sixth sense when I meet abusive types & feel a need to seek approval from them & it’s so unhealthy. But I’m coming out of isolation slowly & consciously aligning with healthy people the self doubt is fading but I need these sort of articles to help reassure me I’m not crazy. It’s very much like two realities but I’ve chosen the right one & i’m never going back.

  2. Families are set of people that one should feel love, safety, peace and warmth whenever one is around them but then, it gets really fatal when they turn to assailant sometimes. It is not really an easy thing to do when one founds theirselves in an emotionally abusive state with any member of the family. Hence, picking from these tips would surely come very handy as time goes on because there would be need to ensure that one stays safe. You are right with your information here and I agree with you.

  3. Hi! This has been a complicated scenario because the abuser is inside the family and there is a certain familiarity from others outside the family towards the abuser. Most people put up a front when they walk through their front door. But it’s inside the walls of their homes that they take of their mask and they’re really themselves.

  4. Andy Zeus Anderson

    As someone who suffers from Bipolar Depression, I can tend to exhibit some of the abuse symptoms and would like to say to others in my situation that you are not just abusing others but are a victim and need help yourself. Too many times these are\ticles take hit after hit at the people who have issues and perpetuate the symptoms but don’t realize that a\often the abusers or aggressors are themselves hurting as much as those they affect. It is important for all parties to get help in this situation.

    1. Being an abuser/victim affects everyone around you. You’re conscious of your actions and your disorder, which can be helpful if the person on the other end knows about it. Still, some precautions need to be taken. 

  5. I’m an adult survivor of physical and emotional child abuse who frequently visits forums on the subject. This is an excellent introduction and description of  emotional abuse. All too often, people make excuses for these behaviors when they’re coming from parents. As a result, abuse victims sometimes  feel guilty for going no contact with the parents. Society needs to be more aware of the fact that not everybody has the good fortune of being born to good people. It’s considered acceptable to leave an abusive spouse. It should be considered just as acceptable to leave other abusive relatives.  

  6. While growing up, I got emotionally bullied by my aunt that I was staying with then. She battered me so much especially with bad and uncalled for names. She talked down on me and rubbishes my existence. At first, I never knew what this was doing to me but later on, I realise that I got used it to it and I saw it like a norms that she must do to me daily. I knew I was in a deep shit after  I grew old and I courted a therapist.  He was the one who helped me to outlive the trauma I was in.

  7. As someone who grew up dealing with emotional abuse a normal part of my childhood this post definitely hit home. What was worse is that I didn’t realize that this was not normal until well into my adult life, and had a very negative impact on me. It was not until I was in my 30’s that I started to understand the impact it had on me so that I cloud begin to heal and move past all of the negativity I was used to. This is a very good article, thank you for sharing. Hopefully it can help somebody who reads this start the healing process much sooner.

  8. Hi Stephanie, emotional abuse can be more destructive than we think because it is usually subtle and doled out in installlments. I agree with that list you gave and I also agree that it can be very hard to overcome because it comes from family. The hardest thing is that many times the victim begins to second guess himself and in a quiet way agree with the descriptions of the abuser. It is a fact that even when the victim leaves the physical environment, the negative affirmations are still alive in him/her and it is only through a new awareness and therapy that they can be released. Thank you for this article.  I relate to a lot of its content.

  9. Thank you for this great article. I have had experience with emotionally abusive family members and other emotionally abusive people in the world throughout my life. I happened to find the adult children of Alcoholics and dysfunctional families program in 2013 and I have been doing it ever since. Thank you for your tips on recognizing the signals and deciding what to do about it in terms of getting support and finding healthier people to be around.

    Really good and important subject thank you for writing about it. Have a great day.

  10. Emotionally abusive by family members,friends or even by strangers in general can be literally painful.Fortunately, this has not been the case in my family, but I have had these bitter experiences in my childhood,and I fully understand the feeling of being abused and I can totally perceive what you are talking about on your article. By the time I reached adulthood, I was less able to defend myself against the abusers.but the more grow up the less being abused by the abusers and I was able to protect myself from the abuser’s vocal behaviors. but I generally see behaviors on a daily basis from people who are considered abusive. By reading this helpful post, I learned some useful tips that I can use in any situation and help myself and others to prevent being abused. Thank you

  11. It’s a sad and beautiful post, Steeph! Sad ‘coz you had to go through it yet beautiful in essence ‘coz you were able to articulate it in a way that I felt your pain as well. One of the reason this happens not only within the family but also in any relationship is the lack of spiritual foundation. No one elected and chose to be in the family – it’s GOD given and ordained. And when that message is not received the ramifications of spiritual ignorance oozes and get manifested through different types of abusive behaviors. Just remember, the will of God will never take you to where the grace of God will not protect you. Those spiritually handicapped perpetrators need to catch up on their knee-mails and brush up on scriptures to prevent from burning. I’m only an email and prayer away, my friend – JOSH

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