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What is Emotional Abuse or EA?

DPER Life Center


As a therapist, I am often asked about the characteristics of emotional abuse (EA). Essentially, EA is any attitude or behavior that uses humiliation or fear or verbal degradation to control, demean, punish or isolate another person. Yelling and screaming and name-labeling are the most readily understood forms of EA. However, the more subtle strategies of isolating an individual from family and friends or quashing another person’s thoughts or feelings are also types of EA.

EA often has an incapacitating effect on those victimized by it. As a result of EA a person may have feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and depression. They may be experiencing poor physical health and have difficulty concentrating due to the chronic emotional stress they are suffering. EA often goes undetected as abuse because a person is not physically injured. But the wounds caused by this type of abuse left un-dealt with can have lasting effects on a person’s emotional, mental and social well-being.

The roots of emotionally abusive behavior can often be found in unresolved childhood trauma. Often abusers are in as much emotional pain as they are inflicting upon their victims. The Bible says that the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children for up to three generations. This certainly applies to people who engage in this kind of abuse. It takes a great deal of help for an abuser to end their damaging patterns and relearn new ones.

God never condones abusive or coercive behavior. In I Corinthians 13 God shows us that love “is not rude, it is not selfseeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…It always protects..” (vs. 4-7 NIV). Some misinterpret Ephesians 5:22 to rationalize abusive conduct towards their spouse. However, to be clear, Scripture says that the marriage relationship is to reflect Christ’s sacrificial love relationship with His church. A wife is called to respond to her husband’s Christlike, loving headship not his damaging and sinful behavior.

There is hope for the victim of EA. You can stop the cycle of abuse today by reaching out for help and by “envisioning the person you were created to be” (Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D). According to Dr. Jantz, when faced with the truth you can both run and deny it or you turn (with help) and face it. You can ignore it or accept it as “who I am,” or you can determine to find the gem God has created you to be. Is it easy? Not in the least! Is change and peace possible? With God’s help and your co-operation all things are not only possible, they are inevitable. Pray for the courage, find some competent assistance and God will partner with you to break the cycle of abuse in your family’s life through you.


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