Abuse doesn’t always leave you covered in physical bruises. There are many different forms of abuse that can leave you with emotional scars. Emotional and psychological abuse can cause a person to lose their sense of self and become completely dependent on their abuser. It can take years for a person to even realize they are being abused when the abuser manipulates using non-physical forms of abuse.

Here are five abusive behaviors that are not physical, but incredibly dangerous:

1. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a psychological tactic used by manipulates and abusers in which one partner causes the other to question what’s real and what’s not. The abuser tells the victim they are lying, overreacting, being too sensitive or being paranoid, in order to make them question their perception of reality. After a while, the victim begins to doubt their own sanity and question their memory of certain events that occurred. Once the abuser has complete control over the victim’s sense of reality, they can manipulate them into doing almost anything.

2. Pushing Boundaries

An abuser may start out slow with this tactic. They might show up unannounced with flowers. Then, they start dropping by your work or a night out with your friends for no reason at all. Soon, they are keeping tabs on everywhere you go. They know who you are with and what you are doing at all times, and they make a point to check in on you. They push your boundaries to the point where you start to feel nervous and even violated. If your partner can’t respect your boundaries, they don’t respect you or trust you, and they may even have a hidden agenda.

3. Sneaky Insults

You might be able to overlook a few insults here or there. But an abuser uses insults to break down your self-esteem so that you become dependent on them. Pretty soon, every word they say is to hurt you, poke fun at your dreams and to make you feel stupid and unworthy. The insults might come in the form of backhanded compliments, constructive criticism or even humor. But make no mistake, your partner’s words are designed to tear you down.

4. Isolation

An abuser knows that if they can successfully isolate you from your family and friends, they will end up with all the control. They will try to separate you from your support network by picking fights with those you love, guilt-tripping you into spending more time with them instead of your friends or attacking your friends’ character. Once you feel all alone, you will look to your partner for friendship, love and guidance, which will allow them to wrap your views of reality, attack your self-esteem and use you. If it feels like your partner is trying to tear you apart from your family and friends, pay attention to those you love. Don’t let your partner separate you from the people you care about.

5. Playing The Victim

Another tactic an abuser uses to gain control is to always play the victim. No matter what the situation is, they refuse to admit any wrongdoing. Instead, they twist your words and rewrite history to make things your fault. They guilt trip you into thinking that what happened is ultimately because of you. Because you don’t care enough, because you don’t pay attention to them or because you don’t love them. Once they manipulate you into thinking that you aren’t a good partner and you don’t deserve them, you’ll end up constantly feeling guilty and feeling like everything that goes wrong in the relationship is your fault.

Unified Soul Theory
Psychology Today
Psych Central