Category Archives: Adult Mental Health

Is Emotional Abuse More Harmful Than Physical Abuse?

Posted May 14, 2021

Emotional abuse involves a perpetrator who controls a victim through threats, insults, and other nonphysical forms of violence.

  • Emotional abuse can happen within the context of any significant relationship.
  • Emotional and physical abuse both have substantial consequences for the victim’s mental health.
  • Therapy can help victims deal with the damage done by emotional abuse.

What Is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse and neglect, sometimes called psychological abuse, occurs when an attacker uses power to insult, embarrass, humiliate, or scare a victim into compliance. Over time, the victim starts to believe that the things the attacker says are true. The victim may feel they are responsible for the abusive behavior. It’s important to note that emotional abuse is a pattern of fear and control that repeats itself over time, and it can happen in any important relationship. Parents can be emotionally abusive toward children, and romantic partners can emotionally abuse each other. Psychological abuse and maltreatment can even occur between coworkers or between an employee and a supervisor. 

How Does Emotional Abuse Compare to Physical Abuse?

It’s impossible to say that any type of abuse is worse than another. All kinds of abuse are damaging, and they all have a severe impact on the victim’s mental health. Also, physical abuse rarely happens without the accompaniment of emotional abuse and neglect. Research indicates that the resulting mental health problems are similar regardless of whether the maltreatment is physical, psychological, sexual, emotional, or some combination.

This principle is true whether the abuse is directed at the victim or if the violence is against someone else and only witnessed by the victim. For example, children who witness domestic violence between their parents may be equally as traumatized as those who suffer violence against their own bodies.

While the damage may be similar no matter the type of maltreatment, each type does have some hallmarks:

  • Physical abuse is usually the most visible. Bruises on the skin, scars, and burn marks are all easy to see. Emotional abuse leaves no such visible signs. Because of this, psychological abuse may go unnoticed for many years.
  • Emotional abusers focus on controlling the victim by any mental means necessary. Even if the victim still goes to school and participates in community activities, the perpetrator’s voice is always in the victim’s head.

How Does Emotional Abuse Impact Mental Health?

Victims of psychological abuse suffer long and short-term consequences for their mental health. In the short term, victims are often confused, afraid, and lacking in self-confidence. They may have nightmares and difficulty focusing on tasks. The resulting anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as body aches and heart palpitations.

Over several years, victims may experience chronic anxiety and difficulty sleeping. They may withdraw from social interactions and situations, as well as activities they once enjoyed. Instead, victims may become consumed with changing themselves to please the perpetrator and stop the maltreatment.

Psychological child abuse can be particularly devastating for those victimized by their parents:

  • Parental verbal child abuse can include constant criticism, insults, and rejection.
  • Parents may refuse to acknowledge the child’s feelings, such as anger or sadness, interfering with the normal development of emotions.
  • Antagonistic interactions between children and parents during childhood become more prominent in the memory than positive experiences.
  • Children internalize what their parents say about them and accept it as truth until later in life. By that time, the damage to self-esteem and self-image is complete.

The results of childhood psychological abuse are often emotional difficulties, depression, low self-confidence, and anxiety. The good news is that therapy can be very effective in helping children and adults overcome this kind of childhood trauma and maltreatment.

What Are Some Types of Emotional Abuse?

If you suspect that you or someone you love may be the victim of emotional abuse, look for signs that the person is under the perpetrator’s control. Watch for instances where the attacker manipulates the victim, keeps them away from friends and family, or threatens them. The perpetrator might also threaten the victim’s family, children, or pets. Here are a few specific behaviors you might observe:

  • The perpetrator may cut off the victim’s access to money or credit cards.
  • The abuser may be extremely jealous or paranoid and may accuse the victim of outrageous things.
  • The attacker may criticize everything about the victim, from how they dress to how they raise their children, subjecting them to constant ridicule.
  • The perpetrator may make love, affection, or attention conditional on compliance with the abuser’s wishes.
  • The attacker may refuse to leave the victim alone for any significant length of time.
  • The perpetrator may interfere with the victim’s educational, career, or personal goals.
  • Perpetrators may involve children in emotional abuse, using them as pawns to maintain control.

Sometimes emotional maltreatment doesn’t have any visible signs. Abuse can look like blame, harsh judgment, and sarcasm. Sometimes perpetrators treat the victim as an inferior person, telling them how to behave to be “better.” Another characteristic of emotional abuse is that a perpetrator’s substance abuse may aggravate it.

How Can a Victim Heal From Emotional Abuse?

Though it can be tough to do, the first step to healing is for the victim to leave the abusive relationship. No amount of talking or reasoning with emotional abusers will change the behavior. Victims should seek out counseling and community resources to build a support system if they don’t have a supportive circle of friends or family.

At MHS, we offer various interventions and abuse therapy to help victims recover from years of emotional abuse and maltreatment. We work with adults and adolescents in group and individual settings to help victims make positive changes. Contact us today to schedule an assessment.

Featured Image: Panitanphoto/Shutterstock

COVID-19 – One Year Later

Posted March 5, 2021


  • One year into the pandemic, people are learning to manage their physical, mental, and emotional needs in a very different world.
  • Taking steps to address the reality of the new normal is critical to your health.
  • If you need help managing through this challenging time, MHS is always available.

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Help for the Healthcare Professionals

Posted March 5, 2021


  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for medical professionals.
  • Providing mental and behavioral health services designed specifically for healthcare workers is critically important to their well-being.
  • MHS can help you take care of your team during the pandemic and beyond.

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Tips for Staging an Intervention

Posted January 29, 2021


An intervention is a process in which the family and friends of someone struggling with an addiction work with a professional to help them see the consequences. It may involve members of the faith community, a doctor, a therapist, and other people who love the addicted person, in addition to the family. While most people think of interventions concerning recovery from alcoholism or drug abuse, either prescription or illegal. However, this form of group intervention can also help families dealing with a loved one with compulsive behaviors such as gambling, pornography, and eating disorders. Family interventions can be an essential first step to recovery from addiction. Continue reading

Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Health

Posted January 15, 2021

What Is the Stigma of Mental Illness?

The word “stigma” comes from the Latin word meaning brand or mark. It refers to some identifying feature of the bearer of the mark, generally one that signifies something unsatisfactory or negative. Historically, tradition indicated that the person bearing a stigma did something wrong or evil to be cursed with the mark. Continue reading

Realistic New Year’s Resolutions for Those Dealing with Depression

Posted January 6, 2021

Make Mental Health A Priority in Your Resolutions

As one year ends and a new one begins, our thoughts turn to what we’d like to do with the blank slate before us. While many people look forward with excitement, for the estimated 350 million people struggling with different types of depression, it can be a time of frustration, sadness, and disappointment. Realistic goals can be great motivators, but when you set unattainable targets for yourself, the result may be feelings of failure and an even deeper state of depression. Here are some tips for avoiding this situation as you’re welcoming in the new year. Continue reading

How Does CBT Work?

Posted January 6, 2021

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing how a client thinks and behaves from negative to more positive. Used alone or in conjunction with other therapies, CBT can help address many issues, including insomnia, anxiety, phobias, trauma, and relationship problems such as poor communication. CBT’s premise is that the problems we face in our day to day lives result from our flawed thought patterns and behaviors. Continue reading

The Art of Self-Love

Posted December 1, 2020

What is Self-Love as It Relates to Mental Health?

Self-love, sometimes referred to as self-care, is the concept of accepting and appreciating who you are. Part of that self-acceptance is learning to acknowledge and appreciate your emotions to support your physical wellness, psychological growth, and spiritual health. When you practice self-love, you make your well-being a priority, and you unapologetically take care of your own needs. Each individual may see self-care differently, but you should never feel that you must sacrifice yourself to please others. Continue reading

Coping During the Holidays

Posted November 25, 2020

When the Holidays Aren’t Merry

For many people, the holiday season is a happy time to reunite with family and celebrate one year’s ending and the beginning of a new one. However, this time of year may not be full of good cheer for many. If you are experiencing grief, the loss of a relationship, loneliness, illness, or if you don’t have a family to celebrate with, these months may be something you dread. Even if you have plenty to celebrate and loved ones to celebrate with, you may still feel overcome by the busy schedules, shopping lists, and the world’s daily news. If you or someone close to you have a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, you may find those difficulties magnified during the holidays. Continue reading