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Is Emotional Abuse Contagious

Is Emotional Abuse Contagious?

Many people believe that if you are around a certain type of person long enough, you will eventually become like them. While personality disorders are not contagious, it is very likely that being in a long-term relationship with a narcissist or an emotionally abusive person will have a negative effect on your personality and behavior patterns.

The constant crazy-making, criticism, and gaslighting can change you into someone you don’t recognize. So is emotional abuse contagious? In this sense, abusive behaviors can, in fact, be contagious. Dr. Hawkins shares 5 steps to avoid getting caught up in the toxic behaviors of those around you.

Is Emotional Abuse Contagious?

Emotional abuse, a form of long-standing and pervasive mistreatment characterized by power and control, is not contagious in the literal sense. It is not a disease or condition that spreads from one person to another like a virus. However, there are elements of abusive behavior that can influence and affect individuals who are exposed to it. In this article, we will explore the idea of emotional abuse being contagious in a broader context. While the abuse itself doesn’t spread like a disease, the negative behaviors and emotional responses associated with it can sometimes be replicated by victims without them realizing it.

Understanding Emotional Abuse

Before delving into the contagious aspects of abuse, it’s essential to understand what emotional abuse entails. Dr. David Hawkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center, emphasizes that abuse is rooted in an abusive person’s desire for power and control. It often involves behaviors such as domination, argumentativeness, and exerting power over someone to have their way. Emotional abuse reflects an alarming level of selfishness and emotional immaturity, typically associated with personality disorders like narcissism.

The Contagious Elements of Emotional Abuse

As mentioned earlier, emotional abuse itself is not contagious, but some aspects of it can affect individuals who are exposed to it. Victims of emotional abuse sometimes find themselves behaving in ways they never thought they would. This includes using offensive language, acting emotionally dysregulated, and mirroring some of the abusive behaviors they endure. This contagion effect, while not a technical transmission of emotional abuse, is a behavioral and emotional response influenced by the abusive environment. It’s crucial to address and mitigate this contagion, and here are some steps to consider:

1. Be Honest with Yourself

The first step in dealing with the contagious aspects of emotional abuse is to be brutally honest with yourself. Acknowledge your behavior and emotions. Are you acting in ways that you dislike? Are you responding to the abuse with negative behaviors or attitudes? Recognizing this is the initial step towards breaking free from the influence of emotional abuse.

2. Remember Who You Are and Want to Be

It’s essential to remember your true self, the person you were before the emotional abuse started affecting you. Reflect on your values, beliefs, and the person you aspire to be in the future. Let your core values and self-identity guide your actions, not the behavior of the abuser. Avoid reacting to the abuse with behavior that doesn’t align with your true self.

3. Reflect on Reasons for Change

Consider why you want to break free from the contagious aspects of emotional abuse. Reflect on the reasons for change, both for your own well-being and the betterment of your relationships. This self-reflection can be a powerful motivator to seek personal growth and transformation.

4. Set Boundaries

While you may not be able to stop emotional abuse itself, you can control your own responses and set boundaries. Recognize when the abuse is escalating, and consider stepping aside or distancing yourself from the situation. Create personal boundaries that protect your emotional well-being, and be prepared to enforce them.

5. Cultivate Your Path of Recovery

Cultivating your path of recovery is a crucial part of breaking free from the contagious aspects of this form of abuse. Seek professional help if necessary, engage in self-care, and surround yourself with supportive individuals who can help you on your healing journey.


In conclusion, emotional abuse is not a contagious condition, but it does have elements that can influence the behavior and emotions of individuals exposed to it. By being honest with yourself, remembering who you truly are, reflecting on reasons for change, setting boundaries, and cultivating your path to recovery, you can break free from the negative influence of emotional abuse.

It’s important to remember that healing is a personal journey, and with the right support and determination, individuals can rediscover themselves and lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. While abuse may not be contagious in a medical sense, the resilience and recovery that can follow are the antidotes to its negative effects.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: How to Change and Heal Your Relationship

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.



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