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Covert Emotional Abuse

What is Covert Emotional Abuse?

Emotional Abuse is a rampant problem both nationally and globally. With the story of Jennifer Willoughby, along other brave women sharing their stories, the topic of covert emotional abuse in marriage is coming to light and we have an opportunity to help couples end these cycles. The “And So I Stayed” story that Jennifer Willoughby shared is all too common and we desire to see both victims and abusers find the help they need.

What Is Covert Emotional Abuse?

An insidious epidemic known as covert emotional abuse is sweeping not only our nation but the world at large. This form of abuse operates discreetly, using subtle tactics to degrade and undermine the character of its victims. By wielding power and control, perpetrators blame, criticize, and diminish their targets, leaving them emotionally and physically devastated. It is essential to shed light on this issue, encourage survivors to speak out, and hold abusers accountable to bring healing and justice.

Understanding Covert Emotional Abuse

Covert emotional abuse involves a relentless degradation of an individual’s character over an extended period. Through the abuse of power and control, perpetrators manipulate victims, telling them they are wrong, scoffing at their thoughts and feelings, and consistently criticizing them. The subtlety of this abuse makes it difficult to identify, yet it erodes self-esteem and well-being, tearing away at the fabric of a person’s personality.

The Devastating Consequences

Covert emotional abuse inflicts severe emotional and physical suffering upon its victims. Constant degradation and belittlement take a toll on their mental health, leading to emotional distress, anxiety, and depression. The emotional trauma can even manifest physically, causing physical ailments and chronic pain. Tragically, victims are often blamed for the abuse they endure, exacerbating their pain and perpetuating their silence.

Recognizing the Signs

Covert emotional abuse is a precursor to physical violence, making it crucial to recognize the warning signs. These may include persistent criticism, controlling behavior, gaslighting (manipulating someone into questioning their reality), isolating victims from loved ones, and emotional manipulation. By understanding these red flags, we can intervene early and support those in need.

Amplifying Voices of Courage

We must commend and support brave individuals like Jenny Willoughby and others who have spoken out against emotional abuse. By sharing their stories, they bring attention to this pervasive issue and inspire others to break their silence. It is through these voices of courage that we can create a platform for change and encourage other survivors to come forward.

Empowering Survivors and Holding Perpetrators Accountable

To combat covert emotional abuse, we must empower survivors to reclaim their sense of self-esteem and provide them with safe spaces to heal. It is equally important to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. By championing survivors and ensuring that abusers face consequences for their behavior, we send a powerful message that emotional abuse will not be tolerated.


Covert emotional abuse is a silent epidemic that thrives on power and control. By understanding its subtle nature, recognizing the signs, amplifying the voices of survivors, and holding perpetrators accountable, we can begin to eradicate this destructive form of abuse. It is our collective responsibility to create a society that champions women, encourages open dialogue, and fosters healing and justice. Together, let us speak out against emotional abuse and work towards a brighter future for all.

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: When Pleasing Him is Hurting You

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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