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what is covert emotional abuse

What is Covert Emotional Abuse? Understanding and Addressing a Rampant Problem

What is Covert Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is rampant and poorly understood. Dr. David B. Hawkins, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director of The Marriage Recovery Center shares insights about subtle and covert emotional abuse and the impact on victims. He shares about the importance of speaking the truth about the epidemic and how to heal from covert emotional abuse.

What is Covert Emotional Abuse? Understanding and Addressing a Rampant Problem

Emotional abuse is a pervasive issue that is often misunderstood or overlooked. While many people associate emotional abuse with overt acts of aggression like yelling and physical violence, there exists a form of abuse that is more subtle yet equally damaging: covert emotional abuse.

In this article, we will delve into the concept of what is covert emotional abuse, its impact on victims, and the urgent need for awareness and intervention. By shedding light on this insidious form of abuse, we can work towards creating a society that recognizes and addresses emotional abuse in all its forms.

The Power of Honesty: Facing the Truth

Emotional abuse, both overt and covert, can have profound and lasting effects on its victims. However, covert emotional abuse is particularly damaging because it often goes unnoticed or dismissed as harmless behavior. Covert emotional abuse encompasses actions such as withdrawal, pouting, and withholding love when one’s desires are not met. While these behaviors may seem benign, they can cause tremendous harm over time.

The Link to Troublesome Behaviors

Covert emotional abuse rarely occurs in isolation. It is often accompanied by other problematic behaviors, such as irritability, anger, and blame-shifting. When victims of emotional abuse try to express their concerns to their partners, they are met with defensiveness, counter-attacks, and a lack of support. This pattern sends a message that their feelings and needs are not valid or important, leading to feelings of isolation and confusion.

what is covert emotional abuse

The Burden of Self-Blame

Victims of covert emotional abuse often find themselves questioning their own sanity and worthiness. The abuser’s manipulation tactics, such as blaming and scapegoating, can make the victim doubt their own perception of reality. As the victim’s mind spins with self-doubt and confusion, the abuser often turns the tables by accusing the victim of similar behavior. This further erodes the victim’s self-esteem and reinforces the cycle of abuse.

The Importance of Clarity and Intervention

To break free from the cycle of covert emotional abuse, clarity is crucial. Victims must recognize the abuse for what it is and understand that they are not to blame for their partner’s actions. Unfortunately, finding support and understanding can be challenging, as there are limited resources available for those experiencing covert emotional abuse. It is essential to seek out trained professionals, supportive friends, and communities that can provide the necessary guidance and intervention.

Naming and Confronting the Abuse

One of the significant barriers to addressing what is covert emotional abuse is the reluctance to label it as abuse. The word “abuse” carries a heavy stigma, and both victims and abusers may shy away from using it. However, it is essential to call a spade a spade and recognize that covert emotional abuse is, indeed, abuse. By acknowledging and naming the problem, victims can reclaim their power and seek the help they need to escape the cycle of abuse.

Double Abuse and Escalation

A distressing aspect of covert emotional abuse is the additional abuse victims may face when they try to address the issue. Victims who gather the courage to speak up against the abuse often face dismissal, gaslighting, and further blame from their abusers. This double abuse exacerbates the problem, making it even more challenging for victims to break free from the cycle of emotional abuse.

Finding Support and Resources

While addressing covert emotional abuse can be daunting, there are resources available for victims and allies. Seeking out books and materials on the topic can provide valuable insights and validation. Notable authors like Lundy Bancroft have written extensively on emotional abuse, offering practical guidance for those seeking understanding and healing. Additionally, reaching out to professionals, support groups, and organizations specializing in domestic violence can provide the necessary support network for individuals experiencing covert emotional abuse.

Breaking Free and Creating Change

Covert emotional abuse is a grave issue that demands attention and intervention. By raising awareness and educating ourselves and others about this form of abuse, we can create a society that recognizes the signs and supports victims. It is vital for victims to find the courage to name their experiences, seek support, and break free from the cycle of abuse. Together, by confronting covert emotional abuse head-on, we can work towards a future where emotional well-being and safety are valued and protected.

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 do You Build a Relationship with a Narcissistic Man?

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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