Emotional Abuse and How to Get Help

At East Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau in west-central Scotland, we are here to help. If you live or work in the East Dunbartonshire area, we can help you get the right support. Please contact us herechat online or call us on 0141 775 3220. If you reside outside of East Dunbartonshire, please contact your own local Citizens Advice Bureau for guidance. Find them here.

What is emotional abuse?

Most people know what physical abuse is. Emotional abuse is sometimes not quite so clear-cut. Some people think that it’s just about treating someone badly. Calling them names, making them feel bad or small etc. But, when you’re on the receiving end of emotional abuse, it is just as damaging as physical abuse. And, quite rightly, in the eyes of the law, this kind of behaviour is a serious crime. Emotional abuse is insidious and can be relentless. It can involve various forms of manipulation. And, that includes gaslighting or coercive control.

When this behaviour is constant, you can start to believe that the abuser is telling the truth and only has your best interests at heart. You can feel worthless, crazy, and stupid.

Mental or emotional abuse can occur in many types of relationships. Including friends and family members, as well as at work. In this blog we are looking at emotional abuse within romantic relationships and what to do.

Isolated sad woman

Examples of emotional abuse


  • Telling you what you can and can’t do
  • Stopping you from seeing certain people
  • Telling you when you can and can’t go out
  • Controlling what you wear


  • Dismissing your opinion
  • Acting like you’re being oversensitive
  • Challenging how you see things
  • Being suddenly nice after being cruel


  • Namecalling
  • Unpleasant or sarcastic comments
  • Commenting on how you look
  • Criticising what you do or say


  • Emotional blackmail
  • Sulking to get their own way
  • Giving the silent treatment
  • Manipulating your feelings for their benefit

Intimidation or threatening behaviour

  • Shouting or acting aggressively to scare you
  • Making you feel small and insignificant
  • Threats of violence or cruelty if you don’t do what they say
  • Threatening to hurt something you love

Financial control

  • Withholding money
  • Not involving you in financial decisions
  • Stopping you from getting or keeping a job

Is it just a ‘bad patch’?

‘Rows’ happen in almost all relationships. And when we are angry, we say or do things we really don’t mean. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are in an abusive relationship. If it truly is just a bad patch, couples counselling can help. However, if your relationship is abusive, you will regularly experience more than a few of the examples above.

If your partner goes out of their way to make you feel small, or make you feel unworthy, it’s abusive. Deliberately intimidating you, or not allowing you to express yourself, is abusive. If they make you feel you can’t be yourself or you have to ‘walk on eggshells’ around them, it’s abusive. And, if they make you feel you can’t talk to them about your concerns through fear of some form of mental retribution, it’s abusive.

There are many reasons why a partner may act in an emotionally abusive way, none of which are excuse their behaviour. They may not be acting this way deliberately but, are doing so because of something that happened to them in the past. If you think they would be open to working on their behaviour, counselling can help.

However, deliberate emotional abuse is a different matter.

Stop emotional abuse

Where to get help

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, talking to someone can help give you some perspective. Especially if the abuse has been going on for a while. This is a great first step and can open up avenues of help for both of you. Talking to a friend or someone not involved can just clarify things in your mind.

If you decide that you are in an abusive relationship, there are plenty of organisations that can help.

EnglandRefuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline0808 2000 247
Online live chat
Web form
Northern IrelandDomestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline0808 802 1414
Online live chat
ScotlandDomestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline0800 027 1234
Online live chat
WalesLive Fear Free0808 80 10 800
Online live chat
UK-wideThe Men’s Advice Line run by Respect is a confidential helpline specifically for male victims.0808 801 0327

There is also the Bright Sky app. It is a mobile app and website for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, or who is worried about someone else. The app can be downloaded for free from app stores but, please make sure it is safe for you to do so and that your phone isn’t being monitored.

Women’s Aid also have a directory of domestic abuse support services across the UK.

Ask for ANI and Safe Spaces

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need immediate help, you can ask for ‘ANI’ in a participating pharmacy. ‘ANI’ stands for Action Needed Immediately. If a pharmacy has the ‘Ask for ANI’ logo on display, it means they’re ready to help.

Ask for Ani Safe Spaces
Ask for Ani Safe Spaces

Some high street banks, pharmacies and supermarkets also offer ‘Safe Spaces’. Once you are inside, they will connect you to support services. You can find ‘Safe Spaces’ in Boots, Morrisons, Superdrug, Well pharmacies, TSB banks and independent pharmacies that display the logo above.

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, please don’t suffer in silence. Utilise the help network that is available to you. Everyone deserves to live without fear.

East Dunbartonshire CAB is here to help

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau is also here to help, should you need any further guidance at all. Residents of East Dunbartonshire can contact us herechat online or call us on 0141 775 3220. If you live outside of East Dunbartonshire, you can find your local CAB here.

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