7 Signs You're Being Quietly Abused (And Don't Even Know It)

Why abuse isn't always physical.

Sad woman dealing with emotional abuse Getty Images | Unsplash

When people think about verbal and emotional abuse, we usually assume it’s done via shouting, yelling, and screaming. In many cases, it does get that bad, but the truth is that a lot of abuse happens at very quiet levels.

What is emotional abuse?

Well, domestic violence experts even have a name for it — they call it “quiet abuse.” Quiet abuse is verbal abuse that happens at regular talking levels or abuse that happens via silence. But would you be able to recognize the signs of emotional abuse like this?


Believe it or not, quiet abuse is pretty common, even among people who aren’t coupled up. You may have even witnessed it with friends, colleagues, or family members.

RELATED: When Cheating Is A Form Of Emotional Abuse

Here are 7 signs you're being quietly abused and don't even know it:

1. He says mean jokes that dig at your self-esteem

Only to brush off any complaints you have with suggestions that you’re “too sensitive” and that it’s “just a joke.” This can be a form of verbal abuse seen in both relationships and offices, and it can seriously impact the way you feel about yourself. Don’t just brush it off if what it’s doing is seriously upsetting you.




2. He insults you at a normal noise level

Blatant insults said at a normal noise level are also forms of emotional abuse. You know how you have that one friend who keeps telling you that you’re the “fat chick” of the group? Or how you once had a boss who insisted that you were “useless” at meetings? Yes, this is quiet abuse if it’s done at talking levels of noise.

3. He guilt-trips you

Guilt-tripping is another pretty common form of silent abuse. Have you ever been guilt-tripped into doing something you weren’t comfortable doing? Yes, this is a manipulative tactic that falls under silent abuse.

RELATED: Yes, You Can Get PTSD From Staying In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship


4. He ignores you when you talk to him

This is a method people use to disempower people or make them feel unloved. If this happens in a relationship, you’re being abused and disrespected. 

5. He uses stonewalling, and cold-shouldering, and purposefully excludes you when you disagree with him

These are all signs of emotional abuse. They all hurt, they all are done with the objective of control in mind, and they also don’t require huge amounts of volume to sting. In fact, this kind of behavior can be one of the most devastating forms of abuse out there.



6. You are regularly told that you're "too sensitive" 

I can tell you that people who say this tend to be the ones who have abusive natures. If your partner regularly tells you to "chill out" and that you're "so sensitive" whenever you broach the subject of the way they treat you, you're probably dealing with silent abuse. 


RELATED: How To Stop Verbal Abuse With One Simple Trick

7. He just has a way of making you feel weak, small, or stupid

Sometimes, it's really hard to figure out what a guy does that makes you feel so low. Sometimes, the only indicator that something is seriously wrong is that being around him makes you feel wrong.

What makes silent abuse so terrible when compared to overt abuse is that we often are socialized to feel as if we may be overreacting to silent abuse. After all, we’re usually taught that shouting is bad, but “talking things out” isn’t. As a result, silent abuse is harder to pinpoint and fight back at than its louder counterpart.

We register yelling as a direct attack as us naturally. But when we deal with silent abuse, we often will jump to the conclusion that we are in the wrong for asserting ourselves, or that we did something wrong. This is why you may feel guilty trying to bring up the way that you feel against a partner who uses silent abuse against you, too.


Psychologists and therapists are also getting wiser about silent abuse. They’re realizing that it’s easier to discredit people who are victims of silent abuse and that many abusers know how to hide behind the rhetoric to not be called out on their bad behavior. That’s why there’s now a new push to try to help people recognize that abuse doesn’t always mean hitting or shouting.

It doesn’t matter if the person you’re with isn’t yelling at you or hitting you. If he’s chipping away at your self-esteem, being icy, and just going out of his way to hurt or control you, he’s an abuser.

If you don’t feel great around him because he’s doing things that fall into silent abuse categories, you need to leave him. Abuse is still abuse, no matter where the volume dial is placed. 


If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.

RELATED: If He Engages In These 12 Behaviors, You're Being Emotionally Abused

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of Red Bank, New Jersey. She writes primarily about lifestyle, food, finance, and relationships.