How To Tell If A Friend Is In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship
by Jill Di Donato

Making suppositions about your friend's romantic relationship is tricky business. On one hand, your friend is going to be protective of her partner because, well, they're the person with whom she shares a bed. On the other hand, if she's in a dangerous relationship, she might need your help but doesn't know how to ask for it. So, learning how to tell if a friend is in an emotionally abusive relationship is a responsibility of good friend. And you want to be a good friend, right?

According to the organization Safe Haven, emotional abuse in relationships is on the rise. The popularity of the hashtag #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou, which was trending in May 2016, showed that many women are talking about signs of non-physical abuse, which include manipulation, put downs, isolation, financial abuse, and isolation from your friends. This is super important because all too often emotional abuse gets swept under the rug, or victims of emotional abuse are meant to feel crazy, noted The Huffington Post.

This is where a good friend can make all the difference. Knowing that you're not alone or going crazy from emotional abuse can help you get out of a relationship that's chipping away at your self-esteem. And according to Safe Horizon, many times emotional abuse can escalate to physical abuse, which you don't need me to tell you can be life-threatening. So, as a friend, if you suspect your BFF or someone you love is entangled in an abusive relationship, don't stay silent. The following might be signs that she needs your help.


Don't Rush To Judgement


The first thing to keep in mind if you think your friend is in an emotionally abusive relationship is to acknowledge that emotional abuse is subtle. Psychologist Dr. Penny B. Donnenfeld told Everyday Health that an abuser will often control the person they're emotionally abusing by enforcing in her a general sense of distrust of others. So, you want to tread lightly, and earn your friend's trust. If she is being emotionally abused, that will take some time, and she might deny the abuse at first.


Listen To Her


Rather than telling your friend about your suspicions, you're better off listening to what she has to say about herself and her relationship. Make yourself sympathetic and actively listen until you gain her trust. According to Psych Central, emotional abuse is elusive. It can be crippling to the abused, and the last thing she wants is to feel judged by someone else. To make sure your friend doesn't feel judged, at first, don't talk, just listen.


Assure Your Friend That You're A Safe Haven


One of the common signs of emotional abuse is constant put downs and insults, according to the same article in Psych Central. Once you've established that you're someone she can confide in, let her know that you're down to be her support system. Show her you're a safe haven by letting her know everyone could been where she is. At the same time, continue to be vigilant about her relationship and the affects it's having on her.


She's Lost Her Confidence


According to Women's Health, if your friend has an unexplained and sudden loss of self-confidence, that might be a sign of emotional abuse. Toxic bonds can erode at a woman's confidence and that's exactly what the abuser wants. The more he shatters his victim's confidence, the easier it will be for him to control her, which is his ultimate goal.

Of course self-confidence is something that ebbs and flows, as noted on Healthy Place. But if you notice a drastic and unexplained change in your friend's sense of herself, it might be a sign that her relationship is the cause.


She Cries Often


If a friend is suddenly crying all the time, or her eyes are always red and puffy, she's clearly in distress. Many emotional abusers control their victims with threats of self-harm if their victims leave, according to the same article in Women's Health.

As a result, your friend will feel a tremendous burden. According to Shape, incessant crying is not normal, but can be a sign of serious anxiety or depression brought on by emotional abuse. If your friend is constantly crying around you, it might be a sign that she's seeking your help, so don't ignore her tears.


She Cancels Plans With The Girls Frequently, Or Brings Her Partner With Her


According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, a sign of emotional abuse is isolation from friends and family. Is your friend canceling plans with you all the time? Or, does she feel inclined to bring her partner with her to inappropriate events like girls' night out? Ask her about what's going on, and make sure that her partner isn't trying to control her every move. If so, then it's a sign she's being emotionally abused.


She's Secretive About Her Relationship


According to Glamour, women often are secretive about abusive relationships because they don't want to seem like victims. After all, in an age where feminism is widely accepted as the norm, women want to feel like they can take care of themselves. But it's dangerous to hide an abusive relationship. Emotional abusers are really good at what they do, which is manipulate, noted Safe Haven, and if their dirty secret is found out, then they lose control.

Keep in mind that a victim of emotional abuse can become a survivor of it once she breaks free from the clutches of her toxic relationship, according to Psychology Today. And as a friend, be mindful of making your friend feel ashamed of her situation. You might even consider seeking professional help to figure out how to help your friend open up about a secretive and abusive relationship.


She Seems Disengaged From Old Habits


Has your friend lost interest in her old habits and activities? This could be a manifestation of imposed isolation brought on by her emotionally abusive relationship (see item number six). Don't hesitate to ask your friend what's making her feel like withdrawing, as this is a common sign of depression, according to WebMD.


Her Appearance Has Become Drastically Altered


According to the website Good Therapy, a victim of emotional abuse might develop insomnia, eating disorders, substance abuse problems, and engage in self-harm. All of these conditions might be visible in your abused friend's appearance. For example, she may suddenly lose or gain a lot of weight, or appear weathered from insomnia or substance abuse. Abrasions on her body might indicate self-harm.

You might need professional help to reach out to your friend because emotional abuse is life-threatening, and should never be left ignored.