Emotional abuse is real and happens in many relationships. Experts say that this involves attempts to frighten, intimidate, control, or isolate someone. Psychology Today defines emotional abuse as a pattern of behaviour in which the perpetrator insults, humiliates, and generally instils fear in an individual in order to control them. In an interview with Dr Janvier Muhire, a clinical psychologist at mHub Clinic, he talks about the triggers and signs of emotional abuse and how to go about it. Excerpts: How do emotions work? Emotions are a psychological state with four components such as the positive or negative subjective experience, bodily arousal, and the activation of specific mental processes and stored information, and characteristic overt behaviour. Emotions not only help to guide us to approach some things and withdraw from others, but also provide visible cues that help other people know key aspects of our thoughts and desires. Positive emotions can be divided at least into five types, that is to say, amusement, desire, happiness, love, and interest. Although certain emotions are basic, like surprise, interest, joy, rage, fear, disgust, shame, and anguish, other emotions are shaped by the social practices and norms of a culture. What exactly is emotional abuse? In our particular case, emotional abuse is a pattern of conduct that threatens, frightens, stigmatises or subtly undermines a person’s self-worth. It is the deliberate act of seriously impairing a person’s psychology integrity by intimidation and threats, that cause them anxiety, fear, self-blame, and worthlessness. What are the common signs of emotional abuse that people should watch out for? And what are the outcomes? Some of these include intimidation with acts of aggression like destroying personal property, discrimination for not having a child or a certain sex of child, dissuading the wife from getting a job, facial and physical gestures, harassment, humiliation, intimidation, verbal criticism, and public insults that affect self-esteem. Among others such as physical abuse, anger, blames, irrespective withholding communication, disputing feelings and trivialising and yelling, emotional abuse eventually results in victims feeling powerless, hurt, angry, fearful, worthless and afraid. What are some of the triggers of emotional abuse? Emotional abuse can happen when individuals are experiencing domestic abuse, poverty, addiction to drugs or alcohol, mental health issues, unemployment, relationship problems, family conflicts, low self-esteem, difficulty forming relationships with others, increasing fear and self-blame, disrupted attachment with those who are meant to keep you safe, poor parent–child relationships, and mental health disorders such as anxiety, attachment, post-traumatic stress and depression disorder. How should emotional abuse be halted? Make self-care a priority, for instance, make decisions that will assist you in thinking positively and affirming who you really are. Avoid involvement and interaction with an abusive person, if you engage with an abuser, you open yourself up to more violence. Put an end to your self-blame because you aren’t the problem. And most importantly, establish a support system, discuss your feeling with a trusted friend, family member or psychologist. When dealing with emotional abuse, acknowledge the abuse. Thinking about and accepting your past abuse as a real event can be very difficult to do but it’s the first step to healing from your experiences. Change negative thought patterns, engage in self-care, be aware of the signs of emotional abuse, know your rights, realise that you can change your partner. What more should people know about emotional abuse? If being around your partner or a family member makes you feel scared, confused and makes you hate or doubt yourself when you’re talking to them, you may be experiencing emotional abuse. An emotional abuser’s goal is to undermine another person’s feelings of self-worth and independence. Emotional abuse is a form of domestic and family violence and can occur to anyone at any time in their life— as a child, a teenager or an adult. If you feel you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, whether with an intimate partner or family member, there are a number of things you can do to get support. It’s important to know that if you have been affected by emotional abuse, it’s not your fault and it’s never acceptable. You have the right to feel safe, respected and supported in your relationships.