What is Emotional Bullying?

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  • Written By: D. Fish
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 03 March 2020
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Bullying is a form of abuse that involves repeated acts that attempt to assert one's power over another person. Emotional bullying is a very subtle type of bullying that is generally more common in girls than boys but can appear in both sexes in a variety of situations. This type of bullying is anything that causes emotional pain and can include isolating or excluding someone, spreading rumors or lies to humiliate someone, verbal aggression, threatening and more.

Emotional bullying has been seen in a variety of relationships, including child friendships, emotional child abuse, intimate partnerships, teenagers, co-workers and more. Some legal jurisdictions have defined emotional abuse. In the United States, for example, the Department of Justice has defined emotional abuse through specific traits, such as causing fear through intimidation, threatening physical harm to oneself or others, destruction of property and forced isolation from family and friends. Individuals who share these characteristics are usually motivated by desires for power and control, and their acts are separated into three distinct categories: verbal aggression, dominant behaviors and jealous behaviors.


Bullying in children is often demeaning to the victim, and the bully enjoys beating up or picking on other children. This type of emotional abuse often shows no outward signs and can be very hard to detect. Emotional bullying in children often damages a child's self-esteem and confidence. Bullying children often use verbal aggression to torment the bullied child and exclude him or her from certain activities and/or social circles, sometimes distancing the child in a way that disturbs the child's social development. This type of abuse is also seen in teenage bullying, can become very advanced and has been known to cause dangerous situations as well as traumatic psychological symptoms, such as depression or anxiety.

Oftentimes, emotional bullying is seen in intimate relationships in a form of emotional spousal abuse. One's partner might have tried to prevent the abused from speaking to family members or friends in an attempt to cut him or her off from life outside of the spouse's home. The abusing partner usually directs comments to humiliate and intimidate the other. The partner might also exhibit jealousy by accusing the abused of maintaining relationships of the same magnitude as the relationship the partners share. All of these tendencies cause a breakdown of confidence and almost a brainwashing of the victim, and they can sometimes lead to or coincide with physical abuse.

Bullying in other social interactions works much the same way and usually is seen as a type of emotional harassment. Another instance of emotional bullying is illustrated in some relationships between coworkers. Bullying and verbal aggression often become more apparent in competitive situations such as in school or at the workplace. Subjects who are bullied often take little action against the bully themselves, but some suggestions for coping include ignoring the bully with confidence, using humor to distract the bully's attention from his or her original goal and seeking professional advice for more assistance.


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Post 3

Rundocuri, I agree with you. This is why it is so important for parents, teachers, and school officials to do whatever they can to put a stop to bullying in schools. When emotional abuse is caught early and prevented from continuing, victims can begin to heal form their trauma.

Post 2

I volunteer for a crisis hotline, and from my experience talking with victims, I think that verbal abuse is as degrading as physical abuse. It also has similar effects. After months and years of putting up with emotional put-downs, victims lose their feelings of self worth, confidence, and security.

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