SADD and Mental Wellness: Emotional Abuse Awareness


Some broad examples of emotional abuse.


This January has been Mental Health Wellness month for St. Joe’s SADD Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions). As the month winds down, the Club takes a moment to focus in on and raise awareness for emotional and psychological abuse. 

According to the Childhelp Hotline, emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior wherein “a parent or caregiver harms a child’s mental and social development, or causes severe emotional harm.” Unlike in other forms of sexual or physical abuse, emotional abuse can be difficult for victims and bystanders alike to identify and act upon because it doesn’t always leave physical signs. Therefore, raising awareness for this type of abuse is vitally important, especially during such a stressful time as the pandemic, when families are seeing more of each other than they might otherwise and tensions are already high. Conditions such as these are prime for developing toxic stress responses, which are where emotionally abusive tendencies begin.

How can the average person tell if emotionally abusive tendencies are present in their household or a household they know of? 

To start, some broad examples of emotional abuse can include an abuser blaming the child for problems, being unable or unwilling to recognize physical or emotional stress in the child, resorting to harsh discipline methods, verbally attacking, shaming, or belittling the child, limiting child’s contact with others, invalidating concerns the child has, or demanding unreasonable academic or physical performance from the child​​.

The discerning reader can also observe behavioral signs and symptoms of emotional abuse— often some of the only indications of emotional abuse besides testimonies or witness accounts. These include nervous habits like biting or sucking, learning disabilities or developmental delays (especially in younger children, but they can also develop jarringly in older youths), overly compliant or defensive mannerisms, extreme difficulty regulating emotions, bouts of aggression or withdrawal, intense anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, destructive or anti-social behaviors, suicidal or other self-harming thoughts and behaviors, and behavior inappropriate for age (too adult/ too infantile). 

On a very personal level, if you or someone you know is suffering from emotional (or any other form of) abuse, please do not hesitate to report it to a trusted adult or help hotline. Speaking up is scary, but the help you need is always available if you just ask. Additional support and resources are available at, national hotline available at