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4 signs of emotional abuse - Viann Nguyen-Feng

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Emotional abuse can be incredibly damaging, increasing a person’s chances of developing depression and anxiety. But these behaviors can be subtle and difficult to spot, both from within and outside a relationship. It also often makes people doubt their perceptions of their own mistreatment. How can we recognize these patterns in real life? Viann Nguyen-Feng shares common signs of emotional abuse.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Viann Nguyen-Feng
  • Director Yael Reisfeld
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Yael Reisfeld
  • Compositor Yael Reisfeld
  • Animator Yael Reisfeld
  • Art Director Yael Reisfeld
  • Composer Adam Alexander, Bamm Bamm Wolfgang
  • Sound Designer Adam Alexander, Bamm Bamm Wolfgang
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
Additional Resources for you to Explore
To read about other signs of emotional abuse in intimate partner relationships, see the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and LoveIsRespect.org. To learn how your state defines childhood emotional abuse and how to report childhood maltreatment, check state regulations.

See Women’s Advocates video playlist on different types of abuse, including emotional abuse, cultural abuse, stalking, digital violence, reproductive coercion, financial manipulation, and more. Women’s Advocates also provides printable safety plans. Organizations such as the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness and Tubman also provide resources to create personalized safety plans.

As the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders’ (DSM-5) definition of trauma within posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) typically excludes emotional abuse cases, ongoing discussions on trauma call for the inclusion of psychological maltreatment. Read more on the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s complex trauma resources as well as the American Psychological Association’s descriptions of how developmental trauma disorder and complex PTSD (cPTSD) differ from PTSD.

Certain therapeutic approaches were developed in part to address subtle forms of embodied trauma, such as emotional abuse. For more information regarding such trauma-informed approaches, see the Center for Trauma and Embodiment at Justice Resource Institute as well as resources on sensorimotor psychotherapy and somatic experiencing for trauma healing. For national and international support services on emotional abuse, view the No More Global Directory or contact the 24/7 crisis text line. Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) also provides a 24/7 hotline, a local directory, and Department of Defense resources. For advocacy training, consider First Witness Child Advocacy Center’s online training programs, which meet the National Children’s Alliance’s Victim Advocacy Standard for Accreditation.

Visit Viann Nguyen-Feng’s Mind-Body Trauma Care lab website for additional research and resources on emotional abuse, including tips for teachers who see emotional abuse and considerations for psychotherapists working with adult survivors of emotional abuse

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Viann Nguyen-Feng
  • Director Yael Reisfeld
  • Narrator Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Storyboard Artist Yael Reisfeld
  • Compositor Yael Reisfeld
  • Animator Yael Reisfeld
  • Art Director Yael Reisfeld
  • Composer Adam Alexander, Bamm Bamm Wolfgang
  • Sound Designer Adam Alexander, Bamm Bamm Wolfgang
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox

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