are guilt trips emotional abuse?

Asked by Anonymous

Guilt trips, as one or two isolated incidents, are necessarily considered emotional abuse. But, they can be part of the bigger picture when describing an emotionally abusive or toxic relationship.  Emotional abuse is very complicated and can be a mixed bag of all kinds of manipulation tactics.  From threats to gaslighting to unrealistic ultimatums, the onslaught of these different emotional abuse tactics can culminate in a person feeling trapped and emotionally unsafe in a relationship.  “Guilt-tripping” can be one of these tactics.

To determine if someone continuously uses “guilt trips” as a means of manipulation within a relationship, first, the concept should be defined.  A “guilt trip” uses excessive guilt to get someone to do some wanted behavior or stop unwanted behavior.  Guilt trips can be subtle, with some showing little emotion or appearing “calm,” or it can also be very dramatic and overt.  Typically, a guilt trip is defined as a passive or passive-aggressive form of communication rather than direct emotional abuse.  However, it is not uncommon for those who engage in emotionally abusive behaviors to use guilt trips to manipulate people further.

Examples of guilt trips include making sarcastic comments rather than directly communicating one’s emotions, use of silence for “the silent treatment” to elicit a specific/wanted response, using different nonverbal cues to display negative feelings about a situation while not verbally communicating their feelings about the situation, and “keeping score” of different things that they have done within the relationship to justify why someone should “feel a certain way.”  

As stated before, one or two isolated incidences of these tactics are not necessarily emotional abuse.  If anything, it indicates somebody who really needs to work on their communication skills within their relationships.  However, if these things happen repeatedly and seem to be that fixed pattern within the dynamics of their relationship, then it is safe to assume that their relationship might at least be toxic if not abusive.  Another way that one can look at guilt trips, as it relates to emotional abuse, is that guilt trips are oftentimes a precursor or a warning sign that further emotional abuse might come in the future.  If someone observes these different tactics within their current relationship(s), they should be taken seriously and addressed immediately.  If no change occurs, then it is possible to consider that maybe the relationship at hand is toxic or emotionally abusive.

(Masters, of, Social, Work)