The Silent Treatment is Cruel

I tried to explain how hurt I was. Just like when we were kids, I was trying to get my mother to hear me. She refused to listen to me. Refused to empathize with me. Here I was, a grown-up woman, and the same thing was happening. No reply. Silence.

My Courage to Tell

The Silent Treatment. It’s cruel.

It hurts! It is manipulative. It is mean. It is silent abuse. It is like being punched in the stomach.

Laura Corbeth

Studies show that this kind of emotional abuse will have the same chemical reaction in your brain as if being physically hurt.

I lived with The Silent Treatment as a child. And if you are living with, or have lived with this emotional abuse, you need to read this article.

Out of the Fog website describes The Silent Treatment as:

A passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.

The silent treatment is a common way of displaying contempt for another individual while avoiding confrontation about that contempt or without giving the target of the contempt an opportunity to resolve the issue or dispute. The goal is typically to invoke FOG – fear, obligation, or guilt – in the mind of the target individual.

What I have learned about The Silent Treatment:

This abuse is used by people with narcissistic tendencies

This abuse is emotional abuse

This abuse places the abuser in a position of control

This abuse is used to avoid resolution and the person will not take responsibility

The person who is the “target” will usually have high empathy and conflict-resolution skills. This person will work so hard to try and work things out and will do what they can to try and stop the silence. It is a type of abuse that no one should tolerate.

This type of abuse is damaging to our health. It is passive-aggressive. It causes distress and threatens the human emotional need of needing to belong. If our self-esteem is low, this type of abuse can make us feel powerless and feel shame.

Remember, just because you cannot see this type of abuse, does not mean it is not harmful. Victims of this type of damage can suffer PTSD. Because of being excluded and ignored and shunned, many people feel symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

As far as being in a relationship – couples argue. Debate. It is human nature. But, if you are a victim of “the silent treatment” in a relationship, it is highly dysfunctional. Studies now show that couples will divorce 100% of the time when a partner uses silent treatment.


Do not accept this abuse. You are worthy, and you are loved.

Laura Corbeth
  • Many people confuse ‘The Silent Treatment’ with ‘No Contact’. The two are so very different. An abusive personality will initiate the silent treatment as a punishment, a means of showing their displeasure or disapproval. Their contempt for you is blatantly apparent. On the other hand, an injured party will initiate no contact in order to protect themselves time to recover, not to punish or hurt anyone. The key is in the intent.