What is Psychological Abuse?

Extreme cases of psychological abuse may result in drug usage.
People suffering from psychological abuse might turn to alcohol.
Psychological abuse may occur at school.
Psychological abuse can cause a dependence on anti-depressants and other medications.
Psychological abusers often escalate to physical abuse.
The average abused woman leaves her abuser 7 to 8 times before she leaves him permanently.
Psychological abuse in childhood can impact a person's development later in life.
Personal attack is one of the most common tactics used during psychological bullying.
Individuals suffering from psychological abuse may have trouble sleeping.
Psychological abuse may cause emotional distress.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2015
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Psychological abuse is a type of abuse that involves subjecting people to pain and distress of an emotional, rather than physical, form. In cases of extreme psychological abuse, the stress created by the abuse can actually lead to the manifestation of physical symptoms of abuse ranging from loss of appetite to self-harming behavior. Identifying and addressing this form of abuse can be challenging because it can take varied forms and it is very dependent on the nature of the individuals involved.

Often, psychological abuse occurs within the dynamic of an existing unhealthy relationship and the abuser may engage in physical abuse as well. It can occur in caregiver situations, such as those involving parents and children and caregivers and older or disabled adults, as well as in intimate relationships. It also shows up at school and in the workplace in the form of bullying and harassment, and can often be seen in situations where there are unequal power dynamics.

There are many forms of psychological abuse. It can include harassment, infantalization, threats, intimidation, isolation, control, and attempts to belittle the victim. Both verbal and nonverbal means can be used to perpetrate abuse, ranging from yelling or screaming at someone to creating physical isolation by refusing to touch the victim and isolating the victim from friends and family.


Victims of psychological abuse can develop a number of symptoms including behavioral changes, stress, and unhappiness or emotional distress. Some may become abusive themselves, as seen when children experience harmful emotional dynamics at home and become bullies on the playground. A cycle of abuse and emotional violence can be created, with people experiencing abuse and turning on others. This type of abuse can also escalate and become physical in nature and it can be accompanied with neglect and other forms of abuse.

For people who intervene in abusive relationships, such as members of law enforcement, counselors, and teachers, identifying psychological abuse requires being very perceptive and taking small cues seriously. Looking for patterns of behavior and changes in the way someone behaves with other people is important, as is interacting directly with the victim and using carefully phrased questions to gather information about the situation. People in abusive relationships are sometimes reluctant to seek help or to report on the abuse because they fear reprisals. As a result, simply asking if someone needs help is often not enough, as initial offers of assistance may be turned down.


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Post 3


I think that it is often important to give someone the benefit of the doubt in this kind of situation, but nevertheless, if the abuse is consistent and/or harmful to you or the person, the friendship should either be peaceably broken off or someone else, preferably a mutual friend, should be confidentially brought into the picture to confront the psychological abuser about their issues. It is important to recognize that the person is probably in pain and should be cared for by someone. But that someone probably shouldn't be you.

Post 2


What would you recommend to deal with this kind of situation, such as when someone is trying to get your attention in a seemingly honest and legitimate way? How do I tell if they are genuine or not?

Post 1

A common kind of Psychological abuse is when someone intentionally sends you mixed signals to keep you guessing and make you think they are interested in you. When you take the bait, they may turn on you suddenly, trying to expose you to some form of heartbreak. I reason that this is because "misery loves company" and people who have been hurt in the past often have inner problems which they want to spread to others.

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