What is Psychological Abuse?
What does abuse mean? Abuse is any type of behavior, mental or physical, that one person does to another with the intention to cause harm. The psychological abuse definition is typically verbal, mental, or emotional abuse intended to cause damage by undermining a person's well-being, self-esteem, or mental health. The mental abuse definition is defined as criticism, intimidation, and name-calling by one person to another. What is the definition of emotional abuse? The emotional abuse definition is being controlled by another person by using the victims emotions, such as shame or embarrassment. Psychological abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, and psychological violence are often used to describe similar events.
Psychological abuse can be found in both genders and all age ranges. Studies show that a large percentage of people have reported psychological abuse from an adult when they were a child. Psychological abuse can have the following characteristics:
- attacks on a victim's character: telling a victim they can never do anything right
- obscenities: yelling and using curse words or offensive language
- negative tones: talking to a victim in a demeaning manner
- exploitation: making a victim feel singled out and embarrassed
- excessive teasing: making a joke out of something the victim can't help, or that they like
- harmful threats: making a victim believe that they are capable of hurting them
- silent treatment: avoiding any contact with the victim
- gaslighting: telling a victim that their memory of an event is false or never happened
- mean and spiteful comments about the victim or people the victim has a good relationship with
Types of Psychological Abuse
Psychological abuse can include many types of behaviors. Abusers can be romantic partners, business partners, a caregiver, or a friend/colleague. Psychological abuse is a cycle of unhealthy behaviors. The most common types of psychological abuse are:
- Humiliation, negating, criticizing: name-calling, yelling, character discrimination, public embarrassment, belittling accomplishments, putting a person down, deliberately causing diminishment on a victim.
- Control and shame: threats, spying, financial control, direct orders, outbursts, treating the victim like a child, withholding valuable information.
- Accusing, blame, denial: jealousy, turning the tables, using guilt, goading then blaming, destroying, and denying.
- Emotional neglect and isolation: demanding respect, shutting down any negotiation, keeping the victim from socializing, disputing the victim's feelings.
- Codependence: when everything a victim does is in response to the abuser's behavior.
Effects of Psychological Abuse
People often underestimate the damage that can be caused by psychological abuse. Psychological abuse is seen as less impactful than other abuses, mainly because an outsider can't "see" the damage. Psychological abuse takes place in someone's thoughts and personal beliefs. The consequences of an abuser who is psychologically abusive are almost nonexistent.
A victim of psychological abuse may have a period of denial that they must work through. Psychological abuse occurs in cycles with moments of obvious abuse as well as moments of non-abusive behavior. A victim may often feel embarrassment, confusion, fear, or hopelessness, therefore, they may not speaking out about their situation in order to receive assistance. Adults and children who are victims of psychological abuse have the same effects.
Short-Term consequences of psychological abuse are:
- difficulty concentrating
- muscle tension
- racing heartbeat
- various aches and pains
Long-Term consequences of psychological abuse are:
- anti-social behaviors
- low self-esteem
- intellectual deficits
- academic difficulties
- health problems
Psychological abuse is often a precursor to more severe abuse, such as physical abuse, or more extensive medical conditions, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Once an abuser has started abusing a victim, the abuse tends to get worse over time, not better.
Causes of Psychological Abuse
The causes an abuser feels are reasons to abuse a victim with psychological abuse are not fully known. Researchers have determined several underlying characteristics that might cause one person to be psychologically abusive to another. There are some behaviors that might signal an abusive nature. These can include:
- undue pressure on others
- subjectivity to others
- humiliating acts of behavior toward others
- mental health problems, often untreated
- exploitation of others
Often, since psychological abuse typically occurs in cycles with moments of non-abusive behavior, the victim does not seek help or a way to stop the abuse. If a victim comes to realize they are in an abusive situation, there are many things they can do to change their situation:
- Accept that abuse is taking place and seek professional help
- Disengage and separate from the abuser
- Exit the relationship or circumstance
- A victim needs to be allowed time to heal
There are times after severe psychological abuse that a victim needs to seek professional help. If the victim has thoughts or actions of self-harm or suicide, professional help is needed immediately.
A study by the National Council Against Domestic Violence (NCAD) has shown that forty-eight percent of women and forty-nine percent of men have experienced at least one psychologically abusive person in their lifetime. The same study shows that eighteen percent of women have claimed an abuser has kept them from friends and family. Almost all men that psychologically abuse their romantic partners also physically abuse them. These results are proof that psychological abuse is a very serious type of abuse.
The definition of abuse is any type of behavior that is intended to cause harm to another. Psychological abuse is abuse that is intended to cause damage by undermining a person's well-being or self-esteem. Psychological abuse is often viewed as less severe than other types of abuse, however, the short-term and long-term effects of psychological abuse are very serious. Psychological abuse is often a precursor to other types of abuse such as physical abuse or sexual abuse. It can take place with any gender of any age. The emotional abuse meaning is a type of psychological abuse that involves the victim's emotions such as shame and embarrassment. The mental abuse definition is abuse that can lead to depression and low self-esteem.
Psychological abuse occurs in cycles, which makes seeking help very difficult for victims. The abuser has times of severe abuse followed by remorse and non-abusive behavior. The victim is made to believe that they are remembering things wrong or they are making the situations and feelings more than they actually were. Psychological abusers are manipulative and they are able to convince the victim any abuse is the victim's fault.
Common types of psychological abuse are attacks on a victim's competence, attacks on a victim's character, obscenities, negative tones, exploitation, excessive teasing, harmful threats, silent treatment (pretending the victim does not exist) , and gaslighting (convincing the victim they do not remember the events correctly). Psychological abuse involves criticism, intimidation, and name calling. Psychological abuse occurs in cycles of severe abuse and non-abusive actions. It may take a victim several years of abuse to determine assistance is needed. Therapists and Psychologists can offer professional assistance to someone who has experienced psychological abuse.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
What is the definition of emotional abuse?
Abuse is any behavior intended to cause harm to another person. Emotional abuse is a form of psychological abuse that is intended to harm a person's self-esteem or emotions toward themselves.
What is the definition of psychological abuse?
Psychological abuse is behavior intended to undermine a person's well-being or self-esteem. Psychological abuse can also be described as mental abuse or emotional abuse.
What is the difference between mental and emotional abuse?
Mental abuse and emotional abuse are often used interchangeably because they are not necessarily different. Both mental abuse and emotional abuse are types of psychological abuse and effect the way the abuser thinks about themselves.
What is an example of psychological abuse?
Examples of psychological abuse can be humiliation, unnecessary control, shame, negativity, and emotional neglect. These behaviors can cause serious damage to the victim.
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack