What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional or psychological abuse may not include any physical or sexual assault. But its impact can be just as devastating.

Examples of emotional and psychological abuse include:

  • Threats of harm or abandonment.
  • Deprivation of contact or refusal of visitors.
  • Humiliation.
  • Restricting personal choice and refusing to respect privacy.
  • Blaming, controlling, or intimidating behaviour.
  • Coercion and harassment.
  • Verbal abuse, or the use of infantilising language.
  • Removing mobility or communication aids, or intentionally leaving someone unattended when they need assistance.
  • Forced isolation, or withdrawal from services or support networks.

Cyber bullying is another example of emotional abuse. Read our guide to cyber bullying. We also have this guide to staying safe online.

Learn to Spot the Signs of Emotional Abuse

Any of these could indicate that emotional and psychological abuse is taking place:

  • An air of silence or discomfort when a particular person is present.
  • Withdrawal, or a change in the psychological state of the person.
  • A change of appetite, or unexplained weight loss or gain.

In addition to these, certain signs may be a bit harder to spot. Some signs of distress, like tears and anger, are obvious. But victims of psychological abuse may develop low self-esteem and insomnia.

It’s also a good idea for looking for signs that a person might be an abuser. Uncooperative or aggressive behaviour from a carer is a big red flag. But again, some signs are a bit more subtle. For instance, a carer might make some false claims about an individuals’s behaviour or condition. in order to attract unnecessary treatment.

Unfortunately, emotional and psychological abuse sometimes takes place in care settings. So read our guide to organisational abuse for further signs that abuse may be endemic in a care setting.

How to Deal With Emotional and Psychological Abuse

If you’re concerned that someone you know may be suffering from abuse, get in touch. We’ll be able to advise you on who to approach to get the help you need.

Call us on 0115 951 5400.

You can read about the other types of harm.


Back to Resources

Safeguarding Adults Online Courses

Learn more about safeguarding adults and learn how to recognise the signs of abuse with our introductory safeguarding adults courses.

Safeguarding Adults eLearning Courses