Psychological Abuse


Psychological abuse is the infliction of mental anguish, involving actions that cause fear of violence, isolation or deprivation, and feelings of shame, indignity or powerlessness (ANPEA).

Examples include:

  • Verbal intimidation - being forced into making decisions against your will.
  • Humiliation and harassment - being called names or experiencing behaviours that are degrading, in a public or private place, being treated like a child.
  • Shouting.
  • Threats of physical Harm - e.g. "If you don't hurry up I'll give you something to be quick about".
  • Threats of institutionalisation - "Do what I say or I'll put you in a home".
  • Withholding of affection - refusing access to grandchildren.
  • Removal of decision-making powers.

Signs of Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse may be verbal or non-verbal and is usually characterised by a pattern of behaviour repeated over time and intended to maintain a hold of fear over the victim.

Signs of psychological abuse include:

  • Loss of interest in self or environment
  • Passivity
  • Ambivalence towards family member or carer
  • Apathy
  • Fearfulness
  • Lack of eye contact with practitioner, carer or other person
  • Huddled or nervous around carer or other person
  • Reluctance to talk openly
  • Helplessness
  • Withdrawal
  • Insomnia/sleep deprivation
  • Paranoid behaviour or confusion not associated with illness
  • Resignation