Psychological abuse refers to “abuse that damages the psyche, or the mind. Psychological abuse happens when one person attempts to gain power and control over another.” It involves the deliberate infliction of pain or anguish to another person through verbal or nonverbal conduct designed to humiliate or threaten another person (National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse). Psychological abuse if quite prevalent in the United States. Most of its victims are women. Indeed, it is estimated that about 1.5 million women get psychologically abused each year. Psychological abuse often leads to physical abuse, as well as domination of the relationship and isolation from friends and family (PsychAbuse.info, 2006).
Psychological abuse is dangerous because it poses many risks on the victim, such as acute stress, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression (PsychAbuse.info, 2006). The many documented effects of psychological maltreatment include:
Other possible consequences of psychological abuse are emotional instability, low social competency, anxiety, and low academic achievement (Canadian Health Network, 2004).
Given the effects and signs of psychological abuse, the common victims are those who have no emotional or social support from family and friends. On the other hand, people who often have contact with vulnerable people are sometimes the ones who perpetrate psychological abuse. This group may include caregivers and even family members of the victim (National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse).
One important issue on psychological abuse involves neglect, particularly on children. Neglect involves the omission of protection and care needed by a child, which could lead to adverse consequences such as juvenile delinquency, aggressive behavior, and child deaths (Canadian Health Network, 2004). In this connection, the fact that many children become victims of psychological abuse is a very alarming issue, particularly because of the tender age of the victims. Moreover, it is observed that may victims of child psychological abuse are emotionally disturbed, mentally retarded, or physically handicapped, although the onset of these conditions may differ as to time (Wall, 1975).
Another important issue with psychological abuse is the fact that it is believed to be the “most under-reported form of abuse.” Thus, the prevalence rates reported periodically may not be accurate since they only include those incidences that have been reported (Canadian Health Network, 2004).
Another critical issue on psychological abuse is its pervasiveness in dating relationships. It is estimated that abuse during the courtship ranges from 20 to 50 percent of men and women. There is also another concern about the increased risk of abuse in a dating relationship due to the tendency of couples to prolong the dating relationship before marriage (Burke, Stets & Pirog-Good, 1988).
All of these issues are worth exploring. Women and children appear to be at special risk given their vulnerability. Another vulnerable group is the aged, who have no support systems to rely on.
Burke, P. J., Stets, J. E. & Pirog-Good, M. A. (1988). Gender Identity, Self-Esteem, and Physical and Sexual Abuse in Dating Relationships. Social Psychology Quarterly 51(3), 272-285. Canadian Health Network. (2004). What is psychological maltreatment? Retrieved February 24, 2008, from http://www.canadian-health- network.ca/servlet/ContentServer?cid=1069439898222&pagename=CHN- RCS%2FCHNResource%2FFAQCHNResourceTemplate&c=CHNResource&lan g=En National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. Psychological Abuse. Retrieved February 24, 2008, from http://www.preventelderabuse.org/elderabuse/psychological.html PsychAbuse.info. (2006). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved February 24, 2008, from http://www.psychabuse.info/Psychological_Abuse_FAQ.htm
Wall, C. M. (1975). Child Abuse: A Societal Problem with Educational Implications. Peabody Journal of Education 52(3), 222-225.