Psychological Abuse – Part 1


When asked about the presence of “abuse” – many of us have our own mental images of what that means, and we’ll say things like, “My childhood was fine. My parents provided for all my needs and no one was abusive or anything.”

It may be surprising to learn that a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association confirmed that childhood psychological abuse causes lasting, significant damage, equal to or exceeding the long-term consequences of physical and sexual abuse.

“Equal to or exceeding!” This is really so very important! It seems like it’s easy for us to think of emotional or psychological abuse as third-tier and not all that severe in terms of impact.

In truth: wounds inflicted with words are as damaging to others as the harm from physical and sexual violence.

According to the APA, adults who engage in bullying, terrorizing, coercive control, severe insults, threats, overwhelming demands, devaluing, degrading, shunning and/or isolating are participating in psychological abuse.

Listed below are some of the signs that psychological abuse may be present in your current relationship. If that’s the case, whether you notice these patterns in how you or your partner treat one another, or in how either of you engage with your children, we encourage you to reach out for help.

Does your partner engage in the following?

1. insult, humiliate, put down, make fun in front of other people
2. demean or disregard opinions, ideas, suggestions, or needs
3. use sarcasm or “teasing” to make a person feel bad
4. deflect abusive remarks by accusing others of being “too sensitive”
5. control and treat adult partner like a child (i.e., you need permission to make decisions or go out somewhere)
6. chastise, often swearing at the other
7. control finances and how money is spent
8. belittle or trivialize the person, their accomplishments, hopes and dreams
9. insist he/she is always right, and others are wrong
10. give disapproving / contemptuous looks or body language
11. frequently point out flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings
12. accuse or blame others for things that aren’t true
13. refuse to laugh at self and can’t tolerate others laughing at them
14. seem intolerant of any seeming lack of respect
15. excuse his/her behavior, have difficulty apologizing
16. repeatedly cross others’ boundaries and ignore requests
17. blame others for their problems, life difficulties, or unhappiness
18. call names, give unpleasant labels, or make cutting remarks under his/her breath
19. seem emotionally distant or emotionally unavailable most of the time
20. pout or withdraw to get attention or attain what they want
21. lack empathy or compassion
22. disengage, neglect or abandon the other to punish or frighten
23. not seem to notice or care about others’ feelings
24. view others as an extension of him/herself rather than as individuals
25. withhold or require sex as a way to manipulate and control
26. share personal information with others
27. play the victim, deflect blame, invalidate or deny any wrong-doing when confronted
28. make subtle threats or negative remarks with the intent to frighten, intimidate, or control

We understand that people don’t wake up hoping to cause long-term harm to loved ones. If you notice these patterns in your current relationship – you may see yourself engaging in these practices or you may be in a relationship with someone who is – the team at GROW Counseling can help.

Mindy Pierce, MA, LPC

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