Legal Article

Psychological abuse

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow

Article | Criminal Law

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Published on: 27 Jan, 2023

Psychological abuse, also known as emotional abuse, is a form of abuse that is characterized by the use of manipulation, mind games, and other tactics to control, intimidate, and dominate another person. It can occur in any type of relationship, including romantic relationships, friendships, and familial relationships. It can also occur in a professional context, such as in the workplace or in a healthcare setting.

Forms of psychological abuse

Unlike physical abuse, psychological abuse is not always easy to recognize. It can be subtle and insidious, and it can take many forms. Some common tactics used in psychological abuse include:

  • Gaslighting: This is a form of manipulation where the abuser manipulates the victim into doubting their own perceptions and memories. They may deny that certain events occurred or make the victim question their own sanity.
  • Isolation: The abuser may try to control the victim’s social interactions, limiting their ability to see friends and family. They may also try to control the victim’s access to information and resources, such as the internet or money.
  • Verbal abuse: This can include name-calling, belittling, and other forms of verbal aggression.
  • Threats: The abuser may use threats of violence or other forms of retaliation to control the victim.
  • Intimidation: The abuser may use body language, facial expressions, or other forms of nonverbal communication to intimidate the victim.
  • Control: The abuser may try to control every aspect of the victim’s life, including their clothing, hair, and makeup, their activities, and their finances.

Effects of psychological abuse

Psychological abuse can have serious and long-lasting effects on the victim’s mental and emotional health. Some common effects of psychological abuse include:

  • Depression and anxiety: Psychological abuse can cause the victim to feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. They may also experience feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): The victim may experience flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms of PTSD as a result of the abuse.
  • Low self-esteem: The abuser may systematically tear down the victim’s confidence, making them feel worthless and unlovable.
  • Difficulty trusting others: After experiencing psychological abuse, the victim may find it difficult to trust others, including friends, family, and romantic partners.
  • Difficulty with decision-making: After being controlled for a long time, it may be difficult for the victim to make decisions for themselves.
  • Substance abuse: The victim may turn to alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with the abuse.

It is important to note that psychological abuse is not always easy to recognize, and the victim may not even realize they are being abused. They may blame themselves for the abuser’s behavior, or they may not have the language to describe what is happening to them. It’s also important to note that psychological abuse can happen in any type of relationship, not just romantic partnerships.

It’s essential to understand that psychological abuse is just as dangerous as physical abuse, and the effects of it can be just as severe. And like physical abuse, psychological abuse often escalates over time, making it crucial to address the issue early.

Action against act of psychological abuse

If you or someone you know is experiencing psychological abuse, it is important to seek help. This can include reaching out to a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional. They can provide you with support, guidance, and help you to develop a plan for safety. Additionally, you can also seek help from a support group, or a helpline that specialized in dealing with abuse.

It’s also important to note that in India, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 criminalizes psychological abuse.