Understanding Abuse

What is the definition of abuse?

Abuse and its long-term effect on a person are not an easy topic of conversation, neither is it a simple thing to define as abuse can take many different forms. Whilst nearly all of these tend to result in similar symptoms, they can vary both in their duration, severity and frequency.

Like anything else in life people can respond differently to their experiences.  Some can appear to move on with their lives seemingly unaffected, for others the symptoms of their abuse, both physical and mental can last for a long time as they struggle to come to terms with it.  Other people may bury the memories of their abuse as a form of self-protection and might struggle in later life when these memories and emotions start to resurface. 

Physical Abuse

Physical violence can be used to control, humiliate or coerce someone.  This can start in childhood and include things like neglect or be domestic abuse in a relationship.

Physical Symptoms

·      Broken limbs

·      Concussion

·      Bruises

·      Scratches

·      Burns

Psychological Symptoms

·      Depression

·      Anxiety

·      PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

·      Eating disorders

·      Insomnia

·     Trust issues

Sexual Abuse

One of the most brutal forms of abuse, the most common form of this is rape.  It can also include being forced to watch pornographic content, have sex with a partner when you don’t want to, or having someone share intimate photos of you.

Types of Sexual Abuse

·      Rape

·      Non-consensual sexual contact

·      Non-contact sexual abuse

·      Incest

·      Child molestation

Psychological Symptoms

·      Depression

·      Anxiety

·      PTSD

·      Suicidal thoughts

·     Sexual dysfunction

Psychological or Mental Abuse

Generally where a person’s emotions are manipulated by bullying behaviour or verbal abuse.  Their feelings are belittled as a form of control or punishment, and it can involve tactics such as gaslighting, intimidation and withholding affection.

Psychological Symptoms

·      Low self-esteem

·      Feelings of low self-worth

·      Anxiety

·      Depression

·      Developing phobias

·      Self-Harm

·      Addictions

Financial or Material Abuse

Not always immediately seen as a form of abuse, this is where one person in a relationship exerts financial control over the other. 

This can be because they control the finances of the other person, or they are unable to work, or are stopped from working and becoming financially independent. 

Physiological Symptoms

·      Anxiety

·      Depression

·      Stress

·      Low self-esteem and self-worth


This can take the form of self-harming, eating disorders and addictions and these all have their own underlying route causes and related symptoms.

Self Help

There are many organisations available to help people who have, or are, still suffering from abuse.  If you feel unable to seek support from friends, family or your doctor, then you can access information about these organisations on-line.

Professional Help

If you are suffering from abuse of any kind your doctor should be able to provide you with any physical care or mental health support you may require.  They can prescribe medications such as antidepressants and mood stabilisers or refer you for therapy which can be tailored to your specific needs.  This can include therapies such as counselling, psychotherapy, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and clinical hypnotherapy.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK).  For more free information click above link.