Mental abuse

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What is mental abuse?

In essence mental abuse is being treated badly by your partner, including being shouted at, being called names, threatened, made to look or feel humiliated and being coerced or controlled by this abuse. It is as serious as the other types of abuse and falls within the definition of coercive control and domestic abuse as reflected in the law. The Serious Crime Act 2015 makes behaviour that is ‘controlling or coercive” towards another person in an intimate or family relationship’ punishable by a prison term of up to five years. It can be just as damaging and upsetting as physical abuse.

Types of mental abuse

The many types of behaviour that can be classed as mental abuse include:

  • Intimidating and/or threatening behaviour. This includes shouting at you, aggressive behaviour towards you, threats or other ways of making you feel frightened.
  • Causing you to feel stupid or worthless and preventing you from standing up for yourself or being independent minded.
  • Criticising and insulting you by name calling, shaming you or making unpleasant or sarcastic comments, with the intention of damaging your self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Undermining you by, for example, dismissing your opinion, making you doubt your own opinion or maybe even doubting your sanity. This is also known as gaslighting. Acting as if you’re stupid or wrong if you dispute the truth of something. Disputing your version of factual events.
  • Making you feel guilty using emotional blackmail, threatening to harm or kill themselves if you don’t do what’s asked, emotional outbursts, sulking or being silent for long periods as a way of manipulating you.
  • Financial abuse such as withholding money, questioning all your spending, not involving you in the family finances and decisions or preventing you from getting a job. The intention is to stop you feeling independent and able to make your own choices.
  • Controlling you by telling you what you can and can’t do. This may include telling you when and where you can go, stopping you from seeing certain people or going out, telling you what to buy and how to dress or how your hair should be.

How can I prove mental abuse?

Mental abuse is another term for emotional or psychological abuse. You need to understand what it is, then prove it is happening by keeping records of all the abusive incidents and their effect and impact on you. These records will be your evidence.

Sometimes it’s really difficult to describe relationship difficulties as abusive. You may feel it’s wrong to think it or admit it and you may consider admitting it to be a sign of failure. You may feel that the problems are all your fault or are excusable because of your partner’s stressful job or other outside influences. The best way to think about whether it’s abusive is to ask yourself about the effects and impact on you and then decide.

Mental abuse also crosses over with emotional abuse and you may find it useful to explore the differences between the two. Read our emotional abuse page for more information.

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