Psychological abuse is regular and deliberate use of words and non-physical actions, which are used in order to control, manipulate, hurt or frighten a person mentally and emotionally. Perpetrators of psychological abuse may also seek to confuse, distort or influence a person’s thoughts and actions within their everyday lives, or they may try to affect an individual’s sense of self and harm their wellbeing.
Perpetrators of psychological abuse often come across as charming and very affectionate at the beginning of a relationship, often saying they are in love very quickly and wanting to spend a lot of time together. Gradually, a perpetrator may start to use abusive behaviour interspersed with charming and loving behaviour, to make the victim become slowly desensitised to the behaviour. Perpetrators use psychological abuse so there are no physical signs. Hidden tactics, such as presenting insults as a joke, gaslighting, and presenting different versions of events make the victim question themselves as opposed to the perpetrator.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. The perpetrator manipulates another by sowing seeds of self-doubt and confusion and by making them question their own actions or judgement. It is a form of coercive and controlling behaviour.
Psychological abuse is a form of coercive and controlling behaviour, which has been a criminal offence since 2015. Anyone experiencing psychological abuse can contact a local domestic abuse support service to get advice on their situation and the support available to them.
Yes, psychological abuse is a form of domestic abuse when the perpetrator is a partner, ex-partner or family member of the victim. The perpetrator may use only psychological abuse or it may go alongside other forms of abuse, such as physical, sexual or financial abuse.