Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse, also referred to as emotional abuse or mental abuse, is a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.[1][2][3] Such abuse is often associated with situations of power imbalance, such as abusive relationships, bullying, child abuse and abuse in the workplace.[2][3] There were "no consensus views about the definition of emotional abuse." As such, clinicians and researchers have offered sometimes divergent definitions of emotional abuse. However, the widely used Conflict Tactics Scale measures roughly twenty distinct acts of "psychological aggression" in three different categories: Verbal aggression (e.g., saying something that upsets or annoys someone else); Dominant behaviours (e.g., preventing someone to have contact with their family); Jealous behaviors (e.g., accusing a partner of maintaining other parallel relations). The U.S. Department of Justice defines emotionally abusive traits as including causing fear by intimidation, threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner's family or friends, destruction of pets and property, forcing isolation from family, friends, or school or work.[4] In 1996, Health Canada argued that emotional abuse is motivated by urges for "power and discontrol",[3] and defines emotional abuse as including rejecting, degrading, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting/exploiting and "denying emotional responsiveness" as characteristic of emotional abuse. Several studies have argued that, unlike physical and sexual maltreatment, an isolated incident does not constitute emotional abuse. Tomison and Tucci write, "emotional abuse is characterised by a climate or pattern of behaviour(s) occurring over time [...] Thus, 'sustained' and 'repetitive' are the crucial components of any definition of emotional abuse."[5] Andrew Vachss, an author, attorney and former sex crimes investigator, defines emotional abuse as "the systematic diminishment of another. It may be intentional or subconscious (or both), but it is always a course of conduct, not a single event."[6] Subtler emotionally abusive tactics include insults, putdowns, arbitrary and unpredictable inconsistency, and gaslighting (the denial that previous abusive incidents occurred). Modern technology has led to new forms of abuse, by text messaging and online cyber-bullying. Domestic abuse—defined as chronic mistreatment in marriage, families, dating and other intimate relationships —- can include emotionally abusive behavior. Psychological abuse does not always lead to physical abuse, but physical abuse in domestic relationships is nearly always preceded and accompanied by psychological abuse.[2] Murphy and O'Leary[7] report that psychological aggression by one partner is the most reliable predictor of the other partner's likelihood of first exhibiting physical aggression. A 2005 study by Hamel[8] reports that "men and women physically and emotionally abuse each other at equal rates". Basile[9] found that psychological aggression was effectively bidirectional in cases where heterosexual and homosexual couples went to court for domestic disturbances. A 2007 study of Spanish college students (n = 1,886) aged 18–27 [10] found that psychological aggression (as measured by the Conflict Tactics Scale) is so pervasive in dating relationships that it can be regarded as a normalized element of dating, and that women are substantially more likely to exhibit psychological aggression. Similar findings have been reported in other studies.[11] Strauss et al.[12] found that female intimate partners in heterosexual relationships were more likely than males to use psychological aggression, including threats to hit or throw an object. A study of young adults (N = 721) by Giordano et al.[13] found that females in intimate heterosexual relationships were more likely than males to threaten to use a knife or gun against their partner. Numerous studies done between the 1980 and 1994[1][14][15][16][17][18] report that lesbian relationships have higher overall rates of interpersonal aggression (including psychological aggression/emotional abuse) than heterosexual or gay male relationships. Furthermore, women who have been involved with both men and women reported higher rates of abuse from their female partners.[19] In 1996, the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence,[3] for Health Canada, reported that 39% of married women or common-law wives suffered emotional abuse by husbands/partners; and a 1995 survey of women 15 and over (n = 1000) 36-43% reported emotional abuse during childhood or adolescence, and 39% experienced emotional abuse in marriage/dating; this report does not address boys or men suffering emotional abuse from families or intimate partners. A BBC radio documentary on domestic abuse, including emotional maltreatment, reports that 20% of men and 30% of women have been abused by a spouse or other intimate partner.[20] Straus and Field [21] report that psychological aggression is a pervasive trait of American families: "verbal attacks on children, like physical attacks, are so prevalent as to be just about universal". A 2008 study by English, et al.[22] found that fathers and mothers were equally likely to be verbally aggressive towards their children. In their review of data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (a longitudinal birth cohort study; n = 941) Moffitt et al.[28] report that while men exhibit more aggression overall, gender is not a reliable predictor of interpersonal aggression, including psychological aggression. The study found that whether male or female, aggressive people share a cluster of traits, including high rates of suspicion and jealousy; sudden and drastic mood swings; poor self-control; and higher than average rates of approval of violence and aggression. Moffitt et al. also argue that antisocial men exhibit two distinct types of interpersonal aggression (one against strangers, the other against intimate female partners), while antisocial women are rarely aggressive against anyone other than intimate male partners. Male and female perpetrators of emotional and physical abuse exhibit high rates of personality disorders.[29][30][31] Rates of personality disorder in the general population are roughly 15%-20%, while roughly 80% of abusive men in court-ordered treatment programmes have personality disorders.[1] Abusers may aim to avoid household chores or exercise total control of family finances. Abusers can be very manipulative, often recruiting friends, law officers and court officials, even the victim's family to their side, while shifting blame to the victim