What is a mental abuse?

Dr. Marni Feuerman, LCSW, MFT
Marriage & Family Therapy

Abuse can be physical, verbal or mental (also known as “psychological” or “emotional”) Mental abuse occurs when a person in the relationship tries to control information available to another person so as to manipulate that person's sense of reality or what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Mental abuse often contains strong emotionally manipulative content and threats designed to force the victim to comply with the abuser's wishes.  All abuse takes a severe toll on self-esteem. The abused person starts feeling helpless and possibly even hopeless. In addition, most mental abusers are adept at convincing the victims that the abuse is his/her fault. Somehow, the victim is responsible for what happened. A common form of emotional abuse is "I love you, but..."  That may sound nice at first, yet it is both a disguised criticism and a threat. It indicates, "I love you now, but if you don't stop this or that, my love is of short duration." It is a constant put-down that works on your self-esteem. Often the first step in leaving the abuse is obtaining counseling to rebuild that esteem.

Mental abuse can take the form of:

* Extramarital affairs

* Provocative behavior with opposite sex

* Humiliation and put-downs

* Hypercriticism

* Refusal to communicate

* Use of sarcasm and unpleasant tone of voice

* Unreasonable jealousy

* Extreme moodiness

* "I love you but..."

* "If you don't shape up, I will..."

* Domination and control

* Withdrawal of affection


Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Mental abuse is the improper treatment of one human being towards another. It may present in many different ways but the end product is pain that can be either physical and/or emotional pain.

Mental abuse is a form of emotional and psychological abuse. It can take the form verbal statements and nonverbal actions. The abuser controls the victim through isolation, limiting communication, and control of financial assets.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.