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Psychological abuse

  • Psychological abuse is sometimes called psychological violence, emotional abuse, or mental abuse
  • It involves someone saying or doing things to make you feel bad
  • Psychological abuse can be a type of domestic and family violence
  • If you or someone you know is experiencing psychological abuse, you can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, text 0458 737 732 or visit our website for online chat and video call services:
    • Available 24/7: Call, text or online chat
    • Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST (except national public holidays): Video call (no appointment needed) 

What is psychological abuse?

Psychological abuse is behaviour that aims to cause emotional or mental harm. It may not hurt your body, but can be just as painful and distressing in other ways.

No one behaves perfectly in their relationships all the time. However, when someone deliberately hurts you over and over again it becomes abusive. Behaviour from others that aims to make you feel scared or bad about yourself is not OK.

Psychological abuse can include someone regularly:

  • Embarrassing you in public or in front of family, friends, support workers or people you work with
  • Calling you names
  • Threatening to harm you, your pets, children, or other people who are important to you
  • Treating you badly because of things you can’t change — for example, your religion, race, past, disability, gender, sexuality, or family
  • Ignoring you or pretending you aren’t there
  • Doing and saying things that make you feel confused. This might include someone moving or changing things and then denying they have done this.
  • Always correcting what you say with the aim of making you look or feel foolish.
  • Intentionally making you question your own memory and mental health, also known as gaslighting. By withholding information and lying, gaslighters try to control a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions to weaken a person’s confidence deliberately and gradually.

There may be a pattern to the behaviour that happens again and again. Sometimes other types of abuse are going on at the same time. If this kind of abuse is being used to scare and control you it may be domestic or family violence.

No one behaves perfectly in their relationships all the time. However, when someone deliberately hurts you over and over again it becomes abusive.

Who is responsible for psychological abuse?

Psychological abuse can happen in any relationship, including with:

  • Boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, husbands or wives
  • Ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-partners, ex-husbands or ex-wives
  • Carers or paid support workers
  • Parents, guardians or other family members
  • Adult children
  • Other people you live with or see often, whether inside or outside the home.

None of these people has the right to psychologically abuse you. If your or someone you know is experiencing psychological abuse it is OK to ask for help.