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Effects of Mental Abuse

author image Lia Stannard
Lia Stannard has been writing about women’s health since 2006. She has her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience and is pursuing a doctorate in clinical health psychology.
Effects of Mental Abuse
A depressed young woman in a train station. Photo Credit ViktorCap/iStock/Getty Images


Mental abuse, also called emotional or psychological abuse, has lasting effects on the victim. This type of abuse can occur in relationships, which the University of Michigan Health System explains, involves one partner putting the other partner down psychologically. The American Humane Association adds that children can suffer from mental abuse as well through psychological maltreatment, which includes isolation and neglect of the children.

Low Self-Esteem

Victims of mental abuse may suffer from low self-esteem. The University of Michigan Health System points out that the tactics used by abusers make victims feel worthless. For example, an abuser may insult the victim, telling her that she is crazy or makes bad decisions. The abuser may ignore the victim's feeling, making her feel unwanted. The abuser may also make these insults in front of other people, which can make the victim feel worse. Helpguide.org notes that even if a person was confident before the abuse, the constant insults and emotional degradation can lower her self-esteem.

Problems Thriving

Children who experience mental abuse can have problems thriving. The American Humane Association explains that infants who are deprived of all emotional support and love may die. In cases of less severe emotional deprivation, the association notes that mentally abused children have a slow development. For example, abused children may become withdrawn. Insecurity is another problem that can arise in mentally abused children. As a result, they may have problems connecting with other people.

Mood Changes

Mental abuse can also cause mood changes in the people affected. Victims of mental abuse can develop anxiety, in which they become fearful of certain things. For example, a victim of mental abuse may become fearful whenever he is around his abuser. The anxiety from the mental abuse may make victims feel powerless or vulnerable. Some victims may develop depression, in which they become sad and have crying spells. Some of the symptoms of depression, like feeling worthless or hopeless, occur with the self-esteem issues that arise with mental abuse. Helpguide.org points out that some victims of mental abuse may become suicidal.

Behavioral Problems

The mental abuse may change how a person acts. For example, some mental abused children can become aggressive and display destructive behaviors, such as vandalizing other people's property. Victims of mental abuse may turn to alcohol or drugs, which may temporarily help with the emotional issues that arise with mental abuse. But as the amount of drugs or alcohol a person uses increases, the emotional problems, such as depression, can become worse. The American Humane Association explains that in some cases, mentally abused children abuse their children when they become parents, continuing the cycle.

Physical Reactions

Some victims of mental abuse may respond to the psychological pain with physical symptoms. For example, a mental abuse victim may have constant headaches, brought on by the stress from the mental abuse. The University of Michigan Health Center points out that pain in other areas of the body is another effect of mental abuse, such as stomach pain or gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea. Pain can also occur in victims' arms, legs or back.

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