Learn About Ailments | Abuse


Abuse is the harmful treatment of people by others or by a person to themselves. Abuse can be physical, emotional (psychological), sexual or verbal. Common types of abuse include childhood abuse, substance abuse (drug and alcohol addiction), spousal abuse (known as domestic violence), human rights abuse and animal abuse. Abuse can lead to feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.

In This Article
Did you know? Causes of abuse
Symptoms/signs of abuse Diagnosis of abuse
Related terms

  • Every ten days a child is killed by an abusive parent
  • Over a third of all reported rapes are against children under 16
  • A quarter of adults in England are classed as hazardous drinkers
  • Class A drug abuse is increasing due to the availability of cocaine
  • One in four women will suffer domestic abuse

Abuse is a complex problem and many factors can contribute to someone abusing another person or abusing themselves. Below is a brief outline of the common contributory factors.
  • Childhood experiences – Many abusers were themselves abused during childhood and in the case of abusive parents they will have learned this behaviour and seen it as a normal way to raise a child. Adults abused as children may later abuse elderly parents as a way of revenge.
  • Financial stress – The cost of part-time childcare or elderly care can be prohibitive and without temporary relief from the emotional strain of caring, adults can become resentful and abusive.
  • High development expectations – Children are often abused by parents who have unrealistic expectations of how quickly they can develop. If a milestones in a child's development such as potty training or feeding themselves isn't achieved quickly and early, parents may abuse the child for failing to meet expectations.
  • Lack of support – Carers without support from family or friends are more likely to lose self-control when faced with the stresses of caring for children, elderly relatives or the infirm.
  • Mental disorders – Psychological problems such as depression, anxiety or personality disorders can cause an individual to become abusive toward their children or spouse.
  • Substances – Alcohol and drugs weaken a person's inhibitions leading to abuse. They may attempt to harm to others or themselves.
  • Beliefs – Unacceptable and outdated belief systems can lead to people becoming abusive. Men who see it as their right to a relationship with women can be abusive while parents may use violence as a way to raise their children due to viewing their rights over a child as being absolute. Managers who view staff as subordinates and not as equals will use abuse as a way to impose their authority.
  • Invulnerability – An abuser will often be aware that bystanders are unwilling to report their behaviour because of the possible physical, social and legal repercussions should they get involved. As a  result, the abuser views themselves as being invulnerable to their actions.

Someone who is being abused or is abusing themselves can suffer physical, psychological and emotional symptoms. Symptoms and signs of the common forms of abuse are outlined below.

Child abuse

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Covering injuries with excessive clothing (particularly during the summer)
  • Running away from home
  • Refusal of medical examination
  • Fear of physical contact
  • Slow development (physical, mental and emotional)
  • Social phobias
  • Poor hygiene and ripped clothing
  • Hunger
  • Destructive
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Neurotic behaviour (self-harm, rocking, pulling out hair)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
Substance abuse
  • Frequent intoxication
  • Inability to carry out routine tasks
  • Reliance on drink or drugs to cope
  • Medical problems (liver, kidney, heart conditions)
  • Broken relationships or difficulty forming relationships
  • Financial difficulties (failure to pay bills, loss of income)
  • Aggression
  • Apathy
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Avoidance of social situations

Domestic abuse/violence
  • Anxiety
  • Constantly alert making sleeping difficult
  • Despair
  • Fear of not being able to protect themselves or their children
  • Feeling responsible for the abuse
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Physical injuries (and attempting to conceal injuries with excessive clothing or accessories e.g. sunglasses
  • Avoidance of social situations (and fear of being seen with physical injuries)

Abuse can have variety of physical, psychological and emotional problems depending on the type of abuse suffered and as such a diagnosis will require a varying set of guidelines. The first step to overcoming abuse is to confide in someone that a problem exists but this step is often the most difficult.

In the first instance you may find it easier to speak with a friend or family member but any medical conditions such as physical injuries or psychological disorders (depression etc.) will require a visit to a healthcare professional such as your GP for a proper diagnosis.

Violent abuse
Behavioural abuse
Racial abuse
Religious abuse

Therapies to consider
Art Therapy Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Colour Therapy
Counselling EFT Hypnotherapy
NLP Psychotherapy Thought Field Therapy


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