Issues: Abuse (physical, psychological,sexual, financial)

Abuse is a misuse of power intended to harm or control another person. The maltreatment can be physical, verbal, or emotional. All types of abuse can cause pain and psychological distress.  Abuse can leave psychological wounds that are harder to heal than bodily injuries. Survivors of abuse may have intense, negative feelings long after the abuse has ended. Anxiety, flashbacks, and trust issues are common in people who have experienced abuse. Abuse can impact a person’s ability to form relationships and find happiness. Yet the effects of abuse do not have to be permanent. Your therapist can help abuse survivors overcome challenges and address symptoms. Therapy can also help those who engage in abuse to stop harmful behaviours, though the individual must truly wish to change.


There are many types of abuse. Abuse can be classified by its form or by its context.

Forms of abuse include:

  • Physical Abuse: When someone deliberately causes physical harm to another. This type could include behaviours such as punching or whipping. It also includes actions which cause illness or disability, such as poisoning. 
  • Sexual Abuse: Any form of sexual contact made without consent. This type may include rape, child molestation, incest, or other acts of sexual violence.
  • Emotional/Psychological Abuse: A chronic pattern of manipulation to control another person. Tactics include verbal attacks, isolation, humiliation, or threats. A person may also use gas lighting to make a target doubt their memories. 
  • Financial Abuse: When someone uses money to gain control over a person. They may take over one’s bank account or steal one’s identity to rack up debt. Selling or taking one’s property without permission also counts as abuse.

Abuse can occur within any kind of relationship, whether familial, professional, or social. It can also occur between strangers, although this pattern tends to be rarer. Common contexts are:

  • Domestic Abuse: Also called intimate partner violence or spousal abuse. Any form of abuse which occurs in an intimate relationship counts as domestic abuse. The relationship can be straight, homosexual, monogamous, polyamorous, and so on.
  • Elder Abuse: When someone harms, exploits, or neglects an elderly person. The abuser is often someone in charge of the elder’s care, such as a family member or nursing home worker. In the U.S., roughly 1 in 10 Americans over age 60 have experienced elder abuse. 
  • Child Abuse: When someone harms, exploits, or neglects a minor under 18. Estimates say one in four American kids have experienced neglect or abuse at some point. 

A person can experience more than one type of abuse. For instance, someone who is psychologically abused may experience physical abuse at the same time. In fact, psychological abuse is often a precursor to physical violence.

Many thanks to the good people at who kindly gave permission for their excellent analyses of psychological and therapeutic issues to be reproduced here.


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