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What Is The Definition Of Physical And Emotional Abuse?

What Is The Definition Of Physical And Emotional Abuse?

The erroneous notion of abuse being solely comprised of physically violent encounters has finally been debunked. There are many different types of abuse (e.g., physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, etc.), and each carries equally harmful consequences for the victim. Abuse is defined as “any action that intentionally harms or injures another person.” Depending on the person, the effects of abuse can be debilitating. For young people that have endured any type of abuse, it may be advantageous to pursue guidance from a qualified mental health professional. 

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is defined as any deliberate and unwanted physical contact. Physically abusive behaviors may not necessarily leave a physical mark on one’s body or even cause pain, but purposeful unwanted contact is still considered abuse. Examples of physically abusive behaviors could include: 

  • Hair pulling
  • Scratching
  • Kicking
  • Biting 
  • Pushing 
  • Hitting
  • Using a weapon
  • Pulling or grabbing clothes 

Physical abuse can not only result in physical damage but can also be emotionally crippling.

Emotional Abuse

The University of Texas at Dallas defines emotional abuse as “any abusive behavior that isn’t physical, which may include verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation, and humiliation, which most often unfolds as a pattern of behavior over time that aims to diminish another person’s sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth, and which often results in anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Emotional abusing behaviors can include, but are not limited to the following examples:

  • Stalking
  • Threatening
  • Attempting to control access to one’s family or friends 
  • Trying to control clothing choices 
  • Yelling
  • Name-calling 
  • Insults 
  • Intentionally publicly embarrassing someone 

According to VeryWell Mind, “emotional abuse is a way to control another person by using emotions to criticize, embarrass, shame, blame, or otherwise manipulate another person.” Emotional abuse can result in a young person beginning to internalize and believe the words of his or her abuser. Hence, habitual exposure to emotional abuse can lead to diminished self-esteem and lowered confidence levels. 

For Information and Support

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life in, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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