Psychological Violence: What It Is, Examples, Types, Causes, Consequences And How To Prevent It

Psychological Violence: What it Is, Examples, Types, Causes, Consequences and

The psychological violence is a serious form of aggression that does not use physical contact but can leave serious consequences on the victim’s psyche since it is a very effective way of exercising power over another. In this PsychologyFor article we will address the topic in depth and answer the following questions: what it is, what are the examples, what are the types, the causes and consequences as well as how we can prevent this type of violence.

Psychological violence, also known as emotional or mental abuse, refers to behaviors or actions that harm an individual’s emotional well-being, self-esteem, and psychological integrity. Unlike physical violence, psychological violence may not leave visible scars, but its impact can be profound and long-lasting. We explore the forms, effects, and strategies for preventing psychological violence to promote awareness and support for those affected.

What is psychological violence?

It is called psychological violence to all that aggression carried out without the intervention of physical contact Between people. It can be given by one or more people at a time and is basically manifested verbally: disqualifications, humiliations, devaluations contempt… These behaviors cause harm to the victim on an emotional level and can occur in all areas: family, school, social, work… Furthermore, on many occasions this violence can begin in a subtle way and gradually have an impact. little in the person so that he would not even realize it until he is already under the control of the other in a dependent way, with fear, with coercion…

It is a quite serious form of violence since it directly affects and damages the person’s psyche, the physical damage leaves visible marks and although the psychological damage cannot be seen, it leaves deep marks on the individual’s personality as well as on their reason and judgment. . In some cases, this violence also appears together with physical, sexual violence, etc. Mainly, it seeks to reduce or eliminate the internal resources that the affected person may have to deal with different situations of daily life.

Forms of Psychological Violence

Psychological violence can take various forms, including:

  • Verbal Abuse: Insults, name-calling, ridicule, and belittling statements that undermine a person’s self-worth and confidence.
  • Manipulation: Gaslighting, deception, or coercion to control and manipulate another person’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior.
  • Isolation: Cutting off social connections, controlling access to resources, or restricting freedom to create dependence and isolation.
  • Intimidation: Threats, gestures, or behaviors intended to instill fear, intimidation, or submission in the victim.
  • Humiliation: Public shaming, embarrassment, or degradation aimed at diminishing a person’s dignity and self-respect.
  • Neglect: Withholding emotional support, affection, or attention, leading to feelings of abandonment or neglect in the victim.

Effects of Psychological Violence

The effects of psychological violence can be profound and far-reaching, impacting individuals’ mental, emotional, and physical well-being:

  • Low Self-Esteem: Constant criticism and demeaning behavior can erode self-esteem and self-worth, leading to feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy.
  • Anxiety and Depression: Persistent emotional abuse can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, exacerbating feelings of hopelessness and despair.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress: Victims of psychological violence may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance.
  • Social Withdrawal: Isolation and manipulation can lead to social withdrawal, loneliness, and difficulty trusting others, further exacerbating feelings of alienation and disconnection.
  • Physical Health Problems: Chronic stress and trauma resulting from psychological violence can manifest in physical health problems such as headaches, insomnia, digestive issues, and chronic pain.
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Examples of psychological violence

Some examples of psychological violence are:

  • Threat: generates fear and restricts the victim’s actions. Some more serious ones are punishable by law.
  • Blackmail: form of control through fear or guilt.
  • Humiliation: degrading actions in front of loved ones or strangers.
  • Monopoly decision making: not letting the other also participate in making decisions about some issue: money management, time management, work…
  • Control: If the control is excessive, it can end up becoming a violent form of psychological violence.
  • Abuse: humiliation.
  • Disqualifying comparisons: Permanently pointing out defects and comparing the person with another can become a form of psychological violence.
  • Screams: Arguments are common in relationships, constant shouting is not and can be considered psychological violence.
  • Image control: control over the image carried out through humiliation, coercion, threats… becomes a form of psychological violence.
  • Teasing: Teasing that exceeds trust and seeks to harm and humiliate is a form of psychological violence.
  • Moralization: associated with blackmail and humiliation, it is related to the display of moral superiority repeatedly.
  • Criticism: repeated and constant, harmful, which do not seek to help but to destroy.
  • Denying the perceptions or feelings of the other: systematically disqualifying someone’s feelings (sadness, loneliness, joy) causes an inability to express oneself and even distrust in one’s own judgment.
  • Indifference: remain indifferent to the other in any environment where relationships are shared (family, work…).
  • Psychological harassment: It is a deliberate form of psychological violence that seeks to destroy the victim’s self-esteem.

Types of psychological violence

We can differentiate 5 types of psychological violence:

1. Psychological violence against women

There are different forms of violence against women: physical, sexual and also psychological violence. The latter is related to abuse and is therefore part of gender violence since the WHO defines it as: “Any act or intention that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women. It includes threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether in public or private life.

2. Psychological violence in children

Psychological abuse of children and adolescents in the family is one of the main and potentially most harmful typologies of child lack of protection and at the same time one of the most difficult to identify, evaluate and address. According to the author Glaser (2002), for an act to be considered psychological violence towards children by parents, it must comply with the following:

  • “Describes a relationship between parental figures and the child (rather than an event or a series of repeated events that occur within the framework of the parent-child relationship);
  • The parental behaviors that make up the interaction with the child permeate or characterize their current relationship – that is, they always, usually or often occur and are observed at different times and contexts;
  • Parenting behaviors are causing or potentially may cause harm to the child’s psychological/emotional development and health;
  • It includes both omission and commission; and
  • “It requires no physical contact.”

3. Psychological violence in the family

It includes all verbal aggression of any kind towards both children and spouse. It must be taken into account that in the family environment it is easier for the person to normalize the situation and feel anxiety or stress due to the very fact of experiencing ambivalent feelings: fear on the one hand, love on the other. Here you will find more information about domestic violence.

4. Psychological violence in the couple

It occurs between spouses. Various scientific findings have shown that psychological violence in a couple has a high relevance, just as important as physical violence and, in many cases, it is an indicator of the latter. Research also indicates that psychological violence is more persistent over time than other violence.

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5. Psychological violence in the workplace

Closely related to workplace harassment, that is, with the so-called Mobbing.

Causes and incidence of psychological violence

In the same way that it is difficult to know exact data about other types of abuse, the same thing also happens with psychological violence. When it occurs as a single form of abuse, it has little impact since complaints are rare, which does not mean that it does not occur.

As for the causes, they vary according to the typology. At a general level we find:

  • Alcoholism
  • Ignorance and ignorance
  • Poor education
  • Not being able to control impulses
  • Lack of understanding towards others
  • drug addiction

In the case of psychological violence exerted by parents on children, the following has been found:

  • Parents with poor parenting skills substance abuse, depression, suicide attempts or other psychological disorders, low self-esteem, poor social skills, authoritarian educational style, lack of empathy, social stress, domestic violence and family dysfunction.
  • Substance abuse or affective disorders by parents correlate significantly with verbal aggression.
  • Specifically, emotionally abusive parents more frequently have a psychiatric history and less frequently a history of crime, alcoholism, and drug addiction or prostitution.
  • Children at risk are those whose parents are involved in a contentious divorce, unwanted or unplanned children, children whose parents are inexperienced or unskilled in parenting, parents with substance abuse problems, parents who abuse animals, exposed children to domestic violence, socially isolated or disabled children

On the other hand, regarding the causes of psychological violence against women, the issue is more complicated. Human behavior has two components: emotional and instrumental. On the one hand, the first element refers to the emotional charge that the behavior has: anger, rage.The second asks why, what moves us to do it. In the case of violence against women in the context of a couple, the behavior is somewhat different, it contains a structural and cultural element that leads the aggressor to want to educate the woman for the simple fact of being.

Consequences of psychological violence

The consequences of psychological violence are multiple and varied depending on the specific typology.

Consequences of psychological violence in the family environment

The effects of psychological domestic violence are the following:

  • Ambivalence of feelings towards the person who is carrying out the abuse. She feels fear at the same time as affection and love.
  • Anxiety and self-blame for believing themselves to be the cause of some problem, for example in the family.
  • Constant loss of self-esteem, insecurity.
  • Stress due to environmental pressure. This is because her surroundings, friends or family, encourage him or her to leave the partner, or vice versa: to stay with him or her.
  • Difficulties controlling their impulses effectively.
  • Complication to express affection.

Consequences of psychological violence directed at children

According to a study carried out by M. Gómez de Terreros:

  • “1) At the level of thoughts, as feelings of low self-esteem (including the behaviors associated with it), negative view of life, symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as thoughts of suicide.
  • 2) About emotional health, such as emotional instability, borderline or borderline personality, lack of appropriate emotional responses, impulse control problems, anger, self-harming behaviors, eating disorders and substance abuse.
  • 3) About social skills, including antisocial behavior, emotional bonding problems, limited social competence lack of sympathy and empathy, social isolation, difficulty adjusting to norms, poor sexual adaptation, dependency, aggression and violence, and delinquency or criminality.
  • 4) About learning, poor school performance, learning difficulties and difficulties in moral development.
  • 5) Regarding physical health, failures to thrive, somatic complaints, a poor health and high mortality

Consequences of psychological violence against women in the domestic sphere

The effects of psychological violence against women are:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression, loss of self-esteem and feelings of guilt
  • Social isolation
  • Psychosomatic disorders
  • Sexual disorders
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Consequences of psychological violence in the workplace

Victims of psychological violence at work or bullying can present:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorders
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome
  • Somatization disorders such as migraines, fatigue, digestive disorders,….
  • Addictions
  • Permanent changes in personality
  • Intellectual impairment and dullness and memory loss
  • Loss of ability to concentrate
  • Focusing and obsession on the harassment suffered to the exclusion of the rest of the person’s vital spheres such as family and friends
  • Social and professional isolation
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Insensitivity or depersonalization
  • Professional abandonment
  • Constant alert situation
  • Sleep and appetite disturbances
  • Greater vulnerability to infections (conjunctivitis, otitis, colds, etc.) due to the impact on the immune system

How to prevent psychological violence?

It is practically impossible to eradicate this type of violence in a simple way since there are many normalized behaviors in society. The best way to do it is educate in respect, in healthy and empathetic relationships from the beginning. It is important to provide people with social-emotional skills so that they learn to confront conflicts assertively and be able to manage and regulate themselves emotionally. Appropriately channel emotions such as anger, frustration… and understand that they are normal, but they must know how to control themselves. We must all do our part in prevention and be able to criticize our own behaviors to try to improve those aspects that may cause psychological harm to others. It is also important to listen to ourselves to know how to detect when we are the ones who feel like victims of this type of violence and thus be able to stop it as soon as possible.

Preventing psychological violence requires a multi-faceted approach involving education, awareness, and intervention:

  • Education and Awareness: Promoting awareness of the signs and consequences of psychological violence can empower individuals to recognize abusive behaviors and seek help.
  • Supportive Relationships: Building supportive relationships based on mutual respect, empathy, and communication can provide a protective buffer against psychological violence.
  • Assertiveness and Boundaries: Teaching assertiveness skills and boundary-setting techniques can help individuals assert their rights, preferences, and boundaries in relationships.
  • Intervention and Support Services: Providing access to counseling, therapy, and support services for victims of psychological violence can help them heal from trauma and rebuild their lives.
  • Legal and Policy Measures: Implementing legal protections, policies, and interventions to address psychological violence in workplaces, schools, and communities can create safer environments and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

In the following articles you will find information:

Psychological violence inflicts deep emotional wounds and leaves lasting scars on its victims, undermining their sense of self-worth, security, and well-being. By understanding the forms, effects, and prevention strategies for psychological violence, individuals, communities, and institutions can work together to create safer, more supportive environments where everyone can thrive free from fear and abuse.

This article is merely informative, at PsychologyFor we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Psychological violence: what it is, examples, types, causes, consequences and how to prevent it we recommend that you enter our Social Psychology category.


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