What Is Abuse? An Overview of Types and Effects of Abuse

Written by: Dr. Aleksandra Eriksen Isham – PhD (Psychology)

Last updated date : February 27, 2023

Abuse causes a lot of pain and stress. It can happen to anyone and is never okay. Unfortunately, living with abuse can make people think that it is normal or that they deserve it. This can make it hard to stop abuse, because some people may not even realize that they are being abused. They may also be too scared to tell others that they are being abused. In addition, abusers may try to isolate the person they abuse from others. This can make it hard for others to recognize or prove abuse. Therefore, it is very important to understand what abuse is and how it affects people.


Chapter 1:

What Is Abuse?

Abuse can take many forms. Sometimes, it is physical. This is when someone hurts another person’s body. It can include any kind of act that causes pain or injury to the body, such as beating, throwing, choking, or pinching. Other times, abuse is sexual. This is when someone engages in sexual activity with another person without their content, or with any child or underage teen. This can include rape, touching, looking, forcing another person to view sexual acts, or any other sexual activity. Abuse can also be emotional. This is when someone belittles and breaks down another person. It can include bullying, criticizing, scaring, threatening, or other acts that break another person down and make them feel bad about themselves.

Finally, abuse can also take the form of neglect. This is when someone does not get enough care, attention, food, or other things that they need to thrive and feel safe and loved. Neglect is most common between parents and their kids but can also happen to others who receive care from someone. This can be elderly people receiving care in a nursing home or people in a hospital.

Experiencing any of these types of abuse can be very painful and can continue to affect a person for a very long time. Next, we will have a look at how.

Chapter 2:

Effects of Abuse

Mental Health

Abuse can have a huge effect on a person’s mental health. People who have lived with abuse may feel worthless, struggle to know who they are, and feel anxious or down. They may also feel ashamed, guilty, and believe that the abuse was their own fault, even though that is not true. In addition, they may find it hard to focus and have sleep problems. These effects can continue long after the abuse has stopped. They can make it very hard to live happy and fulfilling lives. For some people, living becomes so hard that they may start to harm themselves or use a lot of alcohol or drugs. This may be an attempt to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings. People who have lived through abuse may also have thoughts about ending their own life.


People who have lived through abuse may feel disliked or misunderstood, unworthy of love, and may struggle to trust other people. Therefore, it can be hard for them to form and maintain healthy relationships. For some people, this may mean that they try to avoid others. Therefore, they may have few close relationships. Others struggle with close contact and sex. This may especially be the case for people who have been sexually abused. These people may find it hard to view sex as a loving or pleasurable act. Instead, they may feel that sex is dirty or mean. Therefore, sex may cause feelings of shame and fear instead of pleasure.

Unfortunately, people who have experienced abuse are also more likely than others to end up in unhealthy and abusive relationships later in their lives. This can especially be the case for people who have grown up with abuse from an early age and may not know what a healthy relationship looks like.

School and Work

As mentioned, people who have lived with abuse may struggle with social interactions and find it hard to focus. Therefore, they may also have difficulties at school and at work. For example, they may experience more conflict and have more negative experiences at school and work than others. They may also enjoy school and work less than others. In addition, they are more likely than others to be absent from school, struggle to complete schoolwork, perform worse in school, and have lower levels of education. These difficulties may extend to their work life. Some people who have lived with abuse may be more absent from work, are more likely to be unemployed, and earn less than other people. This can in turn lead to financial and other struggles.


Finally, people who were abused when they were young are at risk of criminal problems in their teens and adulthood. This can include both violent and non-violent acts leading to arrests. This increased risk of crime may be influenced by some of the other adverse effects of abuse. For example, for people who were abused when they were young, violence may have been a part of their daily lives, and they may not have learnt how to cope in more helpful ways. In addition, a lack of social bonds, support, and employment can increase the risk of ending up in harmful and criminal environments.

As you can see, the effects of abuse are devastating and can last a long time. At worst, people who have lived through abuse may suffer so much that they choose to end their own lives. However, with help, it is possible to overcome the effects of abuse and live a happy and meaningful life. Therefore, if you are experiencing, have experienced, or know someone else living with abuse, it is very important to get help as soon as possible.

At Epsychonline we have a range of resources that can help you learn more about abuse and several other topics. You may want to read up a bit more on our hurt topics to get a better understanding of bullying and assault amongst others. We also have a series of self-help courses, including one on Coping with Bullying. You can visit our Courses page to find a course that suits you.

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