Abuse is an intentional action or behaviour carried out by one person resulting in someone else being harmed or distressed. How these actions manifest can vary depending on the type of abuse, but it is almost always done to exert power and control.
Anyone can be the victim of abuse and it can happen anywhere, from within the intimate confines of a romantic relationship to the workplace. The abuser may be a partner, relative, boss, colleague or even a stranger.
Whether the abuse has already happened or is continuing, it can cause mental and physical suffering that can negatively impact your life. Understandably, many survivors of abuse struggle to talk about their experiences, but getting help is vital.
What types of abuse are there?
Abuse comes in many forms and learning to recognise the signs of different types is important for seeking the right help. The main types of abuse include:
- Physical abuse: Causing intentional physical harm through violence like pushing, shaking, scratching, hitting, biting, strangling and choking.
- Emotional abuse: The use of demeaning language designed to exert control and cause distress such as name-calling, threats, manipulation, destructive or constant criticism and gaslighting.
- Sexual abuse: Non-consensual sexual actions like unwanted touching, being pressured into sexual activity, ‘stealth’ condom removal, rape and incest.
- Financial abuse: Controlling someone’s finances through actions like stealing, controlling all household spending, restricting access to money and taking other people’s benefits or pension.
- Neglect: Ongoing failure to take care of basic needs like not providing enough food or adequate housing, clothing or medical care.
- Domestic violence: Abuse that takes place in a domestic setting, often within an intimate relationship. It could be physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse.
- Child abuse: Any intentional harm of a person under the age of 18.
- Elder abuse: Any intentional harm of an older person.
What impact does abuse have?
The ramifications are extensive and go far beyond the initial reaction to the abuse. Many survivors of abuse suffer a range of issues triggered by the abuse which could include:
- Panic attacks
- Relationship problems
- Inability to have physical intimacy
- Poor memory or blackouts
- Feelings like numbness, irritability, anger and shame
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Self-harm and suicidal ideation
They may also be diagnosed with a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How can therapy help survivors of abuse?
People who have experienced abuse need emotional support to process what has happened, build back their self-esteem and, in some circumstances, become empowered to cut ties or walk away.
Everyone has different needs and access to different levels of support from friends and family and understandably some people don’t want to speak to loved ones about what they have been through.
An impartial professional is able to hold a judgement-free space where it is safe for you to explore your experiences and feelings. It can be very healing for someone who has been abused to be fully heard in a respectful environment without fearing more abuse. From this safe space, the therapist and client can work together to take stock of what has happened and explore options for the future.
Ultimately, therapy for abuse can help you process trauma, develop healthy coping mechanisms and overcome symptoms like panic attacks and flashbacks.
If you’re interested in exploring how therapy could help you come to terms with the abuse you have experienced, book in for a free phone consultation with one of our team by calling 01892 249032. Alternatively, click on the green ‘book a consultation’ button to automatically select a time that suits you.
Samaritans – call 116 123 for 24/7 support for anyone who needs to talk
Victim Support – call 0808 168 9111 for emotional and practical support
Childline – call 0800 1111 for a free helpline or use the online chat for support for children and young people
The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) – call 0808 801 0331
Hourglass – call 0808 808 8141 or text 078 6005 2906 for support for older people who have experienced abuse
Respond – specialist support services for people with learning disabilities