Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
Cultural values and expectations play a significant role in how psychological abuse is manifested and how it affects its victims. See The role of culture in elder abuse and neglect.
Who are the perpetrators?
Perpetrators may be family members, caregivers, or acquaintances.
Who is at risk?
Persons who are isolated and lack social or emotional support are particularly vulnerable.
What are the indicators?
Indicators are signs or clues that abuse has occurred. Physical indicators may include somatic changes or decline, while behavioral indicators are ways victims and abusers act or interact. Some of the indicators listed below can be explained by other causes and no single indicator can be taken as conclusive proof. Rather, one should look for patterns or clusters of indicators that suggest a problem.
- Significant weight loss or gain that is not attributed to other causes
- Stress-related conditions, including elevated blood pressure
- Isolates the elder emotionally by not speaking to, touching, or comforting him or her
- Has problems sleeping
- Exhibits depression and confusion
- Cowers in the presence of abuser
- Is emotionally upset, agitated, withdrawn, and non responsive
- Exhibits unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia (e.g., sucking, biting, rocking)
How can I learn more?
Quinn, M.J., & Tomita, S.K. (1997). Elder abuse and neglect: Causes, diagnosis, and intervention strategies. (2nd ed.). New York: Springer Publishing Co.