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Abuse - Definition, Symptoms & Causes

Abuse is defined as a wrong and harmful treatment of someone or a misuse of something. Abuse may consist of a single act or repeated acts. Abuse may take many different forms, including alcohol abuse, childhood abuse, or discriminatory abuse based on a person's age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, sex, or sexuality. Other forms of abuse are domestic abuse, drug abuse, emotional abuse, institutional abuse, neglect, physical abuse, psychological abuse, self abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, or workplace abuse.

Symptoms of Abuse

A person who has been abused may develop an alcohol dependence or experience anger, anxiety, avoidant behaviour, depression, dissociation, fear, hypervigilance, panic attacks, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Abuse may also lead to integration of experience problems or physical problems. A person who has been abused may find it hard to form and maintain personal relationships and work relationships, trust others in general, or may develop a tolerance of inappropriate treatment from others.

Causes of Abuse

Men, women and children who abuse others may have aggression, controlling behaviour, jealousy, low self control, manipulative behaviour, mood swings, suspicion or violent behaviour. They may have unrealistic expectations or views of others, or lack appropriate boundaries with others. To avoid taking responsibility for their abusive behaviour, an abuser may blame or criticise the person they abuse. An abuser may themself have mental health problems as a result of being abused by someone.

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Updated 05 July 2011