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What is the legal definition of mental abuse?

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Quick Answer

Mental abuse, otherwise known as psychological abuse, occurs when a person subjects or exposes another person to psychologically harmful behavior, according to USLegal. This type of abuse aims to control another person through threats of actions, notes the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Full Answer

Examples of psychological abuse include threats of physical violence, intimidation, isolation and destruction of property, according to the Department of Justice. Emotional abuse, also a kind of mental abuse, occurs when a person undermines someone else's self-esteem or self-worth. Examples of emotional abuse include constant criticism, name-calling and diminishing someone's abilities. A person who exhibits mental abuse may also damage another person's relationship with the victim's children.

Isolation happens when a mentally abusive person prevents someone else from having normal social interactions with friends and family, according to the American Humane Association. Physical isolation may occur when a person's movements become restricted. Other behaviors of mental abuse include ignoring, verbally assaulting, terrorizing, rejecting and exploiting. Ignoring occurs when someone intentionally fails to respond to another person, such as a child. Exploiting happens when an abuser forces someone else to do illegal acts, such as stealing or drug dealing.

Amnesty International defines psychological abuse with examples that include humiliation, induction of exhaustion, administration of alcohol and degradation, notes licensed therapist Daniel Sonkin, PhD. Psychological abuse occurs when someone promises another person to cease the abuse sometime in the future.

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