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Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behaviour that impairs a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth, and can involve deliberately trying to scare, humiliate, isolate or ignore a child. It happens in many different ways. It can affect how a young person or child feels about themselves, or how they fit in with friends, at school, or where they live.

Examples of emotional abuse are:

  • Being made to feel inadequate, worthless or unloved
  • Being unfairly blamed
  • Being bullied, including over the internet (cyber-bullying)
  • Being made to feel frightened or in danger
  • Witnessing the abuse of others such as domestic abuse

Signs and symptoms of emotional abuse in children can include:

  • Reduced physical, mental and emotional development
  • Continual self-depreciation, eg 'I'm stupid', 'I'm ugly', 'I'm worthless'
  • Inappropriate response to pain, eg 'I deserve this'
  • Neurotic behaviour, eg rocking, hair twisting or self-mutilation