Emotional Abuse

Helping understand and report emotional abuse


Emotional abuse can seriously damage a child’s emotional development. Emotional abuse is the ongoing emotional maltreatment of a child, which can also be recognised as psychological abuse. Children who are emotionally abused often are experiencing another form of abuse or neglect, however this is not always the case.

Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to humiliate a child, scare them, isolate them or ignore them.

For more information on emotional abuse please visit the NSPCC website.


This is behaviour that has a harmful effect on the person’s emotional health and development or any form of mental cruelty that results in:

  • Mental distress
  • The denial of basic human and civil rights such as self-expression, privacy and dignity
  • Negating the right of the adult at risk to make choices and undermining their self-esteem
  • Isolation and over-dependence that has a harmful effect on the person’s emotional health, development or well-being.

This could take the form of:

  • Enforced social isolation – preventing someone accessing services, educational and social opportunities and seeing friends
  • Removing mobility or communication aids or intentionally leaving someone unattended when they need assistance
  • Preventing someone from meeting their religious and cultural needs
  • Preventing the expression of choice and opinion
  • Failure to respect privacy
  • Preventing stimulation, meaningful occupation or activities
  • Intimidation, coercion, harassment, use of threats, humiliation, blaming, controlling, bullying, swearing or verbal abuse
  • Addressing a person in a patronising or infantilising way
  • Threats of harm or abandonment
  • Cyber bullying

What does Emotional Abuse look like?

Symptoms and signs can be, but are not limited to:

  • An air of silence when a particular person is present
  • Withdrawal or change in the psychological state of the person
  • Insomnia
  • Low self-esteem
  • Uncooperative and aggressive behaviour
  • A change of appetite, weight loss/gain
  • Signs of distress: tearfulness, anger
  • Apparent false claims, by someone involved with the person, to attract unnecessary treatment

Reporting a concern about a child

If you have concerns about a child please report your worries via the online form or by contacting the NELC Children’s Integrated Front Door 01472 326292 Option 2.   The Front door can also offer information, advice and guidance around early help

Reporting emotional abuse for adults

Anyone that suspects another professional or adult of abuse or neglect has a duty to refer it to the relevant employer or safeguarding agency to be investigated.  If you need to raise a Safeguarding Adults concern, please call 01472 256 256. This number is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


More information