10 Signs of Psychological Abuse In The Workplace. : Nyxie's Nook (2023)

[AD] This post was written in association with CICA UK. Please see the disclaimer.

Are you aware of the signs of psychological abuse in the workplace?

All you need to do is tune into the news or switch on the television to spot stories laden with abuse. These can sdbe stories in regard to sexual abuse, child abuse, abuse of power, domestic violence and many others. Psychological abuse, however, is grossly underreported and can go undetected for years. It’s usually slow and subtle, breaking away at the victim over a long period of time. It might even manipulate their thoughts and memory to reflect the abuser’s needs.

What is psychological abuse?

Abuse can be found anywhere and everywhere. Everyone has the potential to be either the victim or the abuser. The abuse can become so much a part of someone’s life that they find it difficult to spot it for what it is.

The only person who benefits from such acts is the person who is responsible for inflicting the abuse.

What are the effects of psychological abuse?

  • Psychological abuse negatively impacts a person’s self-esteem & self-worth. Abusers feed off pre-existing vulnerability by increasing feelings of self-doubt, inferiority and lack of self-confidence. Repeat exposure can have a somewhat hypnotic effect, leaving the abused open to the belief that the abuser is right in everything they say. The abused can start to believe that they’re incompetent, ‘stupid’, unfit for their jobs, etc.
  • Psychological abuse often leaves the victim shouldering the blame. Victims tend to shoulder the blame despite often being completely blameless. This is due to lowered levels of self-esteem and manipulation from the abuser.
  • Psychological abuse can result in lifelong trauma. The abused may end up suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, social anxiety, stress, etc. Trauma can’t be easily treated or cured. It can take years of therapy in order to fully accept and move past trauma depending on the level. Some may even suffer permanent psychological trauma, preventing them from pursuing different areas of work or even working at all.
  • Psychological abuse can lead to other serious conditions such as; Depression, anxiety, PTSD, acute or chronic stress, etc. Stress in and of itself can cause a multitude of ailments and physical illnesses, some of which can be life-threatening if not treated such as stomach ulcers and bowel complaints. Sometimes, the severity of the abuse can be so bad, some victims may even experience thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

The case against Blizzard and how it relates to psychological abuse.

One of the most recent cases of abuse comes from Blizzard, the company responsible for the Warcraft series, Diablo and Overwatch. However, many employees are coming forward to out the company for the sexist, ‘frat boy‘ environment. Unsurprisingly, the majority of victims are female and have had to endure years of sordid and sleazy behaviour from male colleagues. Now the company have found itself facing a lawsuit from California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) for upwards of 10 violations of state employment law.

While these allegations are largely in relation to sexual discrimination and a hostile work environment, psychological abuse is very much a core component. Numerous complaints were made to the HR department over the years, however, nothing was done. Victims were left to endure such actions, or forced to leave of their own accord to avoid further harassment.

Youtube’s Bellular has been following the situation since the beginning. As an avid gamer, I’ve been following along in an effort to educate myself further on the impact of abuse in the workplace.

10 Signs of Psychological Abuse in the Workplace.

1. Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is possibly one of the biggest ways in which we can be psychologically abused. It’s become a popular term for various forms of ‘emotional and psychological’ abuse and refers to one person’s attempts to manipulate another’s reality. It’s commonly found within romantic relationships, however, it can occur anywhere; A parent, a friend and even in the workplace.

Gaslighters aim to make the victim second guess themselves. They warp the truth and manipulate the other’s memory in order to exert power over them in a very slow manner.

Signs of gaslighting include;

  • They twist information to their advantage. Perhaps using it against others or taking credit for themselves.
  • They gossip. Watch out for a boss or co-worker who gossips to you. Don’t tell them anything you might later regret because chances are they’re doing the same thing to you behind your back.
  • Abusers appear to listen to you but never engage fully enough to show that they care. They could be gathering bits of information that you tell them to perhaps use against you later.
  • They lie and make you feel as if you’re the one who has lied to them. You’re the one at fault because you forgot about that email you were meant to send that they DEFINITELY told you about. They may also make you feel at fault because you made them lie. This tactic is often used when they get caught lying.
  • They make you feel like you’re not good enough, and changes are you’ll never be.

2. Shame & Guilt.

A workplace, boss or individual who constantly makes another employee (or employees) feel that they are the problem. You’ll find that there’s an aspect of shaming the victim for no real reason, which in turn makes them feel inadequate and unworthy.

For example; A friend of mine (‘A’) recently took annual leave. He never uses his annual leave in full, and by right, the company should be pushing him to do so to remain within the law. ‘A’ took a grand total of seven days off to relax and unwind from what is a very stressful and hostile work environment.

Upon his return, he was informed of everything that went wrong while he was gone. They informed him that he shouldn’t have taken off because it had left them understaffed or with inadequately trained personnel.

Looking at this situation from afar, and having been in the same position in various workplaces, I can see the problem right away. The company hasn’t trained the appropriate people to the appropriate level, therefore they couldn’t keep up when my friend was off. It’s not his fault; It’s theirs for being unorganised and inconsistent in training. Yet they’ve pushed the blame onto him.

3. Undermining another’s work.

An employer, boss or fellow co-worker who deliberately blocks another person’s success by undermining their ability is committing psychological abuse. Repeatedly passing work to others instead of the victim despite the victim being perfectly capable, serves to reduce confidence in themselves and their work.

The abuser may constantly belittle a colleague’s work, criticizing them unnecessarily harshly and consistently. It can be directed to a group of people or to one person in particular.

The act of belittling or undermining keeps the victim bound in a cycle of “I’m not good enough, I can’t do my job properly, I need to try harder, I’ll never be good enough.”

4. Setting impossible or ever-changing expectations.

By setting near-impossible or ever-changing expectations, employees are doomed to fail before they even begin. A prime example of this would be a manager or supervisor expecting an employee to complete a mountain of paperwork within an unreasonable amount of time, or then changing what they expect and in what time frame constantly. This leaves employees confused, stressed and less likely to perform well.

The abuser may also display inconsistency of words and actions, meaning that they fail to follow through on things promised or previously stated by them. (I.e promising to train an employee or help them with a task, and then constantly failing to do so.)

5. Rationalisation of their words or actions.

They constantly try and rationalise certain words or actions that others may find inappropriate or abusive. As an attempt to justify their behaviour, they may even blame the victim. Most abusers will blame anyone or anything other than themselves for their behaviour because they’re unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.

6. Seduction.

This doesn’t necessarily have to refer to sexual abuse or sexual misconduct. It can be as simple as the perpetrator seducing the victim into trusting them enough to lower their defences. This is often done through means of flattery, compliments, and building the other’s confidence to leave them more open to manipulative behaviours down the line.

7. Diversion.

Abusers can be found dodging issues or playing dumb like it’s going out of fashion. They’ll often change the subject in order to distract from the issue such as cancelling meetings, dodging phone calls, claiming ‘lost’ emails and even avoiding people altogether.

Of course, this can also be a sign of nervousness or anxiety in some cases but coupled with other traits, this is seen as an attempt to ignore the situation or issue until someone else can deal with it (which usually won’t be to their liking, which will then be the other’s fault, creating a cycle of avoidance and blame).

8. Intimidation.

Creating a sense of fear through actions or words. It could be physical violence, but it’s more than likely verbal and creates a sense of unease in the victim.

9. Deceit.

Abusers may repeatedly lie or knowingly conceal the truth from others. in order to get the desired result or pass the blame onto others when things don’t go right.

For example; Something may have gone wrong because important information wasn’t adequately passed throughout the department. The abuser may be a manager who forgot to pass on a message to their supervisor. Instead of the manager owning up to their mistake they may feign innocence by claiming the message was passed on but not acted on by the supervisor.

This would shift blame from the manager to the supervisor, who in reality had nothing to do with it. The abuser may twist the truth so much, and deny their mistake so strongly, that the abused starts to doubt their own memory and capabilities.

Deceit can also be translated by the abuser creating false hope only to repeatedly fail to follow through.

10. Ignoring, isolating or excluding.

Psychological abuse such as the above can be displayed in many ways. The abuser may intentionally exclude the abused or make them feel socially isolated from a group of people. They may also purposely exclude them from major decisions, key conversations and maybe even work-related projects.


[AD] Can I claim for psychological abuse?

Yes, you most certainly can. No one should have to suffer through abuse, especially in the workplace. Although human resources are usually on hand to deal with the majority of issues, it doesn’t necessarily stop them and often psychological or emotional abuse is hard to prove, especially if the abuser is higher on the ladder than the victim (which is often the case).

For those who have ever suffered psychological abuse at the hands of a manager, supervisor or colleague there are measures you can take in order to seek compensation.

“TheCICA, short forCriminal Injuries Compensation Authority, is a government organisation that was created to compensate the blameless victims of violent crime. People who have been physically or mentally injured can apply to theCICAfor compensation ranging from £1,000 to £500,000.”

CICA offers the following services;

  • Provide fast and efficient service with no complications and no hassle.
  • CICA handle the case as sensitively as possible so you don’t suffer any more needless trauma.
  • They liaise and make CICA contact which takes a lot of the pain and stressaway.
  • High-quality service guaranteed. All solicitors have years of experience.
  • Solicitors work tirelessly to make sure that they get the highest amount of compensation possible for you in your situation.
  • They help gain justice for the pain caused to you.
  • All cases operate on a “no win, no fee” basis.

In order to make an abuse claim, you can get in contact by following the link.

Have you had experience with this type of abuse in the workplace? Maybe you’ve experienced emotional or psychological abuse elsewhere.



What is a list of psychological abuse signs? ›

Emotional abuse includes:
  • humiliating or constantly criticising a child.
  • threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names.
  • making the child the subject of jokes, or using sarcasm to hurt a child.
  • blaming and scapegoating.
  • making a child perform degrading acts.

What are signs of emotional abuse in the workplace? ›

Examples of noticed or unnoticed emotional abuse in the workplace can include:
  • Yelling or screaming.
  • Derogatory name calling.
  • “Silent treatment”
  • withholding necessary information.
  • aggressive eye contact.
  • negative rumours.
  • outbursts of anger.
  • public ridicule.
Aug 24, 2021

What is psychological abuse in the workplace? ›


It's a misuse of power and control that violates workers' right to psychological safety. Workplace psychological abuse is an issue of employee exploitation. Employers are not explicitly liable for the psychological harm of their employees — nor do they want to be.

What are the characteristics of psychological abuse? ›

The signs of mental abuse include:
  • Name-calling. Abusive words are a common tactic used by abusers to ridicule and demean. ...
  • Humiliation. ...
  • Withholding affection. ...
  • Making threats. ...
  • Turning tables. ...
  • Indifference. ...
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) ...
  • Eating disorders.
Nov 23, 2021

What are the 7 signs of emotional abuse? ›

Here are seven signs of emotional abuse and how you can get help.
  • Gaslighting. ...
  • Isolating you from loved ones. ...
  • Using insulting language. ...
  • Yelling. ...
  • Shifting the blame. ...
  • Acting extremely jealous. ...
  • Outbursts of unpredictable anger.
May 2, 2022

What are the five psychological abuse? ›

According to the DSM-5, Child Psychological Abuse is defined as verbal or symbolic acts given by parent or caregiver which can result in significant psychological harm. Examples are yelling, comparing to others, name-calling, blaming, gaslighting, manipulating, and normalizing abuse due to the status of being underage.

What are the signs of workplace trauma? ›

What is trauma in the workplace?
  • Ongoing mental health issues.
  • Ongoing physical health issues.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Increased absenteeism.
  • Increased reactivity.
  • Decreased work performance.
  • Increase in burnout.
  • Self-isolation.
Jan 20, 2023

What are 6 behaviors that indicate emotional abuse? ›

Examples include intimidation, coercion, ridiculing, harassment, treating an adult like a child, isolating an adult from family, friends, or regular activity, use of silence to control behavior, and yelling or swearing which results in mental distress. Signs of emotional abuse.

What are three warning signs of emotional abuse? ›

What Are the Early Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse to Look for?
  • Feel insecure and have low self-esteem.
  • Appear depressed or anxious.
  • Be withdrawn even in the presence of others.
  • No longer go out and socialize as they used to.
  • Miss work or other events and responsibilities.
Nov 15, 2018

What are 3 effects of psychological abuse? ›

Emotional and psychological abuse can have severe short- and long-term effects. This type of abuse can affect both your physical and your mental health. You may experience feelings of confusion, anxiety, shame, guilt, frequent crying, over-compliance, powerlessness, and more.

What are 3 examples of psychological violence? ›

Examples of psychological violence include acts such as isolation from others, verbal aggression, threats, intimidation, control, harassment or stalking, insults, humiliation and defamation.

What behaviors are considered criteria for a hostile work environment? ›

What behaviors are considered criteria for a hostile work environment? Harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination, victimization, violence, and many other kinds of offensive or inappropriate behavior qualify as unwelcome conduct.

What are two specific examples of psychological abuse? ›

Types of Psychological Abuse
  • Intimidation.
  • Coercion.
  • Bullying.
  • Ridicule.
  • Humiliation.
  • Gaslighting.
  • Harassment.
  • Infantilization.
Jun 21, 2022

What is an example of psychological abuse? ›

Psychological abuse can include someone regularly: Embarrassing you in public or in front of family, friends, support workers or people you work with. Calling you names. Threatening to harm you, your pets, children, or other people who are important to you.

Which of the following are examples of psychological abuse? ›

Emotional Abuse Signs and Symptoms
  • Yelling or swearing (read about Emotional Bullying and How to Deal with an Emotional Bully)
  • Name calling or insults; mocking.
  • Threats and intimidation.
  • Ignoring or excluding.
  • Isolating.
  • Humiliating.
  • Denial of the abuse and blaming of the victim.

What are signs of narcissistic abuse? ›

Signs of Narcissistic Abuse
  • Signs of narcissistic abuse include:
  • Love-bombing. It's not unusual for people with NPD to shower you with compliments and affection. ...
  • Gaslighting. ...
  • Ignoring boundaries. ...
  • Projecting. ...
  • Nitpicking. ...
  • Some common examples of narcissistic abuse include: ...
  • Anxiety and depression.
Sep 29, 2022

Which 2 of the following are signs and symptoms of abuse? ›

Signs and indicators
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Feeling that the abuse is their fault when it is not.
  • Physical evidence of violence such as bruising, cuts, broken bones.
  • Verbal abuse and humiliation in front of others.
  • Fear of outside intervention.
  • Damage to home or property.
  • Isolation – not seeing friends and family.

What are the 4 cycles of emotional abuse? ›

The cycle of abuse is made up of four stages. These stages include the building of tension, the abuse incident, the reconciliation, and a period of calm.

Which of the following is a behavioral indicator of abuse? ›

Behavioral indicators of physical abuse include: Fear of going home. Extreme apprehensiveness or vigilance. Pronounced aggression or passivity.

What are 4 symptoms of psychological trauma? ›

PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions.

What are 3 physical symptoms that you could experience from a psychological trauma? ›

Physical symptoms:
  • Insomnia or nightmares.
  • Fatigue.
  • Being startled easily.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Racing heartbeat.
  • Edginess and agitation.
  • Aches and pains.
  • Muscle tension.

What are 5 causes of psychological injury in the workplace? ›

Workers' psychological and physical health can be adversely affected by exposure to a poorly designed or managed work environment, a traumatic event, workplace violence, fatigue, bullying or harassment and excessive or prolonged work pressures.

What is emotional abuse gaslighting? ›

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a person or group causes someone to question their own sanity, memories, or perception of reality. People who experience gaslighting may feel confused, anxious, or as though they cannot trust themselves.

What personality disorder is abusive? ›

Those diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or those with BPD who may not even know they have it, are more likely than the general population to be verbally, emotionally/psychologically, physically abusive.

What does severe emotional abuse look like? ›

Emotional abuse involves nonphysical behavior that belittles another person and can include insults, put down, verbal threats or other tactics that make the victim feel threatened, inferior, ashamed or degraded.

What mental illnesses are caused by abuse? ›

Experiencing abuse or other trauma puts people at risk of developing mental health conditions, such as:
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Depression.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Misusing alcohol or drugs.
  • Borderline personality disorder.
Feb 16, 2021

What are symptoms of PTSD from emotional abuse? ›

Common Signs of PTSD from Emotional Abuse
  • Being nervous.
  • Developing an eating disorder (ED)
  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Reliving past traumas.
  • Having nightmares or flashbacks.
  • Feeling negative.
  • Emotional issues.
  • Having insomnia.
May 11, 2022

What does psychological abuse do to the brain? ›

Emotional abuse is linked to thinning of certain areas of the brain that help you manage emotions and be self-aware — especially the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe. Epigenetic changes and depression. Research from 2018 has connected childhood abuse to epigenetic brain changes that may cause depression.

What is the most common type of emotional abuse? ›

Verbal abuse is the most common form of emotional abuse. Things may be said in a loving, quiet voice, or be indirect—even concealed as a joke. Confronting an abuser often takes the support and validation of a group, therapist, or counselor.

What is psychological aggression? ›

Psychologically aggressive acts include behaviors such as ridiculing, verbal threats, isolating one s partner from family and friends, and attempting to control one s partner, and are intended to degrade one s partner and attack his or her self-worth by making him or her feel guilty, upset, or inadequate.

What are the long term effects of emotional abuse in adults? ›

In fact, according to one study, severe emotional abuse can be as damaging as physical abuse and contribute to depression and low self-esteem. The study also suggested that emotional abuse may contribute to the development of chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

What is considered a toxic work environment? ›

A toxic work environment is one where negative, antagonistic, or bullying behavior is baked into the very culture. In a toxic work environment, employees are stressed, communication is limited, blame culture is rife, and people are rewarded (tacitly or explicitly) for unethical, harmful, or nasty attitudes and actions.

What is emotional distress from hostile work environment? ›

Workplace emotional distress develops when employees face stressful situations at work. Common sources of such stress include poor coworker relationships, negative feedback, and discrimination. Employees that receive negative feedback and heavy workloads may also develop emotional distress.

What is legally considered psychological abuse? ›

Emotional or psychological child abuse is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.

What are at least 3 examples of mental abuse? ›

Other examples of mental abuse can range from bullying, withholding kind words, negging, passive-aggressive backhanded compliments, verbal abuse, and mental manipulation. When someone has realized they are a victim of mental abuse, some decide to stay, while others develop unhealthy methods to deal with the trauma.

What are the 9 main types of abuse? ›

What are the ten different types of abuse?
  • Physical abuse.
  • Domestic violence or abuse.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Psychological or emotional abuse.
  • Financial or material abuse.
  • Modern slavery.
  • Discriminatory abuse.
  • Organisational or institutional abuse.

What counts as gaslighting? ›

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in their victim's mind. Typically, gaslighters are seeking to gain power and control over the other person, by distorting reality and forcing them to question their own judgment and intuition.

What are three 3 indicators of psychological and or emotional abuse? ›

Indicators of Emotional Abuse

Bed-wetting or bed soiling that has no medical cause. Frequent psychosomatic complaints (e.g. headaches, nausea, abdominal pains) Prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea.

What's the difference between psychological abuse and emotional abuse? ›

Many tactics of psychological abuse are also classified as emotional abuse, and vice versa. However, the distinguishing factor between the two is psychological abuse's stronger effects on a victim's mental capacity. While emotional abuse affects what people feel, psychological abuse affects what people think.

Can you sue for narcissistic abuse? ›

Yes, you can sue for emotional abuse. Attorneys across the United States recognize emotional abuse as a cause of action, allowing families of those victims of emotional abuse in nursing homes to sue in response to their loved ones' mistreatment.

What is passive neglect? ›

Passive neglect – the failure by a caregiver to provide a person with the necessities of life including, but not limited to, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, because of failure to understand the person's needs, lack of awareness of services to help meet needs, or lack of capacity to care for the person.

How do you prove psychological violence? ›

To prove that someone is emotionally abusing you, you will need examples of the abuse, such as abusive emails, or witnesses. If you have evidence that someone is being emotionally abused, then you should contact the appropriate authorities.

What are the 5 main habits of a narcissist? ›

Let's take a look at five of the most common characteristics of a narcissist in order to create awareness.
  • Inflated Ego. Those who suffer from narcissism usually seem themselves as superior to others. ...
  • Lack of Empathy. ...
  • Need for Attention. ...
  • Repressed Insecurities. ...
  • Few Boundaries.

What are red flags of narcissistic abuse? ›

Red Flags When You're In a Relationship With a Narcissist

Downplays your emotions. Uses manipulative tactics to “win” arguments. Love bombing, especially after a fight. Makes you second-guess yourself constantly.


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