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Child Maltreatment - Psychological Abuse


Psychological abuse occurs when someone knowingly causes mental or emotional pain, distress, or suffering to a child. Psychological abuse includes rejecting, insulting, threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or harassing through words or actions. This may also include ignoring, not speaking to the child, or isolating him from family, friends, or regular activities. It is also when someone encourages, uses, or shows a child how to do something illegal.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • The child feels like harming himself or someone else.

  • The child has trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • The child feels that he cannot cope with the abuse, or recovery from it.

Contact the child's healthcare provider if:

  • The child has new signs and symptoms since the last visit.

  • You have questions or concerns about the child's condition or care.


  • Medicines may be needed to help the child feel more relaxed or less nervous, or to improve sleep.

  • Give the child's medicine as directed. Contact the child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if the child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs the child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry the child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with the child's healthcare provider or counselor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during the child's visits.

How to care for a child victim of psychological abuse:

  • Let the child rest as needed. Tell the child's healthcare provider if the child has trouble sleeping.

  • Report suspected or known psychological abuse. It may be hard to report psychological abuse of children, but it is very important. Healthcare providers can help the child if he is at risk for or is a victim of psychological abuse. Healthcare providers are required by law to report suspected child abuse. The child may need to leave the current living situation and be placed in foster care to protect him from abuse.

  • Take the child to counseling. Counseling may help the child feel less scared, depressed, or anxious. A counselor can help him talk about how he feels.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.