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What is abuse and neglect?

The following provides a list of behaviours, examples and case studies to help identify abuse and neglect.

Psychological abuse


  • Pressuring, intimidating or bullying;
  • Name calling, and verbal abuse;
  • Treating the adult person like a child;
  • Threatening to harm the person, other people or pets;
  • Engaging in emotional blackmail such as threatening to withdraw access to grandchildren, family, friends, services, telephone or placement in an aged care facility;
  • Preventing contact with family and friends, or denying access to the phone or computer;
  • Withholding mail;
  • Preventing a person from engaging in religious or cultural practices;
  • Moving the person far away family or friends.

Warning signs to observe

  • Resignation, shame;
  • Depression, tearfulness;
  • Confusion, agitation;
  • Feelings of helplessness;
  • Unexplained paranoia or excessive fear;
  • Disrupted appetite or sleep patterns, such as insomnia;
  • Unusual passivity or anger;
  • Sadness or grief at the loss of interactions with others;
  • Withdrawal or listlessness due to people not visiting;
  • Changes in levels of self-esteem;
  • Worry or anxiety after a visit by specific person/people;
  • Social isolation

Psychological abuse case study

Maria is an 80 year old woman and English is not her first language. She has a recent diagnosis of depression. Maria lives with her husband Vincent, and daughter, Theresa who moved in 4 months ago. Theresa notices that her father is very controlling, puts her mother down, and refuses to take Maria to church despite her repeatedly asking.

Theresa is concerned of her mother’s safety and things she is becoming quite withdrawn. There is a history of domestic and family violence.


  • Vincent is verbally abusive, and is socially isolating Maria.


  • Maria is becoming withdrawn.
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Last updated: 23 Nov 2020