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What Are The Key Signs of Physical Abuse?

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

When you discover that somebody has been in an abusive relationship, it is very easy to kick yourself for not noticing the signs.

But the simple fact is that a lot of people who are being domestically abused will go to great lengths to hide the fact that this is something that they are experiencing.

What Are The Key Signs of Physical Abuse

Spotting the signs of abuse isn’t easy. Even if you are the person who is currently experiencing domestic abuse.

Many victims choose to overlook the signs, simply because they do not want to accept that this is something that is happening to them. 

In this guide, we’re taking a look at some of the key signs of physical abuse. So if you want to find out more about the key signs, and some of the less obvious signs of physical abuse, keep on reading!

What is Considered Physical Abuse?

Before we take a look at some of the signs of physical abuse, let’s begin by taking a look at what is actually considered to be physical abuse.

Physical abuse is a type of abusive behavior that typically occurs in domestically abusive relationships. It is one of many types of abuse that a victim might face at the hands of their abuser and it involves physical violence being inflicted on the victim. 

Physical abuse occurs when any physical violence occurs. It can occur in a number of different ways, and might include things such as punching, hitting, kicking, or throwing things at the victim.

A lot of the time, in relationships where physical abuse occurs, this isn’t the only type of abuse that the victim faces. It might be experienced alongside verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse

Physical abuse can occur in a lot of different relationships, including romantic and parental relationships. It is common to expect physical abuse to be the easiest type of abuse to spot, but this often isn’t the case.

Most of the time, the physical abuse will have occurred for a long time before those outside of the relationship are able to spot that any abuse has occurred. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key signs of physical abuse. 

Key Signs of Physical Abuse.

Key Signs of Physical Abuse

The key signs of physical abuse come in a number of different forms.

There are physical signs that you may observe, and also behavioral signs that you may be able to spot. So let’s take a look at these separately. 

Physical Signs

A lot of the time, the physical signs of physical abuse will either be covered up by the abuser or the victim themselves.

The abuser may only inflict physical abuse on areas of the body that are kept out of sight, or the victim may use makeup and other products to cover up the physical signs of their abuse out of fear or shame. However, it is still sometimes possible to spot physical symptoms of abuse. 

Some of the physical signs of abuse include:

  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Grip Marks or Restraint Marks
  • Black Eyes
  • Burns
  • Unusual Injury Patterns
  • Repetitive Injuries (i.e., a sprained ankle from “falling down the stairs”)

But the key signs of physical abuse are not only displayed in physical ways, you may also be able to spot if somebody is the victim of physical abuse due to behavioral changes.

Behavioral Signs

As well as physical signs, there are a number of different behavioral signs that may indicate somebody is being physically abused. These behavioral signs may not only come from the victim, but from the abuser too. 

Some behavioral signs from the abuser may include:

  • Name-calling by the abuser towards the victim.
  • Continual put-downs by the abuser directed towards the victim, could also be seen as nit-picking. 
  • Overt anger and threats from the abuser directed towards the victim paired with attempts to threaten the victim, and even the victim’s friends. 
  • The abuser restricts the victim’s movements (i.e., stopping them from seeing their friends, preventing them from going to work or social outings). 
  • Control over the victim’s money, including preventing them from having access to their own bank account.
  • Possessiveness over the victim, and jealousy over the victim. 

Some behavioral signs from the victim may include:

  • The victim is fearful of disagreeing with the abuser.
  • The victim distancing themselves from friends/family, often to protect their loved ones from the abuser. 
  • Delays in seeking medical attention for injuries, often because the victim is ashamed or is trying to protect their abuser. 
  • Failure to follow treatment plans for injuries/illness, such as skipping medical appointments, or not taking medication due to the financial implications associated with this. 

The signs that we have just looked at are some of the most key signs of physical abuse. They include both physical and behavioral signs, and might be observed alongside each other.

But there are also a lot of subtle signs of physical abuse that might be a little more difficult to notice. But let’s take a look at what they are anyway. 

Less Obvious Signs of Physical Abuse

These signs of physical abuse are a lot more subtle than the other signs that we have just looked at. For this exact reason, they are often a lot more difficult to observe.

Often these less obvious signs could easily be explained away with excuses or attributed to something else going on in the individual’s life, and that is a big part of why they are less obvious than the other signs that we have looked at. 

These signs include things such as:

  • Social isolation (including canceling plans, falling out of touch with friends, and skipping visits to family members).
  • Really vague medical issues (such as headaches, stomach pains, or tiredness).
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs (including drinking more regularly, taking recreational drugs, or drinking too much and getting very drunk). 
  • Unexplained fear. 
  • Anxiety, panic attacks, depression and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). 
  • Sexual problems (including loss of libido).
  • Pelvic pain, UTIs, and vaginal infections, often associated with abuse or caused by poor self care. 
  • Unwanted pregnancy and poor medical care associated with this. 
  • A gradual loss of energy, including gradually dropping out of extracurricular activities (book groups, fitness classes, social events, etc.)

As we said earlier, it is important to note that a number of these less obvious signs could be caused by a lot of things other than abuse too. So if you notice any of these signs in your friends, it is important not to jump to any conclusions. 

That being said, these things could be a sign of physical abuse, especially if they are paired with any of the key signs that we mentioned earlier.

If you truly suspect that somebody is the victim of physical abuse, you should reach out to the Social Services department in your area, and the police. 


In short, there are lots of key signs of physical abuse. These include a number of things, including physical signs, behavioral signs and lots more.

In addition to these, there are a number of less obvious signs that can be associated with physical abuse. 

If you suspect that somebody you know is the victim of physical abuse, you should reach out to social services and the police to ensure the individual gets the help and support they need. 

Thanks for reading!

Read More about Narcissist Abuse and Domestic Violence

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories


UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

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