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What Is Social 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.

There are numerous kinds of abuse in contemporary society, which despite our general public awareness of such issues, continue to go unnoticed and undealt with. So, what is social abuse?

What Is Social Abuse?

One such example is social abuse – something that people might have heard of, but might not be entirely aware of what it constitutes. 

So, what exactly is social abuse, and what are the telltale signs? 

Table of Contents

What Is Social Abuse? 

Social abuse is relatively common and tends to happen in any number of close interpersonal relationships between two or more people. 

Generally speaking, social abuse is a practice where one person or group attempts to isolate an individual – usually limiting the time they can spend with their family and friends, essentially cutting off the victim from their extended social network. 

What Is The Purpose Of Social Abuse? 

The main goal for an abuser is to control their partner or friend’s behavior, limiting their contact with other potentially influential people in their life, and thus ensuring they have total control over what the person thinks and does. 

Alternatively, this social abuse could involve friends and loved ones, with one trying to control the other through the destruction of their social life and public image. 

This generally involves the abuser spreading rumors about the other, embarrassing them in public, or humiliating them in situations where they would otherwise be confident and having fun.

Ultimately though, the purpose of any kind of social abuse is to remove any kind of comfort, safety, or feeling of belonging that the other person might have in exterior social settings – thus making the abuser their only source. 

What Are The Signs Of Social Abuse? 

The whole thought process behind social abuse is that the abuser wants to be in a position of power and control.

As you might expect, the tactics used by social abusers can vary from person to person, but generally speaking, there are a few signs that link them all. 

Social Isolation

This is the main sign of social abuse, and generally takes the form of the abuser limiting the encounters that the abused can have with their friends, family, and colleagues. 

This can also mean that the abusers stops them from taking part in group social activities or events that they otherwise would have attended.

This could be a family event, a work outing, or simply a night out with friends. 

Controlling Behavior

Controlling behavior is another example of a telltale sign when it comes to social abuse.

This will generally involve controlling if and when the other partner can leave their home, or at the very least controlling the duration and times for which they are allowed to leave. 

This will also consist of the abuser needing to know what the other person did – down to the last detail – as well as who they were with, what they said, and anything else that might have happened. 

This could also involve deliberately making the partner late for social events, important work meetings, appointments, and other things they would otherwise not want to miss. 

This is all about the abuser making themselves the most important thing in someone else’s life, and by limiting the apparent importance of those other things, they have established themselves and their time as the most important. 

This could also involve the abuser limiting the abused partner’s access to their car, public transport, or – if the partner is disabled – this could even apply to their wheelchair or method of assisted mobility. 

Other methods of controlling behavior include monitoring phone calls, text conversations, email chains, and even checking the mail that they receive.

This ensures that the abused partner has no source of outside comfort or contact, and that the abuser has them all to themselves. 

This also usually feeds into the paranoia of the abuser, who will check their correspondences to check if they have been talking badly about the behavior in the home. 


One way that abusers create such a strong aura of control over their victims is by breaking down their existing sense of self worth, confidence, and the support systems they might have in the outside world. 

This means spreading vicious rumors amongst their work colleagues or Facebook friends, embarrassing them in social settings where they would otherwise feel confident, sharing private photos online with the purpose of embarrassing them, or indeed telling lies to family and friends to turn them against you, or turn them onto the side of the abuser (inadvertently). 

Who Can Perpetuate Social Abuse? 

What Is Social Abuse? (1)

While we have discussed these scenarios primarily from the point of view of two people in a relationship, this behavior is by no means isolated to just this situation.

Other examples of social abuse can be seen in a number of interpersonal relationships, including: 

  • Boyfriends & girlfriends
  • Husbands and wives
  • Domestic partners of all sexes
  • Ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-husbands, and ex-wives
  • Carers and paid support workers
  • Parents, guardians, and family members
  • Adult children
  • Other people you live with – such as friends and roommates
  • Friends within wider groups

How To Combat & Escape Social Abuse? 

Situations such as these can of course be complicated, and depending on the nature of the relationship, it can be difficult for the abused partner to leave – be it because of their complicated feelings towards their abuser, or because they might be in danger. 

However, there are certain things you can do if you find yourself in a situation you need to escape from. 

Make The Decision To Leave

Before you can do anything, you need to know fully in your heart that you need to leave, and that you are going to do it.

This will give you the determination, and the means to then plan your escape. 

Reach Out

The next step is to reach out to someone you can trust. This could be a friend, family member, or neighbor, or indeed it could be someone from an organization.

They can provide help and support to help with your decision. 

Block The Person

Once you have escaped, the next step is to block the person on all forms of social media, and completely disable contact with them.

This is not only a good way to help you move on, and give you space to breathe, but it can also stop them from causing you more emotional conflict or harm. 

Document & Report

The next step is to document what they have done to you, and report it to the appropriate authorities.

In some cases you might not feel like it is necessary, but it is important to take back power for yourself, and to stop the cycle of abuse from continuing. 

Final Thoughts

And there we have it, everything you need to know about social abuse, what exactly it is, and the impact it can have on the individual. 

It’s true that all kinds of abusive behaviors occur every single day, many of which go unchecked and even unrecognized by many people.

However, with this guide, you too can see the warning signs, and make the right decisions for your needs at that moment. 

If you need a crisis hotline or want to learn more about therapy, please see below:

For more information on mental health, please see:

If You Need A Crisis Hotline Or Want To Learn More About Therapy, Please See Below:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233
  • NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) – 1-800-950-6264

For More Information On Mental Health, Please See:

  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) SAMHSA Facebook, SAMHSA Twitter, SAMHSA LinkedIn, SAMHSA Youtube
  • Mental Health America, MHA Twitter, MHA Facebook, MHA Instagram, MHA Pinterest, MHA Youtube
  • WebMD, WebMD Facebook, WebMD Twitter, WebMD Instagram, WebMD Pinterest
  • NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), NIMH Instagram, NIMH Facebook, NIMH Twitter, NIMH YouTube
  • APA (American Psychiatric Association), APA Twitter, APA Facebook, APA LinkedIN, APA Instagram

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