Intentional Cruelty & The Psychological Effects Of Abuse - aifc

The psychological harm imposed on another human being by acts of cruelty can last many years if not a lifetime. Most of us avoid inflicting pain on anyone, sticking to the unspoken social golden rule to ‘hurt no-one.’ When we hurt another person, we typically begin to feel remorse, we apologise and express regret and sorrow. Hurting another person can be distressing. But there are those who take pleasure in intentional cruelty. Some even go as far as getting a real high or ‘buzz’ out of it when observing the distress being caused to others.

The online Oxford Dictionary describes cruelty as, ‘ Willfully causing pain or suffering to others, or feeling no concern about it:  ‘people who are cruel to animals’ – ‘a cruel remark’

There are many ways that people can be cruel to others. There’s no excuse for cruelty and it is socially acceptable and wrong. Intentional cruelty is a crime in most countries punishable by law as it can have long term psychological effects on others.

Common types of Intentional Cruelty

  • Domestic violence
  • Internet trolling
  • Animal Cruelty
  • Bullying & Cyber bullying
  • Manipulation
  • Neglect
  • Psychological & Emotional Abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Control & Exploitation
  • Pedophilia
  • Racism

Psychological Effects Of Abuse

  • Depression
  • Withdrawal
  • Not able to trust
  • Feeling trapped and alone
  • Low self-worth and low self-esteem
  • Emotional instability
  • Underachievement
  • Dependence on abuser
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Substance abuse

What causes some people to enjoy cruelty?

According the Association for Psychological Science, two studies reported by psychological researcher Erin Buckels of the University of British Columbia uncovered that individuals who score high on a measure of sadism appear to get pleasure from practices that hurt others, and are eager to exhaust additional efforts to make people suffer.

Common Types of Abusers Who Enjoy Cruelty To Others

Everyday Sadists – there is the argument of psychological disorders being present in Everyday Sadists’. Psychologists talk about the ‘Dark Triad” of personality disorders consisting of Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy. People who score high in the dark triad traits see people as tools to use, manipulate and exploit in order to get what they want.

Sadistic Personality Disorder – involves gaining pleasure from inflicting and witnessing the discomfort and pain of others. This can also be expressed in a physical, emotional or sexual nature. Displays of aggression and cruel behaviour is common in a person with this disorder.

Internet Trolls – are people who join discussions online to cause arguments and get pleasure out of harming others online by posting comments with the intention to insult and upset people.

In the Canadian study mentioned above, the authors wrote in their paper about Internet Trolling, “… the associations between sadism and GAIT (Global Assessment of Internet Trolling) scores were so strong that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists.”

Bullies – Whether is cyber bullying or any type of bullying this is a form of control by someone who needs to harass, intimidate, put down, hurt others and make themselves feel good by being cruel to others. Bullying is usually carried out by someone who picks on those weaker than themselves by harassing them, threatening, insulting, humiliating or physically hurting them.


The New findings are published here: Psychological Science Journal
Psychology Today – 10 Ways to spot an ‘Everyday Sadist’
Internet Trolls are narcissists, psychopaths and sadists
Action Against Cruelty

Where to get Help

If you’re feeling any psychological problems due to abuse or If you’re putting up with any type of cruelty there is help available. You can talk to your Doctor who can recommend a local counsellor. Or search for one nearest you

Lifeline is a 24-hour crisis phone and online free counselling service.
Phone: 13 11 14

Kids Helpline – A free 24/7 phone counselling service for children to young adults.  Phone: 1800 55 1800

Contact your local police
In case of emergency – If your life or the life of someone you know is in danger contact the emergency hotline on 000

Studying at aifc

Have you thought about becoming a qualified counsellor? It’s a great opportunity to learn how you can extend God's love and grace to the hurting out in the community.

For those who would like to enrol in aifc’s accredited Christian counselling courses we have two intakes per year for courses commencing around the following months:

  • The beginning of each year in February
  • Mid-Year courses commence in July

Enrolment Season - opens approximately 2 months prior to our courses commencing. Enrol online here during our enrolment season.

We also offer two modes of study:

  1. Seminar Blended Mode - only 13 face-to-face days per year
  2. Online Supported Mode - study online only from anywhere

A Master of Counselling course was introduced in 2018.

Contact aifc

Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm

At aifc, our sole focus is to train and equip Christian Counsellors. More than just a counsellor, a Christian counsellor trusts in God and listens to His still small voice above all else.

It’s a big difference.

Nicholas Marks, CEO aifc

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