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The generic term abuse ( Latin abusus ) generally denotes the recognized (or prevailing) rules or social or legal norms contradicting the use of objects , living beings , substances ( drugs , " drugs "), legal status ("abuse of office") , abuse of power and influence as well the sexual abuse , including the sexual abuse of children or emotional abuse of children . The term also serves as a moral evaluation of intentions to act before the criticized use or the act has taken place.


The prefix mis- expresses a lack of errors, the opposite or a negative sense of the word. In connection with the abuse, the prefix indicates misuse. The word appears for the first time in late Middle High German of the 16th century as an abusive term for an “act against good custom”. In a document of the cloth trade from 1525 there is talk of "averting the old abuses". The word abuse implies conscious activity, an unconscious misuse is not abuse.


The Oeconomic Encyclopedia (1773-1858) lemmatizes abuse and differentiates between inappropriate and “faulty or harmful use”.

"1. the use, that is, the application of a thing in a way contrary to its purpose and purpose, as opposed to legitimate use; [...]. E.g. to abuse his property, his reputation. 2. A faulty or harmful use, or an arbitrary act that has become a habit through repeated repetition "

The Brockhaus Encyclopedia in the 14th edition from 1894-1896 knows the "abuse against a person". Under the lemma, the meaning of abuse as a legal term in the Imperial Criminal Code of 1871 is presented:

"Abuse (Latin abusus ), ie the wrong, bad use made of a person or of a thing, comes under civil law to the extent that, as the saying 'M. make no habit 'says that abusive behavior does not give rise to rights [...]. The criminal law threatens M. is a woman who is in a state of willless or unconscious as well as an insane woman (Reichsstrafgesetzb. Sections 176 fg.), Furthermore the M. of reputation, whereby someone is deliberately determined to a criminal offense (Section 48 ), and the M. of official authority (§. 339) [...] "

Otto Dornblüth writes in his clinical dictionary at the beginning of the 20th century , under the term pederasty, clearly of “sexual abuse”, but does not limit this to children:

"Pederasty gr. Erastês lover, active pederasty boy love, sexual abuse of boys, also insertion of the penis into the anus of men or women [...]"

Today abuse is spoken of in a wide variety of factual contexts. As a result of the Reich Criminal Code , abuse found its way into today's German Criminal Code (StGB), where it is part of the word for some specific criminal offenses. There are also numerous other compositions with abuse as a component.

The sociologist Rainer Paris criticizes the frequency of the current use of the term abuse.


A general distinction is made between the abuse of movable property and people , exceptionally there is also the abuse of office , the abuse of titles, job titles and badges and the abuse of power .


If things are used for purposes other than intended or not used as intended, one speaks of misuse, instructions for use are intended to prevent it. The designed purpose or non-conforming use of things does not lead to a material defect , the defect liability of the manufacturer or seller is excluded.


In medicine , in the official language of the World Health Organization, the term addiction , which was used from 1957 to 1963, was replaced by abuse and dependence , and after 1969 the concept of abuse was discarded in favor of four defined classes of use :

  1. Unauthorized use is use that is not tolerated by society.
  2. Dangerous use is use with likely harmful consequences for the consumer.
  3. Dysfunctional use occurs when psychological or social requirements can no longer be met.
  4. Harmful use has already caused harmful consequences (cell damage, mental disorder).

In terms such as " substance abuse " ( abuse and dependence , lat. Abusus ), alcohol abuse , drug abuse , misuse of benzodiazepines thus is it's terms, although they are widely used, the current (scientific) status and (desired) language of medicine ( according to ICD-10 ) but no longer correspond.

In the case of addictive substances ( psychotropic substances ), a medical distinction is made between the three categories of intoxication ( intoxication ), harmful use (abuse) and dependence with regard to abuse . An abuse is present here if their long-term consumption has already led to health problems.


The term has been preserved in particular in the context of abuse of persons, which also includes sexual abuse. Since 2007, the German SGB ​​VIII - child and youth welfare - contains a corresponding § 8a SGB ​​VIII.

The emotional abuse takes place, for example, between sexual partners , but also in dependency relationships - e.g. B. between parents and children or between psychotherapist and patient . Emotional abuse acts like brainwashing and can affect the victim's confidence , self-confidence, and self-esteem .

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: abuse  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Abuse  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. Gerhard Köbler, Etymological Legal Dictionary , 1995, p. 270
  2. ^ Archive.org, Gustav von Schmoller, The Strasbourg Tucher and Weavers Guild , 1897
  3. Monika Winker, The Abuse Fee in Process Law , 2011, p. 193
  4. Otto Dornblüth, Clinical Dictionary. 13./14. Edition, 1927, article pederasty . Dornbluth also uses “sexual abuse” under the lemma of animal desecration : “Sodomy, bestiality, sexual abuse of animals (goats). Form of sexual perversion. "
  5. Rainer Paris: How the «abuse» itself is abused: A criticism of the term scandalization par excellence. In: www.nzz.ch. June 13, 2018, accessed June 13, 2018 .
  6. Stieglitz (Ed.) Et al., Compendium. Psychiatry, psychotherapy, psychosomatic medicine Karger, Basel 2002
  7. Mental and behavioral disorders due to psychotropic substances ( Memento of the original from May 9, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.dimdi.de
  8. Harmful use of non-addictive substances  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.lumrix.de  
  9. Cornelia Dehner-Rau / Harald Rau, Get out of the addiction trap! , 2009, no p.