Verbal abuse, as a form of emotional and psychological abuse, can be very difficult to identify and yet is one of the most common forms of abuse in all kinds of relationships. While it doesn’t cause any physical harm, it can brutally hurt a person mentally and emotionally. At the same time, verbal abuse in a relationship can escalate into physical or domestic violence. 

The use of words or foul language intentionally to manipulate and establish power over another person can prove to be as damaging as physical abuse. The scars from such a kind of abuse can take much longer to heal. 

Verbal Abuse Definition

Verbal abuse refers to the act of deliberately and forcefully insulting, humiliating, denouncing or criticizing another person in order to harm their self concept and produce negative emotions. 

Types of verbal abuse

Verbal abuse comes in many vicious forms and shapes. It can be relatively more difficult to identify than other types of abuse as it leaves no clearly visible signs. Often, the victimizers may use some tactics to tamper with the victim’s sanity and make them believe that all that is happening is normal. The victim, in most cases, may think that their feelings of being hurt are not valid as the victim might try to shift the blame, as well. This makes it even harder to recognize as a form of abuse for the one who’s suffering from it. 

Following are some common types and signs of verbal abuse:

Name Calling:

Any negative form of name-calling comes under verbal abuse. It can be very demeaning, belittling and humiliating for the victim to be called such names. Some examples of the kind of words a perpetrator may call a victim are: idiot, dumb, stupid, worthless, useless, etc. 

The kinds of abuses that the victimizer uses tend to be unquestionably hurtful and intentionally meant to harm the victim. They try to put the victim down, and may disguise their abuses under the mask of “constructive criticism” or “teasing” or “making pet names.”

Discounting & Gaslighting:

Abusers tend to purposefully make the victim question their own perceptions of reality by denying them the right to their thoughts, opinions, ideas, values and feelings. They outrightly dismiss the experiences and personal narratives of the victim. 

They may call the victim too immature, childish, sensitive, theatrical, and etc. to discount their sentiments and their version of reality. They may even begin to gaslight, which involves describing and explaining shared or individual events and experiences so differently from reality that it makes the victim question their own sanity. 

Victim Blaming:

The perpetrator may even go as far as blaming you for their own hurtful actions and behaviours. They may say that they yelled or said something bad because you “made” them do it. They intend to do this in order to purposely confuse you and produce feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in you. 

Withholding:

Withholding is also another form of verbal abuse and it can involve refusal to share thoughts, feelings, essential or personal information in order to gain attention and tamper with the sentiments of the victim. The “silent treatment” is also a form of withholding and it involves walking away from a conversation, argument, important discussion abruptly in disagreement, or refusing to talk or answering any calls, ignoring a person altogether.

Threats:

A more direct form of verbal abuse, threats are easier to identify are a tactic of gaining power or control over someone’s behavior and also gaining attention. These can be conditional statements beginning with “if” and ending in a threat. Threats should never be taken lightly, no matter how many excuses the abuser makes.

False Accusations and Allegations: 

False accusations and allegations come under verbal abuse as they are intended to hurt someone by persistently accusing them of something they didn’t do. Victimizers often try to do this when they know exactly what triggers the victim and bring up a past event that happened a long time ago in order to emotionally wound a person over and over again. 

Negative Effects of Verbal Abuse 

Verbal abuse can leave deeply ingrained scars and wounds in a person and can be difficult to recover from. 

Victims of verbal abuse may experience symptoms like anxiety and a persistent depressive mood. They may even develop many mental health complications like major depressive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and other anxiety disorders.  

The impact of verbal abuse can be seen in every dimension of the victim’s life, including their career and academic performances, relationships and social life, physical, emotional and mental well being. It can severely impact their self-esteem as well which can have intense consequences like whether or not people see themselves being successful in any given area, perpetual feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, etc. 

Overcoming Verbal Abuse

Experiencing verbal abuse and recognizing it can be a difficult thing. You may be confused, anxious and stressed out about your situation. Don’t let any self-doubt seep in and instead, simply trust your instincts. If you think you are being verbally abused then you must decide what to do about it. While what you must do depends upon your subjective circumstances, however, some basic steps can help you get through. They are as follows: 

  • Do not reason with the abuser: If someone is abusing you verbally, they couldn’t possibly be reasoned with, at least not by the victim themselves. Anyone who would engage in that kind of behaviour with you would be extremely difficult to educate about the consequences of what they are doing. And it is not your responsibility to do so, and neither are you responsible for their actions. So, do not reason with them as it may not work. 
  • Set boundaries: Take a firm stand and tell the person who is emotionally abusing you to stop manipulating you, stop calling you names, stop being rude to you and stop overly criticizing you. Let them know what will happen if they do not put an end to their abusive behaviour; this may mean that you’ll have to cut your ties with this person and end your relationship with them. 
  • Seek Professional Help: If you’ve been really hurt and notice that you’re having many emotional problems, then it is best to seek a professional. It is important to reach out for long term professional help in the form of therapy, support groups, and healthy friendships and relationships to help strengthen your sense of self and help you recover. Remember that you are not alone.
  • Limit your exposure to this person: Try your best to keep yourself away from this person. The more you stay around them, the more opportunities they will get to pester you. So, try to keep yourself at a safe distance from them, and when they do come up and cause problems for you, try to tell someone about it. 
  • Completely sever all ties from this person: It can be difficult if you live or work with your abuser, or are in a long term relationship with them, but if you’re experiencing any kind of abuse, it is best to cut all your ties from the abuser. No matter who they are and no matter how much you’ve loved them or enjoyed their presence in the past, they hurt you now and you must prioritize yourself over them. So, cut all ties and move on.
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