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Breaking the Cycle: How to Identify and Cope with Verbal Abuse in Relationships

Last Updated
March 4, 2023
A young boy experiencing verbal abuse

What Is It
Signs
Impact
How To Stop It
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Verbal abuse is a form of emotional abuse that uses words to hurt the victim.

- Constant criticism or belittling of you
- Name-calling
- Blaming or shaming you
- Threatening to harm you or themselves
- Public humiliation
- Refusing to listen to your opinions or feelings
- Yelling and screaming
- Sarcasm
- Withholding communication
- Verbal aggression and verbal attacks
- Silent treatment
- Hurtful words on a regular basis
- Verbal assaults causing chronic stress

- Shame and low self-esteem
- Anxiety and depression
- PTSD
- Trust Issues
- Physical health problems

- Acknowledge that the behavior is abusive and that you have a right to be treated with respect
- Establish boundaries
- When responding to verbal abuse, try to remain calm
- Learn and practice assertive communication skills
- If the abuse continues, it may be best to disengage from the conversation
- Seek support
- Seek help from a mental health professional
- Work on building your self-esteem and self-worth
- Keep a record of abusive incidents, including dates, times, and details
- If possible, limit your contact with the abuser
- In cases where the verbal abuse is accompanied by other forms of abuse or threats of violence, consider developing a safety plan and involving law enforcement

Verbal abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse, but often goes unnoticed or is seen as "not a big deal." If you are in a relationship where you are verbally abused, it is important to learn how to identify the signs and take steps to protect yourself.

In this blog post, we will explore five key steps that can help you break the cycle of verbal abuse and find a path toward healing and healthy relationships.

What is verbal abuse?

Verbal abuse is a form of emotional abuse that uses words to hurt the victim. For example, it can include insults, name-calling, threats, shaming, and manipulation.

Both emotional and verbal abuse happen many times and often happens between people who are close to each other, like romantic relationships or family relationships.

[1]

A exhibiting verbal and emotional abuse

Types of Verbal Abuse:

Verbal abuse can manifest in various ways, such as:

  • Name-calling
  • Belittling
  • Manipulation
  • Gaslighting
  • Threats and intimidation
A woman showing signs of verbal and physical abuse

Warning Signs of Verbal Abuse in Relationships:

It is essential to recognize the warning signs of verbal abuse in relationships. Some red flags include:

  • A partner who constantly criticizes
  • A partner who humiliates or embarrasses you in public
  • A partner who controls or manipulates you

How to identify verbal abuse?

A verbally abusive person will often disguise their words as jokes, but there are some verbally abusive behaviors to look out for as verbal abuse can occur in any relationship;

  • Constant criticism or belittling of you
  • Name-calling
  • Blaming or shaming you
  • Threatening to harm you or themselves
  • Public humiliation
  • Refusing to listen to your opinions or feelings
  • Yelling and screaming
  • Sarcasm
  • Withholding communication
  • Verbal aggression and verbal attacks
  • Silent treatment
  • Hurtful words on a regular basis
  • Verbal assaults causing chronic stress

Did you know?

Individuals who experience verbal abuse in spousal relationships may develop PTSD from the trauma, leading to long-term psychological effects.
A woman blaming her mother for something she did

Common signs of verbal abuse

  • You're afraid of the abuser
  • You feel like you have to be careful around someone so that you don't upset them or make them angry
  • You feel like you cannot share things about yourself with the abuser because you are afraid that they will make fun of you or say mean things
  • You're afraid to be seen in public with your abuser because of what they will say about you to other people.
  • Abuser criticizing you for how you look, think, act, dress, or talk.
  • Furthermore, you feel bad about yourself or embarrassed about who you are.
  • Yelling at you, blaming you to be overly sensitive with no sense of humor, and that you can not take constructive criticism.
  • You are afraid that the abuser get angry easily and then blame you for the fight that follows.
  • Abuser try to make you feel bad by pretending that they are the victim. They might accuse you of doing something, even if you didn't do it, and make you feel guilty on a regular basis.
  • The abuser hides this behavior when other people are around, but when they are alone with you, they act completely differently.
Psychological abuse affecting a women's health

The Effects of Verbal Abuse on Mental Health

The impact of verbal abuse on mental health can be profound. Victims of verbal abuse may experience anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health issues. Understanding these effects is vital in seeking help and healing.

Shame and low self-esteem

Any kind of abusive behavior, including verbal and emotional abuse, can make the victim feel bad about themselves and think that they are not good enough. They may start to believe the mean things that were said to them, causing them to feel inferior and lower their self-worth. This feeling of shame and low self-esteem can have long-lasting consequences on the victim's mental and emotional well-being, affecting their daily life, relationships, and career.

Anxiety and depression

If you're in a verbally abusive relationship all the time, it can make you feel scared and anxious, and cause a feeling of nothing will ever get better. You might also start to lose interest in things you used to enjoy, have trouble sleeping or eating, feel bad about yourself, and lose total control of your inner self. These symptoms can develop into clinical anxiety and depression, requiring professional help and intervention.

PTSD

Victims of emotional and verbal abuse may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a condition that can cause flashbacks, nightmares, and intense feelings of fear or helplessness.

PTSD can severely impact a person's daily life, making it difficult to function in social and work settings. It is essential for victims of verbal abuse to seek professional help if they experience symptoms of PTSD.

Trust Issues

If someone has experienced verbal abuse, it can make the victim start to not trust themselves or other people. They might have a hard time believing what they see or hear, and they might find it hard to be close to other people. These trust issues can damage future relationships and make it challenging to form deep connections with others.

Physical health problems

The stress of verbal abuse can cause physical health problems. These include headaches, digestive problems, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, constant dry mouth, and other stress-related illnesses. Prolonged exposure to stress can lead to long-term health issues, making it crucial for victims of verbal abuse to seek help and find ways to cope with their situation.[4]

Important: Therapy can help individuals affected by verbal abuse heal and regain their self-worth. Through therapy, they can develop coping skills, rebuild self-esteem, and experience the benefits of therapy in their journey to recovery.

A woman saying 'no' to any form of domestic violence

How does verbal abuse impact the victim?

Shame and low self-esteem

Any kind of abusive behavior, including verbal and emotional abuse, can make the victim feel bad about themselves and think that they are not good enough. They may start to believe the mean things that were said to them, causing them to feel inferior and lower their self-worth.

Anxiety and depression

If you're in a verbally abusive relationship all the time, it can make you feel scared and anxious, and cause a feeling of nothing will ever get better. You might also start to lose interest in things you used to enjoy, have trouble sleeping or eating, feel bad about yourself and lose total control of your inner self.

PTSD

Victims of emotional and verbal abuse may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a condition that can cause flashbacks, nightmares, and intense feelings of fear or helplessness.

Trust Issues

If someone has experienced verbal abuse, it can make the victim start to not trust themselves or other people. They might have a hard time believing what they see or hear, and they might find it hard to be close to other people.

Physical health problems

The stress of verbal abuse can cause physical health problems. These include headaches, digestive problems, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, constant dry mouth, and other stress-related illnesses.

What you can do about verbal abuse and verbal abusers

  • Set boundaries
  • Document the abuse you experience
  • Make sure to take care of yourself
  • Seek out positive relationships and spend time with them
  • Talk to people you trust about your feelings
  • Create healthy ways of taking care of yourself (like exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep)
  • Seek a safe place and start setting up a safety plan
  • Find professional help
  • Get the necessary support from somebody to help you make informed decisions

Conclusion

Writing about verbal abuse has been an important act of healing, but it’s only the beginning. Learning more about the root causes of verbal abuse is essential in helping to create a more informed and less hurtful environment for survivors. Seeking professional help is also key — online therapy gives survivors a safe space and nonjudgmental guidance as they navigate their unique healing journey.

FAQ

What can I do to prevent verbal abuse?

The best way to prevent verbal abuse is to set boundaries. Make sure the people around you know what behavior is unacceptable, and stick to your decisions. You can also document any verbal abuse or threats of violence for future reference.

How can I tell if someone I know is being verbally abused?

Signs include changes in the behavior of the victim, such as sudden withdrawal from social activities, changes in self-confidence or overall mood, and a reluctance to talk about what is going on. They may also display signs of physical violence like bruises or cuts.

References

Childhood Verbal Abuse and its Psychological Effects on Adults

Psychological maltreatment: the case of verbal abuse

Types of Abuse in a Relationship and How Social Workers Can Help

Verbal Abuse In Married Versus On-Married Couples

The Effects of Emotional Abuse and Neglect in Adulthood

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I have a passion for writing. I work as a Senior Marketing Manager for Islomania LLC. I have developed a strong interest in writing articles and website management during my time here. I enjoy both article writing, poetry, and story writing. In my role as a marketing manager, whether I’m writing an article, or a story, or improving other writers’ content, I always try to engage my readers and give them something to think about.
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