When you hear the term “abuse,” what are some of the first words or images that come to mind? Many people probably think of words like violence, beating, and hitting or images of fighting and abusive familial relationships. However, there is one type of abuse that often goes ignored – verbal abuse – and it causes serious damage to mental health.
The Surprising Types of Verbal Abuse
Unfortunately, it has many faces and there are different types of abuse, including:
- Emotional or psychological abuse
- Domestic violence
- Financial abuse
- Elder abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Spiritual abuse
- Verbal abuse
According to the Healthy Place, an online community for abuse victims, verbal abuse is unique because it can affect everyone at any level of communication ability or understanding. Types of verbal abuse can be as subtle or direct and as aggressive or passive aggressive as the abuser intends – and it’s more common than you think.
11 Signs and Symptoms of Verbal Abuse
In addition to depression, verbal abuse is one of the most severe anxiety causes. Victims of verbal abuse are often left with a slew of negative symptoms and adverse health effects. Although it does not leave you with bruises or breaks, serious physical and emotional signs still exist.
- High levels of stress
- Chronic fear and anxiety
- Memory disorders
- Eating- and sleep-related issues
- Stomach aches and other gastrointestinal disorders
- Damage to the teeth and jaw
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Stress-induced hormone imbalances
- Self-harm and even suicide
Despite these scary signals, the mental abuse signs in a marriage or other relationships can be hard to spot at first.
The 15 Most Common Examples of Verbal Abuse
Psychologist and author Patricia Evans, in her book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” identifies both subtle and obvious types of verbal abuse which we’ve summarized below. In the unfortunate but proper context, you may consider any of the following acts against someone a form of verbal abuse.[3,5-7]
1) Accusing or laying blame
In these forms of abuse, the abuser will accuse the victim of things completely out of his or her control.
When the abuser withholds information (i.e., fails to share thoughts and feelings), participating in a healthy relationship becomes impossible.
Sending threats are a common form of verbal abuse. The abuser can threaten a victim saying, for example, they will leave the relationship or that other people will think negatively of the victim.
Verbal abusers tend to be (unnecessarily) argumentative about everything from political views to movie preferences.
This is the act of frequently minimizing a victim’s experiences, opinions, or desires.
6) Abusive Anger
This includes any form of yelling or screaming, particularly out of context and without any real necessity.
This is a dangerous sign of abuse because the abuser takes any attempt to deny someone of their right to their thoughts or feelings.
8) Judging or criticizing
In this form of non-physical domestic violence, these two things are often done in combination with accusing and laying blame. A judgmental abuser will usually give negative evaluations of the victim.
Name-calling can be subtle or explicit, ranging from calling someone a “b****” or “You think you are so precious, don’t you?”
10) Verbal abuse disguised as jokes
While the abuser might say something obviously upsetting and insulting to the victim, they will quickly add that they were only joking or weren’t being serious.
11) Blocking and diverting
This sign is similar to “withholding” in which the abuser limits and decides what can or cannot be talked about, so as to suit his or her prerogative.
12) Ordering the victim around
Ordering is one of the most visible signs of an abuser trying to gain and maintain control in an unhealthy way.
Similar to trivializing, undermining turns everything a victim says into something less important. The undermining abuser may also force the victim to question her own opinions, interest, and beliefs.
Abusers will conveniently forget dates, appointments, or promises made to the victim. While people can be forgetful, abusive people rarely (if ever) make an effort to remember.
An abuser will always try to justify and rationalize their behavior, failing to see their own faults and shortcomings – even when they’re glaringly obvious. They’re also unable to recognize the consequences of their actions.
It’s truly scary how detrimental and damaging this non-physical domestic violence can be. Because of the constant state of fear and anxiety victims live in, they often develop depression from abuse.
Verbal Abuse Help
Suffering from any types of verbal abuse takes a toll and it only takes a single action to do the damage. Because verbal abuse seems less visible, so many of us can become blind to instances of it in our own lives. So, if someone you know – a friend, family member, co-worker, or even stranger – looks stressed, anxious, forgetful, distant or unusually negative, reach out.
Be graceful, be understanding, say little, listen much, and let them know they are not alone.