Verbal abuse is touched on in the article “10 Red Flags of an Abusive Relationship.” For this article we hope to expand on that topic. One study found that 65% of the participants were victims of verbal abuse at some point in their life. Verbal abuse is one of the first forms of abuse within a relationship. It is important to understand that verbal abuse doesn’t stop at being told you are worthless or stupid. Some forms of verbal abuse can be sneaky, leaving the victim wondering if something really happened or if they are just overreacting. This list, from Psych2Go, hopes to shed some light on some of the more common forms of verbal abuse.

1. Belittling/criticizing  

This form of abuse isn’t so sneaky, but it really can sting. Belittling is a way for the abuser to make the victim feel small or stupid, without specifically saying it. Belittling can come in the form of something known as jabs. Jabs are small comments meant to have a large emotional impact.

  • It’s so cute when you try to talk about something you’re clueless on
  • It’s best if you give up
  • Try not to take things so personally

As much as they try to sound caring, they are sarcastic remarks.

Ways to counteract include:

  • Ignoring comment
  • Recognizing that the abuser is toxic
  • Finding distance

2. Telling you who you are and should be

An abuser might try to convince their victim that they know them better than they know themselves. They may tell their victim that they are too sensitive or hard to please. It could be something like telling the victim they are untrustworthy, that they are flakey, or that they are always lying. The objective is to make the victim believe those things about themself. Verbal abuse is often aimed at making the victim seem powerless. If the abuser can make the victim believe what they are saying, then they can control the victim even more.

3. Opposing

The abuser will argue against anything that the victim says. It doesn’t matter if the victim is correct in what they say, the abuser will oppose it at every turn. There will be no reasoning or evidence to support the abusers side. They will just argue against whatever it is that comes up between them and the victim. Often times it will be a simple “no” or “you’re wrong.” This leaves the victim isolated from their own minds. They are left to wonder why they are always wrong and what they can do to fix that. Not realizing that, with this kind of abuse, there is absolutely nothing that they could do differently. Abuse is never about something the victim can control. It is not their fault, ever.

4. Discounting  

This form of verbal abuse is aimed at making the victim feel like they have no right to feel the way they do. The abuser may say something like “wow, I guess you just can’t take a joke” when the victim takes offence to something. The goal is to make the victim feel silly for how they feel, no matter how valid that feeling might actually be. The thing to remember with verbal abuse is that the abuser will never allow the victim to be valid in anything they feel.

5. Interrupting  

This is a tactic used to make the victim feel as if what they have to say isn’t important. It doesn’t matter what the victim is saying, the abuser will interrupt them constantly. They may also use this as a way to gain the upper hand and control the victim and the conversation. The abuser might finish the victims sentences or just speak for them as a whole. The idea is to take the victim’s voice away from them.

6. Blocking

This form of abuses is employed by the abuser to control the conversation, just like with interrupting. The abuser might tell the victim that they are talking too much, talking out of turn, or complaining too much. The victim will then be quiet, which allows the abuser to speak whenever and however they want. The abuser might also use this as an opportunity to change the subject onto the victim. Perhaps using this as a time to belittle them in front of others to make the victim feel as low as possible. Physical abuse is all about control and verbal abuse is no different.

7. Threatening  

Threatening is a very overt form of abuse. The threats might be something like “if you keep acting like this I will drive off without you.” It can also escalate to “you’ll be sorry when we get home if you keep acting like this.” The abuser might also use this form of abuse to control the victim if they try to leave the relationship. For instance, they might threaten to commit suicide of the victim were to ever leave them. Or they might threaten to tell the victim’s secrets if the relationship were ever to dissolve. All of these examples are intended to strike fear in the heart of the victim. A fearful victim is easier to control as they will want to minimize the damage coming at them.

Abuse is a very serious situation, no matter the type of relationship. Verbal abuse doesn’t happen solely within intimate relationships. A family member might be the abuser, or even a friend or coworker. If you are worried you might be a victim of abuse, please seek help. You can chat with someone at The National Domestic Violence Hotlines, they are there for you 24/7. The abuse doesn’t have to be domestic and they can help you understand what’s happening to you.

 

Do you know of any other forms of verbal abuse? Please share them in the comments below.

 

Resources:

Brogaard, Berit. “5 Types of Subtle Verbal Abuse in Relationships.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 26 Apr. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mysteries-love/201704/5-types-subtle-verbal-abuse-in-relationships. Retrieved December 7, 2017

Brogaard, Berit. “15 Common Forms of Verbal Abuse in Relationships.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Mar. 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mysteries-love/201503/15-common-forms-verbal-abuse-in-relationships. Retrieved December 7, 2017

O’Campo, Patricia, et al. “Verbal Abuse and Physical Violence among a Cohort of Low-Income Pregnant Women.” Women’s Health Issues, Elsevier, 18 Oct. 2005, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1049386705801070. Retrieved December 7, 2017

11 Comments

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  1. Thanks so much for sharing this article! Verbal abuse is seriously under-acknowledged and articles like this help people to recognize patterns of abuse that they may not have been aware of.

    After people realize they are involved in a verbally abusive relationship, what do you suggest they do to remove themselves from it? Especially in situations where the abuser is in a position of power at work or threatening bodily harm if exposed.

  2. Hi! As the commenter Valencia S. has said, this article is appreciated, as verbal abuse is a very real issue that is often forgotten about and less discussed in light of other forms of abuse. May I suggest including more strategies to counteract these forms of abuse as you have only outlined some suggestions in point one, but not necesarily with the sneakier forms. I also think that it is important to mention gaslighting, as it is a term that some may not fully understand. Finally, there is a typo error in point six, where ‘abuses’ should just be ‘abuse’. Like I have said, this is a really important article. Great job!

    • First I would like to say that I am very sorry you have to experienced this. I don’t really have any suggestions for how you are supposed to feel. I would assume that whatever feelings you have regarding all of this are very valid. It is never easy when those that hurt us are our own family.

  3. You left out manipulation. Stuff like: ‘I always put in the effort and want what’s best for you’, expecting gratitude and indicating that I don’t put in the effort or have the other’s best interest at heart. There is no way to reply without coming across as defensive, aggressive, or unreasonable. Even a ‘I’m sorry you feel that’s how it is’ won’t even cut it, because that would look like the easy way out.

    Verbal manipulation is trying to provoke a response in which the other can’t answer without their words being twisted and that’s why it can be so toxic.

    Another good example (upon me refusing sex) ‘I thought you loved me’. Me: ‘I do but I’m not in the mood’. Her: ‘So you’re not in the mood to love me, what did I do to deserve this?’

  4. Your article has come at such a crucial & life altering time in my life! Honestly, I have never read an article which so clearly defines Verbal Abuse. Too often, writers, doctors or individuals are too careful/concerned what others think OR they MAY OFFEND someone!! Well, I am highly offended by their blatant disregard or acknowledgment! They need to open their eyes!!
    Verbal Abuse is also prevalent in the workplace! No one is immune to an individual’s ability to misuse their position of power! After all, your boss, your supervisor or even your principal, are all in a position of ultimate control! The worst part is that these disgusting individuals enjoy holding your livelihood in their hands!! I have been subjected to verbal abuse, harassment, slander and so much more ~ for 2 1/2 years, daily! As I began to regain the strength to stand tall, the verbal abuse and her wrath escalated! (People who I thought were friends could not even look at me! “I will not remember the words of my enemy, but the silence of my friends.” This profound statement was written by Dr. King Jr.)
    So, I followed protocol & chain of command, to report everything I have endured and NOTHING, “We will investigate the situation!” I foolishly thought the administration would remove this horrible individual and right the wrong!!! (Gave all documentation, verbal violations, etc. and I stated the LA laws to which she has broken!!) Nope, she continues to reign, in all her glory! On December 15 th, she present me with my “Informal Observation” evaluation! Of course, she was accompanied by two other administrators – for of intimidation! Basically, I failed the evaluation – NOT ONE POSITIVE comment! When I tried to dispute each “observation,” I was quickly cut-off and the conversation was changed. Meeting took 1 1/2 hours ~ normal for “our meetings!”
    I think you can guess where I work and who my boss is! Verbal abuse and Harassment occurs more in my work environment than anyone could or would imagine! Once, I asked, “Why in the world would you continue to hold me captive- to block any or all opportunities to ______.” She looked at me with a smirk and said, “Because I CAN! Besides, who is going to stop me!?”
    Therefore, I filed a grievance against this individual! (Strict guidelines- 5 days to submit…). AGAIN, to my surprise, I quickly learned that the “in house representation” which we must use was unable to give me 10 minutes of their time! WOW!! They would not help me when I explained my horrible situation and now, they will not even discuss anything, nor will they return phone calls.. I am not allowed to hire an employment attorney to represent me at a hearing which could strip me of my livelihood; ALL b/c of THE RULES according to our collective bargaining agreement!!
    It took an incredible amount of courage to stand-up and walk through the first door!! I will never regret taking the first of many steps, to bringing attention to Verbal Abuse & Harassment in my work environment and to absolute freedom! Each step was also made on behalf of the women who were unable to walk with me. REMEMBER, every case/cause was challenged before it was finally recognized!
    Please continue to write articles (Vogue, Real Simple, Marie Claire, The Times~Picayune, etc.) which grab the reader and make them realize it could happen to them, their daughter, their niece, etc. Also, you could help loved ones by listing possible signs of someone being Verbal Abused or Harassed. Please feel free to contact me if you should have any questions.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can’t express how sorry I am that you had those encounters. I have one question, in what ways do you think these experiences changed you? I think it is important to discuss the long-term issues that verbal abuse victims face. Also, thank you for the next article suggestion. You make a great point with that. In many instances, the outside world can see physical abuse. It is often hard to hide and there are many clues as to what is going on. With verbal abuse, we don’t see those things. It doesn’t leave visible scars or bruises so it’s even easier to hide. There are things that one can see if one knows what to look for though. So yes, thank you very much for all of this.

  5. My mom is a dhs worker and my dad has done things and every time fight he would take it to the next level until I’m in tears and my mom denies it all the time and anables this to happen and I’m afraid to report it becuse i dont want my mom to suffer nor do i want to get in trouble for looking like I’m lying to the people who work there what can I do

  6. Hi, Recently I have been a victim of a Narcsisit, he is the landlord of the house next door, I am a disabled male 76 y/o , I have council rights to pass through a shared rear exit, he has tried his bast to stop my access he has not succeeded but the battle with the monster next door has given myself reason to seek further help, I received many threats and many poison pen letters, I am happy too say I have stopped the Narc monster, I have ramp for my electric scooter on his property, the monster did last year allow the ramp but due to a horrid dog woman (Tennant) the monster demanded I remove the ramp he did take it away on many occasions I put it back, one day last month I caught him removing my ramp, I had to do something so this is what I did, I suggested he was a F***** Assole and I was to take out a court order to stop his horrid ways, So far it has worked my ramp is still in situ and no problems and not further contact but now I am wondering what is next, I have recognised the monster is without any doubt a nasty narc I am ready and prepared to fight this monster who is well knows a such his partner is well known in the area as a Narc and very aggressive, it sure looks like I am being harassed persecuted and intimidated, I have since been informed the monster has fear of myself which for myself is good, it keeps him away so I can try to live without his cruel evil deeds, I must add here I am not alone in being punished as he has been, many others have seen his poisonous actions but I feel I will not tolerate the horrors he does enjoy, I did last month have plans to dispose of him but I know I could not live with that action I tried a different way as I have explained above, sadly I do not believe I have stopped him, I am waiting for the next set of horror events, can you suggest how I can stop this monster ? he must be stopped. In my past I have worked in S/America for 2 years helping indigenous people to resettle, It was not nice, I did see many very nasty events against the people on the banks of the Orinoco river, it was all about Nickel/Cobalt and Uranium, I saw many murders I also had threats to my life ,I left after 2 years but now I am being punished by a Narc, he must be stopped I hope not via his vanishing/ disposal, I am tempted if he does come to mess with myself again.

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