Verbal abuse, also known as emotional abuse, is a range of words or behaviors used to manipulate, intimidate, and maintain power and control over a person. These include insults, humiliations and ridicule, silent treatment, and attempts to frighten, isolate and control. Many people who experience it rationalize the abuse in their mind and don't even realize that it's an unhealthy form of communication. But that doesn't make it any less distressing or mentally exhausting for people on the receiving end.
Ultimately, verbal abuse is a means of maintaining power and control over another person in the relationship. And there are many subtle forms verbal abuse can take, making it even harder to recognize. For example, verbal abuse includes being subjected to insults on a regular basis, feeling constantly degraded or belittled, and being subjected to silent treatment by a partner. Our online classes and training programs allow you to learn from experts from anywhere in the world.
Abuse can come in all forms and forms, and it doesn't exist solely in the context of romantic relationships. In the case of verbal abuse, it can be particularly difficult to detect. Therefore, we ask experts for their best advice on how to identify verbal abuse and how to handle it. Verbal Abuse Is Violence in the Form of Words, Says Psychiatrist Anna Yusim, M, D.
It includes any type of abuse that uses words in an attempt to control, manipulate, or harm another person, and may or may not be paired with physical abuse. Like all forms of abuse, it can come from romantic partners, friends, family, or even bosses or co-workers. One of the reasons verbal abuse can be difficult to identify is that it can look like a lot of different things. Behaviors such as threatening or yelling at someone may seem like more obvious examples, but psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, Ph, D.
Verbal abuse is not usually provoked either, rather than occurring only in the heat of the moment in an argument, adds clinical psychologist Perpetua Neo, from Clinpsy. This behavior trains a victim of verbal abuse to associate certain things with danger and ultimately change their behavior, he explains. We've all said things that we're not necessarily proud of, so what exactly qualifies as verbal abuse? According to Nuñez, you'll want to take note of the patterns that repeat themselves, especially if you've expressed that you don't like the way they talk to you. In addition, he points out, there is a difference between things like constructive criticism or general disagreement, and verbal abuse.
If someone is repeatedly reducing you and making you feel inferior, you're probably not dealing with simple constructive criticism. But as Yusim points out, it's important to distinguish between those kinds of things. If someone is honestly expressing how they feel, and their feelings aren't positive toward that person, is it verbal abuse? No, it probably isn't,” he explains. Here's more information on how to recognize when criticism goes too far.
Any type of threat counts as verbal abuse, Neo adds. This could mean threats to your physical safety, relationship, or even the safety of the abuser. Saying things like, if you let me, I will kill myself, for example, is a form of manipulation and can therefore be considered a form of verbal abuse. Gaslighting is a type of verbal abuse that involves questioning someone's reality to the point that they begin to doubt themselves.
It often involves phrases like “That didn't happen” or “You're being dramatic.”. And according to Núñez, that's the way they control you and keep you submissive and depressed, making you believe that you're crazy and that you're the horrible one in the relationship. Verbal abuse can also seem like useless statements that serve to make you feel less than, not just explosive arguments. There are even more insidious types of verbal abuse that are calmly said and framed as if they were helping you with a problem you never knew you had, Neo explains.
Blatantly insulting someone or attacking their character is another example of verbal abuse. Nuñez points out that this simply boils down to the nature of the language used and whether it is abrasive and disrespectful and cutting to the person. People who are verbally abusive are great at deflecting blame anywhere but themselves, and especially the person facing them, Nuñez says. They will change the scenario so that it is the other person who is selfish, for example.
Deflecting guilt is also a telltale sign of narcissism, just for your information. Abusers often seek to isolate their victims from their friends and family, and this can be done with words alone, Neo says. Saying things like, “I don't think your family cares about your interests,” for example, can seem like a genuine concern when it comes to creating distrust and establishing control. In reality, what is happening even more, Neo says, is that by making verbal abuse seem supportive, they are isolating the victim from their own discernment.
Abusers Can Also Use Passive Aggression to Manipulate Their Victims, Yusim Says. Perhaps they are patronizing you, using negative body language but insisting that everything is OK, or even in some cases, intentionally refusing in conversation as a form of punishment, that is, the silent treatment. Since words may not be exchanged directly, there is debate as to whether this counts as verbal abuse, but it is the manipulative intention behind the behavior that is the red flag. Yusim also points out that repeated accusations are also a form of verbal abuse.
When you're actually accusing someone of something they haven't done, when you're starting to shake a person's sense of their own identity and their own sense of strength and power, all of those things can be considered forms of verbal abuse, he explains. As Nuñez adds, if you're in a relationship where you doubt yourself and you start thinking, 'Am I crazy? ' it's more than likely that you're in some kind of emotionally abusive, verbally abusive relationship. If you notice a repeated pattern of verbal abuse in a relationship, it's not someone you want in your life. As Neo explains, being hurt by someone's behavior like this is the signal that your instinct sends you to get out.
Not only will a verbal abuser turn you on with gas, but you can also start doing it yourself, he adds. Therefore, it's important to get back in touch with your own inner voice. I recommend that you write it in a diary when it's fresh, so you have records. Because memory is malleable, and you can convince yourself not to, Neo suggests.
Ask yourself if you would let this happen to your best friend or child, she adds. From there, if the person doesn't change, it's probably time to cut the cord. If this scares you or is impossible, here's our complete guide to leaving an abusive relationship and don't hesitate to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (TTY: 1-800-787-322) for advice. After the relationship, Nuñez points out that you'll also want to work on self-esteem and rely on your own intuition, to make sure this doesn't happen again with another person.
Seeing a loved one in a verbally abusive relationship is a delicate thing. Because of the nature of the abuse, it can be difficult for them to realize that there is a problem, let alone that they need to leave. And as Nuñez explains, when people are in some kind of verbally abusive relationship, they have an unrecognized trauma in which they begin to believe what the abuser was telling them. As such, one of the main things you can do is to get their attention delicately and suggest that they get a professional opinion.
Sometimes it takes someone out of the situation to make the victim realize what is happening, Núñez adds. Beyond that, it can take time for someone to be ready to leave an abusive relationship, and it's a decision they have to make on their own. As a friend, be there for them, offer them resources and remind them that they don't deserve someone who makes them feel less than. Verbal abuse can range from the most discreet forms of manipulation to threats of violence and everything in between.
The more you know what to look for, the better you can detect verbal abuse when it's happening and move away from the situation. Abusive relationships are never worth the pain they cause, and if your gut tells you something isn't right, trust that feeling. Verbal abuse is a pattern of speaking with the intention of degrading, humiliating, blaming, or threatening the victim. While an abuser can raise their voice in a rude and threatening way, verbal abuse doesn't always include shouting.
It can simply be defined by the way the abuser speaks, typically in a demeaning and demoralizing way. . .