In Abuse, Health Professionals

Understanding Verbal Abuse Signs

Verbal Abuse Signs

The problem with verbal abuse is that it can happen to anyone and anywhere, whether at work, at home, at school, or on the road. The voices in your head that diminish you or your belief in yourself could also make you a victim of verbal abuse. In this case, you allow your inner critic to put you down. Individuals that use verbal abuse against others do so as an attempt to control the victim’s behavior, thoughts, and feelings. The abuser usually manipulates victims into doing their bidding, sometimes under the guise of love or respect. Read on to find out more about verbal abuse signs.  

|​SEE ALSO: Signs and Symptoms of Psychological Abuse|​ 

The Definition of Verbal Abuse

If you believe verbal abuse is just name-calling, then you may not recognize it if it happens to you. However, if you keep yourself educated on verbal abuse signs and symptoms, you can protect yourself and the ones you love and care about from a lot of emotional pain. The definition of verbal abuse should be expanded to include any language or behavior that aims to force the victim to doubt his or her perceptions or capabilities; the abuser usually uses this as a technique to get the victim to do as he or she pleases. Verbal abuse is not always easy to spot. Sometimes the abuser makes subtle statements and may say that his or her intentions were pure even if his or her words or behaviors were hurtful to the victim.

Verbal Abuse Signs

There is more to verbal abuse than using offensive language to humiliate the victim. Verbal abuse does not only cause damage through spoken words. The following guide will help you recognize some of the most common verbal abuse signs.

Verbal Abuse Signs: Body Language

An individual’s body language can also become a form of verbal abuse. Humans in general read body language before they hear words. Our minds are wired to interpret body language into words that we can understand. Certain gestures can become a form of verbal abuse. For instance, giving someone the middle finger is an offensive form of abuse; a strangling motion directed at someone is regarded as a threat of choking. Flicking open a knife to cause intimidation and looking at someone menacingly are other examples of abuse.

Verbal Abuse Signs: Yelling

Yelling is one of the many ways through which people express their displeasure about something. It often occurs in most, if not all, relationships; however, when it crosses the line, it turns into full-blown abuse. In some cases, the abuse can be loud and obnoxious, for example, when your spouse becomes aggressively angry and starts yelling at you if you don’t load the dishwasher the way he thought it should be. This is an unhealthy way of expressing one’s anger.

Yelling is even more harmful when it is directed at children. According to research, it may be just as harmful as physical discipline. Loud and consistent yelling can make children more aggressive and increases their risk for depression. Children that are more sensitive than others will feel scared by the rise in the volume of your voice. In the future, they may even develop behavior-related problems.

Verbal Abuse Signs: The Silent Treatment

Verbal abuse can also take the form of silence. Someone may give you the silent treatment, which involves ignoring the needs or communication of another person. It’s like telling them, “I don’t think you are important enough, so I am not even acknowledging your presence.” This technique is often used by narcissists to punish their victims. The abuser behaves in a passive-aggressive manner to express his or her anger by ignoring or not speaking to the victim.

People who give others the silent treatment often do so because they want to make their victims feel unworthy or guilty about something. They may also want their victim to apologize about something. Victims of the silent treatment often end up feeling isolated, intimidated, and insignificant. They may also feel angry, defiant, or resentful.

Verbal Abuse Signs: Victim Confusion

Verbal abuse creates confusion inside the victim’s head. Patricia Evans, the author of five books on verbal abuse, says that verbal abusers use at least fifteen different categories of verbal abuse to manipulate their victims. Evans explains that they use varied ways to deflect accountability for their words and actions onto their victims.

Abusers use word play and deny they have done anything wrong to plant the seed of confusion inside the victim’s mind. The resulting confusion destabilizes the victim. Without implanting doubt inside victims’ minds about what they believe and perceive, abusers would never be able to control them. An abuser needs to believe that the victim would act, think, and believe as he did so he could trust her, i.e., could have total control over his victim. If the abuser cannot gain full control over his victim, he would never completely trust her.

It is easier for an abuser to gain control over his victim once he gets her to doubt her own perceptions. As victims begin to doubt themselves, they reach out for the ones closest to them, in this case the abuser, for help. The victim’s neediness is what the abuser uses to plant ideas into her mind.

Verbal Abuse Signs: Humiliation and Degradation

Verbal abusers make derogatory comments about any group their victim may belong to, such as gender, career, or religion. When confronted, the abuser often says, “I wasn’t talking about you. I meant them.”  They also make fun of their victims, in public and in private, and insult their ideas, behaviors, and beliefs. Abusers comment negatively about people, places, and things that their victims love and think highly of.

Abusers will make remarks about certain qualities that are true about you, but they will say it in a tone that will make you feel defensive. When they say things that are offensive to you, they will dismiss it as a joke. Verbal abusers deliberately choose their words and tone to manipulate their victims. They will say things like, “You misunderstood me!” or “I was just joking!” to get themselves out of a difficult situation.

The Impact of Verbal Abuse on Victims

Although its scars are not visible, verbal abuse still leaves deep emotional scars on a victim. Verbal abuse victims often experience the following.

– They feel nervous when approaching the abuser with certain topics.

– They are insulted on a regular basis (abusers use foul language with seemingly normal requests).

– They always “tell on themselves” about innocent events lest their abuser finds out later and punishes them.

– They feel misunderstood for the most part of their relationship.

– They start doubting their own sanity, intelligence, and communication skills.

– They also doubt their own memories because they remember events and conversations differently than their abuser.

– They are blamed for the abuser’s behavior and actions. It’s always the victim’s fault that they lose control over themselves.

– They always feel scared and threatened by their abusers.

All these verbal abuse signs indicate that abusers are often sneaky and that they slowly poison their victims’ thoughts with confusion and doubt.

A Story of Verbal Abuse: The Abuser Used Word Games

In one story, the abusive husband would say things that hurt his wife’s feelings. When she spoke out, he would say things like, “I didn’t mean it that way.” He would hug his wife and promise to work on his attitude. He would then say that what he really meant was something else, but the second statement is usually so different from the first one that it would take her some time to believe what he said. But he hugged her and made her feel safe and loved, so she went along with it, unknowingly participating in her own abuse. She believed the man she loved and forgave him, and she did not realize at the time that she was so naïve.

It takes digging deeper to find an accurate definition for verbal abuse signs; however, there is no denying that the damage it does can last a lifetime. No one, anywhere, is immune to verbal abuse. Even if the abuse has no visible signs, it still exists. No one should feel scared in their relationship. If you are a victim of verbal abuse, always remind yourself that the abuse is never your fault. Do not be manipulated into staying in a relationship you know is doing you harm. Look for someone you trust and talk to them, such as a parent, friend, or sibling, about your current situation. Seek their help to get out of the abusive relationship.  Never sacrifice your self-esteem for someone who does not value you and treat you with kindness. If you are being abused, simply walk away. Do not allow yourself to be a victim. Be a survivor.

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