Recognize and Cope with Verbal Abuse
How to deal with it
Verbal abuse is a form of psychological abuse that causes as much damage as physical abuse. It’s often not recognized as abuse right away but rather as neutral statements or general feedback.
This type of behavior is extremely toxic and is one of the primary indicators of domestic violence and the relationships that lead to it. However, verbal abuse can be difficult to recognize because it doesn’t leave visible scars as physical abuse does. Here are some signs that you — or someone you love — might be dealing with verbal abuse.
Recognize the red flags of verbal abuse.
Verbal abuse is not a specific pattern of behavior — it is a form of communication that can take many forms and be present in many different situations. However, there are common themes and indicators that someone may be verbally abusive:
- Criticizing, name-calling and other forms of insulting behavior. This is especially common in romantic relationships and is a clear sign that your partner is more interested in putting you down than lifting you up.
- Frequent, unexplained mood swings. If your partner is constantly switching between being cold and distant to being overly apologetic and affectionate, they may be engaging in a form of verbal abuse called intermittent or emotional abuse.
- Implying that you are incapable of taking care of yourself.
You constantly feel guilty.
If you feel like you constantly need to apologize for everything — to your partner, your friends, your family members — you may be dealing with verbal abuse.
People who are verbally abusive often try to instill guilt in their partners and make them feel like their actions are wrong. They may say things like “You know you shouldn’t have done that” or “You’ve done this before, you know you shouldn’t have done that”.
You have to apologize for everything you do.
People who are verbally abusive often try to control their partners by making them apologize constantly for everything they do. This can include everything from social faux pas to having a different opinion than the abuser. If your partner makes you apologize all the time, they are being verbally abusive.
Apologies should be reserved for when you make a genuine mistake — not when your partner is upset with you for any reason.
You’re constantly afraid of making mistakes.
There are times when it is helpful to be critical — but when criticism is excessive, it crosses the line into verbal abuse. When your partner criticizes you excessively and acts like you’re incapable of making good decisions, they are verbally abusing you. If you’re afraid to make mistakes because your partner will punish you for them, know that you’re in a verbally abusive relationship.
You’ve made changes in your behavior but it hasn’t helped.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who’s verbally abusive, they may not physically hit you, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not abusive. Some signs of verbal abuse may leave little marks that go unnoticed at first. It could be making you feel guilty for every choice you make or constantly making you feel like you’re incapable of taking care of yourself. If you’ve tried to make changes in your behavior to appease your partner and it hasn’t helped, you may be in a verbally abusive relationship.
How to cope with it
Verbal abuse is hurtful and destructive, but it’s also subtle. It’s often not recognized as abuse right away but rather as neutral statements or general feedback. If you are in a relationship with someone who regularly makes you feel small and insignificant, pay attention to how they speak to you. If they are using any of the above techniques to make you feel bad about yourself, you may be in an abusive relationship.