6 Signs of Verbal Abuse: Are You a Victim?

Words are incredibly powerful. They can lift you up or destroy you, they can calm you down or hurt you. A lot of people forget this. Unfortunately, they can also go beyond negativity and enter into the territory of abuse.
6 Signs of Verbal Abuse: Are You a Victim?
Bernardo Peña

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Bernardo Peña.

Written by Okairy Zuñiga

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Do you think you may be a victim of verbal abuse? It’s true that living together brings conflicts that are natural and, to a certain extent, positive. However, it also brings fights that can be hurtful and negative. Verbal abuse is a by-product of these problems.

The main victims are women, although there are also men who suffer from it. The objective of the aggressor is to hurt with what they say, instead of helping the other person to feel better. Once these words affect the victim’s thoughts and beliefs, it’s difficult to identify the problem. Here are the main signs that indicate that you’re suffering this type of abuse.

6 signs of verbal abuse

Words are powerful: They can lift you up or tear you down, soothe or hurt you. That’s why, as Patricia Evans’ book The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond explains, it’s important to learn how to use them. And, above all, to see the signs that are telling you that something isn’t right.

A man yelling at his partner.

1. It’s not just about yelling

A lot of people think that being a victim of verbal abuse means your partner is always yelling at you. The truth is, it’s much more complicated than that, there are a lot of behaviors involved. What they do is manipulate the victim into questioning their own beliefs, memory, or sanity.

The abuser might use threats like hurting you or a loved one, but not always. Not making outwardly aggressive statements doesn’t mean that abuse isn’t happening.

In fact, the abuser might even act in an extremely loving way, which just makes the impact of their abuse even stronger. The person being abused will live in constant fear of the other person losing their temper.

2. Your partner makes painful comparisons, blames you for everything, and is possessively jealous

A partner who verbally abuses you will constantly make comparisons about you. It could mean comparing you to your more beautiful friend or their own closest friends, but the point is that they always say there’s someone better than you.

Sometimes they may do it in a subtle way; they may just point to a celebrity as an example. However, the main characteristic is that they’ll make you feel inferior. They’ll also blame you for any and everything, even if it’s something you can’t control. They’ll criticize your job, salary, way of dressing, body type… And they’ll constantly remind you of every flaw with exaggeration.

In addition, they may also say something negative about your circle of friends, especially if they’re of the opposite sex. They may even hate that you receive calls from a colleague and dislike that you have an active social life.

3. You don’t know that you’re the victim of verbal abuse, but you feel bad

A man and a woman sitting with their backs facing one another, looking upset.

Everyone thinks it’s easy to tell when you’re the victim of verbal abuse. But, one of the big signs of verbal abuse in people who dealt with it in childhood is that they don’t always recognize that they’ve become victims of it later in life.

In this case, an abuser might pull pranks or make jokes that make you feel bad, or less valuable. For example, a derogatory comment said with a big smile. They’re “joking,” but in fact, they’re attacking your worth, competence, or abilities. It doesn’t matter they seem sweet on the face of things. You need to truly ask yourself how these “innocent” comments make you feel.

4. You run the risk of not breaking the cycle of abuse

You can continue being a victim, turn into an abuser, or both. Basically, the pattern of abuse is hard to break. Unless you recognize that there’s a serious problem and seek help, it’ll be almost impossible to change these behavior patterns.

According to an article published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, being raised in an environment where parents aren’t able to control their emotions can result in that child becoming aggressive. This is because that person hasn’t learned how to deal with their feelings.

On the other hand, if you managed to put an end to a relationship where you suffered this type of aggression, there’s also the possibility that you will be the one who abuses the next partner you have. So try to be cautious and solve the problem as soon as possible with professional help.

5. You feel like your self-esteem goes down when you’re around your aggressor

It’s important that, at each stage of your relationship, you ask yourself this question: “How do I feel? This will help you understand if the person you’re with truly makes you happy and fosters self-confidence.

If you’re suffering from verbal abuse, self-esteem is the first thing that will start to plummet. In fact, the longer you suffer from these comments, the easier it’ll be for you to start believing the insults and criticisms your partner hurls at you. For this reason, you may begin to wonder why every time you’re in that person’s company you feel afraid, sad, or nervous.

You might like: 5 Steps to Detect and Defeat Low Self-Esteem

6. You’ve normalized negative emotions and messages

A woman sitting on the floor crying.

It’s a fact that everyone has their faults and problems. Besides, arguments and conflicting opinions are natural among couples.

What’s not normal and what you shouldn’t allow is for a person to:

  • Make you feel inferior. It’s true that there are situations or people who are above you. However, you shouldn’t lose sight of the difference between humility and negative messages.
  • Cause you negative emotions, such as sadness or depression. If you feel bad and seeing that person generates more negative emotions than positive ones, it’s important that you learn to distance yourself.

Do you think you’re the victim of verbal abuse?

If you think, even if it’s just a little, that you’re the victim of verbal abuse, it’s important that you not ignore the signs that we’ve exposed and that you try to ask for help as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the sooner you act, the sooner you’ll be able to put a stop to the situation and turn towards a healthier course.

We also recommend that you seek specialized help, such as a therapist or psychologist to provide you with the tools you need to move forward and help you clear up concerns, as well as work on negative thoughts and emotions.

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All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.