Verbal abuse is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that can have devastating effects on the victim. While physical abuse leaves visible scars, verbal abuse leaves invisible wounds that can be just as damaging. In this article, we will explore the various forms of verbal abuse, its signs, and its effects on the victim.

An old proverb says, “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. If you are experiencing verbal abuse, your relationship might have started out very differently. You may have been told how special you are, how deeply they care for you, and how perfect you are as a couple. Things gradually change over time.

We can define verbal abuse “a type of psychological/mental abuse that involves the use of oral, gestured, and written language directed to a victim. Verbal abuse can include the act of harassing, labeling, insulting, scolding, rebuking, or excessive yelling towards an individual. Wikipedia. You experience anxiety when disagreements arise.

Your spouse may belittle you, make fun of your most vulnerable weaknesses, and act like it is a joke. When you point out how hurtful it is, they may refuse to talk to you or take you seriously. Over time, this can make you lose confidence in yourself or your skills and talents.

The negative effects of name-calling

If you are a victim of physical abuse, you have the national domestic violence hotline to turn to for help. But when you are a victim of name-calling, your sense of self-worth is undermined, and you may not even see it as domestic violence. Some victims of verbal abuse even contemplate suicide after suffering from this for years. You may find it challenging to set boundaries that will be respected.

Forms of verbal abuse and signs of verbal abuse

Verbal abuse can take many forms and manifest in various ways. The following sections will outline some common signs and types of verbal abuse that you may encounter in an abusive relationship. It is important to recognize these behaviors and understand that they are not acceptable in a healthy partnership.

Sudden, unpredictable, angry outbursts

Verbal and emotional abuse can happen when you least expect it and in reaction to little things. Your spouse may suffer major mood swings, act threateningly, or raise their voice.

Their volatility and extreme ups and downs cause you to walk on eggshells around them. You are unexpectedly hit with a flood of insults. Feeling scared, confused, or intimidated is a normal reaction.

Deflecting responsibility

Your spouse may blame you for “triggering them” and expect you to change your behavior. No history of abusive parenting or current mental health issues excuses verbal abuse.

We are all responsible to get the help we need to treat our own problems and not offend others. They may project blame outward to other people (including your children). Abusive behaviors may be explained by their alcohol/drug use or past experiences in bad relationships.

Intentionally saying things to hurt your feelings

In healthy relationships, there is trust that your partner won’t intentionally do anything to hurt your feelings, even in anger. In abusive relationships, even perceived slights can be justification for an attack.

Punishing you for being honest

In a good relationship, you talk about your life and share feelings with each other. If you are uncomfortable with something that happened or with someone, you can say so. They may not like what you have to say but will respond to your honest feedback in a considerate way.

In a verbally abusive marriage, your partner punishes you for saying what you think. You watch your words or hide your feelings for fear of their reactions. They may act “hurt,” “wounded” or enraged by legitimate complaints. They may question your reality, insult your judgment, or attack other people you care about in response to your honesty.

Insulting independent activities

When your spouse belittles the time you take outside the relationship, including your hobbies, work-related activities, or friendships, this is verbal abuse. They may tell you your gym membership is a “waste of time because you should lose weight first.” They may insult your friends when you spend time with them.

They may call you “selfish,” “vain,” or a “bad parent” for taking time away to care for yourself and other “me time” activities.

Belittling your achievements

There are many forms of bullying. When you are proud of yourself and share your achievements, they may minimize the importance of your efforts, negatively compare your achievements with theirs, or remind you of other areas where you are deficient. Instead of cheering you on, they actively undermine your self-confidence.

Covert verbal abuse

This form of verbal abuse hides inside the context of the conversation. It can be sandwiched into innocuous or even complementary language. Sometimes the abuse is revealed in the tone, facial expressions, or how the words are said.

Instead of being direct in their verbal abuse, covert abusers can deny the negative intention behind their words, using the guise of ambiguity. This way, they can avoid responsibility if challenged.

Your spouse may cloak their abusive language with concern, love, charm, praise, false empathy, and smiles.

Abusers know you and understand how to play on your insecurities and vulnerabilities. They will indirectly undermine your achievements, your values, and your self-worth. One abusive husband told his wife with total conviction that he was her “biggest supporter.” He followed up by saying: “I know you have to be harsh with people at your work. People see overweight women and don’t take them seriously. You’re a success despite this.”

It is easier to challenge such covert aggression when it can be recognized. But it is often not seen for what it is. When challenged: “Are you calling me fat? Also, I don’t think I’m harsh with people!” he deflected that he doesn’t feel that way, but he knows other people do.

Covert abuse leaves you doubting yourself, questioning what others think of you, and taking on your spouse’s narrative and perspective about the world, your relationship, your partner, and you.

While verbal attacks takes many forms, they are psychologically damaging and are considered forms of emotional and physical harm to the victim. Living with verbal abuse takes a huge toll on our emotions, mind, body, soul, and spirit. If you are in such a marriage, getting objective help can sometimes change the dynamic. Don’t ignore it or hope your behavior will change it. It won’t.


Verbal abuse is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly. It can leave lasting emotional scars and erode the victim’s self-esteem and mental well-being. By recognizing the various forms and signs of verbal abuse, victims can begin to take steps to protect themselves and seek help. If you or someone you know is experiencing verbal abuse, it is important to reach out for support and resources to break the cycle of abuse and work towards a healthier, happier life.