Counseling Men Blog
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Verbal Abuse - What's It Look Like? Are there Signs?

Posted by Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC on Fri, Aug 27, 2010

Verbal Abuse - Verbal Abuse SignsPart 1 of 2

Verbal abuse is a common form of abuse in many relationships.  However, it can be very subtle and hard to recognize, so much so that most of the time victims don't even know its happening.

Verbal abuse is often disguised or explained away as something else, such as humor ("I was just making a joke") or love ("you know I love you").  A skilled abuser can destroy your self-esteem while at the same time making you believe that they really care for you.  Verbal abuse can also become so regular that it becomes normal communication.

A common problem for victims of verbal abuse is that the abuse makes them confused and they don't know what to believe -- their own thoughts or the abusers words.

So if verbal abuse is so hard to recognize, are there any verbal abuse signs?  Yes.

Below are 8 verbal abuse signs.  These are from the article How Can Someone Identify and Respond to Verbal Abuse? by Cathy Meyer.

  1. Being called names by your spouse. Any negative form of name calling is unacceptable. If you feel that it is a put down, then it most likely is. There are names that are obvious and, without question abusive. Then there are the covert, veiled attempts to put a spouse down that are harder to identify. Verbal abusers love to use constructive criticism to beat a spouse down. If your spouse is constantly criticizing you, “for your own good,” be careful. This is the most insidious form of verbal abuse.
  2. Using words to shame. Critical, sarcastic, mocking words meant to put you down either alone or in front of other people.
  3. Yelling, swearing and screaming. I call this the “walking on eggs shells” syndrome because you are living with someone who goes verbally ballistic for very little cause.
  4. Using threats to intimidate. No threat should be taken likely, even if your spouse tells you they are only joking, especially if it causes you to change behaviors or to feel on guard in the relationship.
  5. Blaming the victim. Your spouse blows his/her top and then blames you for their actions and behavior. If you were only perfect they wouldn’t lose control!
  6. Your feelings are dismissed. Your spouse refuses to discuss issues that upset you. They avoid discussion of any topic where they might have to take responsibility for their actions or words.
  7. You often wonder why you feel so bad. You bury your feelings, walk on egg shells and work so hard at keeping the peace that every day becomes an emotional chore. You feel depressed and have even wondered if you are crazy.
  8. Manipulating your actions. The persistent and intense use of threatening words to get you to do something or act in a way you find uncomfortable. This form of verbal abuse is common at the end of a marriage. If your spouse doesn’t want a divorce they will say whatever it takes to play on your emotions, to get you to stay in the marriage. All in an attempt to get you to comply with their desires, regardless of what is best for you as an individual.

Do you recognize any of these verbal abuse signs in your relationship?  If so, in the next post we'll take a look at some of the things you can do to stop verbal abuse.

* This is the first article of two on verbal abuse and signs of verbal abuse.  In the next article we'll identify things you can do to stop verbal abuse.  Sign-up for our blog on the right side of this page and be sure not to miss the next part of this series (you can get notified by email or RSS feed).

Tags: Abusive Relationships