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Verbal abuse (also called reviling or verbal attack) is a form of abusive behavior involving the use of language. It is a form of profanity that can occur with or without the use of expletives. While oral communication is its most common form, verbal abuse may be expressed in the form of written word as well.

Verbal abuse is a pattern of behavior that can seriously interfere with a person's healthy emotional development. A single exposure to verbal assault can be enough to significantly affect a person's self-esteem, emotional well-being, and physical state.

Verbal abuse is best described as an ongoing emotional environment organized by the abuser for the purposes of control. The underlying factor in the dynamic of verbal abuse is the abuser’s low regard for him or herself. The abuser attempts to place their victim in a position to believe similar things about him or herself, a form of warped projection.

Reports of verbal and emotional abuse indicate that it frequently occurs in romantic relationships between men and women, where women are generally reported as the victims.[1][2] However, verbal abuse may occur to a person of any gender, race, culture, size, sexual orientation, or age.

Typically, verbal abuse increases in intensity over time and often escalates into physical abuse as well.

During intense verbal abuse, the victim usually suffers from low self-worth and low self-esteem. As a result, victims may fall into clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Despite the fact that it is the most common type of abuse, verbal abuse is generally not taken as seriously as other forms of abuse, because there is no visible proof. However in reality, moderate to severe cases of verbal abuse (especially in which the victim is under constant attack) can be more detrimental to a person's health than physical abuse.

Verbal abuse starting from a young age contributes to inferiority complex, machismo attitudes, and other negative behaviors that plague many people into senior age.

People who feel they are being attacked by a verbal abuser on a regular basis should seek professional counsel and remove themselves from the negative environment whenever possible. Staying around verbal abusers is damaging for a person's overall well-being, and all steps to change the situation should be pursued.

Signs of verbal abuse

The way to recognize signs of verbal abuse in an unhealthy relationship is to simply know what a healthy relationship looks like. Consider the things people value in a healthy and strong relationship. These could be respect, acceptance, trustworthiness, and honesty with the freedom and safety to express oneself within healthy boundaries. When we think about what constitutes a healthy relationship, it becomes easier to identify when we are in an unhealthy relationship.

Signs of verbal abuse exhibited by the abuser are:

  • Actions of ignoring, ridiculing, disrespecting, and criticizing others consistently.
  • A manipulation of words.
  • Purposeful humiliation of others.
  • Accusing others falsely for the purpose of manipulating a person's decision making.
  • Manipulating people to submit to undesirable behavior.
  • Making others feel unwanted and unloved.
  • Threatening to leave the family destitute.
  • Placing the blame and cause of the abuse onto others.
  • Isolating a person from some type of support system, consisting of friends or family.
  • Harassment
  • Threatening to do any type of harm to a family member or friend
  • Jekyll and Hyde behaviors, in terms of sudden rages or behavioral changes: where there is a very different "face" shown to the outside world versus towards victim.

Once the victim identifies and recognizes the signs of verbal abuse, the victim can be more proactive in finding help. If left too long in an abusive relationship, the person will start feeling hopeless.[citation needed]

Consensual verbal abuse

Consensual verbal abuse (also known as verbal humiliation) is a common component of erotic humiliation, often in a BDSM setting.

Examples of verbal abuse

  • Saying negative comments about someone's clothes, appearance, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or what they drink/ eat is verbally abusive as well.

See also


  1. Miller (1996), No Visible Wounds: Identifying Nonphysical Abuse of Women by Their Men, Random House Publishing Group, ISBN 9780449910795.
  2. Template:Harv Evans (1996), Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond (2 ed.), Adams Media Corporation, ISBN 9781558505827.
  3. What Verbal Abuse Is

External links

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