What is it called when someone abuse you with words?

Verbal abuse, also known as verbal assault or verbal violence, refers to the act of forcefully criticizing, insulting, or denouncing someone with words. It can include behaviors like name-calling, put-downs, yelling, swearing, mocking, blaming, intimidating, threatening, gaslighting, and trivializing someone’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences.

What are some examples of verbal abuse?

Some common examples of verbal abuse include:

  • Name-calling – Calling someone derogatory or demeaning names.
  • Put-downs – Making cruel, harsh, and belittling remarks about someone’s traits, abilities, or appearance.
  • Yelling – Raising your voice in an aggressive, attacking manner.
  • Swearing – Cursing, using foul language, or disturbing sexual references towards someone.
  • Mocking – Imitating someone in a taunting, often exaggerated way to make fun of them.
  • Blaming – Unfairly holding someone responsible for things that are not their fault.
  • Intimidation – Making threats to emotionally or physically harm someone.
  • Trivializing – Making light of someone’s concerns or feelings as if they are inconsequential.

What causes verbal abuse?

There are a variety of potential causes and risk factors for verbal abuse:

  • Learned behavior – Growing up in a home where verbal abuse was commonplace can normalize it.
  • Unresolved anger issues – Verbally aggressive behaviors may stem from poor anger management skills.
  • Feeling powerless – Attempts to gain a sense of control through dominating, debasing, or frightening someone verbally.
  • Low self-esteem – Putting others down can be an attempt to boost one’s own self-esteem.
  • Stress – High levels of chronic stress, frustration, and anxiety can increase aggressive outbursts.
  • Lack of empathy – An inability to consider others’ perspectives or emotions can make someone prone to verbal cruelty.
  • Personality disorders – Certain personality disorders, like narcissism or sociopathy, may feature verbal aggression.
  • Substance abuse – Intoxication can lower inhibitions against vitriolic speech.

What are the effects of verbal abuse?

Experiencing verbal assaults and insults can negatively impact the recipient in many ways, including:

  • Emotional distress – Feelings like shock, anger, sadness, fear, shame, or anxiety.
  • Low self-esteem – Believing the harmful words and experiencing damaged self-worth.
  • Mental health issues – Increased risks of depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Physical health problems – Headaches, high blood pressure, digestive issues caused by chronic stress.
  • Difficulty with relationships – Problems with intimacy, trust, communication.
  • Self-destructive behaviors – Eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors.

Emotional Effects

Some of the common emotional effects of being verbally abused include:

  • Feeling hurt, embarrassed, or ashamed
  • Anger at the abuser and at oneself for enduring the abuse
  • Confusion about why it is happening
  • Fear about future abuse
  • Hypervigilance and anxiety
  • Diminished self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness
  • Sadness and depression
  • Feeling isolated and believing one deserves the abuse

Psychological Effects

Some psychological consequences that can result from verbal abuse include:

  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • Perfectionism
  • Chronic stress
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Minimizing or denying the abuse
  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares

Physical Effects

Verbal abuse can also manifest in physical symptoms, such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Weight changes
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive problems
  • Skin issues
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Muscle tension and pain

Is verbal abuse domestic violence?

Yes, verbal and emotional abuse absolutely qualifies as domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV). While the term domestic violence often brings to mind physical assault, abuse can take many forms. Verbal aggression and psychological manipulation within an intimate relationship or between family members are very serious issues.

In many cases, verbal abuse is a precursor to physical violence. The verbal assaults can instill fear that may escalate to physical harm. Verbal and emotional abuse are also often used as methods to control a partner and maintain dominance within the relationship.

Verbal abuse should not be minimized or dismissed just because it does not leave visible physical wounds. The deep psychological scars can last much longer and severely undermine a victim’s mental and emotional health.

Is verbal abuse a crime?

In most areas, verbal abuse is not a crime in and of itself. However, there are some exceptions:

  • Threats of violence – Threatening to physically harm or kill someone can qualify as the crime of assault in many jurisdictions.
  • Stalking – Repeatedly harassing or threatening someone, causing fear for their safety, may qualify as stalking, which is illegal.
  • Child abuse – Verbally abusing a child may be considered a form of child abuse or neglect, a criminal offense.
  • Elder abuse – Similarly, threats against vulnerable senior citizens can potentially lead to criminal charges.
  • Violation of restraining order – If a temporary restraining order or order of protection prohibiting verbal abuse is in place, violating its terms would be a crime.

However, even if verbal abuse alone does not constitute a crime, a documented pattern of verbal aggression and insults can serve as supporting evidence in obtaining restraining orders or filing for divorce and custody disputes.

What should you do if you are being verbally abused?

If you are the recipient of ongoing verbal assaults and manipulation, there are steps you can take to get help and stop the abuse:

  • Talk to someone you trust – Discussing the abuse can help gain perspective and support.
  • Document the incidents – Keep a log of what was said or done and when.
  • Set boundaries – Make clear that you will not accept abuse of any kind.
  • Seek counseling – A therapist can help process the trauma and develop coping strategies.
  • Contact domestic violence organizations – They can provide information about options and legal protections.
  • Establish an escape plan – Identify safe housing options and secure important documents if you need to leave quickly for your safety.
  • Consider a restraining order – This can legally prohibit contact if the abuser poses a physical threat.

You have a right to feel safe and respected. Seeking help and speaking out against verbal abuse are important steps toward reclaiming your voice and emotional well-being.


In summary, verbal abuse involves using words to control, harm, and deliberately undermine someone’s sense of self-worth. It can include behaviors like yelling, name-calling, blaming, shaming, belittling, and threatening. Verbal abuse stems from issues like anger problems, the need to exert control, and toxic stress. The harmful emotional and psychological effects of verbal assaults can be long-lasting. While verbal abuse alone is not usually a crime, threats of violence and stalking behaviors may be. It is important to document verbal abuse and obtain support and counseling to develop healthy coping strategies and escape plans if needed. Speaking up against verbal aggression is essential to ending abuse and promoting healthy relationships based on mutual respect.

Leave a Comment