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The Link Between Verbal Abuse and Anxiety That No One Talks About

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When you hear the term “abuse,” what are some of the first words or images that come to mind? Many people probably think of words like violence, beating, and hitting or images of fighting and abusive familial relationships. However, there is one type of abuse that often goes ignored – verbal abuse – and it causes serious damage to mental health.

The Surprising Types of Verbal Abuse

Unfortunately, it has many faces and there are different types of abuse, including:[1]

  • Emotional or psychological abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Financial abuse
  • Elder abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Spiritual abuse
  • Verbal abuse

According to the Healthy Place, an online community for abuse victims, verbal abuse is unique because it can affect everyone at any level of communication ability or understanding.[2] Types of verbal abuse can be as subtle or direct and as aggressive or passive aggressive as the abuser intends – and it’s more common than you think.

Verbal Abuse Defined

According to the Legal Dictionary, the form of emotional abuse known as verbal abuse is “[the] repeated improper and excessive use of language to humiliate someone, or to undermine someone’s dignity.”[3]

11 Signs and Symptoms of Verbal Abuse

In addition to depression, verbal abuse is one of the most severe anxiety causes. Victims of verbal abuse are often left with a slew of negative symptoms and adverse health effects. Although it does not leave you with bruises or breaks, serious physical and emotional signs still exist.[4]

  • High levels of stress
  • Chronic fear and anxiety
  • Migraines
  • Memory disorders
  • Eating- and sleep-related issues
  • Stomach aches and other gastrointestinal disorders
  • Damage to the teeth and jaw
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Stress-induced hormone imbalances
  • Self-harm and even suicide

Despite these scary signals, the mental abuse signs in a marriage or other relationships can be hard to spot at first.

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It’s possible to be assaulted by verbal abuse at work, at school, at the mall, on the road – pretty much anywhere. Oftentimes, we have control over verbal abuse either because we can’t always tell what others are thinking or what triggers them.

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The 15 Most Common Examples of Verbal Abuse

Psychologist and author Patricia Evans, in her book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” identifies both subtle and obvious types of verbal abuse which we’ve summarized below. In the unfortunate but proper context, you may consider any of the following acts against someone a form of verbal abuse.[3,5-7]

1) Accusing or laying blame

In these forms of abuse, the abuser will accuse the victim of things completely out of his or her control.

2) Withholding

When the abuser withholds information (i.e., fails to share thoughts and feelings), participating in a healthy relationship becomes impossible.

3) Threatening

Sending threats are a common form of verbal abuse. The abuser can threaten a victim saying, for example, they will leave the relationship or that other people will think negatively of the victim.

4) Countering

Verbal abusers tend to be (unnecessarily) argumentative about everything from political views to movie preferences.

5) Trivializing

This is the act of frequently minimizing a victim’s experiences, opinions, or desires.

6) Abusive Anger

This includes any form of yelling or screaming, particularly out of context and without any real necessity.

7) Discounting

This is a dangerous sign of abuse because the abuser takes any attempt to deny someone of their right to their thoughts or feelings.

8) Judging or criticizing

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In this form of non-physical domestic violence, these two things are often done in combination with accusing and laying blame. A judgmental abuser will usually give negative evaluations of the victim.

9) Name-calling

Name-calling can be subtle or explicit, ranging from calling someone a “b****” or “You think you are so precious, don’t you?”

10) Verbal abuse disguised as jokes

While the abuser might say something obviously upsetting and insulting to the victim, they will quickly add that they were only joking or weren’t being serious.

11) Blocking and diverting

This sign is similar to “withholding” in which the abuser limits and decides what can or cannot be talked about, so as to suit his or her prerogative.

12) Ordering the victim around

Ordering is one of the most visible signs of an abuser trying to gain and maintain control in an unhealthy way.

13) Undermining

Similar to trivializing, undermining turns everything a victim says into something less important. The undermining abuser may also force the victim to question her own opinions, interest, and beliefs.

14) Forgetting

Abusers will conveniently forget dates, appointments, or promises made to the victim. While people can be forgetful, abusive people rarely (if ever) make an effort to remember.

15) Denial

An abuser will always try to justify and rationalize their behavior, failing to see their own faults and shortcomings – even when they’re glaringly obvious. They’re also unable to recognize the consequences of their actions.

It’s truly scary how detrimental and damaging this non-physical domestic violence can be. Because of the constant state of fear and anxiety victims live in, they often develop depression from abuse.

Verbal Abuse Help

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Suffering from any types of verbal abuse takes a toll and it only takes a single action to do the damage. Because verbal abuse seems less visible, so many of us can become blind to instances of it in our own lives. So, if someone you know – a friend, family member, co-worker, or even stranger – looks stressed, anxious, forgetful, distant or unusually negative, reach out.

Be graceful, be understanding, say little, listen much, and let them know they are not alone. Let them know they do not have to keep living in this vicious unhealthy cycle of abuse. The articles below have really helped us in our own lives, too. We hope they help you or someone you know.

[1] Violence Prevention Initiative. (n.d.). Defining Violence and Abuse. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://www.gov.nl.ca/VPI/types/

[2] Holly, K. (n.d.). What is Verbal Abuse? – Verbal Abuse – Abuse. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/verbal-abuse/what-is-verbal-abuse/

[3] Verbal Abuse – Definition, Examples, and Example Cases. (2016, October 29). Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://legaldictionary.net/verbal-abuse/

[4] Verbal Abuse Physical Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://www.isthisabusive.com/2013/06/verbal-abuse-physical-effects/

[5] Brogaard, B. (2015, March 27). 15 Common Forms of Verbal Abuse in Relationships. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mysteries-love/201503/15-common-forms-verbal-abuse-in-relationships

[6] Evans, P. (2010). The verbally abusive relationship: how to recognize it and how to respond. Avon, MA: Adams Media.

[7] Brogaard, B. (2015, March 27). 15 Common Forms of Verbal Abuse in Relationships. Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mysteries-love/201503/15-common-forms-verbal-abuse-in-relationships

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Healthy Holistic Living brings you alternative health news from all over the web. These articles are sourced and shared with permission so you get all the news that's fit to keep you in good physical and mental health. Stay happy, stay hungry, and stay on Healthy Holistic Living.
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