Verbal abuse

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Verbal abuse (also known as verbal aggression, verbal attack, verbal violence, verbal assault, psychic aggression, or psychic violence) is a type of psychological/mental abuse that involves the use of oral language, gestured language, and written language directed to a victim.[1] Verbal abuse can include the act of harassing, labeling, insulting, scolding, rebuking, excessive yelling towards an individual.[2][3] It can also include the use of derogatory terms, the delivery of statements intended to frighten, humiliate, denigrate, or belittle a person.[1][4][5] It is an act of abuse where the abuser attacks the self-concept of the victim, decreasing the self-confidence of the victims and making them feel powerless.[6][7][8] These kinds of attacks may result in mental and/or emotional distress for the victim.[1] Verbally abusing or attacking another is a maladaptive behavior that can be occasionally displayed by anyone, especially during stressful times or times when one is experiencing significant physical discomfort. It can also be used as a defensive mechanism when an individual feels like they are being attacked by another individual, or as a method of achieving vengeance on an individual. However, verbal abusive behaviors can also be used to intentionally manipulate others.[9]


Victims of verbal abuse may display abusive behaviors towards other individuals. In addition to that, there are other reasons that could cause one to be verbally abusive. For instance, abusers tend to verbally abuse their victims when the abuser is feeling stressed.[10] They also tend to display verbally abusive behaviors after undergoing negative life events. These abusive behaviors can take on many forms.[10]

  • Bullying is one of the forms. Bullying can be defined as behaviors that are intentionally used to intimidate or hurt another person.[11] It can also be used to make the victim submit to the will of the abuser.[12] Although it mostly happens in schools, and the victims are usually children, it can also happen in everyday life and anyone regardless of age can become a victim.
  • Gaslighting is another form that verbal abuse can take. In that form, the abuser makes the victim question not just their own self, but also their own sanity. One way abusers tend to use gaslighting is by questioning the victim in a manner that gets the victim to question their own perceptions of things. The abuser does not see the victim as equal. The victim tends to feel powerless while the abuser feels in control.[8] As a result, gaslighting tends to make the victim feels dependent on the abuser.[13]


Anyone can be a victim of verbal abuse. When an individual starts verbally abusing another, the intensity and the frequency of abuse tend to increase over time.[8] Even though verbal abuse is not physical and does not leave physical traces such as bruises, it can be as harmful as physical abuse, and can negatively impact the victim’s health.[14] The victims of verbal abuse may suffer from emotional pain and mental distress, which over time could lead to succumbing due to stress-related illness.[15]

Verbal abuses tend to leave greater negative impacts on younger victims such as children and adolescents. Individuals who were verbally abused as children tend to have low self-esteem in adulthood.[16] Victims of parental verbal abuse or peer-related verbal abuse tend to have a higher risk of developing clinical depression, anxiety, anger management issues, addictive drug use, and even tend to be more suicidal.[16] In addition to that, researchers have found that victims of verbal abuse are three times more likely to develop personality disorders, especially among children.[15] Parents who verbally abuse their children may cause their children to develop personality disorders during adolescence and young adulthood.[15]


Verbal abuse includes the following:[14]


  1. ^ a b c Boltz M, Hoffman D (2017). Institutional Mistreatment: Abuse and Neglect (Report).
  2. ^ Rosenthal LJ, Byerly A, Taylor AD, Martinovich Z (November 2018). "Impact and Prevalence of Physical and Verbal Violence Toward Healthcare Workers". Psychosomatics. 59 (6): 584–590. doi:10.1016/j.psym.2018.04.007. PMID 29909013.
  3. ^ Lawson DM (January 2003). "Incidence, Explanations, and Treatment of Partner Violence". Journal of Counseling & Development. 81 (1): 19–32. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6678.2003.tb00221.x. ISSN 0748-9633.
  4. ^ Koller P, Darida P (16 November 2020). "Emotional Behavior with Verbal Violence: Problems and Solutions". Interdisciplinary Journal Papier Human Review. 1 (2): 1–6. doi:10.47667/ijphr.v1i2.41. ISSN 2709-1295.
  5. ^ "Verbal assault". Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  6. ^ Infante DA, Wigley III CJ (1 March 1986). "Verbal aggressiveness: An interpersonal model and measure". Communication Monographs. 53 (1): 61–69. doi:10.1080/03637758609376126. ISSN 0363-7751.
  7. ^ Özgüle M (2016). Children's perception of violence in daily life a qualitative analysis of children's verbal expressions and stories (Doctoral thesis). İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi.
  8. ^ a b c Patricia E (2010). Verbally Abusive Relationship, the : How to Recognize it and How to Respond. Adams Media Corporation. ISBN 978-1-4405-0463-1. OCLC 903230510.
  9. ^ Elgin SH (April 2000). "How Verbal Self-Defense Works". Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  10. ^ a b Hamilton MA (1 March 2012). "Verbal Aggression: Understanding the Psychological Antecedents and Social Consequences". Journal of Language and Social Psychology. 31 (1): 5–12. doi:10.1177/0261927X11425032. ISSN 0261-927X.
  11. ^ Levesque RJ (2018). "Bullying risks and consequences". Encyclopedia of adolescence (2nd ed.). Cham, Switzerland: Springer Science+Business Media. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-1695-2_109. ISBN 978-3-319-32132-5.
  12. ^ Butler M (2007). "Bullying". In Jewkes Y, Bennett J (eds.). Dictionary of Prisons and Punishment. Cullompton: Willan Publishing. ISBN 978-1-134-01190-2.
  13. ^ Forward S, Torres J (2002). Men who hate women & the women who love them : when loving hurts and you don't know why (Bantam trade paperback ed.). New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-307-79766-7.
  14. ^ a b Bosch K (2004). "When Words Are Used As Weapons: Verbal Abuse". University of Nebraska, Lincoln Extension.
  15. ^ a b c Johnson JG, Cohen P, Smailes EM, Skodol AE, Brown J, Oldham JM (2001). "Childhood verbal abuse and risk for personality disorders during adolescence and early adulthood". Comprehensive Psychiatry. 42 (1): 16–23. doi:10.1053/comp.2001.19755. PMID 11154711.
  16. ^ a b Yun JY, Shim G, Jeong B (April 2019). "Verbal Abuse Related to Self-Esteem Damage and Unjust Blame Harms Mental Health and Social Interaction in College Population". Scientific Reports. 9 (1): 5655. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-42199-6. PMC 6449380. PMID 30948757.

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