domestic abuse


Verbal Abuse

by Heather Loeb

I think everybody has come across verbal abuse at least once in their life, or maybe that’s just me. Either way, it’s not normal and shouldn’t be tolerated. I realize sometimes that’s easier said than done.


Sometimes a family member is dishing it out, a best friend or significant other. If you’re anything like me, you might have trouble enforcing your boundaries when you try to shut it down. That’s normal, I think, but if you are experiencing any type of abuse, I urge you to reach out to a trusted friend or family member who can help you. Or to a domestic abuse hotline.

I’m not an expert on trauma, but I do know any type of abuse can do real damage to your psyche and sometimes, after repeatedly being abused, you don’t even realize it. And maybe start to believe some of what you hear.

Psychology Today says abusers feel more powerful when they put down the victim and that there are 15 common types of verbal abuse.

The different types of abuse, which can be subtle or obvious, include:

  1. Withholding — This is when someone purposely withholds information and there’s a failure to share thoughts and feelings, refusing to engage with his or her partner.
  2. Countering — This is a tendency to be argumentative in all contexts. For example, the victim might share positive feelings about a movie she saw, and the abuser may attempt to convince her that her feelings are wrong or might dismiss them all together.
  3. Discounting — This is an attempt to deny that the victim has any right to his or her thoughts or feelings. For example, the abuser might tell the victim regularly she is too sensitive, too childish or is making a big deal out of nothing.
  4. Verbal abuse disguised as jokes
  5. Blocking and diverting — Keeping the victim from talking about certain things and may say things like she is complaining too much or talking out of turn.
  6. Accusing and blaming — Where the abuser accuses the victim of things outside of his or her control. For example, accusing a partner of preventing them from getting a promotion because she is overweight.
  7. Judging and criticizing — This is where the abuser uses “you statements” that criticize, such as “You are never satisfied” or “Nobody likes you because you’re negative.”
  8. Trivializing — This “technique” is when the abuser makes the victim feel like they, or what they do, is insignificant.
  9. Undermining — Everything the victim says and does is never good enough to the abuser.
  10. Threatening — The abuser says things like, “I’ll leave you unless you do what I say.”
  11. Name calling
  12. Forgetting — This is when the abuser “forgets” a promise or forgets a date or appointment on purpose.
  13. Ordering — Anytime the victim demands something from the victim or orders them around is abuse.
  14. Denial — This would include denying or justifying bad behavior.
  15. Abusive anger — This occurs when there is any form of yelling and screaming, particularly out of context. Even saying “shut up” is abuse.

Something the article doesn’t mention is when someone is repeatedly and purposefully goading or prodding you about a sensitive topic — I’ve experienced this with politics, my weight and productivity. It’s not funny, and if someone knows it will upset you, that’s abusive.

If you feel like you always are walking on egg shells or you’re constantly being humiliated, you may be experiencing verbal abuse. Again, it’s never OK or normal.

My friend who was verbally abused by her boyfriend, said this:

“My boyfriend never appreciated anything I did. I was constantly walking on eggshells and would have to assess his mood all the time. If I knew he was angry, I’d try to suck up to him, saying nice things to him, complimenting him and doing things I knew would make him happy. But he was rarely happy. He blamed me for anything and everything. Luckily, I left him and haven’t looked back but some women aren’t that lucky.”

Constant abuse can lead to an anxiety disorder and depression. An abuser may try to isolate you from friends as well, making it harder to reach out about the abuser.

If you are being abused, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or visit www.ndvh.org

You are not alone. Help is always available.

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