Verbal abuse can be as emotionally disturbing as physical abuse. Unlike physical abuse, verbal abuse does not give rise to bruises, broken limbs or black eyes. Instead, it often gives rise to anxiety, fear, despair, depression or a compulsive disorder.
Because verbal abuse does not leave easily recognizable physical marks, it can be hard for others to know that it is going on. What’s more, verbal abusers often carry out the abuse behind closed doors. Furthermore, they tend to be charming or highly respected individuals from whom others would never expect this kind of behavior.
Because verbal abuse sufferers don’t have any clear proof of the abuse, they often are afraid to confide in others . They may doubt that others will believe them. Some even wonder whether what is going on is a kind of abuse. They think that there may be something wrong with them and not the abuser.
The simplest way to stop verbal abuse is to remove yourself from the abusive situation completely . But, this requires being in a position to recognize the abuse and even when the behavior has been identified, external factors (e.g., a life-threatening disease, financial matters, small children, etc.) may make it difficult to leave.
If you can’t leave, how do you respond to the abuse? Here are some steps to take to help you cope with verbal abuse :
1) Recognize the abuse
The first step is to recognize that you are in an abusive relationship. Verbal abuse can take many different forms. The most noticeable include name calling (e.g., “bitch”, “cunt”, “asshole,” etc.) and extreme anger outbursts (e.g., yelling or harsh sneering).
Harder-to-identify forms of verbal abuse include mocking, belittling, ridiculing, evading questions, sarcasm, confusion, inappropriate silence and inappropriate criticisms and attacks. What characterizes all forms of verbal abuse is that words, or the lack thereof, are used to control the other person in a way that harms them emotionally. If you are not sure if you are in a verbally abusive relationship, chances are that you are. If your partner’s words (or lack thereof) constantly hurt you, you are most likely in a verbally abusive relationship. If you consistently feel confused by your partner’s remarks, you are most likely in a verbally abusive relationship.
2) React to the abuse
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