Verbal abuse (also known as reviling or "verbal bullying") is described as a negative defining statement told to the victim or about the victim, or by withholding any response, thereby defining the target as non-existent. If the abuser does not immediately apologize and retract the defining statement, the relationship may be a verbally abusive one.
In schools and in everyday life, a person may indulge in verbal abuse—bullying (which often has a physical component)—to gain status as superior to the person targeted and to bond with others against the target. Generally the bully knows no other way to connect emotionally with others.
In couple relationships, the verbal abuser responds to the partner's "separateness", i.e., independent thoughts, views, desires, feelings, expressions (even of happiness) as an irritant or even an attack. While some people believe the abuser has low self-esteem and so attempts to place their victim in a similar position, i.e., to believe negative things about themselves, this is not usually the case in couple relationships. One partner may, for example, disparage the other simply because that one partner has qualities that were disparaged, e.g., emotional intelligence, warmth, receptivity, and so forth.
Anyone can experience verbal abuse. Typically, in couple or family relationships, verbal abuse increases in intensity and frequency over time. After exposure to verbal abuse, victims may develop clinical depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. The person targeted by verbal abuse over time may succumb to any stress-related illness. Verbal abuse creates emotional pain and mental anguish in its target.
Despite being the most common form of abuse, verbal abuse is generally not taken as seriously as other types because there is no visible proof, and the abuser may have a "perfect" personality around others. In reality, however, verbal abuse can be as detrimental to a person's health as physical abuse. If a person is verbally abused from childhood on, he or she may develop psychological disorders that plague them into and throughout adulthood.
Verbal abuse includes the following:
- abusive anger
- accusing and blaming
- blocking and diverting
- chronic forgetting
- denial of anger or abuse
- judging and criticizing
- minimisation, discounting, trivializing
- name calling
- also age discrimination can be considered a form of verbal abuse.
- The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Patricia Evans. Adams Media Corp 1992, 1996, 2010
- Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You, Patricia Evans pg. 191. 2002 by Adams Media Corp
- Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You, Patricia Evans, Adams Media Corp 2002
- When Words Are Used As Weapons: Verbal Abuse, University of Nebraska, Lincoln Extension