Definition of Verbal Abuse

Written by jonathan d'auria | 13/05/2017
Definition of Verbal Abuse
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Abuse occurs in many different forms and can be projected differently from one person to another. The most recognised form of abuse is physical; however, sexual, child and spousal are all common forms of abuse. Though the aforementioned methods may be seen as more malicious and physically harmful, the repercussions and personal damage caused by verbal abuse can be just as devastating.


Definition of Verbal Abuse

Though there are many definitions of verbal abuse, the sames types of words are typically used to describe the act. According to U.S. Legal Definitions site, the definition is: "Verbal abuse is the use of words to cause harm to the person being spoken to. It is difficult to define and may take many forms. Similarly, the harm caused is often difficult to measure. The most commonly understood form is name-calling. Verbal abuse may consist of shouting, insulting, intimidating, threatening, shaming, demeaning, or derogatory language, among other forms of communication."

Types of Verbal Abuse

While verbal abuse is primarily perceived as oral profanity towards another person, it can also exist in written form. While profanity seems to be the most common trigger of verbal abuse, there are other mechanisms that can be classified as verbal abuse. Sarcasm, racism, sexism, belittling and more so undesired attacks are all included in the scope of verbal abuse. Verbal abuse can take place in any relationship – boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, coworkers, schoolmates, friends, enemies or even randomly encountered people. Verbal abuse can take place anywhere at anytime between two or more people.


Long term effects of verbal abuse can lead to inferiority complexes, loss of personal identity, damaged self-esteem, stress, depression and anxiety. Moreover, verbal abuse can sometimes escalate to physical abuse. If someone is a victim of verbal abuse, they should immediately seek help and seek out counselling or psychological assistance to counteract the effects of the abuse.


The causes of verbal abuse are varied and are thought to either be the process of transference, which is when one person projects feelings of anger, inadequacy, fear and complacency on to another person, or insecurity. This is most prevalent in relationships, when mistrust and doubt plague the situation, causing one person in the couple to lash out at the other.

Get Help

Verbal abuse is a serious issue, therefore there are a number of resources in place to help those affected by it. You can go online to search for resources at Websites like You might also consider reading books on the subject and/or contacting your local domestic violence shelter for additional information. Verbal abuse should never be tolerated and help should always be sought once the situation gets out of hand.


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