Effects of verbal abuse

Updated April 17, 2017

Verbal abuse is more than spoken negative words. Verbal abuse can be communicated with or without words in sarcasm, body gestures, tone, ignoring, rolling the eyes, laughing and teasing. The effects of verbal abuse can be experienced physically, behaviorally and emotionally. Without identifying verbal abuse, addressing it and seeking treatment, victims may experience lifelong scars and symptoms. Two common traits of verbal abusers is the brainwashing of their victims and the need to control them. Victims are brainwashed to believe everything the abuser tells them, and the abuser becomes controlling to the point of secluding the victim from friends and family.

Behavioural Effects

Verbal abuse has unlimited, damaging effects that may be experienced throughout life without treatment. Symptoms of behavioural effects of verbal abuse include the following and may be experienced by all ages: difficulty sleeping, profound and inappropriate sucking, biting, rocking, bed-wetting, exaggerated immature behaviour, low self-esteem, excessive moodiness, aggressiveness, overacting, shyness or being withdrawn, sadness and depression, lack of trust in oneself and others, lying, stealing, engaging in sex and/or prostitution, and suicide.

Physical Effects

The age that verbal abuse began will often determine the extent of the physical effects suffered by the victim. Some of the first physical symptoms experienced in young children who are verbally abused may be a slower physical development and speech problems. As verbally abused children grow older, they may develop facial tics and go through periods of hurting themselves. Again, the age will determine the type of personal harm inflicted. Small children often bite themselves; older children may use pencils or pens to inflict harm, and if items that could be used to cut or burn themselves are readily available, older children may use these as well. Pre-teens through adults can develop eating disorders, abuse drugs and alcohol and even commit suicide.

Emotional Effects

The emotional effects of verbal abuse are the deep-seated feelings of low self-worth and insignificance. Victims can feel undeserving, fearful and unlovable. They also might lack of confidence and faith. The emotional effects can be as painful and difficult to overcome as any of the physical or behavioural effects.

Seek Help

People who experience or witness verbal abuse can offer help by talking to the victim in the absence of the abuser. Most abusers if approached will deny any forms of verbal abuse and make claims that no one cares for the victim more than they do. The few that acknowledge their participation in verbal abuse typically make concerted efforts to avoid future verbal abuse; however, it is very short lived. In most instances, the help of a professional counsellor can be most beneficial to victims of verbal abuse.

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About the Author

Patricia Hill is a freelance writer who contributes to several websites and organizations, including various private sectors. She also contributes to the online magazine, Empowered by a need to reveal that unhealthy food and diet is a source of health-related issues, Hill is currently working on a cookbook and website for individuals with Crohn's disease.