15 Ways to Recognize Verbal Abuse

Verbal abusers are like this purple flowering vine called Wisteria. Pretty right?



Well guess what this plant does to the tree it climbs? It squeezes it, ever so slightly. A little tug here. A little crush there. It squeezes so tight that eventually the trunk ceases to exist and the tree withers and dies. 

Sound familiar?


What are the consequences of verbal abuse?

“Sticks and Stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me.” Unless I’m constantly berated with self-esteem shattering diatribes.

That’s what verbal abuse does. It aims to kill a person’s self-worth. Abusers will often use words and actions to diminish their victims sense of self. And as can be expected, the effects can significantly affect self-esteem and alter life choices. For example, I was fat shamed for a lot of my dancing career. As a result, I quit way to soon and developed a mild case of anorexia. 

The problem is, verbal abuse is so slight. We often don’t see it until its already sunk its teeth into out shattered self-esteems. But good news! I complied a list of 15 signs that you can catch right now before the verbal abuse affects any more of your life!


15 Signs of Verbal Abuse

  1. Diminishes your accomplishments

This can either be overt or slight, both often overlooked but still poisonous. Common formats include, “Yeah but” statements- such as “Yeah you found a great job but the reason you found it was because you got fired first”- or responding to the great news with “so?” “who cares?” or even silence.


2. Belittling

Belittling is something I could spend hours talking about. The definition of belittling is simple: to make someone seem unimportant. It’s the most rampant form of verbal abuse and for some reason, society not only allows it but encourages it.

One example of belittling is using ‘jokes’ to shame you in public. For some reason, people think that adding humor or the phrase, “just kidding” automatically allows them to blatantly hurt someone. As if cruel things said in a light tone don’t hurt.

But they do. And its not ok.


3. Simple decisions become hard to make

What kind of food to eat is an easy question to answer, right?

It should be. If it’s not, then that should be a red flag. If a simple question such as what to eat or what tv show to watch suddenly spins you into a vortex of anxiety, that’s a sign something’s not right.

It’s a common consequence of having someone constantly or blatantly degrade your choices. If you have someone repeatedly reminding you of your insignificance, your ability to form your own opinions will vanish.


4. You don’t feel like you can express your feelings without judgement or creating waves of anger

Even if your partner doesn’t agree with you, you still should be able to voice your opinions and feelings. You should feel safe, even encouraged to say how you feel.

5. Your partner always has to ‘win’ disagreements

There are no right answers in relationships. If someone has to always be right, that’s a red flag.

6. Does not validate your feelings

Your feelings matter and your partner should make you feel that way.

7. Partner uses guilt trips 

What is a guilt trip? Here are some examples: “you don’t like what I made you for dinner?” “if you really love me you would (fill in the blank).”

There are much healthier ways to come to conclusions in relationships.

8. Partner is overly critical and nit picks

You do a lot of things well. You’re actually pretty amazing. You need to find someone who can see that too.

9. You feel like you have to constantly walk on Eggshells

Life is stressful enough without having to worrying about “setting someone off.”

10. Your partner switches between two extreme personalities

Dr. Jackel and Mr. Hyde syndrome. Sometimes you get a glimpse of the charming person you fell in love with but its erratic and unpredictable. And not fun.

11. Your partner controls who you hang out with and how you spend your time

You get to choose your life. Sure relationships need compromises but he should never be one sided, with you losing control of your own life.

12. Withholding feelings or thoughts.

Stonewalling, storming off, the silent treatment. They are all ways to hoard power and all unhealthy in relationships.

13. Staying angry at you without explaining or allowing you to fix the problem

Surprisingly, anger is another way to keep power over someone. Its sometimes a natural response, but we always need to allow others a chance to repent and forgive.

14. Blocking and diverting the conversation if it’s an uncomfortable topic- therefore manipulating the conversation

Hard conversations need to be had. Especially if its about how someone feels.

15. Trivializing how you feel. Like what you do is small and insignificant

If you have a problem that’s affecting your life, your partner should never downplay how challenging the problem is to you.


What to do if you’re being verbally abused

So now that you know the signs, here are some ways to fix the situation.

  1. Believe yourself, not the abuser
  2. Get support from a counselor or therapist
  3. Take yourself physically out of the situation
  4. Focus on building up your self-esteem by doing something you love or setting and achieving small, attainable goals.
  5. Check out my support resources page for additional help


Most importantly, remember you are valuable to society. You are incredible and no matter what anyone tells you, you do not deserve to feel like crap.



  • This is exactly how I felt in a past relationship. It got to the point that I’d rehearse what I was gonna say it before I said it because he would insist that I said something different. For example I once told him to ” go fk yourself” and his response was ” go fk myself, me and my daughter, fk my daughter, so you’re calling my daughter a CT”. After that I just stopped speaking at all. There was no winning with him. I’m so glad I got away from him but it took me years to start speaking before I practiced it in my head. He’s a very cruel and evil person and I thank God he’s gone. C

    • Oh man. That’s sounds so hard. It’s amazing what an impact verbal abuse can have on us. I’m so glad you got away. Thank you for sharing your story!

Comments are closed.