There are so many ways someone can manipulate you just by using their words, but you don't realize it's verbal abuse.
Anyone who has suffered and survived abuse is familiar with one harsh truth - words can hurt just as much as the wounds we carry. They start threatening a person's mental health and can lead to anxiety, stress, and other mental conditions that come with trauma. But people don't realize just how much of an effect verbal abuse can have on a person because it's not as apparent and visible as physical abuse. This is a dangerous misconception because it can be just as, and sometimes far more, damaging.
Having to suffer verbal abuse over a long period of time can take a toll on your mental health. While some may experience anger, stress, irritability and intrusive memories, others can suffer from anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), according to Healthy Place. The mental load can translate into physical symptoms as well, where you might experience chronic pain, migraine or frequent headaches, indigestion (including constipation or diarrhea), ulcers, spastic colon, stammering, and heart conditions that arise due to stress. You might also have trouble falling asleep or notice changes in your appetite.
According to Patricia Evans who listed the categories in The Verbally Abusive Relationship, covered by Psychology Today, here's how you can tell if someone is using verbally-abusive tactics against you.
While it may seem like nothing, it can actually be hurtful to constantly be called demeaning names and phrases like "sissy" or "you think you're so great, don't you?". It affects the way you look at yourself and you start believing what they say. For instance, if you had a parent who undermined all your opinions, you grow up believing they're actually not worth voicing out and you keep your thoughts to yourself when you're among friends and family.
They know how to say mean things that can upset you and then say that they were just kidding. But it can be the abuser's way of masking hurtful thoughts behind these "jokes". They try to weaken your self-esteem by making you anxious about yourself, forgetting your strengths and believing all the negativity they say about you.
An abuser will make you blame yourself for things that aren't even your fault. They will even try to accuse you, saying you're the reason for certain things going wrong even if they are actually out of your control. You might have caught them red-handed, doing something they weren't supposed to do. And yet, after the brutal argument, you are the one who ends up apologizing even when you don't feel sorry.
Even when you feel rightfully hurt by something, they will make you think that something is wrong with you and that's why you are feeling that way. They will be cruel with the words they use, judging and criticizing you unnecessarily. They might say things like "you don't have friends because you're always overreacting" or "you are never satisfied with anything". When everything about you is constantly being mocked, including your thoughts, emotions, and opinions, you constantly doubt yourself and that changes your mental stability.
Verbally abusive behavior not only includes the things that they say but also what they don't say. They will rarely share what's on their mind or be open with you. And this stops you both from having a healthy relationship because you can't really tell what the abuser is thinking. You work extra hard in the relationship but get nothing in return. This makes you agitated because nothing you do seems worth it.
When someone is verbally abusive, they will make you think that whatever you have to say or feel has no value. They will make you think that you have no right to feel sad about what they do and will call you "too sensitive" or "childish" when you talk about how you felt after they did something hurtful. Your mind becomes restless and you can't concentrate on anything else because their negativity manages to consume every bit of you.
The abuser will always make you feel like your opinions are worthless. They do this by arguing and making you believe that their point of view is the right one and whatever you say is wrong. This could be anything from the way you make the bed to your opinion on a singer. You start feeling on edge all the time when you're constantly being attacked and it can push you to a nervous breakdown.
The abuser will have a way of making you feel like everything you care about is insignificant or unimportant. If it's a hobby you love, they will make you think it's a waste of time. If there's a dress you really like, they will make you think it's ugly. You start feeling desperate and helpless in the relationship, and that eventually makes you feel tense all the time.
Not only do they want you to feel like the things you do are a waste of time or that your favorite things are ugly, but they also want to make you think that your opinions don't matter at all. Along with trivializing things, they want you to think that your interests or thoughts don't deserve attention. And if it goes for too long, it damages you through self-loathing.
They will want the upper-hand in every conversation. They might cut you off when you start a topic, or divert the topic and talk about what they want. You might eventually start feeling shame for no reason of your own, always feeling like you are never understood.
If they ever made you a promise, it's likely that they don't fulfill it and will tell you they forgot. Whether they really forgot or not, if they keep doing it over and over again, then they don't care enough to put in the effort to do things that are important for you. You start feeling drained because your needs in the relationship are never fulfilled while the abuser manipulates you into always doing what they want you to do.
Even if all the facts are pointing against them, they will deny everything you say that they have done wrong. They will deny having made promises and deny the hurtful actions they have done. They may even try to rationalize everything they do. This can be dangerous because you stop trusting your own sense of reality. For so long, they coerce you into believing what they say and you reach a point where everything they say, even the lies, becomes your reality.
They will find out the people and things that are important to you and use them to threaten you. They might say, "If you don't do this, I'll hurt your family" or "if you don't do as I say, you'll be single forever". You force yourself to learn to live with the negativity, even though you're slowly losing the sense of the person you really are.
An abuser might give you orders, demand you do things you're not comfortable with, or even force you to do what they want by using guilt and abusive language. With time, you start feeling extremely disturbed and paranoid because they get the upper hand in the relationship, making you stay under their control.
Nothing justifies them screaming or yelling at you. When they lose control over their emotions, they shouldn't let their anger turn verbally violent. Their behavior can trigger fear and sadness, making you feel trapped and increasing your anxiety.