Verbal Abuse Signs and Symptoms

By: Alexandra Eva-May

If you're reading this, you're probably a lot like I was during the hard times. Feeling depressed, like you're going crazy, like you're walking on egg-shells, absolutely alone and like there is something wrong with you. You may be wondering daily what is going on and if it will ever get better.

I am here to tell you that you aren't crazy, you aren't alone and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

I wish I had researched this information prior to my decent into emotional hell. It would have been nice to know what was going on at the time. Since our split, it has been very comforting to read the research and realize that I experienced many episodes of manipulation and verbal abuse. One of the best books I read on the topic was "The Verbally Abusive Relationship," by Patricia Evans. It provided a lot of clarity that verbal abuse can be a lot more subtle than you may think.

Verbal abuse is a tricky thing to explain to others, who have not experienced it, as there are no physical bruises or scars; however, I know through my experience, that I have deep invisible wounds that will take a long time to fully heal.

Verbal abuse doesn't always turn into physical abuse; however, almost every physical abuse survivor has indicated that they first experienced verbal abuse before it became physical.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or signs (as explained in Patricia Evan's book, "The Verbally Abusive Relationship"), it's very important to re-evaluate your relationship and decide what you want for your life. You are 100% deserving of the life you dream of.

15 types of Verbal Abuse:

1. Withholding

Withholding is when a partner does not share information, thoughts or feelings. Someone who withholds does not allow his or her partner to have a healthy relationship.  

2. Countering

Countering is when a partner is constantly argumentative. For example, a partner may share their positive feelings about a restaurant, and the abuser will tell them how they are wrong somehow. Countering is when an abuser dismisses the victim’s thoughts, beliefs, experienced and feelings on a regular basis.

3. Discounting

Discounting is when an abuser denies the victim his or her thoughts or feelings.  If you've heard any of the following statements on a regular basis, you have been discounted:

  • "you're too sensitive"
  • "you're childish"
  • "you have no sense of humour"
  • "you make a big deal out of nothing"

The abuser denies the victim their reality, indirectly telling a partner that how they feel and what they think is wrong. Making the victim feel like something may be wrong with them.

4. Verbal abuse disguised as jokes

When an abuser says something that upsets the victim. Often a joke or comment at the victims expense. Instead of apologizing, the abuser will say something along the lines of, “It was just a joke!” Jokes that hurt are not funny, they are abusive.

5. Blocking and diverting

Blocking and diverting is when the abuser decides which topics are "good" conversation topics. An abuser practicing this form of abuse may tell the victim that she is talking out of turn, complaining too much, or doesn't know what he or she is talking about.

6. Accusing and blaming

The abuser will accuse the victim of things that are outside of his or her control. He or she might accuse a partner of preventing them from getting a promotion because the partner is overweight, or ruining his or her reputation because the partner dropped out of college.

7. Judging and criticizing

Judging and criticizing is a negative evaluation of the partner. As Evans points out, “Most ‘you’ statements are judgmental, critical, and abusive.” Some abusive judging and criticizing “you” statements are: “You are never satisfied"; “You always find something to be upset about”; and “No one likes you because you are so negative."

8. Trivializing

Trivializing is when the abuser makes the victim feel that what they do is insignificant. The abuser might undermine his or her work, his or her activities and hobbies, style of dressing, or choice of food.

9. Undermining

This is when the abuser undermines everything the victim says or suggest. This can make the victim question himself or herself and his or her opinions and interests.

10. Threatening

Threatening is a common form of verbal abuse and can be very explicit, such as, “If you don’t start doing what I say, I will leave you.” Or it can be more subtle, such as, “If you don’t follow my advice, others will find out that you are a very unreliable person.”

11. Name calling

Name calling can be explicit or subtle. Explicit name-calling can be when the abuser calls the victims names such as “bitch,” or "slut," or any other hurtful words. The more subtle kind is when the abuser says hurtful comments to make the victim feel small, such as “You are such a victim,” or “You think you are so precious, don’t you?”

12. Forgetting

The category of forgetting covers a range of issues ranging from forgetting a promise to forgetting a date or an appointment.

13. Ordering

This is when the abuser orders or demands the victim do something. For example, an abuser my order a victim "to have dinner on the table every night," or "to not wear that outfit." This is one of the most controlling types of verbal abuse.

14. Denial

Denial is abusive when it consists of denying one's bad behavior and failing to realize the consequences of this behavior. An abuser will always try to find a way to justify and rationalize his behavior. This is a way of denying that he has done anything wrong.

15. Abusive anger

Any form of yelling and screaming, particularly out of context. Even yelling “Shut up!” is abusive.


Some Effects Verbal Abuse can have on a Victim:

  • eroded self-esteem
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • a feeling of "walking on egg-shells"
  • self-doubt
  • wondering if "there is something wrong with me"
  • Decreased cognitive function. It has been discovered that abusive relationships can affect memory, conversation skills and other cognitive functions in the brain.
  • Self-imposed isolation
  • Stomach pains and other physical ailment

Remember, you are worthy of a happy, healthy, joyful life. You can change your path. The future can be anything you want. I wish you only peace and happiness on your journey.

If you click on the image below, it will bring you to more information about Patricia Evan's book, if you are interested to learn more about the topic.


Evans, Patricia (2009). The Verbally Abusive Relationship (pp. 84-85). Adams Media. Kindle Edition.

Founder of the site Divorced at 30, Alexandra is a blogger who is passionate about speaking her truth. She is on a healing journey as she enters this new chapter in her life. A mental health advocate, she is passionate about motivating others to find “the light” and attain peace.