Effects of Verbal Abuse on Children, Women and Men
The effects of verbal abuse on children, women and men follow the same general principle: verbal abuse causes people to feel fear. However, victims may deny or not recognize their anxiety and feelings of wanting to get away as fear of the abuser.
When the victim feels kindness or love from the abuser, they know that it is short-lived and abuse will reoccur. Victims live in a constant state of hyper-awareness, watching for clues of impending abuse. Victims can't trust the smile of someone they love, and that is a very big deal.
Effects of Verbal and Emotional Abuse
The effects of verbal abuse and emotional abuse intertwine because verbally abusive statements play on the victim's emotions. For example, the simple statement, "You're just looking for a fight!" tells the victim what he's doing and thinking, accuses the victim of attacking the abuser, and diverts the topic to a new problem (avoiding a fight).3
Emotionally, the victim feels misunderstood, unimportant, and afraid of what may happen if he presses the issue. Is this how we want our loved ones to feel?
Effects of Verbal Abuse On Women and Men
The effects of verbal abuse on women and men range from confusion to symptoms of, or the development of, mental disorders. There is substantially more research studies concerning female victims of verbal abuse, but even so, there are commonalities among victims in general. Patricia Evans writes that victims of verbal abuse may:
- Have difficulty forming conclusions and making decisions
- Feel or accept that there is something wrong with them on a basic level (selfish, too sensitive, "crazy", etc.)
- Analyze and relive abusive experiences to see where they made mistakes
- Doubt their ability to communicate
- Experience self-doubt, low self-confidence, and lose spontaneity and/or enthusiasm
- Believe and say things like "Everything will be better when the baby is born," or "Everything will improve after she finds a job."
Long-Term Effects of Verbal Abuse
A study of physical health consequences of physical and psychological abuse concludes:
Verbal abuse is strongly associated with chronic pain, migraine and frequent headaches, stammering, ulcers, spastic colon, and frequent indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation along with many stress-related heart conditions.2
The psychological effects of verbal abuse include:
fear and anxiety, depression, stress and PTSD, intrusive memories, memory gap disorders, sleep or eating problems, hyper-vigilance and exaggerated startle responses, irritability, anger issues, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, self-mutilation, and assaultive behaviors.
Although more research is needed, men seem to suffer from the same problems in the long term.3
Effects of Verbal Abuse on Children
The effects of verbal abuse on children ages 18 and under include substance abuse (more prevalent in males)4, physical aggression, delinquency, and social problems. The more verbally aggressive the parent, the more pronounced the problem, and the relationship between these problems and verbal aggression does not depend on the child's age, sex, or economic status. Parents who tell their children that they are dumb, bad, etc., raise children who think they are dumb or bad and act as such.5 (See also: Effects of Domestic Violence, Domestic Abuse On women and Children.)
Last Updated: 26 May 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD