Early Warning Signs of Verbal Abuse

November 14, 2017 Emma-Marie Smith

Think you spot the warning signs of verbal abuse in your relationship? Here are the early warning signs of verbal abuse that most people miss.

Think you've spotted the early warning signs of verbal abuse in your relationship? If so, you're not alone. I was in a volatile, abusive partnership for two years before I identified the signs, and by then the damage was already done. Like me, you probably know that any form of emotional abuse is insidious and highly destructive. You understand that this kind of psychological trauma can lead to depression, self-harm and even physical violence in a relationship. Unlike me, however, perhaps you can spot the warning signs of verbal abuse early on and put an end to the vicious cycle.

What Are the Early Warning Signs of Verbal Abuse in a Relationship?

The early warning signs of verbal abuse in a relationship include:

  • Controlling behavior disguised as concern: For example, your partner may try to stop you going out with friends by claiming he is worried about your safety (Verbal Abuse Disguised as Love).
  • Fast involvement: You and your partner moved in together or got engaged early on in the relationship.
  • Unrealistic expectations: He has high expectations that you fail to meet every time, giving him plenty of opportunities to chastise you.
  • Controlling times/dates: Your partner asserts his control by determining when you see each other, where you go on dates or how often you spend the night.
  • Trying to isolate you: Your partner tries to isolate you from friends and family by dropping subtle hints that spending time with them is bad for you.
  • Blaming others: He will blame other people for all his problems and shortcomings and treat them like obstacles to his success. Over time, he will shift almost all of this blame onto you.
  • Using feelings to manipulate you: He uses gaslighting and manipulation to get what he wants. For example, he might say:"When you don't do what I want, you make me feel unloved," or "you're hurting me by not meeting my needs."
  • Easily insulted: Perversely, abusers are easily insulted and highly paranoid, perceiving the slightest setback as a personal attack.
  • Invading your privacy: Invading your privacy is another way for your partner to exercise control over you. He may disrespect your boundaries by reading private messages without your permission or not letting you lock the door when you shower.
  • Correcting your behavior: Make no mistake, if you do something/don't do something that's not in line with his standards, he will correct you and make sure you feel bad about it.
  • Sarcasm or teasing: He may resort to sarcasm or "teasing" to put you down, either when you're alone or in front of others. When you tell him he's hurt your feelings, he will tell you he was joking, and that you're "too sensitive."
  • "You're too sensitive": Your partner will accuse you of being too sensitive time and time again to deflect his abuse.

Why Don't People Spot the Early Warning Signs of Verbal Abuse?

The early warning signs of verbal abuse are difficult to spot, mainly because neither the abuser nor the victim is fully aware of what's happening. The abused person (let's assume she is female and her abuser is male for the sake of this article) doesn't see the behavior as abusive -- not because she lacks intelligence or self-respect, but because her brain has developed coping mechanisms like denial and minimizing to help her deal with the stress.

Sadly, however much an abused person suppresses her emotional trauma, verbal abuse can still lead to posttraumatic stress disorder, long-term anxiety and depression.

A Warning: Identifying the Signs of Verbal Abuse Early On Will Save You Future Pain.

When I first starting learning about emotional abuse, the information I found sent chills down my spine. The authors of these articles were describing the exact relationship I had been in for the past two years. Finally, there were answers to the questions that kept me up at night: why was I so dissociated from myself? Why had I let somebody treat me this way for so long? How can I ever recover from having my heart and soul systematically and repeatedly broken?

The fact that millions of people out there had asked themselves those same questions was a source of comfort for me, even in retrospect. However, by spotting the warning signs of verbal abuse early on, perhaps others can lessen their abusers hold over them and minimize the insidious effects of verbal and psychological abuse.

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2017, November 14). Early Warning Signs of Verbal Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Emma-Marie Smith

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Ariana Mansour
February, 11 2018 at 8:09 am

Thank you for writing this, this article really resonated with me. I wish I had known the signs earlier. I have left an abusive relationship where I never felt fully myself. But I turned the experience into something positive by taking control and writing a book about it. I called it what I truly feel: He Never Deserved Me!

December, 15 2017 at 3:16 am

I agree this is a great a survivor my self emotional/verbal abuse is horrid...straight from nightmare of elm street lol is horrible and I don't wish it on any one....I wish you all peace happiness and freedom :)

November, 30 2017 at 4:50 pm

A good article. All of these things are early warning signs. Part of reason I think people don't recognize them is because we trust their professions of love. We don't expect someone who claims to love us will treat us badly. By the time we wake up, our hearts are invested. That makes it harder to get away. We make excuses for abusive behavior, and the abuser IS often "good" to us. If they were abusive all the time it would be easier to see it and leave.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 2 2018 at 6:57 pm

Yes. You are so right. My husband has so many good qualities. But he is narcissistic, controlling, know it all, condescending and will bite my head off in an instant if I say anything he doesn’t want to hear. We’ve been married 25 years and I walk on egg shells daily.

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