Signs Your Best Friend Is Verbally Abusive

December 19, 2017 Emily J. Sullivan

Do you suspect that your best friend is verbally abusive? What are the signs that you're in a verbally abusive friendship? Find out all you need to know here.

Are you concerned that your best friend is verbally abusive? Many of us have had friendships with a certain person that leaves us feeling drained, continually frustrated, or wondering why our friend did that hurtful thing again – if these are thoughts that you’ve been having, it may be time to consider the signs that your best friend is verbally abusive. Verbal abuse is often thought to be most common in romantic or familial relationships, but those are not the only relationships rampant with verbal abuse; platonic friendships are just as open to the potential for verbal abuse -- here are the signs that your best friend is verbally abusive.

Signs Friends Are Verbally Abusive

  1. They are condescending to you. They talk down to you, treat you like you’re a child, or like you’re a mess. If they suggest verbally or through implication that you need them or would be lost without their guidance, this is a sign they are emotionally and verbally abusive.
  2. They try to humiliate you in front of other people. If your best friend is always airing out your dirty laundry, telling others about your most embarrassing or shameful moments, or calling you out on private things in front of others, this is a glaring sign your friend is verbally abusive.
  3. They call you names and give you unflattering labels and stereotypes. They insist you have poor traits and flaws, make jokes about your insecurities, and often say really hurtful things to you with a laughing or joking tone so it doesn’t overtly seem like they are being verbally abusive when, of course, they really are.
  4. They attempt to alienate you from other friends and especially romantic partners. They routinely point out things that they don’t like about the other people in your life, they often try to make other people in your life seem stupid or worthless and they consistently suggest that your other friends or romantic interests are mistreating you. They especially find ways to complain about anyone you're dating in their attempts to isolate you from others.
  5. They make a point of trying to dim your shine. They put down your accomplishments and most commonly complimented attributes. They do and say things that feel competitive in a way that doesn't seem to make sense.
  6. They say things like, “I will always be straight with you,” or “At least you can always trust me to be honest with you.” They say these things to suggest that their verbally abusive behavior is something you should be grateful for because everyone that isn’t saying and doing hurtful things must just be insincere or phony.
  7. They try to control you and boss you around. When you are spending time with other people, often people they vocally dislike, or doing things they have explicitly denounced, they get extremely irritable with you and even threaten to cut you off or just give you the silent treatment altogether.
  8. They talk badly about other people that they are close to as well, including their other friends, whoever they are dating, their family, or their colleagues. They also speak badly of you to other people. Typically, if your best friend says horrible things about other people they are allegedly very close with, this is a telltale sign that your friend is verbally abusive by nature.

What to Do About a Verbally Abusive Friend

If any of these signs seem strikingly familiar, you may have a verbally abusive best friend on your hands. Verbally abusive relationships are often all-consuming and this can be very true of abusive friendships as well; so it's not unlikely that you and your verbally abusive best friend may feel extremely close, inseparable even. Those feelings make it difficult to end a friendship with a manipulative person.

My advice to you is to identify bad behavior appropriately, as verbal abuse. Once you make that distinction, it will hopefully become easier to distance yourself and set boundaries. Remember, although you may feel like this person is your best friend, if the signs are verbally abusive, the friendship is likely toxic.

See Also:

APA Reference
Sullivan, E. (2017, December 19). Signs Your Best Friend Is Verbally Abusive, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 17 from

Author: Emily J. Sullivan

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March, 6 2019 at 11:55 am

Mrs Sullivan thank you so much! I have finally realised that it’s not just in my head and that I have literal proof that I have a verbally abusive friend ! Every time I meet up with he will always make jokes about I will never find love because of my looks my style my way of speech and constantly breaks me even after a good day. But reading this has helped me so much and for that a MASSIVE thank you ??.

Lizanne Corbit
December, 19 2017 at 11:40 am

This is such an important read! All too often people are in relationships like this with a "best" friend and it's so painful. You bring up very valid points and they are all good warning signs to look for. Friendships are like any other relationship there needs to be balance, love, and support. Not strings attached and put-downs around every turn. Thanks for sharing.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 22 2018 at 4:28 am

Lizanne, Thanks so much for reading and for your comment! I agree this is an important topic to discuss because so often we focus on abusive romantic relationships but many of us are involved in all kinds of abusive relationships and don't even realize it. Thanks again, Emily

Cindy Hassel
December, 19 2017 at 8:12 am

Very good read. Used to have a friend just like that. Not anymore! Too poisonous a relationship.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 22 2018 at 4:26 am

Thanks for reading Cindy! Yes, I think we've all experienced this at one point in our lives. I'm so glad you cut ties. Thanks again. -Emily

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