Verbal Abuse Causes Anxiety, Mental Health Problems–an Overlooked Connection, Study Says

September 4, 2019 Updated: September 5, 2019

Verbal abuse can impact child development and has also been linked to both depression and anxiety. It can have severe effects on how the victim perceives their self-worth. Plus, the impacts of verbal and emotional abuse are not always apparent to someone who’s in an abusive relationship.

According to a Florida State University study, people who were abused as children grew up to be more self-critical than other adults. It was shown that they had 1.6 percent more symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to Science Daily. They were twice as likely to exhibit a mood or anxiety disorder during the course of their lives.

The study is significant because it marks a clear path for treatment.

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“We must try to educate parents about the long-term effects of verbal abuse on their children,” said psychology professor Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, the study’s lead author. “The old saying about sticks and stones was wrong. Names will forever hurt you.”

Additionally, verbal abuse has been associated with other disorders such as PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and eating disorders, as well as mental behavior such as low self-esteem, overthinking, and indecisiveness, as per Healthy Food House.

Even if verbal abuse can sometimes escalate, it’s often a lot more insidious and harder to spot than one might expect. Many victims don’t even realize that they are in an abusive situation, because they tend to blame themselves rather than look at the actual cause for their feelings of distress.

Fortunately, there are several red flags to help identify if someone is an abuser.

1. They set you up to fail

Emotionally abusive individuals will often make unreasonable requests and expect their partners to set aside anything else that may be important to them. It might seem like they are impossible ever to please, regardless of how much effort the victim puts in. They will demand unrealistically high standards on any task only to use it as an opportunity to put you down for not reaching those goals.

2. They will manipulate you into thinking you’re to blame for everything

The term for this is “gaslighting,” and it means the abuser will often turn everything on their victim and manipulate them into thinking they are wrong. This can cause the person to question their own perception of events and even their ability to think for themselves.

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3. They make you feel worthless and incapable

A key aspect of an emotionally abusive person is that they will often belittle and minimize their victims’ wants and needs. If you try and express your feelings to one, they will ask uncomfortable questions over and over again and nitpick everything you say before entirely dismissing your point. They will also reject any ideas or requests you might have and call them silly and not worthy of their attention.

4. You will never know when their next angry outburst will happen

An emotionally abusive person is often unpredictable. The victim might find themselves constantly adjusting their behavior so as not to upset the other party. And often, their mood swings and outbursts are so erratic and impossible to predict that you may start second-guessing everything you say or do out of fear of retaliation.

Illustration – Shutterstock | fizkes

5. They treat you like you’re inferior to them

Addressing the victim as inferior is all part of the abuser’s way to feel dominant and superior. Most of the time, they do it subtly. They may make jokes at your expense in public and call you names. They can even jest with your friends and family about how incapable you are and publicly or privately dismiss anything you say as stupid. In turn, they act as if they are never wrong in their actions or words.

Illustration – Shutterstock | fizkes

The first step in dealing with emotional and verbal abuse is recognizing that you are in that situation in the first place. If you or anyone you know are in an abusive situation, then it’s important to seek help from a professional. Also, speak to friends and family members that you trust to create a good support network.

No human being is undeserving of respect or deserves to be abused by someone else’s actions or words. Recognizing the signs of emotional and verbal abuse is a valuable way to raise awareness on the issue. Sometimes the deepest wounds are the ones you cannot see.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. 

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