Maybe you are reading this article because you are tired of being mistreated by your partner, who seems to go out of his way to leave you feeling angry, frightened, humiliated or depressed. If this is the case, then this article is intended for you. If you are a family member or a friend of the concerned party, this article will require brutal honesty about their situation, for what follows is intended for you as well.

  • When being in love means putting up with his relentless name-calling, you are involved with the verbally abusive man.
  • When most of your comments are edited, in fear of how he might respond, you are involved with the verbally abusive man.
  • When you excuse his erratic temper, permit his put-downs, or endure his version of the “silent treatment”, you are involved with the verbally abusive man.
  • When you believe that you can work with him to somehow change his behavior with the hope that he will treat you with respect, you are involved with the verbally abusive man.
  • When you have come to believe that you are truly all of the terrible things he has called you, including ugly, fat, selfish or stupid, you are involved with the verbally abusive man.
  • And when his name-calling has caused you to risk your emotional and physical health, or you have come to hate yourself, then you are absolutely involved with the verbally abusive man.

Before continuing further, let me state clearly that the act of verbal abuse is not confined to the males, as quite the opposite is true. In actuality anyone is capable of verbally abusing another, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or for that matter, the nature of the shared relationship. This means that a husband can verbally abuse his wife, a girlfriend can verbally abuse her boyfriend, or a significant other can verbally abuse his or her partner. It is perhaps for this reason alone that I consider the act of verbal abuse to be an equal opportunity destroyer – a destroyer of self-esteem, of inner happiness and most important, of ones own sense of self. Sadly however, women in particular seem to have born the brunt of this insidious form of mistreatment, most commonly at the hands of their male partners. This is in large part due to long lasting, albeit misguided societal norms that have relegated women into unfair subservient roles, which have allowed men to act out harmfully. And while times are changing, the issue continues to be lopsided.

Abuse in the prism of personal relationships can be a terrifying word. It whips up mental images of someone physically harming their defenseless victim in order to inflict maximum harm. In fact when heard in this context, we decisively shun it, turning our attention elsewhere and believe that, “It couldn’t possibly be happening to me.” But if you are truly honest about your situation – honest about the names you have been called, honest about the cruel way he treats you, then the word abuse will take on a whole new meaning.

After a period of time, persons involved with the verbally abusive man go on to develop a serious condition, which I have termed, “Verbal Abuse Syndrome”. Regardless of the nuances of their specific relational stories or whether their time spent with the loved one was long, short or ongoing, these victims share one common bond. Verbal abuse syndrome does not mean having a mental defect, or having a life threatening illness, or being infected with some viral microbe. It means, in reality, that being verbally abused over the course of time eventually begins to emotionally wear a person down, progressing to the point that the victim ultimately loses their self-esteem. It means that the person actually begins to believe that something is truly flawed with their individual character and that they are all of the horrible things that they have been called. It means living in total fear and acquiescing to a harmful partner’s’ brutal behavior. Finally, it means living with immense guilt and hates oneself.

So how do you know if you are suffering from verbal abuse syndrome? Consider the following twelve characteristics and compare them to your own situation.

  1. Due to constant verbal abuse directed at you by a partner, you typically suffer from critically low self-esteem and increasingly second guess yourself.
  2. Because you have tied happiness to him, you are afraid that he might leave you, causing you conform to his requests and act in ways that he desires.
  3. Often, the derogatory words being directed at you are accompanied by other co-abusive behaviors, including emotional neglect, humiliation or violent actions. This often leaves you feeling lonely and isolated.
  4. You edit your words and actions, fearing the possibility of present and/or future abuse.
  5. Because you have been repeatedly called belittling names labels such as ugly, fat, stupid, dirty bitch or other labels, you begin to believe that perhaps, you truly are.
  6. Because he becomes upset whenever you spend time with friends or family, you have isolated yourself and emotionally withdrawn from people who were once important to you.
  7. In an attempt to deal with the suffering you are going through, you may use food, alcohol, drugs or other substances to medicate the pain.
  8. Feeling as if you are under a constant state of stress, you may experience unexplained back pain. You may also suffer from gastrointestinal problems, including acid reflux disorder, constipation, diarrhea, or general stomach upset.
  9. You have lost interest in things that once held importance in your life.
  10. You attempt to become his counselor or therapist.
  11. Because you are unable to control his behaviors, you attempt to control others, resulting in angry responses.
  12. Typically, you are physically drained, sometimes finding it difficult to carry out the normal actives of daily living.

Should the traits and characteristics listed above speak to your own personal situation, then it may be time for help. There are many resources to aid victims of abuse cope with their feelings and emotions. Some of these include the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Other resources include therapists trained in the issue of verbal abuse or other similar professionals. What is important is that you start to reach out and begin to repair the damage that has been inflicted upon you. Keep in mind that verbal abuse does not exist in a vacuum, meaning there are usually other behaviors that accompany the angry words and actions being directed at you. Some of these behaviors include physical abuse and outright violence. Other behaviors may include alcoholism or drug abuse. Be sure to share this with the person you are working with so that they understand your entire situation. Like I tell my clients, when you reach out, you are really reaching in.