Verbal abuse is perhaps the only form of abuse that affects everyone at one point or another in their lives. It is a form of verbal onslaught or manner of negatively defining someone using either words or silence as tools. Verbal abuse can either take the form of loud aggressive outbursts, scathing remarks or passive aggressive comments.

Arman AhmedArman Ahmed has done his MS in Clinical Psychology from Government College University, Lahore. He is also an alumni of Forman Christian College and Aitchison College Lahore. His research work includes experimental studies on concepts of emotion regulation, empathy and threatened egotism. His interests also extend to topics in the sphere of social psychology such as locus of control and superstitions.
Editor: Arman Ahmed

The most common expressions of verbal abuse are seen in the form of derogatory labels used to define someone, calling people by disrespectful names or insulting their thoughts and feelings. Apart from blaming, criticizing, threatening and hurling accusations at someone, verbal abuse can also be disguised as jokes which are meant to humiliate an individual. Those who engage in verbal abuse can block and divert topics in a way that the victim does not get to talk about things that they feel are important. They can discount a victim’s argument and counter it with irrational statements which completely discredit the other person’s opinion. Verbal abuse is most commonly observed between romantic partners, friends and parents. But it can also be witnessed amongst colleagues, distant family relatives, and acquaintances. Even strangers tend to occasionally engage in verbally abusive behaviors.


Verbal abuse can be classified as a subcategory of emotional or psychological abuse. Emotional abuse can also be perpetrated by way of gossiping about victims, talking ill about them behind their backs or using power to have their own way. Emotional abuse can also be non-verbal in nature. Certain gestures such as rolling of the eyes and slamming the door can convey aggression and contempt as well. Verbal or emotional abuse in any shape or form can never be justified. Even if people feels that they are unfairly treated or taken advantage of, it does not give them just cause to resort to verbal abuse, or another forms of abuse for that matter. What is needed is for them to utilize communication skills in a bid to resolve conflicts and steer clear of similar altercations in the future. Non-verbal abuse can be difficult to spot in comparison to verbal abuse, owing to its subtle nature. Handling non-verbal emotional abuse requires a different set of skills than are required to deal with more overt forms of verbal abuse.

The common and instinctive method of dealing with a verbal abuser is to attempt to reason with him or her. Our natural reaction when someone is talking about you in a negative light is to try and convince them that their belief about you are ill-founded. This manner of handling the situation is based on the assumption that the abuser is just like any other adversary who is capable of understanding rhyme and reason. But the matter of fact is that you cannot actually reason with a verbal abuser.