The Dangers of Verbal Abuse

August 28, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

What are the dangers of verbal abuse? What life are you sacrificing in order to live with your abuser? What do you have to look forward to if you stay?

Abusers who have not yet turned to physical violence could be "time bombs" with fuses of unknown length. If your abuser feels that his "normal" verbally abusive techniques are not working, he will probably move into physical abuse to maintain his control.

Abuse escalates over time. Time spent in abusive situations and relationships cause you to feel beaten down and devastated - but it is never too late to get help.

What could happen if I stay?

Remember that your abuser benefits from abusing you. S/He gets his way and lives the life he wants to live while you do everything in your power to "make them happy" at the expense of yourself.

Here are some possibilities of what can happen if you choose to stay with your abuser:

  • S/He could escalate the abuse until he kills you,
  • S/He could begin to physically abuse you,
  • S/He could try new ways of abusing you (such as taking out credit in your name and destroying your credit history),
  • S/He could continue the present cycle indefinitely, never escalating but never stopping the behavior,
  • S/He could go into his temporary "nice" phase to lull you into false security and to make the next episode of abuse more effective,
  • S/He could admit his problem and go get help for himself.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the last option is the MOST UNLIKELY. Think about it like this: What if you discovered that every time you picked your nose, someone gave you $50.00? No matter how distasteful you find the behavior of picking your nose, would you do it when you needed some money?

Well, it's the same with an abuser. Every time he acts a certain way (whether he likes his behavior or not), you give him some sort of prize (cooperation, validation of his power, a feeling of importance, etc.). How likely is he to change his behavior?

Long-term Effects of Verbal Abuse on You

It's good to know the dangers you face living with verbal abuse as it applies to his behavior. But how does verbal abuse mess with you in the long haul? What will you give up in response to the constant verbal, emotional and mental battery? YOU are not the problem, but ABUSE can cause you to suffer mental and emotional problems.

An abuser's "crazy-making" can change you from a vibrant, independent person into a confused, paranoid, and hopeless pawn for his use. Your life disappears. You disappear.

If you're lucky, at this point there's nothing "wrong" with you except in the eyes of your abuser. But the long term effects of abuse cause mental and emotional issues that increase your confusion and lessen your resolve to be your true self. Abuse is designed to imprison you.

As you read this list of long-term effects of abuse on abuse victims, ask yourself "What have I sacrificed to tolerate abuse?!"

  • Your doctor may diagnose you with depression and/or anxiety (even PTSD)
  • You may feel trapped and in a constantly "on-guard" state of mind
  • You may lose your spontaneity and/or enthusiasm
  • You could become unsure of your ability to communicate effectively
  • You may suffer the loss or shattering of dreams
  • You may wish for death
  • You could be preoccupied with hypothetical fears or "what-if" scenarios
  • You could become unsure of your ability to understand effectively
  • You may feel "crazy" or out of control
  • Others may say you have low self-esteem; or, if you realize you're losing self-esteem, you often don't know why
  • You could feel lost or experience thought-circles resulting in increased confusion
  • You may find that you rely on another person to tell you what you "should" feel or do
  • You could feel uneasy or even paranoid with no defined cause
  • You may over-examine yourself wondering what you could have done, should have done, or will do instead in the future
  • You may find that your internalized "critical voice" typically agrees with your abuser's accusations
  • You might feel that you are "missing something" or that time is passing too swiftly to accomplish your dreams or any goal
  • You could find yourself waiting for some point in the future when "everything will be better" before you do things that you want to do (college? start a business? lose weight?)
  • You may want to escape or run away but often don't know why you want to go or what/who you want to escape from
  • You may experience sleep disturbances
  • You might put yourself down in conversations with family or friends (if you're "allowed" to have friends)
  • You may experience unexplained physical maladies; you fear that you're a hypochondriac because your medical complaints cannot be verified by tests

So...What are you sacrificing to tolerate abuse?
(*"Long Term Effects" adapted from The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans and my personal experiences with verbal abuse.)

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, August 28). The Dangers of Verbal Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

July, 17 2012 at 3:16 pm

Just came out of a toxic relationship. Everything mentioned above I have been experiencing on and off for a whole year. Guilt is another big symptom. I always end up forgiving him and then feeling bad for treating him poorly. I was very passive in the beginning but over the past 7-8 months ive gotten angry violent and just unhappy with myself with everything. Ive always suffered with depression and some anxiety and sleep issues but this is the worst ive ever been.

July, 17 2012 at 3:21 pm

I can go on and on with his stories. He has bipolar, abuses alcohol, violent issues, post traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, psychotic episodes, verbally and emotionally abusive, manipulative and schrew and has charm of course.

Kellie Holly
July, 18 2012 at 8:57 am

You will be feeling better very soon - physically detaching from the abuser hastens emotional recovery.
It's common for an abuse victim to try to understand why the person abused them based on the abuser's mental health profile (or at least the ones that most closely match your experience with them). However, dwelling on why they abused and what is wrong with them does nothing to help you recover from their words and actions.
As soon as you feel ready, tackle your own depression/anxiety problems and use those "sleep hygiene" skills! Try to forget about his motivations for abusing and focus on your motivation to heal.
That said, there is good in feeling the emotions of blame (directed onto the abuser) and other "negative" feelings. I think it is a part of healing to feel victimized for a time. The only danger is remaining in the victim mode for "too long". Alas, I have no idea what "too long" may be for anyone.
For me, I allowed myself to absorb the knowledge and feelings of "being a victim" for about a month. I didn't place a limit on how long because I wasn't aware I was "being a victim" until I started pulling out of that mentality, searching for actions I could take to NOT be a victim any longer.

linda brock
November, 28 2012 at 12:37 pm

i know im abused but i just cant put it in to words he dosnt say dont go any where but when i do i get treated mean ive been abusee alot in my life and he knows it

Denise white
February, 18 2014 at 4:59 pm

I have been I an abusive relationship for thirty year sanders,y didn't realiz how sick I was until latey I couldn't have any friends ,couldn't go anywhere but to work and he was always questioning me even when I ws quiet he wanted to know wht I ws thinking,I begin to hate him because I could see hi for what he really wasa controer and no respect for other peoples feelings it made me really sick I was always looking for something to be wrong with me ,I was never happy it is a bad feeling

September, 28 2014 at 6:05 am

It's crazy to see in words how you feel and that it actually points to a real reason. It helps to know I'm not crazy and that I really do have an abusive relationship.
So many friends and strangers have made comment to my relationship and the way he treats me (its verbal and mental, not physical). I can hear them, but I love the guy I'm with and have for the past 3 years. I have no clue why I put up with it. I get scared at times and find I am becoming a person I don't even know. One that I am not happy with.
I was married for 19 years prior to this new relationship, I thought I had a not so good marriage and now this? My marriage was a dream.
I'm confused, hurt, lost, I just want to know who I am and be happy.
This new relationship has affected me with my children and my job(s), yes I've gone thru few and he drags me down.
I think I want the man I'm with but it stinks to wake up and not know the mood he is going to be in and nervous about how to act.
Writing this I sound like a mess. I am.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
September, 28 2014 at 7:37 am

You are not the mess. He is. Turn your focus to the absurd things he says and does instead of your reactions to him. Then, change your reactions when he acts the foil. A good book to explain how to do that is Patricia Evans' "Controlling People." There is a subtitle to the book but I can't remember it right now.

November, 4 2014 at 5:36 am

It is hard when the abuser thinks he isn't an abuser and all that know him outside the home see a very different person because he is someone else in front of other people. What also makes it confusing is when he can go through a period of time where is is "normal" and then something triggers the negative person inside and starts blaming and picking on all the things you feel are good and positive...and tries to control everything you do or say or won't let you feel how you do because he makes decisions for you. When you think you are being spoken to with the truth when it's really manipulative... When he doesn't like or trust anyone and has nothing good to say but when it's contested he says he didn't say what you heard and turns it around on you and puts words in your mouth causing complete confusion. So many scenario's that I cloud go on and on....feeling crazy when you know your not but yet he doesn't empathize or sympathize with your feelings and tells you you are wrong for feeling the way you do. Seeing him be loving but controlling to your son together and you can't say anything that he will agree with and mock you in front of him....causing him to feel confused but then you are treated by your don the way your husband treats or speaks to you and. You try yo correct it and he is confused. The damage done to your child that uou have together who feels sorry when he acts like daddy and us told it is wrong confused as to why I put up with it...

Tena Roberto
April, 20 2018 at 1:43 pm

I am in the last stages of verbal abuse and have stayed way way too long. I am depressed, paralyzed, barely functioning, and it is because I did not take the opportunity to leave when I could have. When you are on the brink of wishing death every other day sleeping 17 hours a day what do you do?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 27 2018 at 5:32 pm

You get out of there. I am the victim of psychological abuse. I thought I had bad PTSD, but it's a traumatic brain injury because the abuse caused significant and permanent changes to parts of my brain. I've seen significant changes to my physical appearance. I look 10 years older; there's no life in my eyes. I'm forgetful. I have no motivation, and no physical strength. Abuse takes its toll on the entire body. Leave now while you have the strength.

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